The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012


January 10, 2005


The Evil and the Stupid

I got into a debate over at MouseWords about the school system. It seems that those on the left thinks that the right is trying to destroy public education, so that we can close the circle on the “elite” class. As long as we can destroy the middle and lower class, we can become a true American aristocracy, right? Specifically, the “higher ups” in the group are pushing creationism to make the populace think the school system is horrible, manufacturing a crisis to push people into supporting vouchers.

From the comments that have been flying back and forth over there (boy, how I wish I’d get some more comments here), I’ve realized that to the left, there are two types of right-wingers: the stupid, and the evil. The evil is a very small, powerful group. Their goal is to find ways to destroy the country in such a way that it shores up their power, and makes them the ruling elite of the country. The stupid group is everyone else that votes Republican. They are pawns, too dim to understand that they are being manipulated by their evil string-pullers.

Now, I tried to defend myself and my right-wing brethren, and mentioned that we are not trying to destroy America as we know it. We have honestly weighed the policies, and believe that the policies that we are supporting are in the long-term interests of our nation as a whole. My frank response got me this:

Brad, I don’t think you do. I think the people who want to be our evil overlords dump millions of dollars into right wing think tanks to come up with arguments that everyday folks think sound reasonable enough and then manufacture crisises so that everyday folks think that we have no choice but to implement the plans that the right wing think tanks come up with.

Looks like I must have landed myself in the “stupid” group. Which undoubtedly has me a little angry. I don’t consider myself to be a slouch intellectually, and I’m enough of a skeptic to watch out when people are trying to exploit me. Despite my slight megalomania and delusions of grandeur, I’m not evil. The only explanation I have left is that they must be drugging my water.

This is the kind of mentality that we have to deal with from the left. Obviously our policies are absolutely atrocious, so to support them we must be evil or stupid.

I don’t have this hostility to the left, with the exception of a few particular individuals (Michael Moore comes to mind). I believe that their policies sound pretty good, but they typically have unintended consequences. The policies could be stopped, but the bureaucratic inertia in Washington keeps them going. And as any organism tries to do, those bureacracies actively work to expand and grow their scope.

I think both the left and the right are trying to do good. We have some widely different beliefs on how that should occur, of course. Why is it that the right is seen as such a vile, hateful group, while the left has an untarnished image of peace and love?

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 7:40 pm || Permalink || Comments (16) || Trackback URL || Categories: Uncategorized

16 Comments

  1. Very good post. (I bit and went and had a look and say for myself.) Have you considered getting Haloscan posting? It allows for the use of trackback, thus making it easier for others to cite your work. Just a thought.

    Keep-up the good posting! :)

    Comment by EdWonk — January 10, 2005 @ 10:20 pm
  2. I thought of Haloscan, haven’t gotten around to it yet…

    And I’ve tried to keep up over there at MouseWords, but it’s falling on deaf ears. Now they’ve moved on to how conservatives are repackaging racist thoughts in better-sounding speech.

    I don’t know what’s worse. That they’re saying it, or that it actually appears they believe it.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 11, 2005 @ 4:34 pm
  3. Haven’t looked at MouseWords, but the way you put the argument is pretty fair. I would restate the liberal argument this way:

    The right-wing educational policy is dominated by the desire to bust the unions that admittedly control the educational system in various cities.

    This desire is not motivated by any opinion about the quality of the education in these cities, which tends to be as good or as bad as the neighborhood the schools are in, but by the desire to free up money going to unions and union-workers (which tend to be dominated by liberal, female, ethnic blue-staters) and steer that money towards people and institutions that red staters like more.

    Although there are a lot of people who profess to care about the education of children, there are powerful people who care about the money more.

    As to the quality of education — if voucher-financed schools and charter schools don’t perform as well as public schools — then apply the Texas solution so ably used by Bush and Rod Paige — make the tests EASIER.

    Bruce

    Comment by B — January 12, 2005 @ 3:55 am
  4. Bruce,
    I’ll agree with you on the money, at least to the extent that to conservatives, it seems like we keep throwing good money after bad. We’re faced with a chorus of “more funding, more funding”, as we watch test scores continuously decline.

    I’ll grant that most conservatives (at least libertarians) don’t want to be spending federal money on education at all, but the last thing we want is to be spending a bunch of money with no results.

