On Vacation 2011

Sunday, July 31, AD 2011

Family on Vacation

I am on vacation this week with my family.  My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent.  I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example:  Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or there is an alarming outbreak of common sense in the government, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.

Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds.  If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled.  If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are.  Last year’s attendance was in excess of 30,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events.  A good overview of Gen Con is here.  Below is a Gen Con video from 2010 which gives a nice feel of the convention.

My wife and daughter participate in the live action dungeon at Gen Con.  Here is a trailer for True Dungeon 2011:

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4 Responses to On Vacation 2011

43 Responses to America’s Spending Open Thread

  • I suspect this brinksmanship will have an eleventh hour resolution.
    But if not, Then what?
    Could this crisis bring down the Obama administration?

    The crisis is certainly having a major effect in financial markets around the world, not the least down-under here on the fringes of civilisation. All our exports are traded in $US, and with the $US weakening, the $NZ is at record high levels against the $US and is causing huge problems for our exporters who are the drivers of our economy, and economic recovery frome the recession – which didn’t impact on us too badly. But our people going on trips overseas, and importers are loving it, but it is having the effect of a rather undesirably large trade deficit.
    What is surprising is that the $NZ is at record strength against the $AUS as well – I think that is because the $AUS is linked so strongly to the $US, but the Aussies hardly felt the recession – their economy is booming.

    So the world is waiting with bated breath. Maybe a collapse and a fresh start may not be a bad thing. But its too complex for me – I am after all, just a simple man. 🙂

  • Could this crisis bring down the Obama administration?

    We do not have a parliamentary administration, so he stays in office for a full term until he dies, resigns, or is deposed by Congress. This last would require a two-thirds majority of the Senate, which his party controls. The 2d option would require a capacity for shame which (one suspects) eludes him. As for the first, no President under the age of 63 has ever died in office of anything but an assassin’s bullet.

  • At this point I’m hoping for no deal. Nobody comes out ahead politically but the Tea Party Republicans will probably suffer the most. We need to remove that tumor.

    On a related matter, I’m hoping that the GOP gets pledge fatigue and follows Jon Huntsman’s lead who said, “I don’t sign pledges — other than the Pledge of Allegiance and a pledge to my wife.”

  • We are a cancer? We didn’t create this mess. It was profligate spending that set the stage. It is hardly accurate or fair to blame that on those elected to trim that spending. That almost all of them are freshmen reps makes your dig particularly idiotic and ill conceived.

    I’m not all that upset. Our government works only when it is divided; when the Executive and Legislative branches tussle. This is good! This is the conversation that We the People should have had BEFORE we threw away 2 trillion dollars. Frankly, it was the unimpeded access o power that created this mess.

    No, RR, I am content to have legislators fighting for their beliefs. This is the government of America, not the Kremlinesque government of Pelosi and I’m lovin it!

  • ROTFLMAO 😆

    The demagogues and their dishonest media henchmen are spinning like tops blaming Republicans for approaching default. They cannot ( dem compromise: “my way or no way”) to agree to the GOP bill for two reasons.

    One, because it doesn’t push out the debt ceiling past the 2012 election. They are vulnerable due to their excessive spending and the deficit. Two, they cannot keep political power if their cash/graft flow is cut; e.g., the FAA is now shut down b/c the GOP cut wasteful Fed grants to airports in NV and in a few other states each equivalent to the AK “bridge to nowhere.”

    The debt ceiling probably will be raised and near term default temporarily avoided. Unless they strong-arm the rating agencies, ratings will be downgraded. Worse, we will see Greecification of the USA due to galactic levels of spending and concomitant insolvency.

    The cartoon says that in a way even a PhD in Social Justice can (but refuses to) comprehend.

    Yesterday, Gallup Poll: Approve Obama 40% (34% of Independents). Disapprove Obama – 50%. Tells me 40% of respondents either believe its the government’s sole function to provide for them, or are, one way or another, living off government largess.

    Of course, for desperate dependents and the ideologues (obama-worshiping imbeciles and idiot congress critters) they keep in power any disagreement is evil and/or pathological.

  • A united Congress with a president from the opposition works well. A divided Congress does not. You usually get pork-filled bills. Now that earmarks aren’t allowed, we just get stalemate.

  • My wife and I had about 20K in credit crd debt at one time. It had built up over the first seven years of marriage.

    A little for furnishing a house, a bit for repairs, some appliances, etc. The kids’ needs made it worse… And always, always a reason why we needed to have such and such now.

    It wasn’t until we ran up against our debt limit that we stopped making excuses.

    I feared we would never get out from under and, worse could not imagine living without access to more credit. What if we needed diapers or medicine and my check was spent? What if an appliance broke or we needed to travel for a wedding or funeral or something? So many excuses…

    But my salary IS enough. Not having access to credit has forced us to be more judicious. It has made us more the people we were meant to be, the careful stewards of those things God, in His infinite mercy, gives us.

    Five years after reaching our credit limit, we have only about 8 thousand of that debt left to pay.

    What is missing from this debate is a sense of the justness of our obligation to pay our debts.

    We borrowed money, some for critical things, some for frivolous. Now, we are saying that our salvation lies not in paying our just debts but in taking out more at whatevee terms we can reach. Like the failing nobles of Enlightenment Europe, we are begging… BEGGING the worl to take our paper in exchange for durable goods and services; knowing full and well that we have no intention of paying ot ourselves and no concern for whether our progeny will pay it or weasle out of it through trickery, theft, or bankruptcy.

    A more dishonorable and shortsighted approach is hard to imagine.

  • I’ve got a question (from someone with almost zero financial knowledge). If we pass a balanced budget amendment, does that mean the government could no longer issue bonds? Until recently these were good conservative investments. Would they disappear? I like the idea of a balanced budget amendment, just worried about the repercussions.

  • 49 states require a balanced budget. They also issue bonds.

  • I dunno. War bonds? There probably would be a feature to fund wars; emergency operations; buildings, highway systems; etc.

    I think states issue bonds to fund long term infrastructure improvements like bridges, roads, schools, tunnels. I believe they must (like you and I when we took out mortgage loans to buy our homes) must have a plan (tolls, incremental revenues, etc.) to repay the bonds with interest.

    Is state and local government debt something about which to worry?

    Nuveen a major mutual fund conglomerate selling shares in state, county, municipal (SCM) tax-free mutual funds (that buy and hold such debt securities) just obtained (shareholder vote) authority to make loans to SCM gov units that can’t pay per terms: (I think) very dangerous because the loans could be less recoverable than the past due bonds.

  • A BBA is useless. Look at Illinois. There are so many ways around it that all it does is make politicians more creative.

  • Washington D.C. …
    This is the central headquarters of the inmates who are running the asylum amock.

  • G-Veg, if you believe in the justness of paying debts, you must necessarily be for raising the debt ceiling. Going forward we need to reduce spending but right now we cannot pay our debts without raising the debt ceiling. It is mathematically impossible.

    The TPR’s rejected a $4 trillion bipartisan deal that lowers tax rates because according to Grover Norquist even broadening the tax base is a tax hike. Now we are guaranteed to get a much worse deal. Reagan is yelling from his grave, “Take the deal, you idiots!” Tell me again why anyone would support the TPR’s?

  • RR, You are going to have to do a better job explaining your position. I’m not getting it.

    It sound like you are saying we have to borrow more to pay our debts now, i.e. more debt is good because it is necessary for debt reduction… Which does not, on its face, make sense.

    I am willing to try to understand. Don’t be afraid to use a few bytes. I’ll give it as fair a hearing as I can.

  • 😀

    We have Detroit, Greece and Illinois to show us the United States in a few years.

    RR: There you go again. But, this rant is refreshing. Usually, you people lecture us on just exactly what God is yelling about in Heaven.

  • RR,
    I do not think you are correct. There is a difference between legal debts and political expectations. We do not need to raise our debt ceiling in order to pay our debts — not even remotely. Basically, the budget is composed of (i) interest and principle payments on debt, (ii) entitlement expenditures, and (iii) discretionary spending (i.e., government services ranging from the military to the Department of Education). Items (i) and (ii) are not legal debts at all, and entitlement cutbacks as well as government employee layoffs or salary reductions would probably actually firm up our credit rating. The reason that S&P is threatening a downgrade has nothing to do with the debt ceiling drama as such. No informed person believes that the US is in danger of defaulting on its bonds if the debt ceiling is not raised. Instead S&P et al are very concerned that the US is running a worsening structural deficit and eventually (i.e., in the long-term) may experience difficulty in repaying bondholders. The GOP is using the ceiling as an opportunity to negotiate exactly the kind of deal that is necessary to reassure S&P et al.

  • Detroit, Greece and Illinois.

    Throw in New Orleans in that mix, they make Baghdad look peaceful.

  • A BBA is useless. Look at Illinois. There are so many ways around it that all it does is make politicians more creative.

    It can be gamed to a degree, but it is not useless. The balance sheet of the states is far better than that of the federal government.

  • Not to nit-pick but wouldn’t we expect the states to be better off since they have abrogated their responsibilities and passed off the costs o the federal government?

  • Not to nit-pick but wouldn’t we expect the states to be better off since they have abrogated their responsibilities and passed off the costs o the federal government?

    Transfers from the federal treasury amount to about 20% of state and local expenditure. I believe they have amounted to 3% or 4% of domestic product for forty years or more, which is to say they were an environmental feature of fiscal policy-making prior to our recent economic unpleasantness. (Enormous federal deficits were not).

    The transfers in question were to fund federal initiatives various Administrations (most notably Lyndon Johnson’s) wished to channel through the states and localities. States and localities certainly lobby to defend such subsidies. I am not sure why you interpret that as having ‘abrogated their responsibilities and passed of the cost…”.

  • The GOP is using the ceiling as an opportunity to negotiate exactly the kind of deal that is necessary to reassure S&P et al.

    Heckuva job, Brownie.

  • My wife and I had about 20K in credit crd debt at one time. It had built up over the first seven years of marriage.

    That’s the problem here. People fancy public finance is equivalent to household finance.

  • Here’s what’ll happen if the debt ceiling is NEVER raised:

    The federal government receives about $200 billion a month in tax revenue. It spends about $330 billion/month. On 8/3, Social Security checks are supposed to go out but there won’t be enough money. Barclays says there’s enough money for this week’s checks and so we have until 8/10. Either way, soon we would need to cut spending by 40%. Non-defense discretionary spending is only 20% of total spending and includes things like the FAA, border patrol, DOJ, and VA. So even if we create domestic anarchy, we still need to cut entitlements and/or defense. Cutting all of defense gets us close. That means not paying troops anymore and contractors would have to donate supplies. Personally, I think it’s immoral not to pay current troops what you already promised them. In the long-run, we would have a truly volunteer army working for donations. Or we can cut all of Medicare+Medicaid or all of Social Security. For something like 20% of the elderly, Social Security is their only source of income. That means, they’ll all have to live off donations alone. Remember we already cut all discretionary spending so there is no welfare. Personally, I want to abolish these entitlement programs and replace them with tax credits but that still requires money.

    If we manage to cut spending by 40%, we still have our existing debt to deal with. We will have enough to pay the interest but not enough to pay the $500 billion/month in principal. The Treasury can reissue debt as it matures but since there’s no way that $200 billion can pay $500 billion, investors will demand higher interest rates for the risk of default. The interest rate will increase indefinitely until there’s not enough to pay the interest itself. At that point, there is no choice but to default. Even if the debt ceiling is eventually raised, if it’s after interest rates have gone up, we will have had to pay more interest in exchange for nothing.

    I’m all for cutting spending and shrinking government but we can’t in the short term without defaulting on our debt. We need to continue borrowing until revenue can pay off the principal. You can’t pay $500 billion with $200 billion!

  • I derailed with fedarlism comment. It is related to the subject at hand because there is much that the federal government does that should be done, if at all, by the states. That is a different battle for another day so I retract the omment.

    As to the theory that public finance and personal finance are insuffiiently similar to carry over principles, I am not convinced.

    You make a bold claim above but you offer insufficient explanation for me to know if I agree or not. I fail to see how life experience is not relevant to the analysis of public policy, for, if it is, then we better get cracking on producing Philosopher Kings to rule us.

    I Have learned to avoid unnecessary debt and nothing I’ve read coninces me hat that life lesson is inapplicable to the present discussion. Without formal economics training, I am relying primarily on the analyses of The Economist, The Philadehia Inquirer, Fox News, The American Caholic, and on-line resources on Keanes and Hayek. If this isn’t enough for me to reasonably analyze the problem, our Republic is doomed.

  • And now it’s all moot. Now let’s criticize the TPR’s for what they did wrong. The deal is $2.1-2.4 trillion in cuts and probably no revenue increases. That’s just depressingly inadequate. The plans that the TPR’s rejected were in the $4 trillion range. $3.5 trillion in spending cuts and $500 billion in revenue increases. The revenue increases would not come from higher tax rates. In fact tax rates would fall and flatten. Instead the revenue would come from eliminating deductions. No rational conservative rejects a deal like that. I’ve read legitimate criticisms of the plan from the right but they were about likelihood of adoption, not the goals themselves.

  • RR, Thank you for presenting as clear a statement as I could have asked for. I’m off to bed but will mull your statement on the ride in on the morrow. Pax, G-veg

  • I will also add that by failing to reach a deal on tax reform, the TPR’s have guaranteed a tax hike next year when the Bush/Obama cuts expire. Completely irrational.

  • What lying liberals call tax reform are tax hikes.

    Sure and you’re not increasing rates. You’re decreasing the amount of our earned money that big government will let us keep.

    Philosophical divide: obama-worshiping geniuses want political power concomitant with big government/social democrat welfare state.

    We the hobbits want prosperity.

    The deficit would resolve itself if 15,000,000 people had private sector jobs (taxes take $$ from the private sector) and the GDP was growing at better than 0.4%.

    But, due to Obama’s job killing politics the US likely is falling back into recession.

  • Sure and you’re not increasing rates. You’re decreasing the amount of our earned money that big government will let us keep.

    The various and sundry deductions and exepmtions are subsidies for particular economic sectors. Economic efficiency is enhanced by excising the subsidies.

    Again, federal tax collections as a proportion of gross domestic product are at a 50-odd year low.

  • entitlement cutbacks as well as government employee layoffs or salary reductions would probably actually firm up our credit rating

    If they don’t kill the economy first. There’s a difference between spending cuts done gradually with deliberation as part of a strategy, and gov’t spending dropping off a cliff overnight because we can’t borrow to pay for all of our discretionary spending. Maybe they need to watch that Douglas Holtz Eakin video again, but the Tea Party doesn’t seem to understand that difference. Sure, we wouldn’t default, and we’d probably pay seniors their SS and Medicare payments to the extent possible. But everything else would dry up instantly – millions of people effectively not paid (read: unemployed) overnight. That’s not sticking to conservative principles, that’s insanity.

  • but the Tea Party doesn’t seem to understand that difference

    That an irate citizen holding up a hand-painted sign misunderstands issues for which he does not have everyday responsibility is to be expected. That a bloc of sixty-odd federal legislators behaves as if basic arithmetic is beyond them, behaves as if competing interests holding institutional trump cards can be blackmailed or ignored, and behaves as if the consequences of bad stewardship are naught if they wish them to be naught is most distressing. The thing is, ordinary political processes have been unable to translate the inchoate resistance to the Democratic Party into constructive efforts at public policy. Is it our institutions, our political culture, or both?

  • With respect, aren’t we being unfair to the Tea Party Republicans?

    A deal was reached. The process was messy and the results are mixed but that is how this is supposed to work. This back and forth, as unpleasant as it is, is proper for a republic.

    I thought a lot about RR’s comments and re-read the thread several times.

    I am out of my element and lack the competence to determine good fiscal policy. I do not understand why principles of thrift and fiscal responsibility that are essential to the my family’s financial health are inapplicable to discussions of fiscal policy. I have followed, as much as I have been able, the competing policy views and see merit in both, though I favor Hayek.

    This realization troubles me for I am not a dumb man and am fairly tuned in to current events. That I am not competent to determine what is good for our country is a problem because my meagre skills and knowledge is representative of a meaningful portion of our citizens. Since our representatives, at all levels, are drawn from just such people, it is likely that many of them also lack the knowledge and skills to discover good policy.

    This is to say that Art Deco and the other persons with expertise in these matters have to lead us by the nose and, meaning no disrespect, I am not one who likes to be led like a pack horse, which is what I’m feeling like right now.

    For all of their expertise, the experts have led us to what seems like an unsustainable debt, an economy that produces almost nothing, and a dollar that the world is trying to discard as a basic currency. Joblessness abounds. Real inflation is on the rise, though hidden through accounting tricks. Our cities are in shambles, our roads and bridges are failing and there is no money to rebuild them, and the largest generation in history is moving into a retirement that will impoverish the generations that come after.

    Forgive me for pointing it out, but the experts don’t seem to have done all that well.

    Despite all of this, we are attacking 40 or so Tea Party Republicans and 10 or so Blue Dog Democrats for insisting that incurring more debt be accompanied by an honest attempt to curb expenses.

    Maybe they are wrong. Maybe they are just as dumb and ignorant as I am – latching onto ideas from their experience like “only buy things for which you have money,” “don’t buy things for which you have no need,” or “the first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging.”

    But it must be fair to ask what the deal would have looked like if the House GOP leadership, the Senate leaders of both parties, and the White House had been left to their own devices. Do you honestly believe that the establishment that incurred 3 trillion in debt in five years would have hesitated to incur more without making any effort to address the debt itself?

    I may be uncomfortable with the stock index but I’m pretty comfortable with the Constitution.