    Of course, there is the fact that the educational establishment is owned by the teacher’s unions, who tend to be about as left-wing as they come, and the religious conservatives are upset at funding something that is openly inimical to their beliefs.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 12, 2005 @ 2:14 pm
  5. Liberals have a number of reasons for these views. Perhaps most importantly, the political effect of ’small government’ talk doesn’t seem to match the words. It does seem to consistently benefit the conservative elite(s).

    Then you have Lewis Powell, who in 1971 urged business leaders to start influencing public opinion. People like Richard Mellon Scaife listened. Does it count as conspiracy if you tell everyone?
    –Omar

    Comment by Omar — January 19, 2005 @ 9:42 pm
  6. Omar,
    So the Michael Moore’s and George Soros’ of the world aren’t trying to influence public opinion? Or you think it’s noble that they are, since they’re doing it to defend the “little guy” from big, angry business? It’s noble that they are working so hard to influence public opinion, since you agree with the goals they’re aspiring to?

    I read the link you provided. Powell is calling for action in response to a coordinated attack on the principles of capitalism and free enterprise. He is asking (much like Ayn Rand) that capitalists stand up and acknowledge what they believe in and that they believe it is right. Is it a conspiracy to openly advocate policies which you think are best for both yourself *AND* the country at large? I don’t think so.

    You can make the argument (as Amanda over at MouseWords made) that Republicans are much stronger and more efficient at shaping public opinion, with our think tanks and talk radio. This isn’t 100% true, since we’re fighting against the entire educational system and most of the mainstream media. Both sides do it. But since businessmen tend more strongly Republican, of course we’re going to be more efficient! We’re businessmen, unlike slackers like Michael Moore and gold-diggers like John Kerry.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 20, 2005 @ 10:56 am
  7. “Coordinated”? I don’t think even Powell goes that far, and the Soviet Union still existed when he wrote. And “both sides”? Why do you see “most of the mainstream media” as enemies? They claim to value objectivity in reporting, and to strive towards that goal. Can you show that their personal views influence coverage more than, say, the personal views of their employers? (Or simple profit motive? Or the fact that, in surveys by FAIR, the press disproportionally cites conservative think tanks with explicit goals, a la Powell?) The burden of proof lies with the person making this claim, and I can point out fatal flaws in all the arguments I’ve heard. As for academics, I doubt they ever had as much effect as Powell thinks. (Nor does the bias seem, to me, as widespread as you say. The one study I know of had major flaws of its own, such as looking at relatively few economic and business faculty.) Disaffection among youth probably had more to do with the likelihood of nuclear war — did anyone in 1971 suspect the USSR might dissolve peacefully? (As a sidenote, do you see any similarity between Soviet paranoia, as mentioned in that article, and certain attitudes in the U.S.? It made sense at the time — you have to plan for what the enemy could do — but that doesn’t mean the resulting views fit reality.)

    Getting back to the topic, I don’t think you’ve addressed my main point. The real-world effect of ’small government’ talk, in American history and politics, has no apparent connection to reducing the size of government. It seems consistently pro-business, whether this means deregulation or corporate welfare. If liberal policies consistently benefited George Soros, I’d think hard about that.

    –Omar

    Comment by Omar — January 20, 2005 @ 1:21 pm
  8. American history and current politics, I mean.

    In 1996, IIRC, National Review called for a fresh look at drug prohibition. Dole could thus have changed his position while pointing out Clinton’s hypocrisy. Years later, W&co. continue to fight against states’ rights and small government.

    Comment by Omar — January 20, 2005 @ 1:42 pm
  9. Omar,
    Remember one thing. I’m a committed true small-government type. While I regularly defend Bush on the war, I think a good amount of his domestic policy is screwy. I completely agree with tax cuts and social security privatization. Yet I completely disagree with his farm bill, his medicare drug benefit, and his inability to bring down government spending on non-defense expenditures.

    I’m not going to disagree that the trappings of power cause our elected officials to hand out corporate or personal welfare in exchange for votes. Our tax code, as I’ve previously mentioned, is so screwed up that nobody understands it, and it is that way because of Reps and Dems writing loophole after loophole into it. And to make it worse, I think half the stuff both parties are doing is unconstitutional.

    So yes, I agree that too often, the “small government” mantra doesn’t quite live up to it’s promises. And as it is my own side’s failings, it makes me more upset than you, trust me.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 20, 2005 @ 2:06 pm
  10. See here for more on the destruction of public schools. I think this really does limit the plausible explanations to Evil or Stupid. The previous post seems worth reading as well.