    The Framers understood full and well that the interests of many parties collide in a political sphere and that divided power and conflict within that sphere preserves the liberty and security of those outside of that sphere. What we saw this last month in Washington was a thing of beauty. It was raw and honest and loud. It was the kind of debate that is supposed to be occurring every single time a complex issue comes up.

    For all of our ignorance, we pushed the establishment to do what it absolutely didn’t want to do – discuss and debate. This month harkens back to what our brothers did in Boston on December 16, 1773 and I am proud to call myself a Tea Party Republican because of it.

  • G-Veg, I am not an expert. However, I can do basic arithmetic.

    It is certainly necessary and proper (barring a banking crisis or a war of national mobilization) that the rate of increase in outstanding public debt be less than the rate of increase in nominal gross domestic product (capital investments in public works being of scant importance at the federal level). The Republican caucus in toto has been implacable in their opposition to any tax increase. Extra-parliamentary TEA partisans (and about 10% of the House Republican caucus) have insisted the debt limit not be raised. The question at hand is thus whether or not you attempt to repair public finances by an abrupt 40% cut in federal expenditure.

    It is a reasonable inference from the experience of the last two years that those who said that fiscal stimulus via public expenditure would prove to be weak tea were correct. However, you are all proposing an abrupt 10% cut in aggregate demand. Even with a weak multiplier, that will result in a severe recession, perhaps half-again as that suffered in 2008-09. Said recession will injure tax collections. Ergo, you will still have a deficit (but no authority to borrow).

    I had a discussion in a forum just like this some days ago where I offered the following:

    1. You cannot welsh on federal debt service;
    2. Benefits to the elderly are properly cut gradually on a cohort-by-cohort basis, because those benefits have been incorporated into their long-range planning and they have a limited capacity to adjust.
    3. These things being the case if you want to get by without a tax increase, you have to cut the share of domestic product allocated to everything else by about two-thirds.

    His response was: go ahead and do it. After a run of caterwauling about the splendors of Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts (not acknowledging that the federal tax take is now a lower share of domestic product than was the case in 1984) and the terrible burden of federal taxes on small business (I think federal excises and payroll taxes claim about 3% of the revenues of unincorporated businesses), he was willing to demobilize two-thirds of the military in the midst of a war and can two-thirds of the customs and border constabulary rather than accept one dime in tax increases. Attitudinizing and foolishness are not worth a pitcher of spit.

  • “Attitudinizing and foolishness are not worth a pitcher of spit.”

    I have to admit, though, it is bleakly humorous: folks who see the Hand of Alinsky everywhere have adopted the “Burn, Baby, Burn!” mindset of Saul’s comrades.

  • Attitudinizing… I had to look that up.

    Hand of Alinsky… I had to look that up too.

    Having looked them up, I confess that I don’t get their relevance to the discussion at hand. I don’t care all that much about some other commenter on some other blog. Unless you are saying that I am like that commenter, in which case, I need a citation to know whether you are correct or not. Of course, you may be saying that only those Tea Party Republicans in Congress are like the commenter that you had the dispute with but, then, while I’m not offended on my own account, I admit that I don’t know whether your analysis holds up without a citation.

    Did the commenter make a complete ass of himself and did you route his arguments again and again? I’m willing to take your word for it that you did but, again, I don’t know why I should care.

    Your comments about the economic impact of a default are mirrored by many others in the mainstream media, in government, and in the blogosphere. I am must accept, at least temporarily, as reasonable what is said by many and which I cannot dispute by experience. It is insane to insist on a position merely because it is in opposition to what the majority holds as true.

    However, I don’t think the Tea Party was as you describe them. The opposition to raising the debt ceiling was on account of there being, at least initially, no effort to deal with the underlying causes of our debt. The President’s Grand Bargain failed because it included 800 billion in new revenue but no specificity as to where that revenue would come from. I truly believe that the President might have gotten that deal if he had been specific since the Blue Dogs would certainly have come over and many of the non-Tea Party GOP Members would have crossed over if specific taxes had been balanced against specific cuts… Only it wasn’t. True to form, the establishment of both parties assumed that they could craft yet another meaningless bill and then work out the details later.

    And that is the point that you haven’t addressed.

    The Tea Party Republicans are only “terrorists” as Biden described them or the idiots and posers that you describe them to be if their purpose WAS to drive the US to a default. But that never was their stated purpose. The question remains… If you believe, as you say you do, that debt reduction is necessary, do you believe that the establishment of the major parties would have crafted a deal to reduce our debt without being pushed to do so by fiscal conservatives? If so, then you can call the Tea Party whatever you wish because you are part of the problem. If not, you are being terribly unfair to precisely the group that made the policy you favor into law.

  • No, it was not you, and I do not expect you to care about the arguments I have with third parties.

    I was merely offering an example of the sort of thinking that forms the matrix within which these Republican members of Congress operate (and appears to reside in the heads of some of them): uninformed about historical tax burdens, uninformed about the coarse distribution of appropriations, and insouciant about the consequences of what they are (implicitly or explicitly) advocating. They have taken their stand and they’re sticking to it. Regrettably, their stand does not derive from even a cursory study of what the government does and does not do. It derives (best I can see) from a lump of resentment about their personal tax payments and a somewhat potted understanding of the economic history of the 1980s. It is not concerned with the relationship between ends and means or even any ends beyond ‘no tax increase’.

  • Attitudinizing… I had to look that up.

    Don’t feel bad, Art has sent me running for the dictionary on more than a few occasions.

  • But, isn’t the “starve the beast” idea a pretty old one? The view that government, particularly the federal government, will never limit its power, size, or consumption voluntarilly, has been floating around for a long time. The wastefullness of TARP and other programs over the last five years has given, at least in my opinion, reasonable men good and sufficient cause to conclude that the government will spend, spend, spend, and spend so long as the credit limit can be raised. Isn’t it a good thing to have a couple dozen representatives in Congress who refuse to feed that bloated hog we call the federal government?

  • “Detroit, Greece and Illinois.

    Throw in New Orleans in that mix, they make Baghdad look peaceful.”

    Well, if Greece-style or Detroit-style or even New Orleans-style rioting/looting breaks out in Springfield, let me know, ’cause I sure haven’t seen it. Our state employees — even the unionized ones — seem to be much better behaved than those in Greece, or even in Wisconsin, because despite recent attempts to rein in their pay raises and benefits (yes, serious attempts to do so have been made, by a Democratic governor, no less) I see no indication of massive civil unrest breaking out in our capital any time soon. At least not until the State Fair Twilight Parade starts 🙂

  • The debate can be analogized to personal finances though there are important differences.

    The federal government cannot stay alive and pay the minimum on its credit card payments so it’s needs to default or borrow even more. In personal finance, the choices are bankruptcy or taking out another credit card. Cutting spending alone is not an option because you can’t cut enough right now to pay creditors. If you can create a budget surplus over time (e.g., because you’re moving into a smaller house next month or getting a raise), it would be wise to take out another credit card to avoid immediate bankruptcy.

    The government has more control over its finances than individuals because it not only controls spending but also revenue. So as long as there’s a chance of a budget surplus in the long run, it makes sense to avoid default now.

  • RR, That makes perfect sense. I think the final product accomplished this. Perhaps what I have been missing is the critique that the Tea Party Republicans won’t consider taxes to increase revenue.

    I understand why tax increases seem important. Honest men can disagree about this point without offense though. In the context of this last month’s debates, the refusal to accept unspecified revenue increases in exchange for an equal amount of unspecified spending cuts, does not seem unreasonable.

    The agreement reached seems to vindicate the position that the original Grand Bargain was not the only possible remedy. Since the Tea Party position is reasonable, it cannot be that we are too far from the mainstream to have a legitimate position at the table.

    I liken it to the position of the Anti-Federalists: though they lost, their contribution was substantial and, but for their dogged insistance on the enshrining of individual and states’ rights in the Constitution, we would be a very different nation. Similarly, the mere presence of uncompromising fiscal conservatives in the debate has already produced a better agreement for digging ourselves out of this hole.

  • G-Veg: I was referring to Art’s third party debate partner, not you. And to more than a few of the comments I’ve seen on conservative websites, courting financial chaos with relish.

  • My wife subscribes to Free Republic. I have mixed feelings about the content. They do a pretty good job of calling commenters on racist, xenophobic, and otherwise anti-social stuff but it is definately a “consumer beware” environment since there is little attribution and the back-and-forth can feed an unhealthy “slash and burn” mentality to politics and economics. If you are thinking of that stuff, I’m with you. But then, it isn’t meant to be taken as representative of any particular political group or body.

    I appreciate those websites as a bastion of free speech as it was meant to be: raw, candid, unvarnished, “pure” in the sense that it gets to the heart of the writers’ feelings and such.

4 Responses to The Irish Volunteer

Explaining the Money Facts of Life to Liberals

Friday, July 29, AD 2011

I take off my hat to you Klavan on the Culture for making the effort, but it will take more than that to get through to people who believe that infinite wealth can be produced by government fiat.  Exhibit A is a plan to solve the national debt, read all about it here, which is quite popular among the people who call themselves “the reality-based community”.   Pixies, unicorn dust, Obama is a great President and the government is a cornucopia of infinite largesse: many leftists in this country would sooner see us do a replay of the Great Depression than give up such delusions.

 

 

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5 Responses to Explaining the Money Facts of Life to Liberals

  • I have believed for some time that only a crazy person tries to reason with another crazy person. And I would say trying to explain fiscal sanity to leftists (I refuse to call them liberals because there is nothing liberating about their minset) is the posterchild of such insanity.

  • GM: Truth. If the people understood the facts about the non-sustainability of galactic volume of federal spending and its devastating consequences, they would demand “cut, cap and balance on steroids.”

    The dems and the lying leftist media have completely distorted every fact and feature of the issue. The dems cannot cut spending: it pays for votes. They only have tax rate increases, which will not be enough to offset long-term, high unemployment and unsatisfactorily slow GDP growth. All Obama, the senate, and the left-wing media (all but FOXNEWS) have are demonize, lie and polarize.

    Many people are aware. Sadly, probably not enough to save the country.

    Pray for the best. Prepare for the worst.

  • Liberals, leftists or whatever one calls them, believe in their Messiah, Obama – that he can do anything and nothing shall dissuade them of that belief. I have seen otherwise very intelligent and knowledgeable engineers and scientists, some working in the nuclear energy field, who are under his sway and refuse to listen any evidence to the contrary.

  • T. Shaw yes, if people who are honest and sane would demand CCB on steroids, which in fact much of the American public is. However, I was talking about leftists. Leftists don’t care.

  • I can’t decide which is their most common trait. I’ve narrowed it down to dishonesty or hatred.

    You cannot negotiate with ideologues. Here’s their, Alinskyite definition of compromise: “My way or no way!” All they do is demonize, lie, and polarize.

    This time, the House again needs to send the senate CCB. And, when the reds table that, send them CCB-squared.

    Gallup Poll: Obama approval – 40% (34% Independents); Disapprove – 50%.

    There are many mysteries in life. Someone listed a few on Instapundit the other day. “Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets? Why are there no ‘B’ batteries? Who would pay to see a Fat Michael Moore movie? Why is the GOP afraid to call Obama’s bluff?”

O’Brien on Potter & Entertainment

Thursday, July 28, AD 2011

LifesiteNews has posted an extensive interview with Michael O’Brien about his views on Harry Potter. Michael O’Brien is himself a Catholic author, most known for his novel “Father Elijah.”

Much of the interview is about the particularities of Harry Potter. I agree and disagree with him. While I would concede that there are several instances where the Potter books don’t live up to Christian values, I think he misinterprets many of his examples to skew the books, particular in his discussions about the final scenes. However, I’m more interested in how his views would apply to a subject I rarely see discuss but which is very important: how Catholics ought to approach art and make the decision of whether or not to read/view a particular work. O’brien indirectly touches on this issue through the Potter debate, and it’s those areas I’d like to focus on.

Most important, she has taken the paganization of children’s culture to the next step, in which sorcery and witchcraft—traditionally allied with supernatural evil—is now presented as morally neutral. In the hands of “nice” people it’s an instrument for good. In the hands of not-nice people it’s an instrument for evil. She has shifted the battle lines between good and evil, which can have a disorienting effect, especially on the young who are in the stage of formation.

This is the crux of O’Brien’s argument against Potter: witchcraft is a traditional symbol of evil, and by presenting it as possibly morally neutral Rowling’s world ought to be rejected. His attempts to simultaneously defend Tolkien’s fantasy and the inconsistencies of this are well argued by many others. Howver, I think this claim is wrong even if he did condemn Tolkien.

What an author should do if they wish to use a traditional evil in a different way is to contemplate why that symbol was evil. Wizardry was a symbol of a desire for power and control; vampires for lust and immortality; werewolves for an animalistic view of humans, etc. O’Brien’s argument would corner us into using these motifs always as evil. But I think an author could genuinely write a story about a werewolf fighting his own tendencies in an effort to overcome his weakness. Indeed, Tolkien’s portrayal of dwarves fits into the tendency. The dwarves are tempted by greed and close-mindedness but throughout LOTR Gimli’s experiences change him so that he becomes a veritable hero. So while I think that authors would be wise to deal with the weaknesses inherent in their symbols rather than gloss over them, I don’t think authors are cornered the way O’Brien suggests. While O’Brien is right to suggest that authors need to pay careful attention to the traditional uses, I don’t think they are bound by them. Indeed, O’Brien’s book involves an attempt to convert the Anti-Christ; if that’s not using an evil symbol in an unorthodox way I don’t know what is.

That argument again points to the deeper problem. Without really knowing how we arrived at this position, we have made an artificial split between entertainment and faith—between culture and faith, in other words. We say, “I am a doctrinally correct Catholic (or Christian), I question nothing of the Church’s teaching. So if I want to watch videos, DVDs, television programs that violate those principles, I’m capable of focusing on the good and overlooking the evil.” It goes without saying that we should try to find the good in everything and shouldn’t always be looking for the evil around us. But when our consumption becomes an insatiable appetite, in which the evil components, the falsehoods and glamorization of evil activities are grave matters—and certainly sorcery and witchcraft is of the utmost gravity in terms of violating divine order—we should pause and say, “Is this worth it? Can I really ingest this amount of evil without being affected by it?

Part of this argument is contingent on his claims that Potter contains more evil than good. Now read this quote with it:

Potterworld is a scrambled moral universe. There are Christian symbols in the series, but the author misappropriates them, mutates them, and integrates them into a supposedly larger and broader system where evil symbols are dominant. Why are our antennae not quivering when that happens? I believe it’s because we have been overwhelmed by habitual dependence on the pleasure. I should add that we have also been overwhelmed by many opinion-shapers who tell us that there’s no problem here—even Christian commentators.

I would agree with O’Brien that commentators who say the Potter series presents NO problems are mistaken. But O’Brien’s problem with potter’s “scrambled moral universe” could apply to almost anything. The fundamental problem Christians have with approaching art is that the authors are sinful human beings. Even the best of authors are going to allow their sinfulness to creep undetected into their works so that their work contains mixed moral messages. While some works are clearly better than others at containing far more positive messages then evil (LOTR for example), no work is perfect. There is no work in the world in which the reader ought to be sitting and fully accepting.

The question for the Christian reader is how to deal with this. Part of this relies on literary interpretation. If you read Potter as offering an example of sacrificial love, you are more likely to believe it to ultimately be a useful work of art. If you read Potter as endorsing the end justifies the means, then you’re not. There are times when you can clearly say “x is unacceptable for Christians” but oftentimes this is difficult. Art speaks to different people in different ways so that some people make take more from the good parts than others. This is particularly true in the modern entertainment context, in which everything is very mixed and Christians who wish to stay engaged with the culture find themselves facing very difficult choices.

Even though there are works of art that label themselves as Christian, either they are Protestant, contain mixed moral messages anyway, or are just plain terrible works of art (think “Fireproof,” if you managed to get past the first five minutes of the dialogue). Many of the Catholic writers of the last century wrote stories with very flawed characters who seek truth in a postmodern world (Greene’s Power and the Glory, Percy’s the Moviegoer, Flannery O’Conner).

There’s no easy out, nor should their be. Good art is reflective of the world, and as that world is fallen and the author is fallen Catholics are going to have to balance the good and the bad. Good art ought to point more towards God than point away.

I have no problem if O’Brien or anyone else thinks Harry Potter does more ill than good. I disagree with them, but they are entitled to their opinion. But pretending that it is all evil avoids the difficult decisions that a consumer needs to make; and Catholics who trying to live out the New Evangelization and meet the culture need to be more aware of that decision.

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17 Responses to O’Brien on Potter & Entertainment

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  • Nicely put. Come to think of it, don’ t the legends of King Arthur (and Merlin), come from medieval, Catholic Europe? This whole “magic makes the book evil” position is ludicrously unsupportable. Should we avoid huge swathes of English literature? What are we going to do about Macbeth? Or Dr Faustus? Or, heaven help us, Procopius’ Secret History?

    I could go on. The list of great works with “immoral” content is endless. But we don’t – or shouldn’t – go to art for moral guidance, and we could do nothing worse than trying to hive ourselves off and read only blandly orthodox things. We cannot retreat from the culture around us, and we certainly shouldn’t try to stop children from discovering that – shock, horror – there are bad things out there, and – perhaps more terrible! – people who believe differently.

    We are called to be in the world but not of it. What Fr O’Brien seems to be arguing is that we shouldn’t be in the world in the first place.

    Finally, I’m reminded of something Chesterton said. I can’t remember the exact quote, but the gist is: fairy-tales don’t tell children that monsters exist: they already know that. Fairy-tales tell children that monsters can be killed.

  • It sure sounds like you are saying we need to give a little so that the world does not say that we are reactionists and freaks.

    I would like to meet the world halfway to heaven, but not halfway to hell.

  • Perhaps I ought to have finished by asking:

    Which one of us claims to be knowledgeable enough about the motives and subtleties of such writers and artists or spiritually wealthy enough to not be affected by what the world sells to us as art and creativity?

    We all claim to have a moral compass, but we forget (as men especially) even the slightest hint at some evil masquerading as good is enough to implant imagery in our heads and minds that last a lifetime.

    To be honest, I am not capable of judging for myself what is mere entertainment and what is pushing the envelope. It is for this very reason that I think to the Moral Doctor of the Church, St Alphonsus. It is from there that my conscience is formed. I am certainly at peace, knowing that as Cardinal, Ratzinger was able to point to the dangers of such fantasy books (or evil, masquerading as childish fantasy)

    To swamp in writings like Macbeth, and Frankenstein or any other books containing imagery of evil is not the point of Mr O’Brien. It is the triumph of evil over good and the presentation and characterization of evil as good and harmless is what the essence of his arguments are.

    If all of this is completely ignorant of me, then I do apologize for wasting your time.

  • There is a difference between what an adult reads – and what a parent would (should) select for his child or allow him or her to read. Where evil is presented as good, and the ends justify the means, children can become confused. Actually, the parents, without a good prayer life, might be as well. Subtle innuendos and nuances can create a false sense of right and wrong for children.

    Recently, I was in a library where they had a cabinet full of books recommended for middle school students. In looking over the books, it hit me that the overwhelmingly vast majority of them were “dark” – from the covers to the content to the way they ended. A trip to the book store confirmed what I had just seen at the library – shelves upon shelves of books for children about witchcraft, vampires, etc. And they did not seem to be offset by the kind of books that showed the other side.

    Children (and parents) have a limited amount of reading time. I would like to think that their selections would be those books that will help them toward a healthy intellectual and spiritual life. Entertainment can be an uplifting experience.

    It cannot be easy for Michael O’Brien to go against the grain as he is doing. I think that his is a “sacrificial love” for God and his people in that he is trying to alert people to the possible negative effects of certain books. He is both an artist and an author who has dedicated his life to his faith. His message, I believe, is that it’s better to err on the side of caution than to leave ourselves open to potential dangers in our spiritual lives. He “proposes”, not “imposes”.

  • First of all, I’ve got to say that I don’t respect an author who uses the cheap rhetorical tricks that O’Brien does in that interview. He paints himself as a victim, using the nastiest of his critics’ comments. He builds what appear to be strawmen Catholics whose acceptance of Potter is really driven by relativism. When his critics sound rational, well, don’t addicts sound rational when they defend themselves?

    Moving past that, I admit I’ve never read the Harry Potter books. But as I understand it, pure Harry takes sin upon himself and dies for all mankind, destroying death, then rising so that man may live. Can O’Brien really not detect a Christian theme in the story?

    Tolkien does treat corrupted magic as corrupting, but he also treats uncorrupted magic as holy. Gandalf wields good magic; the elven rings do only good; magic swords and an arrow play important parts in the stories, as well. Likewise, Aslan represents an odd mashup of Christian symbology, but it doesn’t diminish the story or its morality. The granddaddy of Catholic religious fiction has pagan gods in his Inferno. There may be good Catholic arguments against the Harry Potter series, but O’Brien is sure using a lot of bad ones.

  • Sherry – A godchild of mine used to watch Star Wars all the time because she loved Darth Vader. I assume that as she got older, her parents showed her that Darth isn’t a good guy.

    Parents can read all kinds of stories to their children and get them to talk about them, and sort out the moral implications of the stories. It’s not hard to get a kid to start talking about Harry Potter. A parent should explain that even Shrek makes mistakes, that even though Hansel and Gretel were saved they shouldn’t have wandered off by themselves.

  • Philip & Sherry It sure sounds like you are saying we need to give a little so that the world does not say that we are reactionists and freaks.

    I would like to meet the world halfway to heaven, but not halfway to hell.

    I don’t think we should read less than perfect works to seem hip or to avoid being uncool. If a work does more ill than good, then regardless of the flack then put it down and don’t go down that path.

    However, I do think there are benefits to be gained by engaging less than perfect works which still do more good than ill. Not only does one become more aware of the language and the culture around you (which can be used to evangelize and convert the culture, but you gain skills. Entertainment is not the only source of conflicting messages. Our family, friends, coworkers, politicians and almost everyone else bombard us with mixed messages. Being able to recognize that something is not all good or all bad can help Catholics weed out that which leads away from Christ. To do that, like all virtues, require practice and entertainment can be a venue to gain that experience.

    Children (and parents) have a limited amount of reading time. I would like to think that their selections would be those books that will help them toward a healthy intellectual and spiritual life. Entertainment can be an uplifting experience.

    I definitely think you should pursue uplifting books more than others. For example, if you can read either Potter or Lord of the Rings, read LOTR. However, LOTRs are few and far between in either faithfulness and/or quality.

  • Well, Darth does end up being the “good guy” in the end, doesn’t he? Classic redemption scenario.

    But we don’t – or shouldn’t – go to art for moral guidance

    But the vast majority of humanity does, and has throughout history, from Aesop’s fables to HP. So it is encumbent upon artists (and critics, and others in position of influence) to help sort the wheat from the chaff. Art and morality have a very strong connection and interplay between them. It is unrealistic to say we don’t or shouldn’t go to art for moral guidance.

    Having said that, even flawed works can be useful for moral guidance if nothing else than to show what not to do. IMHO, HP, on balance, is probably positive, and if aware of its pitfalls is essentially harmless. But that is the stickler – how many are aware of its pitfalls and separate themselves from same?

  • She liked Darth in Episode 4.

  • It’s not O’Brien that corners anyone into considering witchcraft evil; that part comes from the Bible.
    It seems (and I admit I only read the first HP book) that in Tolkien, the logic of the argument is set from the beginning and becomes clearer as things go along; in HP it is arbitrary and not obvious. HP apologists spend a lot of time clearing things up for us sceptics.

  • I read O’Brien’s Landscape With Dragons a while back, in which he lays out his theory of how fantasy and childrens books should be written, and frankly it was such utter rubbish that it turned me off ever reading any of his fiction.

    Much of his problem (with the Harry Potter books as with other things) is that he thinks that various fictional things must always carry some established meaning, and that any use of them in any other way is a subtle attempt to teach people that good is evil and evil is good.

    For instance, he thinks that dragons are a symbol of evil. Thus, any story which involves a good dragon is a story in which we are being taught to think that evil is good. This, I think, is deeply silly. Dragons are mythical beasts, they don’t exist. There is no particular reason why reptilian creatures that breath fire and have wings must always be evil in a fictional story. They could be good, or they could (like real people) be creatures with free will who behave badly sometimes and well others. However, O’Brien wants to see these entirely fictional creatures as somehow being objectively evil, so that having a “good dragon” in a story is like having a “good murder” or a “good rape”.

    The hang up with Harry Potter (one of his several, at any rate) is similar. Sorcery (trying to make a compact with the devil in order to get certain supernatural powers in return) is something which is certainly evil in the real world. However, in fantasy stories an author may imagine worlds in which magic is simply how things work — in which mixing eye of newt and toe of bat creates energy the way that burning coal or pushing together two lumps of reactible uranium does in the real world. This kind of “chemistry set fantasy” is pretty much what goes on in Harry Potter — magic is simply a “way things work” which certain people have the ability to do, it’s not achieved through compacts with the devil. However, O’Brien basically wants to insist that there is only one imaginable form of magic, and that this form is evil, and thus if someone with more imagination than he write a story set in a world in which “magic” is something else (something non evil) then in fact what the story is doing is suggesting that it’s okay to do evil for good reasons.

    Balderdash.

  • Thanks, Darwin. I was really scratching my head over some of the things written about HP. I can’t recall a single instance in the books where a character did something evil that wasn’t called out as such. HP is one of the more clearly good v.s. evil series in the contemporary children’s fantasy world. If you really want to see some moral ambiguity try the Rick Riordan series. (Not to mention the downwright immoral Phillip Pullman books.) I take it as a good sign that HP is as popular as it is compared with some of its contemporaries. LOTR is on another level and is written for a more sophisticated reader. It also doesn’t deal with the travails of growing up. HP has a lot of great lessons for children. But to each his own.

  • I was concerned about Harry Potter back way back when–about the mixing up of so-called black and white magic–and some of our Catholic homeschooling friends either didn’t want their children reading it at all, or were required to do extensive in-depth book reports. Then the movie came out, and I ran across an article somewhere that reported the Vatican Exorcist saying something to the effect that the movie wasn’t quite as bad as the book and if one just had to wade into HP land, the movie was the less destructive bet. We watched the first movie, and I was pleasantly charmed by the usage of Latin.

    Then I came across the following article on http://catholicexchange.com/2007/07/11/96743/ It’s about contraception and abortion and the words used by the Church to describe and/or understand it: Witchcraft. For me, that changed the map a bit. I gather there is not much contraception and abortion mentioned in Harry Potter.

    Eventually, I “let” my oldest read the first book, the word let in scare quotes because my oldest has dyslexia and reading is not a favored activity. He made his way through the book, and I made my way through the first chapter. I couldn’t get any further because the book seemed very poorly written to me. My son never did ask for the second book, and we have yet to see the last two movies.

    If we are going to be concerned about Witchcraft, should we not be concerned about the real stuff under our noses? It would appear that we have forgotten that Hocus Pocus is at least partially about attempting to destroy God’s creative genius in the marriage bed, but people don’t see that. There may have been a time where an Eye of Newt and a Horn of a Toad were used to kill a child (perhaps at the embryonic stage). Now we call it The Pill and we say it is medicine.

  • Thanks, Darwin/s. I have enjoyed some of O’Brien’s books but just the overview I saw of “Landscape with Dragons” when it first came out made me decide not to read it. I’m glad to hear I was correct in what I understood him to be saying.

    The Harry Potter books are very well written and are great stories. There are so many terrible things out there for kids that this obsession about one of the best kids (and anyone’s) series of fantasy books ever written really puzzles me. I think that many of the people who are so self-righteous about how they don’t read them probably don’t read or watch much of anything, and are just glomming onto these because they are so famous and popular that you can’t miss them. Other book series that are very influential with kids but not quite as ubiquitous are FAR worse for your soul, but they aren’t aware of them.

    I apologize if I offend anyone here but, of the people I know who will not read them, most seem to fit that description. Others, however, just take the whole “magic” thing too literally. I know one family who will not let their kids read the books or see the movies, but whose children practically have all the Star Wars movies memorized. And if you ask me, they are MUCH more problematic! My favorite scene (not) is when Padme decides she really loves Anakin — right after he tells her that he went into the Sand People village and killed every one in it, including the women and children. Now THERE’S an attractive guy! Why don’t you marry him? And for Christians, the whole dualism of “the force” and the quasi-Eastern philosophy thing is out and out wrong, theologically speaking. But where is the Christian outrage against all the little kids running around playing Jedi? NOWHERE. And rightly so. I don’t think the Star Wars mythology, wrong-headed though it is, is a danger to kids. They know it is not real, same as the “magic” in Harry Potter.

  • I read O’Brien’s Landscape With Dragons a while back, in which he lays out his theory of how fantasy and childrens books should be written, and frankly it was such utter rubbish that it turned me off ever reading any of his fiction.

    My reaction exactly. Well put.

  • I simply adore how LifesiteNews says O’Brien is “regarded around the world as an expert on children’s fantasy literature.” Regarded by whom?

3 Responses to To Be Them, Or Not to Be Them

July 28, 1861: Death of Sullivan Ballou

Thursday, July 28, AD 2011

Thirty-two years old in 1861, Sullivan Ballou was already well-established in life.  Married with two sons, he was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and had served as speaker of that body.  When Lincoln called for volunteers, he did not hesitate, and enlisted as a Major with the Second Rhode Island infantry.  At the battle of Bull Run he received what would prove to be a mortal wound.  His right leg was amputated and he succumbed to his wounds on July 28, 1861.  Before the battle of Bull Run he wrote to his wife a timeless letter of love and hope for the future beyond the grave:

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One Response to July 28, 1861: Death of Sullivan Ballou

  • Beautiful letter. I saw a comedian do a routine about the quality of writing from the Civil War soldiers compared to those of Desert Storm. It was a bit profane, but funny (and accurate).

“Catholic” Hospital Has Abortionist on Staff

Wednesday, July 27, AD 2011

Hattip to Creative Minority Report. In a story that sums up quite nicely so much that is wrong with the Church in America, Lifesite News has the tale of an abortionist on staff at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, Colorado.

After a Catholic hospital in Colorado refused to remove a Planned Parenthood abortionist from its ob/gyn staff, pro-life advocates have organized a protest, featuring Live Action President Lila Rose, on Aug. 4.

“The reason I perform abortions is because I’m a Christian,” Richard Grossman, a Quaker, told the Durango Herald after a similar protest outside Mercy Regional Medical Center last year.  “Personally, I believe in the strength, intellect and fortitude of women. When a woman says a fetus is a person, I think it is one. I believe the woman empowers the fetus.”

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27 Responses to “Catholic” Hospital Has Abortionist on Staff

  • Why am I not surprised?

    Confusion and doubt abound. If the bishops don’t get it right what hope is there?

  • When the clergy will not defend Catholic teaching T.Shaw, the laity have a duty, not a right but a duty, to do so themselves.

  • Yes, this is truly appalling. But, as one of the commenters at Creative Minority Report points out, having “privileges” at a hospital is NOT the same as being a PAID staff member, which means the hospital may be legally limited in how much action it can take against him over what he does in his private practice (since it doesn’t actually provide the doc with a paycheck). Also, if he’s had privileges at said hospital for 44 years, that goes back to 1967 — well before Roe. He may not have been performing abortions or publicly advocating abortion back when he was originally granted staff privileges. However, I find it hard to believe that the hospital has absolutely no recourse at all, or that the diocese could deem this situation not to be in conflict with the Ethical and Religious Directives.

  • He is a staff member at Mercy Regional Medical Center Elaine. Apparently the powers that be at Mercy are attempting to make this pig stink less by playing at meaningless word games:

    http://www.catholicvoteaction.org/americanpapist/index.php?p=8147#comments

  • I suppose he is a staff member in the same sense that I am a “staff member” of the local newspapers that I worked as a freelance stringer/correspondent for. Still, if I were involved in some scandalous conduct that cast a bad light on the publication I was stringing for, they wouldn’t hesistate to stop accepting my work, and there must be some means by which Mercy can do the same. At this late date and after having allowed him to continue with staff privileges for so many years, they would certainly be risking a lawsuit, but so be it.

  • Well said Elaine. Most doctors who work for hospitals are not actually paid by the hospital. They are granted hospital privileges and are considered independent contractors. However, that does not stop the hospital calling them staff members and not infrequently mentioning them in advertising about what fine care they provide. In the minds of the public the staff doctor is associated with the hospital and the hospital is associated with the doctor just as if an employee employer relationship existed. Note this from the Mercy web-site:

    “Medical staff at Mercy is comprised of 135 board-certified physicians who represent 35 medical specialties and sub-specialties One of the largest employers in Durango with more than 700 full and part-time employees.”

    Here is some info on the abortionist. Mercy is the only hospital he is affiliated with.

    http://www.ucomparehealthcare.com/drs/richard_grossman/hospital.html

  • I know of at least one Catholic hospital that refers/outsources abortion cases to an non-affiliated clinic.

  • The name “Catholic” apparently doesn’t mean anything to schools, Universities, hospitals, etc. This is what happens when we start focusing on social justice issues, ignoring the weighty issues of repentance and conversion. John 6:24-27:

    “When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ Jesus answered them and said, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.'”

    I am coming to the conclusion that the best thing the Church can do is to get out of the health care, education and adoption businesses, and start focusing on saving souls from eternal damnation. After all, Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20:

    “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

    There is nothing in that statement about hospitals, adoption agencies, schools or universities.

  • I disagree Paul. The Amish style of withdrawal from the World has never been what the Catholic Church does. Our mission is to convert the World. We need to reclaim our institutions, our hospitals, adoption agencies, schools and unversities and we need to be busy about the work of converting all the nations.

  • ‘The Amish style of withdrawal from the World has never been what the Catholic Church does.’

    Don, you’re forgetting about countless Catholic monastic orders that live in virtual seclusion and spent entire lives with no contact with the outside world.

  • Not at all Joe. The monastic life has never been for more than a minute portion of the Catholic population and never has been recommended by the Church for the entire population. Engagement in the World so as to Christianize it, not retreat from it, has ever been the message of the Church for the vast majority of Catholics.

  • Don,

    I’ll compromise. First, let’s clean up our parishes and dioceses. Let’s return to preaching the Gospel of repentance and conversion. Let’s put the Bread of Eternal Life first. Then, when we can do that right, we might be able to return to social justice activism. But right now, social justice activism has replaced Jesus Christ as God in much of what passes for Catholicism in these United States. While yes we are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, care for the sick, etc., NONE of these things are the GOAL of the Gospel. The goal is repentance and conversion. It is righteousness and holiness, NOT filled bellies. Even Jesus said that.

  • “On staff” at a hospital generally means a physician has privileges. Unless they are made a director of a certain department, they are usually not employees of the hospital.

    Credentialing and privileging is controlled by the medical staff bylaws and the medical executive committees and board of trustees, who are independent of the hospital management/ownership. There is a little the hospital can do with morality clauses, but it may be difficult to restrict because if the hospital wants to be viable as an ongoing concern (whether profit or non-profit) it will most likely have to be medicare/medicaid certified. That means it will have to comply with fed regs that can require certain provisions in bylaws, etc. For example, privileges have to be reviewed/renewed every two years.

    There are other restrictions. Because a hospital has to be licensed by the state as well as the physician, the state can impose requirements on credentialing and privileging. There are minimum due process rights a physician has with respect to obtaining privileges at a hospital, so whether a “no abortion on your own time” restriction would work is probably an open question.