    Comment by Omar — January 20, 2005 @ 5:21 pm
  11. Omar,
    From the research I can find, that is simply wrong. The “Adequate Yearly Progress” designation does not mean that you have to improve on your previous year. Adequate Yearly Progress means that the rates of proficiency are raised from year to year. The final goal is to reach 100% by 2013-14. I think a ceiling of 80 or 90 percent is more realistic as a goal, but we’re a long way off.

    Look at their example. They state that a school in Minnesota that is at 80% will have to improve every year. This is simply not true. The state makes goals every year. Say that this year is 55%. The state goal might be 60% next year, and 65% the following year. That school that scores 80% this year can score 70% next year and 66% the following year, as long as they stay above that year’s goals. If a school fails to meet the state-proscribed percentage for several years in a row, that is the time that consequences come in.

    I do see some problems with the system, most notably that the final percentage is 100%, which is just not realistic. And the consequences of the system seem harsh, although it is somewhat muted by the fact that 1 year of making the mark will erase 2-3 years of failing. But the main problem is the mark must reach 100%, which isn’t going to happen. We’ll see what happens as we get closer to that 2013-14 school year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes.

    Also the “Eve of Destruction” link they reference has a glaring error regarding Social Security. They claim that Bush’s plan allows you to invest 4% of the 6.2% of the income going to Social Security. This is deliberately deceptive. Your employer must meet that 6.2%, making the total percentage of your salary going to Social Security 12.4%. To an employer, it doesn’t matter if they pay you or the government, it’s a cost of employment, so it is legitimately counted as money you are contributing. Leaving that money out of the equation, coupled with factual inaccuracies about the NCLB Act, call into question the author’s honesty about other portions of the article.

    But I must say welcome, Omar… You’re actually forcing me to research to debate you. I commend you on your skill. I’ve been looking for some friendly opposition here ;-)

    (Note: I took my info on NCLB from this link, which does bring up some interesting concerns about how NCLB affects small rural schools)

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 20, 2005 @ 8:38 pm
  12. I remembered the Voice article taking this into account, and a new reading confirms this: When Americans have at a minimum almost a third of their retirement contribution in corporate investments—we now send 6.2 percent of our income to Social Security, and Bush’s plan would have us putting four of those 6.2 points into the stock marketThe author refers to 4 points of Americans’ income as “almost a third of their retirement contribution”.

    Comment by Omar — January 20, 2005 @ 9:22 pm
  13. Okay, how do line breaks work in Blogger comments? It won’t accept “br” or “p”, and it keeps ignoring actual breaks.

    Comment by Omar — January 20, 2005 @ 9:28 pm
  14. Sorry about that. The language is somewhat ambiguous at least. They say almost a third, but then the numbers point to 4 points out of 6.2. My eyes, as I suspect occurs with most readers, are more drawn to the numbers than the words “a third”. I’ll restrain myself to it likelihood being deceptive by design, but entertain the notion that it’s just poor language.

    Regarding line breaks, I’ve noticed the blogger interface doesn’t allow a line break immediately following an html tag. I find it best to close my parentheses before a period ending the sentence. Then, when I hit enter after the period, it recognizes it as a break.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 20, 2005 @ 9:46 pm
  15. Thanks. As for the language, perhaps the author doesn’t assume that if employers could give us more money, in the absence of those Social Security obligations I mean, every one of them would choose to do so.

    Comment by Omar — January 20, 2005 @ 10:12 pm
  16. They certainly wouldn’t, at least not initially. Removal of that would allow wages to head upwards over the span of a few years, due to competition. Employers pay more for the best workers, and that competition brings up overall wages. Employers pay employees what they’re worth, and to an employer, the cost of an employee includes that 6.2%. Given that they do have that money to spend for employees (based on it already being a factor in their profit), they would eventually pay that to employees. Of course, even if they didn’t do that, that would give them more money to reinvest into expansion of the business, which would improve the overall employment picture.

    However, with all the above arguments, note that I don’t suggest removing that. I suggest keeping that 6.2%, but allowing it to be contributed to the employee’s privatized Social Security account as well. In theory, I support the government not forcing anyone into any retirement program, but after 60 years of Social Security, the first step must be forced contributions to a savings plan.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — January 20, 2005 @ 10:19 pm

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