  • So Mercy Hospital blandly asserts that it is unable to remove a doctor
    from its staff because while what he does outside of the hospital
    undercuts everything a Catholic institution should stand for, it’s still
    perfectly legal.

    Why do I get the feeling Mercy Hospital wouldn’t be so willing to
    throw in the towel on getting this man out if he were discovered to be,
    say, a member of a neo-nazi group? Really, would their response to
    the press and outraged Catholics be just as tepid as it in this case?

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  • Clinton, a neo-nazi could be a threat to patients. A better analogy may be if the abortionist was openly gay and cohabitating with another man. In that case, I can easily imagine a similar response from the hospital.

    Suppose it wasn’t a doctor but the hospital’s IT guy. Would people still be outraged?

  • RR, certainly an abortionist could be considered a threat to Mercy’s patients, at least
    its’ unborn ones. I used the example of a neo-nazi because while such an affiliation
    is legal, it would be very controversial and certainly politically incorrect. Would the
    hospital continue to blandly assert that such a person wasn’t doing anything illegal
    and so could not be denied privileges, or would they work overtime to somehow get
    such a person off the staff? Of course they would, and a good days work it would be.

    I suspect that this doctor has been on the staff of Mercy Hospital for 44 years yet
    has made no bones about his pro-abortion work because the other staff of that
    hospital think that killing babies is not a huge deal. I would go so far as to say that
    Mercy Hospital is a secular, decadent hospital that uses a thin, decorative veneer of
    Catholicity as a marketing tool, with no real commitment to the Church’s teachings.

  • “Suppose it wasn’t a doctor but the hospital’s IT guy. Would people still be outraged?”

    I certainly would RR. Abortionists should have no connection with Catholic hospitals. In a morally sane era, this would be a subject for black humor rather than an appalling reality.

  • I asked my mother about this one. She’s a doctor and has been on the board of her hospital, for profit not Catholic, but they follow the same regulations. She said that once a doctor has privileges at the hospital it is nearly impossible to remove him unless he does something illegal or negligent at the hospital itself. Since this doctor has been at the hospital since before Roe, I don’t believe he can be removed by the hospital unless he were performing abortions at the hospital itself. He could also take retaliatory action against the hospital by excessively using resources (ordering unnecessary tests for non-paying patients, leaving patients admitted for longer than needed etc.). He could make life very difficult for everyone at the hospital if he wanted to, and they wouldn’t be able to remove him. What protesters can do is draw attention to the doctor through public pressure and encourage his regular ob/gyn patients not to use him. But I think the hospital is probably stuck between a rock and hard place.

  • So the law is rigged to protect an evil abortionist but defame the righteous pro-lifer and murder the innocent baby. Truly what is the difference between this abortionist “physician” and his spiritual Nazi fore bearers?

  • “He could make life very difficult”

    Time for protesters to make life very difficult for this murderous “physician”, including, I trust, the Bishop of the Diocese. You know, the stunning part of this is that I am sure that this bozo didn’t begin doing abortions the day before yesterday. This probably has gone on for decades, and, as far as I can tell, protests about this have only begun very recently. Time also for Catholic hospitals to include a “morals clause” in their agreements with physicians. Such are standard in the broadcast industry and would perhaps give Catholic hospitals an avenue for quick firing of “physicians” who decide that giving death is their true vocation.

  • No you’re talking, Donald!
    😀

  • Now you’re talking, Donald!
    😀

  • Ignore the “no” – I hate iPad editing!

  • “I know of at least one Catholic hospital that refers/outsources abortion cases to an non-affiliated clinic.”

    what is the name and the location?

  • “When the clergy will not defend Catholic teaching T.Shaw, the laity have a duty, not a right but a duty, to do so themselves.”

    not without a price to pay. Come to boston and find out.

  • Jasper, St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander, WI, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, WI

Alexander Hamilton and the National Debt

Tuesday, July 26, AD 2011

This country was blessed at its founding to have on the scene a member of the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who was a financial genius.  His idea to have the Federal government adopt the Revolutionary War debts of the states in order to establish the credit of the new Federal government was a policy of genius.  At a stroke he restored the credit of the country as a whole, made certain the debt would be paid, made America attractive to foreign investors and laid the basis of future American prosperity.  His ideas on the subject were set forth in his first report to Congress on  public credit, 1789, and which may be read here.

The final paragraph of the report is salient for the time in which we live:

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29 Responses to Alexander Hamilton and the National Debt

  • ” . . . the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment.”

    Ah, there’s the rub. The US likely does not have the capacity to repay.

    Adults are trying to set up a means where, at least, the debt will not “eat us alive.”

    Demagogues are kicking the can down the road and cannot agree to cutting the Federal dollars they use to buy political power, er help the poor.

    The name of the president’s secret plan seems to be “demonize, lie, and polarize.”

    FYI: When a corporation applies for a commercial loan, the Board of Directors passes a resolution authorizing the corporation to incur the debt. The bank then looks at the corporation’s collateral, capacity to repay, character, credit, and capital. Then, decides whether or not to extend the loan. The BoD borrowing authority only says the corp. owners want the money. The credit decision is made on the numerous other general credit factors mentioned.

    The US is not a AAA credit, anyway.

  • Don,

    What do you suppose Hamilton would have said about whether we should raise the debt ceiling?

  • This scene portrays rather well the complexities of the balance between states rights and the need for a strong yet not overreaching central government.

    I find Jefferson’s support for the French Revolution so ironic in that it was so contrary to Jeffersonian sense of liberty, especially in regards to the right of the church to tend to its owninternal affairs. Jefferson, despite his views on institutionalized religion, was adamant in defending the rights of church bodies to tend to its own affairs and the need for them to influence political action.

    While I believe Washington was the greatest of the founders overall, I find John Adams the most endearing. He was at times impetuous and thin skinned, but could aspire to greatness despite.

  • “What do you suppose Hamilton would have said about whether we should raise the debt ceiling?”

    I rather suspect that he and many of the other Founding Fathers BA would wonder why the American people hadn’t long ago risen in revolt. What the Founding Fathers intended as the government of our new nation is not what we have now, and the Federal government bears an uncanny resemblance to the government of King George III, in many respects, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Governmental intrusion in the daily lives of the citizenry they would have regarded as shocking. Our expenditures and tax rates they would regard as obscene. The number of Federal criminal statutes they would regard as an engine of tyranny. In judging most aspects of modern American life, except for our technological advances, I suspect the views of the Founders would be pungently negative.

  • ” . . . the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment.”

    Fortunately, we do have the means to extinguish our debts when those bonds come due. No matter the amount we take out, we have the means to extinguish them as we are the issuer of our own currency. And it’s not simply just printing money, its more accurately changing numbers in bank accounts. The debt is simply the amount of savings in dollars that the private sector holds. Bonds (or debts) are offered so that holders of dollars have an interest-earning option to their dollar holdings. It is a way that the government can keep inflation and interest rates from spiking by “forcing saving” when it needs to spend. Deficits are simply the amount of net injection of dollar reserves into the private sector.

    We cannot go bankrupt, unless we volunatrily declare it, as we are threatening to do.

    To say that our government is too big and should be reduced is one thing and is, I think, up for further debate and should be our polticians’ focus; but to say that we can have so much debt that it cannot be extinguished is simply a misunderstanding of how government finances work in a sovereign nation with its own currency.

    If you think differently, tell me how the government does not have the ability to pay its debt, and I will be glad to debate with you.

  • You are mistaken Alex. Too much conjuring money out of thin air and we all have monopoly money of no value. One can imagine the impact on the value of the dollar :

    http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2011072922/beyond-debt-ceiling-30-trillion-plan-ending-national-debt

    This type of printing endless paper money to pay for government has been tried twice in American history: The Continentals during the American Revolution and Confederate currency during the Civil War. It is beyond the power of any government to alter economic reality forever.

  • First of all, I wish you no ill-will or animosity of any kind. Nor do I inted to attack you as a person in any of my comments, so please do not read them in that way. I am just trying to promote truth (and its opposite, demote non-truths) and lively debate about achieving the common good.

    You are correct, we can all “conjure money out of thin air” the problem is its acceptability. The value of the dollar is dependent on its supply and its demand. Taxes are what create a demand for government money. I am not familiar with the continentals of the American Revolution, but I challenge your suggestion that the reason for the Confederacy’s inflation was “printing endless paper money.” In their case it came from their inability to tax their people, they had no reason to hold and accept it.

    What do you think gives money its value? It is no longer backed by gold or any other commodity. Even if it was it does not explain why we all hold and use US govt dollars. We hold them and use them because the government demands them in payment of taxes and if we refuse to pay those taxes, we face some kind of punishment.

    As for reality, there are many institutions who hold economic power and who alter our economic reality. The question is: should the government get involved and if so how? It seems clear you think it shouldn’t, I am merely pointing out that it can get involved without constraint of bankruptcy. I would rather debate what governemnt should do, and not what it supposedly can’t do.

    In regard to the article, I see no reason to retire all or any of our debt. I am more than okay with ignoring the debt constraint through seignorage, but would prefer a payroll tax holiday for both employers and employees so that we can boost demand and end the recession.

  • “What do you think gives money its value?”

    The goods and services produced by a population. That is why Zimbabwe can print trillion dollar bills and they will not receive a trillion dollars in goods in return.

    “In their case it came from their inability to tax their people, they had no reason to hold and accept it”

    Incorrect. The States of the Confederacy also issued state paper money as legal tender and that currency was wiped out by the same inflation that wiped out the Confederate currency. The South simply lacked the economic basis for the paper currency being issued. The North on the other hand had stunning success with the greenbacks issued during the war. The worthlessness of Confederate currency was replicated with the issuance of Continentals during the Revolution by the Continental Congress. Paper money is worthless paper unless a country has the economic strength to assure people that the nation backing it with its full faith and credit can prevent the money from collapsing in value.

  • “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know that ain’t so.” Will Rogers

    Whose portrait will be on the $10,000,000,000,000 Federal Reserve Note (or platinum or plutonium coin)? Saul Alinsky or Michelle Obama?

    Deficit/national debt problem solved.

    Brilliant!

  • We hold them and use them because the government demands them in payment of taxes and if we refuse to pay those taxes, we face some kind of punishment.

    An odd theory of money. The reason I hold dollars is because I’d rather make transactions in small paper notes than in chickens or shirts or martinis. You seem dismissive of the whole medium of exchange/unit of account/store of value definition of money. On what basis do you think seigniorage is not inflationary? Or perhaps you don’t see anything wrong with inflation?

  • I see I am not making much headway here, so I will defer to an expert on my views of money. I’m not a quack who thinks he knows everything, rather I am a Ph.D. student of economics who believes whole-heartedly in the modern money definition of money that has its roots in Chartalism.

    So if you are interested in my views of money I implore you to read a short and easy book Understanding Modern Money: The Key to Full Employment and Price Stability by L. Randall Wray or “What is Money” an article by A. Mitchell Innes.

    But I stand fully behind the explanation of hyper-inflation given above (by me), that it is more the inability of the government to tax (and therefore its inability to appropriate REAL resources towards it uses, like wars, infrastructure, etc.) rather than its printing of money willy-nilly without it being properly backed by real goods. If it wants to appropriate real resources to itself by printing and issuing its own money it has to be able to enforce a tax in that money. Otherwise, yes, printing money will lead to Zimbabwe, the Confederacy, or the Weimar Republic.

    And as I retreat, I still don’t think you’ve given me an answer why people demand government money. Why hold government dollars instead of your own money? What makes them so special? I contend it has to do with taxes and enforceable contracts, you say its because it is an easier medium of exchange?

  • Sorry one last recommendation to understand where I am coming from in regard to the taxes and demand for govt currency:

    http://neweconomicperspectives.blogspot.com/2011/07/mmp-blog-8-taxes-drive-money.html

  • Pacem. A. Binder: Good for you.

    I’m a mere conservative, tea party hobbit who is constantly enthralled by academics’ and politicians’ detachments from both reality and virtue.

    Only thing that will save the US is stable, strong economic growth.

    The US debt was 117% of GDP at end of WWII. Since, the debt was never paid down. The economy/GDP growth far outpaced debt growth. That reversed in the 1960’s and 1980’s and 2000’s. Spending has expanded at higher rates than both taxes revenues and GDP growth and development. Federal spending was $2 trillion when Clinton left in 2000. It was $3 trillion when Bush left in 2009. It is $4 trillion in 2011. And, will rise each year if the GOP doesn’t stop it.

    There is one rational (completely absent from DCcrats) argument that might support this huge, deathly debt. I have not heard it.

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  • Alex is right. The ISSUER of the currency “cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations denominated in that currency” — a quote from Alan Greenspan, who ought to know! As Ben Bernanke affirmed: the government spends by marking up balances in others’s accounts. It taxes by marking them down. A deficit means a net addition to the non-government sector’s holdings of financial assets. So-called “fiscal responsibility” misses this point completely. Notice that the private sector is now running massive surpluses. Why is that? Anyone who understands balance sheet accounting knows that it is because the government’s deficits have been large enough too push the print sector back into surplus … Where is belongs.

    And it is sheer folly to suggest that the US has “never paid down the debt”. Anytime the government runs a surplus (as under Clinton”) debt is retired (rather than rolled over). And how did that work out for the economy? The Clinton surpluses 1997-2001 were the longest on record since the 1927-1930 surpluses? Coincidence.

    Stephanie Kelton

  • Why is that? Anyone who understands balance sheet accounting knows that it is because the government’s deficits have been large enough too push the print sector back into surplus … Where is belongs.

    Though to the extent that the private sector surplus is representative of people needing pay down excessive debts they’ve built up, or socking away extra savings because they fear more economic instability in the near future, the private sector running at a “surplus” is not necessarily a healthy sign.

    And it is sheer folly to suggest that the US has “never paid down the debt”. Anytime the government runs a surplus (as under Clinton”) debt is retired (rather than rolled over).

    Well, it’s never paid off all the debt. There have been times when the government has run a surplus, thus decreasing the total amount of debt, but there’s certainly never been a period when the US hasn’t had debt. (Not that I would advocate that.)

    And how did that work out for the economy? The Clinton surpluses 1997-2001 were the longest on record since the 1927-1930 surpluses? Coincidence.

    Frankly, I think this is one of the weaker MMT claims, at least if it’s meant to be cause and effect. It seems really hard to argue that the late ’20s stock bubble or the DotCom era stock bubble were caused by the government running a surplus — though perhaps one could argue that part of the reason for the surplus was that the economy was booming and thus the government receipts were growing faster than its expenses (the which booming turned out to be leading up to a bust.)

    Plus, the 27-30 period was entirely different in that back then the US was on the gold standard — we didn’t have a fiat currency.

  • Darwin–

    Hello again.

    I think you make a good point about private sector surplus. It certainly does matter who takes in that surplus and how they use it. Because of the private sector debt run up prior to the crisis and the subsequent crash, people are needing to pay down large amounts of debt. They desire a larger surplus–more savings. I think it’s important to give it to those most in need through programs like medicaid, TANF, etc., but I also advocate a payroll tax holiday until demand picks up. People will pay down their debt and eventually start spending, and this may mean larger deficits, but demand-pull inflation won’t be an issue as long as their are so many idle resources. So we need more of a surplus in the right hands to see it as a healthy sign.

    About the ‘surpluses lead to recession’…a booming economy certainly can lead to a government surplus of its own accord through increases in revenue. The argument, though, is that gov’t surpluses take away from the private sector who will almost always prefer to take in net savings or a net surplus. So govt surpluses take away the desired savings of the private sector. They also reduce the total income of the private sector. People often will desire to consume at a minimum level that maintains the standard of living they are used to and often times they desire to consume more than that to “keep up with the Joneses”. If the gov’t surplus takes away income and savings from the private sector, when the private sector is trying to increase it, the private sector will respond by taking on more debt to keep up their consumption patterns which is partly what drives a bubble. So I do think, through this reasoning, there is some cause and effect–govt surplus leads to recession.

    Also, MMT is still applicapable to gold standard regimes, the implications are what change.

  • The argument, though, is that gov’t surpluses take away from the private sector who will almost always prefer to take in net savings or a net surplus. So govt surpluses take away the desired savings of the private sector.

    I think you are overlooking the role the Federal Reserves plays in a fiat system.

  • In case my last comment was too obscure, the problem with the argument is that it (implicitly) assumes the Fed does not alter its policy based on what the government is doing. That is an implausible assumption for modern fiat based monetary systems. If government starts sucking more money out of the economy via taxes than it puts in through government spending, for example, that will exert a downward pressure on inflation. If the Fed is targeting inflation, however, it will respond to this pressure by loosening its own policy a corresponding amount, and the net effect overall will be approximately zero. A similar line of reasoning applies if the Fed is targeting interest rates, NGDP, etc.

  • Well, it’s never paid off all the debt

    I believe there was no federal debt for a time in 1835 and in 1841

  • DarwinCatholic said:

    “Well, it’s never paid off all the debt. There have been times when the government has run a surplus, thus decreasing the total amount of debt, but there’s certainly never been a period when the US hasn’t had debt. (Not that I would advocate that.)
    with one brief exception the federal government has been in debt every year since 1776.”

    Again, not so.

    From http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/ppb_111.pdf

    “For the first and only time in U.S. history, the public debt was retired in January 1835 and a budget surplus maintained for the next two years, in order to accu- mulate what President Jackson’s Treasury secretary, Levi Woodbury, called “a fund to meet future deficits.” In 1837, the economy collapsed into a deep depression and drove the budget into deficit, and the federal government has been in debt ever since.

    There have been seven periods of substantial budget sur- pluses and debt reductions since 1776. The national debt fell by 29 percent from 1817 to 1821, and was eliminated in 1835 (under President Jackson); it fell by 59 percent from 1852 to 1857, by 27 percent from 1867 to 1873, by more than 50 percent from 1880 to 1893, and by about a third from 1920 to 1930. Of course, the last time we ran a budget surplus was during President Clinton’s second term.”

  • oops. that last line “with one brief exception the federal government has been in debt every year since 1776” was from the article I provided, not from DarwinCatholic.

  • Blackadder,

    You make a good point, thank you for clarifying. I do not think I overlooked the Fed, however. I believe that the Fed, or monetary policy in general, has less control over inflation than fiscal policy. The Fed primarily targets over night interest rates, or the price of money, which affect the quantity of money much less directly. Monetary policy has more to do with interest rate management than inflation management. The purpose of the Fed’s actions, as long as they are targeting overnight interest rates, is to avoid undue impacts on reserves from Treasury actions, in order to maintain interest rates at target levels.

    The only exogenous variable they set is the overnight rate, which I believe has very little impact on how much banks loan out to borrowers and therefore on the quantity of money (note that despite very low rates at the moment there is very little borrowing because there is no demand for loans because there is no demand for the goods and services those loans would provide), and the rest of their actions are defensive, that is, meant to maintain the rate they set.

    If I didn’t explain myself well enough I direct you to Understanding Modern Money by L. Randall Wray, particularly Chapter 5. Or perhaps this post regarding inflation and an alternative theory of prices will suffice: http://neweconomicperspectives.blogspot.com/2011/07/two-theories-of-prices.html

  • I believe that the Fed, or monetary policy in general, has less control over inflation than fiscal policy.

    In 1980 the inflation rate in the United States was 13.5%. In 1983 it was 3.2% (I could cite dozens of other similar cases, but let’s look at this one). This coincided with aggressive action by the Fed to get inflation down. It did not coincide with any significant contractionary fiscal policy. On the contrary, the federal government cut taxes during this period while simultaneously increasing spending.

    If you think monetary policy doesn’t have much effect on inflation, how do you explain the fall in inflation rates from 1980-83?

  • The idea that fiscal policy has a greater influence on inflation than monetary policy is pretty unorthodox. In any case, I think the evidence, as well as mainstream economic thinking, supports Blackladder’s assertions.

  • Blackadder,

    First, I’m not sure what you mean by “aggressive action.” Volcker tried targetting monetary aggregates for the first time ever from 1979 – 1982 to control inflation and it didn’t go so well, meaning he didnt (couldnt) hit his targets.

    Second, I think that contractionary monetary policy can have an effect on inflation through its effect on aggregate demand. If pushing interest rates up (which is what happened when the Fed let the FFR float in its attempt to target reserves) causes demand to fall, then inflation will fall accordingly.

    Third, I think that people calling his actions a success is a mistake. He did lower inflation through contractionary monetary policy, but in the process helped bring about a painful recession. Under my policy proposals, that wouldn’t have to happen for inflation to be reduced.

    My contention is that inflation is affected more by aggregate demand and aggregate supply and less by monetary policy. Monetary policy can certainly have an effect on inflation if it’s policies have an effect on aggregate demand or aggregate supply.

    As it says in the link I posted:
    “Thus, overall, there are two sources of inflation in this approach, a cost-push source (here summarized by the unit labor cost) and a demand-pull source (here summarized by the aggregate demand gap). Note that the money supply is absent from this equation. Money does not directly affect prices.”

  • Mike,

    I believe that fiscal policy has a greater effect on aggregate demand and therefore on prices and inflation than does monetary policy. I’m not sure what evidence you are referring to or how much economics you have had. I’m quite aware my views are unorthodox as are my Catholic Social Teaching views on economics in general.

    I realize that I have a major uphill battle against the mainstream, but I am choosing to debate others and defend/promote my views in any way I can for the common good of all people. I truly believe that this is right and that understanding it will help us achieve greater economic propserity and stability and thus enable us to focus on a more equitable and just distribution of wealth as well as on social issues that deserve our attention more so than bad economics such as abortion, death penalty, etc.

    I did not come up with these ideas on my own and encourage you to look into it for yourself so that you can decide what you think is right/wrong rather than just trusting the mainstream and the talking heads on television.

    I do not wish to persuade anyone, but rather to help them come to the right conclusions themselves for I, too, was once a mainstream thinker before I pursued the topics further.

    If you want to know more, visit my blog: Christian Economics where you can find in my opinion a wealth of resources on Catholic Social Teaching and heterodox views of economics including the ones I mention in my comments.

  • My contention is that inflation is affected more by aggregate demand and aggregate supply and less by monetary policy.

    This is kind of like saying ‘I believe that deaths from gunshot wounds are caused less by bullets than they are by a lack of oxygen to the brain.’ Both monetary and fiscal policy operate through certain mechanisms. The question, though, was which of the two was more powerful.

    Suppose you have a monetary authority (the Fed) that wants to increase aggregate demand and a fiscal authority (Congress) that wants to decrease it. Who wins? The fiscal authority controls around a quarter of GDP. The monetary authority controls the money supply. The fiscal authority acts infrequently and with a fair amount of notice as to what they will do. The monetary authority is constantly adjusting its activities to meet its objectives. The fiscal authority is made up of people most of whom have little to no idea how the monetary authority works or whether it might be pursuing a contrary policy. The monetary authority is very aware of what the fiscal authority is doing and how it may affect its own goals.

    It’s not even a close call.

    I think that people calling his actions a success is a mistake. He did lower inflation through contractionary monetary policy, but in the process helped bring about a painful recession. Under my policy proposals, that wouldn’t have to happen for inflation to be reduced.

    What is the policy proposal you would have suggested to bring down inflation without a recession?

  • Right, I contend that fiscal is more powerful. I also contend that the monetary authority doesn’t control the money supply (that’s perhaps my main point).

    I agree with your statements starting “The fiscal authority acts infrequently…how it may affect its own goals.” I still think that whether congress knows it or not their policies have more affect on our economy (and money supply) than monetary policy.

    I’m not sure what you’re saying is not a close call. Monetary authorities being aware of their policies and fiscal authorities unaware does not make monetary policy more powerful.

    The policy I suggest (but to be clear its not my own idea; I didn’t come up with it) for both full employment and price stability is a buffer stock job guarantee program. To explain the policy would take a lot of time and I am currently working on such paper incorporating CST principles and will also be engaging in debate with DarwinCatholic over the policy in the near future. But if you’d rather not wait you can read all about it in Understanding Modern Money: The key to full employment and price stability by L. Randall Wray. Wray is a very learned economist and the greatest pupil of the late great Hyman Minsky. You can purchase the short, easy to read, and relatively cheap book at Amazon.

Perry Vs. Santorum on Gay Marriage

Monday, July 25, AD 2011

At this early stage of the game, I’d say that my top  choices for the GOP nomination are two Ricks: Perry and Santorum.  The latter has as much chance as I do of actually getting the nomination, but he’ s also the one who I am most sympathetic to ideologically.

I say this all as a preamble because I’m going to disagree with parts of both of their comments from this past weekend.  Rick Perry had this to say about New York’s decision to permit gay marriage:

Perry, who is considering running for president, at a forum in Colorado on Friday called himself an “unapologetic social conservative” and said he opposes gay marriage — but that he’s also a firm believer in the 10th Amendment, the Associated Press reported.

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he said to applause from several hundred GOP donors in Aspen, the AP reported.

“That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”

Perry’s argument on behalf of federalism is completely legitimate.  For now I’ll leave that specific debate aside and focus on the tenor of Perry’s statement.  While one can argue that a state has a right to do x, it does not follow that the state should be free from criticism.  This is similar to something that Rudy Giuliani said, and which I criticized last week.  All that federalism means is that individual states have wide latitude to formulate their own laws, free from interference by the federal government.  Federalism does not mean that citizens of other states cannot criticize these decisions.  This idea that federalism entails complete silence on the doings of other states is akin to those who hide behind the first amendment when they say something silly and earn public ridicule.  Just because you have the right to do something or say something it doesn’t mean that you should do something, and citizens of other locales absolutely have the right to speak out against these decisions and perhaps persuade the citizens of the state in question to change their mind.

That said, I have a slight issue with Santorum’s response:

That prompted a response from Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who tweeted overnight: “So Gov Perry, if a state wanted to allow polygamy or if they chose to deny heterosexuals the right to marry, would that be OK too?”

It’s not unfair to employ the logic of  a slippery slope argument.  There are already rumblings from polygamist groups who want to legalize polygamy now that the floodgates have opened.  That said, there are a couple of problems with this rhetorical strategy.  To me the slippery slope argument is the last refuge when all other arguments fail.  It doesn’t really address the actual issue at hand, and in fact there’s a subtle implication that the subject under consideration is not all that serious a concern.

I guess what bothers me about Santorum’s tweet is that it doesn’t tackle the issue of gay marriage head on.  I acknowledge that this is just a tweet, and Santorum has no doubt argued well on behalf of traditional marriage before.  But this smacks too much of a dodge, as though gay marriage isn’t that bad – but polygamy and the outlawing of heterosexual marriage, now that’s bad.  If the issue under discussion had been abortion, would Santorum have raised the specter of something semi-related?  I doubt it.

I’ll admit I might be nitpicking here, and that Santorum is simply mocking the absurdity(in his view) of Perry’s federalist stance.  Again, you’re not going to capture a lot of nuance in a single tweet – which says something about the nature of twitter, but that’s for another rant.  I just fear that too often defenders of traditional marriage rely upon the slippery slope argument too facilely.  If gay marriage is as bad for society as we think it is, we should argue against it on its own merits (or demerits) instead of attacking semi-related subjects.

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22 Responses to Perry Vs. Santorum on Gay Marriage

  • “While one can argue that a state has a right to do x, it does not follow that the state should be free from criticism.

    That’s exactly the idea that I thought when I first read Perry’s remarks. He had an opportunity to display some moral leadership on this issue, and he backed down.

    I know that right now he’s a governor, and he’d like for his state to enjoy the states’ rights that the Constitution calls for. But, for a man flirting with running for POTUS, he needs to show he’s capable of leading a nation.

    As for Santorum’s tweet: I think his response was fine. The institution of marriage is under attack on several related fronts. They need to be linked together in the public’s mind. His tweet might just be the motivation for someone to look more deeply into the matter. I don’t think that it will be a cause for someone to disregard the matter. It was (IMHO) a winning tweet.

  • Sorry about the bold in the above paragraph. 😳

    I wish there was a way to preview the post.

  • Frankly, I think the responses offered by both men don’t fully encapsulate their positions on the matter. Then again, this is a sound-bite culture, and they will be judged accordingly. They need to do better.

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  • The key problem is that it is not a “slippery slope”, it’s a fundamental shift. If marriage is just a legal arrangement, then of course, anything can be legislated and it’s just a matter of jurisdiction. If it of divine origin, then no law can declare that something is a marriage when it is not. There is no slope, it’s one or the other. There is no half way point, only a series of inconsistencies between one end an another. And it’s not the last refuge of the desperate, it’s the key defending wall on the citadel of marriage.

    It’s the very same situation with contraception. Either sex is fundamentally tied to the creation of children within a family, or it is not. If it is not, then anything is permissible. It’s one or the other.The logic is spelled out in Humanae Vitae and all the consequences spelled out in the encyclical have come to pass.

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  • What Anil said. Double.

  • I find Perry’s stance wanting and cavalier at best. ‘That’s fine with me.’ If I were running for the GOP nomination, I’d cut and paste that in every ad to point out Perry’s lack of moral leadership. Santorum’s argument is valid and not slippery slope, it’s more reductio ad absurdum. If so-called ‘gay marriage’ is allowed, then why not marry 3 people, marry your mother or marry your dog?

    And what of the Defense of Marriage Act which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996 whereby the federal government defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Even though repeal attempts are under way and court challenges are pending, it’s still the law of the land as far as I know even though the Obama regime is no longer defending it. Perry, who I thought might have been a good POTUS candidate, blew it as far as I’m concerned.

    BTW, governors make much better presidents than Senators. Governors run governments; senators just legislate.

  • Several New York town clerks, all of them Republicans AFAIK, have resigned or have said they will probably resign because of the institution of SSM.

    I understand some Republicans have other priorities. But their fellow partisans are being purged from government in SSM states, thereby shrinking the party’s talent pool for future action. Perry can’t just stand on federalist principles and let his allies hang in the wind.

  • Perry killed any support he might have had from me in the primary. A concern for Federalism I think has nothing to do with whether what a state is doing is good or bad. It is too clever by half and it is dumb politics to boot in a Republican primary election cycle.

  • Imagine a governor — or anyone — admitting that while he wouldn’t marry a bicycle himself, he has no objection if someone else does. Yet ten years ago the concept of matrimony between two persons of the same sex would have rightly been dismissed as a joke, but time and quiet, subtle, incessant propaganda make even the absurd seem, well, surd. Mr. Jagneaux is exactly right, and Governor Perry, whatever his many qualifications, has displayed a remarkable lack of moral core, and thus should not be in a position of authority.

  • When two become one in covenant, marriage becomes a family. Same sex marriage is not possible in covenant or in physical reality. It is not same sex. Homosexual behavior is assault and battery. Persons cannot consent to a crime of assault and battery.

  • Thanks for the comments. I think what bugged me about Santorum’s comments was less the substance and more what I perceived to be a regular pattern of how we discuss this issue. What he said was fine, but I don’t want us to to become over-reliant on that way of formulating the issue. Granted I might be nitpicking there.

    We seem pretty agreed on Perry. I’m not sure it’s a disqualifier in my books. It is apparent that “federalism uber alles” is his big theme. Normally I’m okay with that, but the concept of federalism doesn’t mean you abandon your moral compass.

  • Assorted and unrefined thoughts:

    1) I think Christians started losing the battle to defend the sacred institution of marriage as soon as they entrusted to government for licensing and regulation.
    2) A lot of ground was lost due to 1930 Anglican Lambeth Conference (which permitted Anglicans to use artificial birth control), the legal acceptance of no-fault divorces, and the acceptance of divorce and remarriage in general by Christians.
    3) With traditional marriage so poorly defended already, we look hypocritical when opposing gay “marriage”.
    4) From a legal standpoint, state recognition of gay unions is a matter of equal protection under the law. Thus, Santorum’s tweet is partially a non sequitur. Polygamy is indeed an obvious logical extension of equal protection arguments, but such equal protection makes denying heterosexual the right to marry completely nonsensical.
    5) The Church, and Christians in general, should never accept homosexual behavior as anything but gravely sinful, but defining and regulating is not a proper function of the State.

  • The State has been regulating marriage from the days of Sumer. Until today mankind was never absurd enough to dream of homosexual marriage. The one constant of marriage was that it was between men and women. Now that is all being done away with so that a small group of people ensnared by a serious sin can receive validation from society at large. Perhaps historians will call our age The Silly Season.

  • You can’t win the marriage argument by playing defense only. That’s the problem with the whole “debate” over so-called gay marriage. It’s been given cachet by the media, putting it on a plane of being just another lifestyle.

    Traditional marriage needs no defense. It has stood for milennia as the norm of human behavior. Instead, the so-called gay agenda and all its insidious and evil impacts should be assailed by all who value what is right. Moral arguments may not succeed where legal arguments hold more sway in a secular society but they are stronger and more persuasive to those willing to examine their consciences.

  • “Moral arguments may not succeed where legal arguments hold more sway in a secular society but they are stronger and more persuasive to those willing to examine their consciences.”

    Moral arguments are always the strongest arguments long term Joe. You are absolutely correct on that.

  • If a candidate says something questionable early in the race, isn’t that the perfect time to write him letters asking him to correct his stand? Simply not voting for him won’t send the message, and won’t change the debate in helpful ways.

    The media and other actors obviously have an interest in making GOP opposition to SSM look as weak as possible, so that it will become as weak as possible.

  • but defining and regulating is not a proper function of the State

    Eric, defining and regulating is the most salient thing the state does. Always and everywhere.

  • “Eric, defining and regulating is the most salient thing the state does. Always and everywhere.”

    1) I accidentally left out the word “marriage” after “defining and regulating”. Oops. 😉
    2) The State should define nothing. Rights are natural and inalienable; they do not flow from the State. All the state ought to be allowed to do is acknowledge and defend them.
    3) Regulation is only justifiable when life, liberty, or property of one person is threatened by the actions of another.

  • So, now Perry has said that deciding abortion on a state-by-state basis is okay.

    I understand that Perry supports and defends traditional marriage and the right to life in the State of Texas, and that he’s personally committed to both of the causes, not just out of political expediency.

    I also understand that he sincerely believes that – as it stands today – the Constitution requires that states get to decide these issues for themselves.

    However, he really needs to follow up these statements of his with something like, “This such an important issue that I will actively pursue constitutional amendments to defend traditional marriage and the right to life.”

    Without saying *something* like that, it sounds to me as though he’s happy to have states do whatever they want on these issues. That’s not acceptable to me.

    Kevin J Jones, you are probably right. If I am interested in having him move in the direction I’d like to see him go, I probably should let him know. (As great as TAC is) I doubt that Rick Perry spends much time browsing the articles and comments here. — But maybe I’ll include a link here in my letter to him 😀

  • Okay, I’ll take the credit: One week after I call the Rick Perry for President hotline, he goes public on CBN, saying that he supports a Constitutional amendment for traditional marriage and against abortion. For what it’s worth.

    Now, I guess I need to call Pizza Hut about that “Free Pizza on Saturdays” idea I like to see happen. 🙂

Shea, Voris and Amazing Grace

Monday, July 25, AD 2011

An interesting spat has developed between Catholic blogger Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It and Michael Voris of RealCatholic TV.  In the above video Mr. Voris attacks the use of the Protestant hymn Amazing Grace at Mass.    Amazing Grace was composed by John Newton, an eighteenth century captain of a slaver, who converted to Christianity, was ordained in the Anglican Church and became an abolitionist.  The song is used frequently at Mass in my parish.

Mark Shea, who has never had any use for Mr. Voris as far as I can tell, attacked the video in a post at his blog:

Voris’ sole message is “I am the measure of Real Catholicism and those who agree with me have the right to call themselves Catholic, while those who disagree are liars and lukewarm fake Catholics”.

Continue reading...

131 Responses to Shea, Voris and Amazing Grace

  • Imus on Fox Business just played Billy Joe Shaver’s “If you don’t love Jesus go to hell.” Truth. How appropriate is that?

    Was Shea staring at his own reflection in the screen as he typed that?

  • Truthfully, I have no use for Shea. Now perhaps I don’t agree with everything Michael Voris says in his video. Still, 99% of what he puts out is right and correct. Shea’s self-glorification is however different and the less publicity given to him, the better.

  • Shea ought to commit himself to writing exclusively for publication. When his utterances are not redacted by Brian St. Paul, they can be just godawful.

  • As far as singing Amazing Grace at Mass is concerned, I might have some stylistic qualms with it, but it is certainly not heretical hymnity as Voris would lead us to believe. I think Voris is becoming way too invective prone for his own good.

    As far as Shea is concerned, I agree with Paul. I find Shea to be a calumnious windbag. Although I agree with Mark in this instance, he is lobbing grenades from a glass bunker in going after Voris.

  • This whole Amazing Grace thing started on Dave Armstrong’s blog. He didn’t like Voris’s take on AG either. I defended MV by saying if we are Catholic, we should be singing our own Catholic songs and hymns. Why bother with music from a tradition that is hostile to us? Armstrong labeled me a Pharisee and another commentator told me that we would be barren without those Prot songs and hymns! We have a 2000 year heritage of sacred music, and we would be barren without those Prot thingees? ROTFL!

  • I’ll stick with Voris. Never heard of Shea. Just As well.

  • Shea’s a pompous tool… of all people, to criticize someone because they put forth themselves as the measure of Catholicity. Physician, heal thyself.

    Look, I think it’s silly and stupid to have Prot hymns at Mass. But un-Catholic? Eh…. there are so many hymns in the Catholic arsenal that we can BOTH get rid of the modern pablum AND the Prot stuff. We do it at my parish, there are plenty of good hymnals to make it work.

  • Most Catholics today ARE protestantized. It began in the 50’s and was revved up by the liberal apostates at V2.
    An informed, orthodox Catholic–say Cardinal Burke–could sing A. G. and, knowing what it means, find nothing heterodox. The general run of the laity, who see little distinction between one denomination and another (“Hey, it’s all the same God”) understand AG as linking them with the general anglophone population who are nice people who support the place of worship of their choice.
    If Catholicism is not adherence to the one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic (Pope-run) it is not too much, just another church. This has been the theme of Voris: let’s be truly and wholely Catholic.
    Voris is trying to reverse the protestantizing trend and start a Catholicizing on.

  • Nothing like a catchy Gregorian chant to get toes tapping. I like Amazing Grace, especially when sung a capella by a great soprano. It’s like Auld Lang Syne, an oldie but goodie.

  • As for ‘dressing like a Protestant,’ would this include wearing Calvin Klein? 😆

  • I don’t track Voris or Shea, but I’ve heard the first part of Voris’s argument from others. “Wretch” means “unhappy or vile person”, from the Old English word for “outcast”. That sounds about right. The argument is that “wretch” indicates that man is rotten to the core, which is a Protestant view. And maybe the word had that meaning at one time. Heck, maybe it has that meaning *now*. I just don’t make that association.

    I’ve never heard the second argument before, and it sounds valid on first hearing. But the hymn doesn’t deny the existence of actual grace. It says that we recognize the value of grace in our first moment of belief, not that grace appears in our first moment of belief.

    Could a person hear the hymn and come away with a Protestant understanding of grace? Sure. A Catholic understanding of grace? Again, sure. Are there better hymns in the world? Yup, a bunch of them. But as Donald points out, in an average four-hymn mass, there are at least two hymns worse than this one.

  • I think the explanation that Voris may be suffering from overly Protestant hair would actually clear up a number of issues.

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  • Don’t like Voris — he annoys me. I do think he’s right about the song, although I like it. It’s a protestant song. And I too have sung “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in church and found it hilarious. There’s another one we sometimes sing that talks about being “the elect.” I forget which one it is. But we are definitely NOT “the elect.”

    However, yesterday I had to endure a hit parade of awful contemporary songs, ending with the execrable “Anthem” (“Who is justice to the poor, Who is rage against the night, Who is blah blah blah blah blah blah, Who is light…” That is TEN THOUSAND TIMES WORSE than “Amazing Grace,” which one can at least choose to interpret in a Catholic way no matter what it actually means. There is no way to interpret crap like “Anthem” except as crap. “We are question, we are creed” — WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN????

  • I specifically requested “How Great Thou Art” for my uncle’s funeral Mass last year, not being the least deterred by its Protestant origins. There is no reason why Catholics and Protestants cannot share hymnody as long as they do not present theological problems. It is important to remember that Protestants are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are in communion with them even if that communion is imperfect.

    Amazing Grace is a fine hymn, even if it suffers a bit from over-use. The complaint regarding the word “wretch” has had currency in Catholic circles for well over 40 years, but I find it unconvincing. When one examines Newton’s life, his self-description is entirely apt.

  • I’d sing “How Great Thou Art” any day.

  • Funny, the referring to oneself as a wretch was what I considered the best part of the song. There’s humility, an admission of sinfulness, and acknowledgement of God’s mercy and grace in that line. Very Catholic, in my mind. The problem with it though is the “saved” – as in it’s a done deal. I know one can sing that line with a Catholic sensibility, but I have no idea how most Catholics think about it, if many even do at all (it is possibly just one of those rote things for many).

  • If Voris is complaining about the casual attire that people wear to church, I can’t fault him. I’d like to see people show more reference to the Blessed Sacrament in their manner and dress. Then again, Protestants used to dress up for church too. The problem isn’t the Protestantizing of American Catholicism; it’s the casualizing of American culture.

  • The hymn Amazing Grace is one of Christendom’s favorites. It’s been exported all over the world. It resonates because its message is simply Christian. It moves from the beginning (conversion) to the end (glory). It expresses a very basic experience shared by all Christians. Such a universal hymn is universally well loved.

  • I attend the 0730 Mass. Then, I don’t cringe through a protestant hootenanny.

    I prefer “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”” and just about any hymn in a 1956 Catholic Hymnal.

    AG is clownish on the pipes. That’s when I speculate what’s under them kilts?

    Yes. Many people come to Mass dressed like they’re going to the beach, and too many don’t know about genuflection or proper reverence for the Holy Eucharist.

  • AG is clownish on the pipes? How so? I think the pipes give it further dignity.

  • I agree, Pat. In some contexts it can be a bit cliche-ish, but cliches often develop for sound reasons. Years ago, when my daughter was a toddler, I decided that Pachabel’s Canon in D would be played at her wedding. Little did I know that since that time it would so dramatically increase in popularity that today it could fairly be described as a cliche. Still beautiful though. And hardly clownish either.

  • Donald:

    How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity. FWIW, I hold no brief insisting that any Catholic *must* sing AG. I merely draw the line at calling it “anti-catholic” and implying that any Catholic who sings it is a protestantized semi-Catholic as distinct from Michael Voris, STB, Real Catholic.

  • Mr. Shea,

    While I might be inclined to agree with you that there is nothing really offensive about Amazing Grace, you still act very arrogantly and appear to be very full of yourself. I recognize this so well because it is one of my own chiefest defects of character. It’s sort of like looking in a mirror. Remember: you are NOT the spokesman for what’s Catholic and what isn’t. I suppose Michael Voris isn’t, either. And I am certainly not. But the fact that you closed down comments on your little piece about Michael Voris indicates you can’t take the criticism. Perhaps I am wrong. Nevertheless, I hope this will be my last interaction with you because you are best when you ignored. PS, feel free to ignore me, too. 😉

  • “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.”

    Agreed Mark! Catholic blogdom is just one big happy family! 🙂

  • Donald: I love you man! 🙂

    Paul: “But the fact that you closed down comments on your little piece about Michael Voris indicates you can’t take the criticism. Perhaps I am wrong.”

    Yes. You are wrong. I closed down comments because, as I have said repeatedly on my blog, I’m super busy. I didn’t want to net.nanny the flood of hysterics coming in from pewsitter and elsewhere, so I closed comments. As a cursory glance at the out of control combox war which has broken out over at Creative Minority Report in the thread about me and Voris illustrates, the tongue is a flame. I decided to save myself the hassle while I’m trying to get other work done.

    Seriously, dude. My comboxes are full, every day, of criticism. I get it all the time. Most of the criticism is fairly rational. Corapi/Voris hysteria quickly becomes insane. When I’m busy, insane people are serious times sucks. Mystery solved. If you are going psychoanalyze my inmost motivations at least pay attention to obvious evidence that you are wrong. Thank you.

  • Oh! One other thing, Paul. You write: “Remember: you are NOT the spokesman for what’s Catholic and what isn’t. I suppose Michael Voris isn’t, either.”

    You know, I couldn’t agree more.

  • Shea certainly has been making a lot of noise lately via ad hominem attacks directed here and there…often against those who either cannot or won’t reply. What I don’t understand is how such a one of such a “brotherhood” gets paid for doing such.

    And ever notice how, in the comments afterwards, he has to react immediately against anyone who just might have a differing opinion! How dare they!

  • Rosie,

    Lest I be accused of an “ad hominem attack,” I am not saying this applies to any specific person. Just draw your own conclusions and apply the lesson therein as you see fit.

    If I act like a baboon, behaving as though I am God’s gift to the Catholic blogosphere while making a sanctimonious pretense at pious objectivity, the best thing you can do is to ignore me. Paying attention to arrogant buffonery gives it its power. Denying it publicity is truly the best that one can do.

    In the meantime, we should pay attention to people like Michael Voris. True, he makes mistakes on occasion. But by and large he is quite orthodox and that is exactly what irritates certain self-appointed so-called Catholic experts in the Catholic blogosphere so much. Being by nature heterodox, they get jealous, especially when the orthodox have a better media outlet than they do. I imagine that irritates them no end, and I couldn’t be happier. I believe the saying is “green with envy.” Hmmmm…..doesn’t the last Commandment say something about that?

  • PS, I do like how Michael Voris really doesn’t pay much attention to what people say about him. In fact, whatever defects of character he does possess, being envious of someone else’s reach into the Catholic media doesn’t appear to be one of them. And he doesn’t seem to have this constant need to quote himself. By all appearances, he is quite Catholic and does indeed enjoy it!

    😀

  • “Lest I be accused of an “ad hominem attack,” I am not saying this applies to any specific person.”

    Profile in courage.

  • I tend to get the cringes when i hear ‘Amazing Grace’ sung during Mass. I guess its because I remember the song coming out as a hit record back in the late 60’s by Judy Collins, and followed up not too long after by Joan Baez. I loved their renditions of the song and the religious tone of the lyrics, but to me, it was a secular ‘hymn’ – not some sacred music. I also loved the bag-pipe instrumental – stirred that part of my blood which retains a strong but distant Celtic Highlander strain.

    To me, its not sacred or holy (old English for ‘set apart’) music, even though the lyrics have been slightly modified from its originally ‘folksy’ format. i recall many years ago at Mass one Sunday, when no organ was available at the church at Mt.Maunganui, one of the choir members started singing ‘Amazing Grace’ for the communion hymn. The priest at the altar interupted him and asked him not to sing it. Undaunted, he again commenced with the opening lyrics, and the priest again interupted him and told him not to sing that song, as it was not a proper or appropriate hymn to welcome Christ in Communion. I agreed with the priest, despite the offended looks on the faces of the ‘touchy-feely’ bunch – mainly women. 😉

    With regard to Michael Voris, I like the guy and get his daily e-mail and
    video clips. IMO he is a bit extremely orthodox, but that is certainly needed today in the battle we have to combat secular humanism and atheism, and the errors in the Church – that is why he is critical of the bishops, our leaders. I do recall many saints in the Church being extreme at times – St.Francis of Assisi comes to mind.

    And if anyone doesn’t like Mark Shea’s pugnacious boisterous style, don’t visit his blog. I quite like him, actually, but nowadays only a lurker rather than a commenter – that may change. Everyone doesn’t have to agree with everyone, as long as the Truth of the teaching of the Church is not being meddled with.

  • “And if anyone doesn’t like Mark Shea’s pugnacious boisterous style, don’t visit his blog.”

    I visited only once or twice. That was sufficient to see my worst defects of character in simultaneous action: arrogance, pride, ego, envy of others, intolerance of orthodoxy in others, etc.

    PS, if it were pugnacious style that was offensive, then I would never have listened to either Fr. Corapi or Michael Voris, both of whom Mr. Shea derides with impunity. I rather like pugnacious orthodoxy. Apparently Mr. Shea does not.

    I shall now go back to ignoring him. He merits not the publicity of even talking about him. 😉

  • As an objective observer with no dog in this fight, can’t help but wonder why Catholics are bashing Catholics over such a trivial matter whether a hymn composed in 1779 is suitable in church. Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? The last thing Catholics need right now is more disunity — especially over mundane matters. Where is the brotherhood that you so famously claim to have?

  • I really liked Mark’s book By What Authority? and because of that I started following his blog. The one time I posted something wasn’t in agreement with his view on the matter and was quickly slashed with his razor sharp pen. I have a feeling that if I were to ever meet him I wouldn’t like him. Or rather, he wouldn’t like me. He’d probably call me an oaf or something like that.

    I started listening to The One True Faith podcast some years ago and really liked Voris’ direct approach. That got me to look at The Vortex. I commented on one video and was dealt the same pen sword that Mr. Shea likes to use. If I ever met Voris he’d probably call me a lemming or something worse.

    Big EGOs at play here.

  • Joe,

    Remember the story wherein the mother of James and John (the Sons of Thunder) asked Jesus that they might sit one at His right hand and the other at His left when He would come into His Kingdom? The Scripture tells us that afterwards the other ten disciples were indignant over this. Truly not much has changed in 2000 years, and I speak as a guilty party. Yes, I need to go to Confession – again.

  • For the life of me I do not see how Judy Collins or Joan Baez covering “Amazing Grace” renders the song secular. Its lyrics are plainly Christian and stirring, as the song’s history makes abundantly clear. Why a Catholic pastor would be offended by the song is beyond my comprehension, but disobeying his instructions during Mass is inexcusable.

  • While I understand that some people may not like Shea’s style, as far as I can tell, the man has never said a single heterodox thing since becoming Catholic. Claiming that he does not like Voris and Corapi because they are orthodox is silly, and it ignore the point he is trying to make (a point that I actually quite agree with), which is probably why he gets so frustrated by the responses he gets — they miss the point. So, for the record, does discussion about whether Amazing Grace is a Catholic hymn or whose side you take.

    She’s point is that Voris’ attempts at being Catholic are primarily focused on cutting down and attacking, as if orthodoxy were primarily a sword and not primarily something beautiful and life giving. Sure, orthodoxy has to defend itself from heresy or fake orthodoxy. But its main job is to help us have life and have it abundantly. And when the self-appointed guardians of Catholicism — and the ones who tend to make headlines — focus primarily on destroying this or that evil thing (especially when the thing is only questionable) they make converting the culture that much harder by presenting an entirely unattractive and mostly false picture of what orthodoxy looks like.

    Shea is sensitive to this fact. So are all of us with friends who don’t understand why one would want to be Catholic but are open. People like Voris make the task of talking to those friends that much harder. And that is a far worse thing than singing Amazing Grace.

  • We know that arguments on the internet tend to (a) get personal, and (b) escalate. If we can do so, let’s keep the conversation about hymn-good versus hymn-bad, rather than Voris versus Shea. We’re Catholics; we’re supposed to be charitable.

  • I apologize. “AG is clownish on the pipes? How so?”

    I think the pipes once were called “war pipes.” I prefer the pipes for “tunes of glory,” for funerals to tunes of adoration, and for the Sword Dance. The pipes were meant to get the blood up when war was “up close and personal”: cleaving assunder the other clan’s gallowglass with a claymoor or battleaxe. “Clownish” probably is the wrong word.

    Does AG express a confidence (arrogance is opposite of humility) of salvation (justification by conversion/Faith?) which may not comport with Catholic teaching: Hope for Salvation, the forgiveness (repentence, confession, penance, amendment of life) of sins, etc.?

  • I agree, Pinky. For whatever reasons, argumentation over the blogosphere tends to become much more sharp-elbowed much more quickly than argumentation over a Guinness. When participating, I try always to have a Guinness either in my hand or on my mind.

  • I disagree, T, on both counts.

    Hymns are types of prayers, of which their are 5 types: adoration, contrition, love, petition, and thanksgiving. AG falls into the last category — no need for it to touch the other bases as well.

    The use of the pipes for reflective prayer is effective precisely because they are powerful and associated with getting the blood up. It is the reason why the hard rock group Nazareth’s most popular song was the ballad “Love Hurt,” and why Steppenwolf’s subdued “Another’s Lifetime” was the most moving version of that song ever recorded. There is something very powerful in restraint.

  • Opinons are like noses. Everybody has one.

  • A competent musician, and certainly any composer, will offer that music itself conveys a message, one that altogether bypasses the analytical filtering faculties of the listener: “Music is language without words.” Hence it requires a scrutiny perhaops more careful than the lyrics, which we presumably scrutinize as a matter of course. With few exceptions, Protestant music exhibits a characteristic style or range of styles, styles which appear in not a few post Vatican II ‘Catholic’ hymns. The style is marked by a relatively heightened celebration of sentiment (‘enthusiasm’ in Fr. Knox’s sense), which, given the non-sacramental nature of the ordinary Protestant life of faith, stands to reason. Our religious experience must be as sensory as it is spiritual because we are physical creatures no less than souls, and where physical instruments of grace are rejected, an emotional experience of worship must compensate. Given that the musical message is assimilated along with the lyrics, and Amazing Grace is the product of a radically Protestant sensibility, its view is obviously averted from the sacramental life of Catholicism. We are obliged to ask as well, does the message of Protestant music comport with Catholic faith?

  • The problem with Shea’s blogging is not so much his “style”. It is the fact that he often engages in calumnious swipes at those he disagrees with particualrly in matters of politics and national security issues as well as capital punishment. On the latter he accused Tom McKenna of wanting “death, death, and more death” simply because McKenna supported the execution of Saddam Hussein. He has also portrayed Mr. McKenna’s support in general for capital punishment, a position that is perfectly legitimate from a Catholic moral perspective coupled with the fact that Mr. McKenna has specific expertise on this subject as a prosecutor with experieince with capital cases in like fashion. You can also read Shea’s despicable attacks on good Catholics like Marc Thiessien for daring to make the case for the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques employed by the Bush Administration to glean intelligence from high level terrorists when other means failed. These are only two examples, but there are scores more.

    Even worse, MArk has been given a pass on this by the entire Catholic apologetics and writers establishment including outlets like Catholic Exchange, Catholic Answers, and Crisis Magazine. This is a problem that makes whatever failings Voris has look like small potatoes in comparison.

  • Since the Church teaches us that we can only be saved through God’s grace, I simply cannot see any real theological issue with AG.

    And while I find J Pelham’s comments regarding the music itself interesting, I find them far too speculative and subjective to be instructive in assessing AG.

    On the other hand if I were to speculate, I’d say Voris’s assessment of AG is largely a function of his rather notoriously disproportionate animus toward Protestants and Protestantism. If the very same hymn had been written by Newman rather than Newton, Voris and others would have no issues.

  • J. Pelham – I understand the argument, but I don’t think it reflects the history of our hymns, in which Protestant and Catholic tunes and lyrics are mixed. I’ve noticed that a lot of the great hymns from my youth were written by Charles Wesley, for example. There was also an Anglican hymnist, William Chatterton Dix, who wrote “Alleluia, Sing To Jesus” and “What Child Is This”. I mean, “here on earth both Priest and Victim / in the Eucharistic feast”? Are you going to find anything more Catholic than that? We’d also have to give up Bach for not being Catholic.

  • Greg,

    I can’t disagree more; Shea isn’t engaging in calumny when he goes after Marc Thiessen. He is doing exactly what pro-lifers argue our apologists should be doing more of: pointing out the hard truth that one cannot favor certain policies and be a Catholic in good standing. And it was frustrating to see supposedly orthodox catholics bend over backwards to be orthodox Republicans first, trying to twist their Catholicism to justify whatever policies Bush could come up with next. I think what you are calling calumny was merely Shea’s frustrations boiling over.

    As for the death penalty stuff, I don’t recall what you are talking about so I’ll take your word for it. But Thiessen was doing exactly what pro-choice politicians do all the time and he deserved to be called out for it. And pewsitting Catholics deserved to know that one cannot advocate with Thiessen was advocating and remain a Catholic in good standing.

  • There is no comparison between the death penalty and abortion. Romans 13:1-7 gives the State the power of the sword to execute justice. It is ludicrous to make capital punishment and abortion morally equivalent. Quantitatively, there is no comparison between 60 million murdered innocent babies and a few thousand hardened criminals who received what a jury of their peers determined that they deserve. Qualitatively, there is a world of difference between a murderer or rapist being sent to God for final judgment, and an innocent baby being mortally evacuated from his mother’s womb by the most tortuous methods possible. At least the criminal is treated more humanely.

    No I did NOT say I support the death penalty. I prefer (as my father did) solitary confinement for capital offenders with perpetual Bible reading and hymn singing (even Amazing Grace) under a continuously illuminated 100 watt light bulb with no respite. Let the criminal have his bed and blankets, and feed him, and give him a clean toilet with toilet paper. But keep him forever in solitary till God calls him to stand before the Throne of Justice. Of course, all the bleeding heart liberals will hate that just as much as capital punishment. Too bad. Regardless that that is ever unlikely to be done, it’s what I support in lieu of simply sending the criminal to where he belongs.

  • Hymnody doesn’t always represent theology. Poetry can’t be fully faithful to one’s set of views or philosophic points. I find Amazing Grace to be an extraordinary hymn. Sometimes a poem or lyrics manage to capture something. I think that’s what Newton did.

  • I think, too, there comes a time in one’s life when one can say, justifiably, that they possess salvation. Amazing Grace, if it offers that level of confidence at all, is better for it.

  • “I think, too, there comes a time in one’s life when one can say, justifiably, that they possess salvation.”

    That is the sin of presumption. Not as deadly as the sin of despair but a sin nonetheless.

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3021.htm

  • I think it CAN be presumptuous if one really isn’t saved. But if one IS and has been so, to acknowledge the obvious signs and reach the correct conclusion is merely a reflex.

  • It’s not presumptuous to say that I have been saved from dying with a heroin needle in my veins (hopefully my detractor won’t yell at me for violating my anonymity again). That’s a reality for which I am grateful. And it’s not presumptuous to say that every day when I ask God for help, I am being saved. As for whether or not I will be saved, I’ll simply be happy to make it as far as Purgatory (because everyone who gets to Purgatory ends up in Heaven).

  • I believe one can reach a point, and will reach a point, where they know they are a child of God. John the epistle writer wrote that his readers may know that their sins were forgiven and that they passed from darkness to light.

  • Isn’t “once saved, always saved” a Calvinist doctrine? I thought Catholicism teaches otherwise.

  • If Pat’s point isn’t correct, then I may as well go back to using heroin and cocaine, and frequenting prostitutes, and stealing and lying as I used to.

  • No, it’s not a Calvinist doctrine, although it’s shared by Calvinists. It’s simply the way it goes. If God calls you home, then a point will arrive where that’s evident to you.

  • No one is saved until after death and safely in Heaven or Purgatory. Even the greatest would be Saint can fall prior to death, and even the greatest sinner can taste God’s mercy prior to death. The proud Pharisee and the poor sinner at the Temple is a telling parable about the dangers of presumption.

  • But I think poor man Divies really did look forward to the promised land. The Pharisee was the one kidding himself.

  • Even the greatest would be Saint can fall prior to death, and even the greatest sinner can taste God’s mercy prior to death

    How so, Don?

  • What you are stating pat has never been Catholic doctrine. It is the false doctrine of Eternal Assurance, or Eternal Security, and has never been taught by the Church.

    http://www.catholicbasictraining.com/apologetics/coursetexts/1s.htm

  • John, the epistle writer, told his readers that he wrote in order that they may know who they were, what they experienced, and what that meant. It’s implications, both temporal and eternal.

  • “Even the greatest would be Saint can fall prior to death, and even the greatest sinner can taste God’s mercy prior to death

    How so, Don?”

    Very easily indeed Joe. The great sinner on his death bed humbly turns to God and asks for forgiveness of his sins, in bitter regret for a mispent life. The lost lamb that is found is ever pleasing to God.

    The great Saint commits a great sin and does not repent of it before he is called before God for the Particular Judgement. The use by Our Lord of analogies of the first being last and the last being first indicates that this may happen more frequently that we humans reckon. On this Earth, no one is ever so high that he cannot fall, and no one is ever so low that he cannot rise.

  • Don, so save the best for the last, right?

  • There is an interesting article at Catholic Answers about assurance of salvation:

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Assurance_of_Salvation.asp

  • DOnald, I think the writers of the New Testament bear this out: patterns exist in the lives of those called home to God. Christians should indicate that God’s Holy Spirit is at work in them through holy living. Progressive sanctification is the direction I believe it takes. Deathbed conversions occur. Those people know they are saved and die peacefully.

  • How can one have peace with God? They know their sins are forgiven. Christ died for them. He rose again and they will be resurrected in Him. This is reconciliation through the cross.

  • I think pat that anyone who presumes to know his eternal destination in this life is a fool, and such has always been the teaching of the Church.

    From the Council of Trent:

    “CANON XVI.-If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.”

    Unless one is promised paradise, as the kids were at Fatima for example, by a special revelation, assuming that one is saved is sinful nonsense. It isn’t as sinful as assuming that one is damned, but it has always been rightly condemned by the Church.

  • “Don, so save the best for the last, right?”

    Rather Joe we should all live as if today will be our last day, because for some of us, present company excepted I trust, it will be.

  • Which is why, Don, I suppose, that there will be people in heaven whom we thought we’d never see. Who knows? Maybe Hitler made a deathbed confession?

  • I disagree. I’m aware of numerous N.T. passages that deal with knowing one is a child of God. Like most else, it remains a matter of faith. But it is a faith that says I’m saved forevermore.

  • Kind of makes a mockery of Pascal’s Wager, doesn’t it, Don?

  • “How can one have peace with God? They know their sins are forgiven. Christ died for them. He rose again and they will be resurrected in Him. This is reconciliation through the cross.”

    Christ died for all pat, including the souls burning eternally in Hell. Our lives determine our eternal destination as Christ stated time and again in the Gospels.

  • I think we live by faith in the Son of Man and what he did. He died for the whole world. Whosoever will may come forth to take the free gift of life that inevitably bears fruit.

  • “Maybe Hitler made a deathbed confession?”

    Considering his last will and testament which endorsed his appalling crimes, the accounts of witnesses to his last hours, and the fact that he put a bullet through his brain, I think the chances of last minute repentance by the Austrian Corporal were minimal. However, not being God I will not presume to guess what happened in the very last instances of Hitler’s life.

  • If one doesn’t know what road he’s on (e.g., the one to heaven), then perhaps one ought to rethink where one is headed. I am NOT saying we should presume that we will stay on the road to end up in Heaven. But we should know what road we are on by doing an examination of conscience and going to Confession. Additionally, we can and should take comfort in knowing Jesus loves us and is a merciful and just Judge. Lastly (at least in my case) we can be grateful that we are saved from a life of self-destruction. Again, I don’t say we should presume we make it to Heaven, but if we can’t look forward to that as our goal, then what’s the point?

  • 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

  • “Again, I don’t say we should presume we make it to Heaven, but if we can’t look forward to that as our goal, then what’s the point?”

    Oh look forward to it all you want Paul, just don’t presume that you’ll get there until you get there.

  • I don’t believe God plays games with us. If he calls us home, then at some point we will find ourselves on the path that leads there. It’s not presumptious to recognize what street I’m on when driving to my physical home, is it?

  • And if I’m called to my spiritual home, I should be aware that I’m heading there. Otherwise I’m going in no particular direction at all, or perhaps zigzagging.

  • I don’t so presume, Donald, because I know what I deserve, and I am well aware I am but one drink or drug away from screwing up royally.

    BTW, I would suspect you, too, are on the road to Heaven. But like any imperfect human being, you too could screw up and not make it there.

    Someone somewhere in the Catholic blogosphere wrote a little essay explaining from Scripture why salvation is a process, i.e., “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.” The point wasn’t the doctrine of blessed assurance that the Protestants profess, but the idea that salvation is a journey.

  • Salvation is a destination, rather. We are saved from something. We are saved to something. We find salvation in Christ. Christ died for the salvation of the world. ‘Whosoever will’ represents all those who do come. But I think God initiates this. We also knwo that “He who has begun a good work in us will bring it to completion.”

  • I read in Romans:

    If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[e] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

  • Yes, I think it really comes down to faith in what God has done. Do we really believe it? THen we are included, and we will bear the inevitable fruit.

  • A few random thoughts of my own:

    All other things being equal, a meal served on fine china with cloth napkins and real silverware will be more pleasing and indicate a higher degree of respect for the guest than if the same meal were served with plastic or paper plates, plastic utensils, and paper napkins. However, if one is starving or really, really hungry and only gets one decent meal per week, one is probably not going to complain too loudly about being served on plastic vs. china as long as the meal is edible.

    To me, a Mass done with perfect reverence and with strictly “Catholic” hymns and chant would be like the meal served on china; a Mass done with a four-hymn sandwich that included “Amazing Grace” would be served on plastic; a Mass done with “Ashes” or “City of God” would be served on used paper plates. Yes, it would be much more pleasing served on the elegant china, but as long as it’s a valid Mass and Eucharist and I don’t hear or see anything grossly heretical or liturgically forbidden — if the “food” is not contaminated or spoiled beyond palatability — I’m not going to complain.

    I really don’t see where being excessively picky about liturgical correctness if you are not one of the persons responsible for the conduct of the liturgy (i.e. the priest or the parish music director) is any sign of superior intellect or virtue.

    As far as the doctrine of “eternal security,” obviously no one can be 100 percent certain they will be saved or 100 percent certain that they will be lost. However, there is a lot of range in between into which most of us fall.

    “Living saints” like Mother Teresa might have a 99 percent chance of being saved whereas a hardened criminal or serial killer may only have a 1 percent chance of being saved. Neither is absolutely 100 percent, but the probability can be pretty strong one way or the other.

    Assuming that most of us on this blog are practicing Catholics who are conscientiously attempting to avoid mortal sin, grow in holiness and conform to the mind of the Church — or in the case of Joe, someone open to the truth and sincerely striving to find it — I’d say we have about a 60 to 80 percent chance of being saved. However, that is not absolute certainty, any more than a weather forecast of a 70 percent chance of rain guarantees that you personally will get wet. Hence we neither presume nor despair of our salvation.

  • I probably should clarify that my reference to Mother Teresa as a living saint refers to the way she was perceived during her lifetime, of course, and not to the present, since she is now a Blessed on her way to sainthood (100 percent chance of salvation).

  • I think the tenor of scripture has been that those whom God calls respond and do so with their lives, bearing out that pattern. John, the epistle writer, wrote that we may know our sins are forgiven and that we are children of the light, that we walk in light and are part of the kingdom of light. There is almost a dichotomy, and perhaps there is, in his first epistle.

  • In other words, one is either on one side or the other, and if one is ‘in the light,’ one should realize it at some point.

  • ““Living saints” like Mother Teresa might have a 99 percent chance of being saved whereas a hardened criminal or serial killer may only have a 1 percent chance of being saved. Neither is absolutely 100 percent, but the probability can be pretty strong one way or the other.”

    True Elaine and throughout most of her adult life Mother Teresa endured a long dark night of the soul where she felt no sign of God. If her confessor had asked her about whether she thought that she was saved I doubt if he would have elicited a positive response. Yet another aspect to me of the greatness of Mother Teresa in that she persisted in her wonderful service of God when she did not feel His presence at all.

  • “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Yes, to perist in the Christian life apart from those feelings is difficult. But the conviction that one is a Christian, a saint, and bound for heaven can actually remain amidst that darkness and silence. It is only important that the life continues to be characterized by holiness.

  • “It’s not presumptious to recognize what street I’m on when driving to my physical home, is it?”

    It certainly is if you have no idea when the trip will end and whether you will persist in the journey until you arrive home.

  • Quoting Elaine: ‘As far as the doctrine of “eternal security,” obviously no one can be 100 percent certain they will be saved or 100 percent certain that they will be lost. However, there is a lot of range in between into which most of us fall.’

    Not exactly the certainty I was looking for, Elaine, which I remain a doubter. As a sometimes gambler, the odds don’t look good for me. I’m probably in the low single-digits, percentage-wise. Now if I could get up to 70 to 80 percent I’d feel pretty good. So it comes down to a numbers game, I guess.

    All my life I have been seeking just one certainty. Who was it who said, “Tell me of your certainties. I have doubts enough of my own.” Which is why I am stuck in that worst of all places — agnosticism.

  • “But the conviction that one is a Christian, a saint, and bound for heaven can actually remain amidst that darkness and silence.”

    I can think of few things more spiritually poisonous pat than presuming that one is a saint on earth. For me, I hope I will meet my maker as I am, a poor miserable sinner praying for a mercy that I do not deserve.

  • “Yet another aspect to me of the greatness of Mother Teresa in that she persisted in her wonderful service of God when she did not feel His presence at all.”

    My father, a Pentecostal (Assemblies of God), used to paraphrase a certain verse of Scripture to state, “We do not live by feelings alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

    BTW, my Dad died at 72 years of age where he wanted to die: in church on a Sunday night worship service. The place wasn’t exactly Catholic, but God granted him his wish and if he doesn’t make it / hasn’t made it to Heaven (and none of us know for certain), then my chances are quite minimal.

  • Donald, I don’t find it presumptuous to say where I’m going when I die if I’ve believed and confessed, and if this has been borne out over a long period of time (in a progressive way). I just consider that ‘naming’ the experience. Salvation in Christ. Faith in his work. A life that bears fruit as a result of the Spirit’s work. Forensic justification and future justification on the basis of all that God accomplishes throughout that timespan when judgement comes.

  • God judges us pat, not us. The human capacity for delusion is limitless when it comes to judging oneself, which is why the Church condemns both presumption and despair as sins.

  • I think God reveals himself to his people. I think those people can know what He decides to reveal to them. I believe the tenor of the Bible bears this out: Noah, Abraham, the Prophets, the early Disciples, Paul, believers generally who are called by Him.

  • God encounter us. He initiates a response. There’s a dialogue. If it’s real, we ought to know it’s occurring. Don’t you agree?

  • Presumably Judas thought he had an inside track on salvation when he was chosen by Christ as an Apostle. Martin Luther and John Calvin thought they were assured of their salvation. We are often the very worst judges of our own spiritual state. In any case we do not do the judging, but pray for God’s mercy. Lucifer fell because of his pride, and the Church has always regarded such spiritual pride as a very deadly sin.

  • I think you’re confusing different things. If a person has confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and Messiah, and believe that in their heart, they are saved. They can go forth confidently knowing God loves and forgives them, and that they are his children.

  • “If a person has confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and Messiah, and believe that in their heart, they are saved. They can go forth confidently knowing God loves and forgives them, and that they are his children.”

    And throughout that person’s life they can still fall into mortal sin that can send them to Hell. That is precisely why we say in the Hail Mary:

    “Holy Mary, Mother of God,
    pray for us sinners,
    now and at the hour of our death.
    Amen.”

    In the Our Father Christ has us pray:

    “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

    Until we are dead we all feel the lure and temptation of sin, and it is possible for any of us to fall, no matter how cock sure we are of our salvation.

  • Well Donald, if we have salvation through Christ, then it is precisely the mercy of God that has met us. It intersects at the point of our deepest sin, all of which is atoned for. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, has been sent, given to empower and enable, through Christ, to accomplish the will of the Father. The Christian, then, is one who has been called by God, saved in Christ, and is led by the Spirit. To accept this knowledge is not presumptious. It is merely to acknowledge what God has already revealed in the Scripture and in our own life.

  • So I think the following is a good quesion to ask: Do our lives accord with the Scripture?

  • “Well Donald, if we have salvation through Christ, then it is precisely the mercy of God that has met us.”

    God’s mercy is always available to repentant sinners pat. Until death, anyone can die a repentant sinner, and, conversely, until death anyone can die an unrepentant sinner.

  • In this dialogue on salvation, the one word that is missing, is HOPE .
    We cannot say we are saved because we are living according to Christ’s teaching – that is not our call. What we can say is that by following Christ’s teaching, we live in Hope of salvation.
    Hope is, after all, one of the three Theological Virtues – Faith, Hope and Charity.

  • Well said as usual Don! Christ is our Hope.

  • Exactly, Don.

    Pat, there have been some saints who have spoken with confidence about their afterlifes. There have been others who professed no confidence. A good number struggled on their deathbeds. Joan of Arc was asked if she was in a state of grace. She answered, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.” Paul, who late in life said that he’d fought the good fight and would possess the crown of righteousness, also warned us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

    We are repeatedly warned against both despair of salvation and certainty of salvation. We are told to hope in salvation.

  • Chris:

    Mark Shea’s attacks on Marc Thiessen most definitely ARE calumnious. There is nothing in the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques employed by th Bush Administration that are inconsistent with Catholic morality. If they were then Catholic teaching is inconsistent with itself. Think about it, the Church teaches that it is morally licit to put a criminal to death to protect the common good (i.e. the death penalty), but not impose discomfort to a terrorist to get him to cooperate so he will divulge intelligence that save innocent lives is a clear contradiction. This is what people like Mark Shea are positing as Catholic teaching and equating anyone who disagrees with such idiotic reasoning with pro-aborts as he does Marc Thiessen here:

    http://markshea.blogspot.com/2010/05/cathleen-kaveny-and-marc-thiessen.html

    As far as his dispicable attack on Tom McKenna, you can read that here:

    http://markshea.blogspot.com/2006/11/tom-mckenna-is-predictably-angry-with.html

    And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Any intelligent Catholic who does not regard Mark Shea’s conduct as the scandal that it is shows they have absolutely no respect for the integrity and credibility of Catholic apologetics and evangelization. This is especially true about the apologetics and writers establishemnt who make their living off of that very thing.

    American Catholic’s own Chris Blosser has a good piece on Shea’s behavior here:

    http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/blog/2007/06/rewarding-bad-behavior.html

  • We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. And we are told to make our calling and election sure. Sure, here, means certainity in the realm of faith, as far as that goes.

  • Greg,
    I am no fan of Mark’s style, but I think you are on very weak ground as to the morality of torture, and yes while the definitional boundaries of torture might lack perfect clarity, the notion that waterboarding is not within those boundaries is simply not reasonable. The comparison to the death penalty is inapt for all manner of reasons, and a fair-minded analysis of Church teaching leaves little room for doubt. I say this even as one who admits a discomfort with (i.e., lack of complete understanding of) Church teachng in extreme cases, such as the proverbial ticking time bomb scenario. The waterboarding of prisoners is not humane, and the Catechism plainly and expressly demands humane treatment.
    All that said, our Church’s teaching in this respect is not especially intuitive despite being grounded, presumably, in natural law. In this respect it is more like the death penalty than abortion, not because the death penalty can be admitted in exceptional cases, but because the case against it as an ordinary matter is not intuitive to most people despite its natural law origins.
    In the end, you are simply mistaken in saying that waterboarding prisoners is not against Catholic teaching. Notwithstanding my discomfort with Catholic teaching in this respect, the teaching is clear to anyone who approaches it fairly and objectively.
    All that said, I do think that given Catholic teaching’s somewhat counter-intuitive nature in this respect, exceptional charity is called for when judging those who refuse to assent to such teaching by basically stubbornly distorting it.

  • And I should have added that I do think that Mark has occasionally failed to display such charity in my view, though in some of these cases his intemperate assertions were themselves responses to intemperate assertions.

  • Shea is clearly in the wrong, and Voris’s orthodoxy offends him.

    If you’ve been banished from Shea’s comboxes, join the support group at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/bannedbymarkshea

  • Why create a Facebook web page on a pompous donkey full of himself and what he thinks? It is always best to ignore such people and continue to give credence and publicity to any and all whom they think they can deride with impunity. Michael Voris makes mistakes sometimes, and it is his very orthodoxy which the envious hate. Ain’t nothing orthodox about him who edifies himself as God’s gift to the Catholic blogosphere.

  • I think there are lots of folks who are not aware of Shea’s methods. It’s not just his blustering and foaming at the mouth whenever a “Rad Trad” shows up….It’s the way he censors his comboxes so as to hide the weakness in his arguments. He doesn’t just kick out the obscene and the blasphemous; he ruthlessly puts down well-informed and well-documented objections to his drivel.

    And, satire is inherently fun: https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B3sg9KJVweh1ZWZlNDIxYmMtMWYxMy00ODM4LTgzNTQtZTk3YTQ1Yjk1MGQw&sort=name&layout=list&num=50

  • All this convinces me more than ever that the real patron saint of the Catholic blogosphere ought to be St. Jerome, who was known for being irascible.

    St. Paul could get kind of snarky when he wanted to as well. In Galatians he ends an extended rant about the “Judaizers” who insisted that Gentile converts to Christ had to first become Jews (which included, for male converts, circumcision) by saying “Would that those who are troubling you would mutilate themselves,” or in my favorite version — think this is from the Living Bible or one of those more “modern” translations — “Tell those who are troubling you (about circumcision) that I’d like to see the knife slip !”

    If the Church survived those two it can probably survive a few combox flame wars, even though flame wars are not my style at all and I actually prefer Shea to Voris (since Shea does at least have a sense of humor).

  • I think Amazing Grace was found troubling because it communicated a level of certainty: it assumes that the Christian person has passed from death to life, that they are a new creature. I frankly embrace that. After all, St. Paul tells us that that’s what it means to be in Christ.

    The writers of the epistles addressed their audiences as people redeemed in Christ. True, some of them had yet to make their calling and election sure. Others were warned or said to be in need of discipline. Still others were considered outsiders. But the writers assumed that the bulk of them were already in Christ and bound for glory. The writers possessed confidence that many or most of those addressed believed, bore fruit, and in doing so, had revealed that heaven was their destination. Confidence and assurance of salvation was sought, encouraged, and acknowledged in numerous ways throughout the epistles.

  • Pat – A theme on this thread is the proper way to argue and/or challenge someone who’s presenting theological error. With that in mind let me say that as far as I know, the teachings of the Catholic Church have consistently spoken against the kind of certainty you suggest. I don’t know if you’re Catholic or if Catholic doctrine carries any weight with you, but you should look into this issue more seriously than we’re likely to get on a comment thread.

  • Pinky, it seems the hymn found disagreement with someone because of its message. What I suggest is that the Scripture witnesses to the theme of grace and that one could reach assurance of their salvation. This has been my experience too. Your thoughts?

  • Mike:

    To say that waterboarding, which cause no permanent injury, is not within the boundaries of Catholic morality because it is inhumane, but capital punishment is, would mean Church teaching contradicts itself. In the case of waterboarding terrorists who we know have actionable intelligence upon whom innocent lives depend and refuse to divulge it. In both cases, legitimate means are being employed to protect innocent people from an unjust aggressor.

    By the way, the Church DOES NOT I repeat DOES NOT teach that torture is intrinsically evil. No, Veritatis Splendor #80 doesn’t teach that either. If you read it closely, along with torture it lists deportation, unsuitable living conditions, etc. You mean to tell me that deportation is wrong under any circumstances? That’s what intrinsically evil means. You cannot define something as intrinsically evil if you have no clear definition of what that something is. Furthermore, if the Church now teaches that torture is intrinsically evil it would contradict her own past since she had no problem with it in past ages.

    Even Mark Shea unwittingly admits that waterboarding is not intrinsically evil when he says that it is morally acceptable for our military to use it to train troops. If it is intrinsically evil that means it cannot be employed under any circumstances, including the training of troops.

  • Greg,

    You are wrong from beginning to end. AMAZING

    Church teaching does not contradict itself.
    Yes, Veritatis Splendor teaches that torture is intrisically evil:

    “Whatever is hostile to life itself, … whatever violates the integrity of the human person, … whatever is offensive to human dignity: … all these and the like are a disgrace.”

    Yes, Veritiatis Splendor teaches that deportation is intrinsically evil. (It not the same as exradition, which Paul VI himself spoke well of.)

    Whether or not members of church practiced or approved torture in the past has no bearing on the intrinsic nature of the evil. (A lively discussion on the matter you may be familiar with: http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2009/05/tale-of-two-documents-or-fallacy.html)

    No, what’s-his-name does not “unwittingly admit” that torture is a-ok because the military uses it to train troops. If you read anything at all about the SPECIFIC nature of what was done to KSM and the other terrorists, and compare it with the SPECIFIC nature of waterboard training — as so many of us in this debate already have done — you would know how different they are.

  • Larry Coty, Math Professor at Georgia Perimeter College and stalwart defender of the courage of Josef Mengele and the SS! Have you shared with the folks here your vigorous and enthusiastic encomiums to the greatness of the SS? Or your sympathies with David Irving, Holocaust Denier? http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ACAW_enUS400US347&q=%22larry+coty%22+David++Irving

    Really, if you are going to go around trying to gather a little group to help you in your Hate Mark Shea project, you really at least ought to tell them a little about your background. They do have a right to know. So sad you pulled down your little bookstore chocked with encomiums to the “great” Adolf Hitler.

  • Hmmmm….are you going to do an expose on everyone who recognizes the kind of person you are?

  • Shea,

    1. You told me in a private email that you “couldn’t care less” whether I left up my “Big Fat Phony” blog, as long as I “stayed out of your comboxes.” I have done so; but apparently the “Banished by Mark Shea Support Group” on Facebook is too much for you. You continue to run your silly little mouth while censoring those who effectively disagree. I am interested to see just how many of us “banned” people are out there. Link here, folks: http://www.facebook.com/groups/bannedbymarkshea/?ap=1

    2. I have never defended the greatness of “the SS.” I have tried to explain to you that many Waffen-SS units fought in the field admirably and against tremendous odds. This is a matter of history, not opinion. I have also tried to explain to you that the “camp guard” units were not drawn from the Waffen-SS but from the Allgemeine-SS, which was a completely separate organization and which was *not* under the control of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht). These distinctions seem too difficult for you to process.

    3. I have not defended Mengele’s entire career. I merely pointed out that the record shows that, *before* he was sent to Auschwitz, and *while* he was fighting the Russians in the 5th W-SS Division “Wiking” he apparently acted heroically in rescuing two crewmen from a burning tank. He got the Iron Cross for this. You, though, insist on a comic-book version of history in which the “Angel of Death” Mengele must have been a crazed villain at every moment of his life. [By the way, folks: This all started when Doktor Shea attacked some Tea-Party candidate simply because he took part in a battle re-enactment group which identified itself as the 5th W-SS Division. These groups are very common, and can be found re-enacting battles from many wars. It seems silly to me; but Shea treats it as a hanging offense.]

    4. I do not have a “bookstore.” I have used an on-demand service to reprint a number of out-of-print books, including two by Savitri Devi, who was a rabid National Socialist. She is an important writer, and has been the subject of a number of scholarly studies (such as Goodrick-Clarke’s “Hitler’s Priestess.”) I have also reprinted books such as “The Divine Liturgy” by Nikolai Gogol, a collection of essays dedicated to Hilaire Belloc, and Dante’s essay “De Monarchia.”

    5. Your repeated efforts to embarrass me or to cause trouble for me (such as by calling the “ethics hotline” of the University System here in Georgia) are doomed to failure. I have written nothing that I would not proudly defend in any public forum. I think it is very significant that you would go to such lengths to try and silence one of your critics. I guess you are afraid that if the word gets out to your fans that you manipulate your comboxes to exclude not only the “wild stuff” but also clear challenges to or refutations of your theses, then you might be seen for the addled egomaniac you so clearly are.

  • Mr. Shea,
    The Hate Mark Shea project was created by you and only you. No one can disagree with you or you corner people to death or you delete our comments or you call their bosses??? NICE. We aren’t the ones that run our mouth and post a blog at everything that comes into our minds like you do. Again, that project – you created. Maybe if you thought first and investigated before you posted and then thought of possibly being charitable in your posts, then more people wouldn’t feel so strongly about your rudeness! My advice? Grab a mirror and take a hard look at thyself. Seriously!

    oh and BRAVO Paul Primavera!!! Perfectly said, “Why create a Facebook web page on a pompous donkey full of himself and what he thinks? It is always best to ignore such people and continue to give credence and publicity to any and all whom they think they can deride with impunity. Michael Voris makes mistakes sometimes, and it is his very orthodoxy which the envious hate. Ain’t nothing orthodox about him who edifies himself as God’s gift to the Catholic blogosphere.”

  • Oh for crying out loud, are we headed down yet another torturtous torture debate rabbit hole? (Having to scroll through or moderate one of those threads would be my personal idea of blogger purgatory 🙂 )

    And how does participation on the German side of a WWII reenactors group make someone a “defender” of the Nazis any more than participating on the Confederate side of a Civil War reenactment automatically makes one a secessionist or traitor?

  • “Your [Mark Shea’s] repeated efforts to embarrass me [L. Coty] or to cause trouble for me (such as by calling the ‘ethics hotline’ of the University System here in Georgia) are doomed to failure.”

    It seems that someone behaves worse than my atheist ex-wife. I am not, however, in the least surprised. Yet it is dismaying that such a person should escape with impunity for criticizing his better – Michael Voris.

  • Well, I am glad I have internet connection this morning as the comments in this thread seem to be devolving into a back and forth on Mark which was not the intention of my post. I am therefore closing the comments and getting back to my vacation. Three comments before I do:

    1. Jasper, I didn’t delete your comments or anyone else’s comments on this thread.

    2. The Waffen-SS had a habit of massacring POWs they captured. They did this for example to American troops at Malmedy. The myth of the simon pure Waffen-SS is just that, a myth.

    3. Writing about Mengele receiving a medal for courage is rather like mentioning that Hitler served with courage in the First World War, both strike me as utterly besides the main point. Both men were monsters and the world was a vastly worse place due to their having lived.

61 Responses to Catholics and Cussing

  • Reminds me of the time that Bush Jr. forgot the microphone was on and called a reporter “major league @**hole” for the whole world to hear.

  • Yes, best to think and not to say, although in regard to that reporter it was a completely apt observation in my opinion.

    http://archive.newsmax.com/articles/?a=2000/9/5/162759

  • Here’s cause for cussing. A Houston VA national cemetery director (federal bureaucrat) ignoring a judge’s specific court order persists in prohibiting saying the word “God” at vets’ funeral services. She says its Obama Admin. Rules and Regulations.

    Taking in vain the Lord’s name is always forbidden.

    Condemning another to the nether regions is uncharitable and wrathful (one of the seven deadly sins).

    To the extent they are uncharitable and wrathful all cuss words should be avoided.

    However, words referring to body parts and bodily functions (should be avoided) are not on the same deeply immoral level as the ones that profane God or curse another’s hope of salvation.

    Thank you, catholic Obamas.

  • Everyone either cusses or uses masked profanity. “F-bomb” another example of a euphemism along with the “n-word.” Everyone knows what the words are but you can’t say them. What hypocrisy.

    Can’t go to a movie without hearing at least one of the “seven dirty words” lampooned by the late, great George Carlin, a lapsed Catholic by the way. Go ahead, hit your thumb with a hammer and yell, “Darn!” See if it works. Get cut off by someone on the freeway and try to refrain from yelling “a–hole!” Nothing like a stream of expletives to relief the pain and stress of life.

  • I have made it through 54 years Joe almost never using profanity, and my temper is as Irish as most things about me. The tendency to frequent public swearing by large segments of the population is merely an indication of the self-obsession, loutishness and rudeness which is the hallmark of social interaction today. Swinish George Carlin made a lot of money popularizing the trend, although he blew most of it feeding his various drug addictions. He was very much a child of his times.

  • Interesting, Don, how there is an imaginary and fuzzy demarcation between “public swearing,” as you put it, and “private swearing,” which I have often heard in small groups by people who ordinarily do not swear in larger company. Not sure how they decide when it’s OK to let loose.

    As for me, having grown up on the mean streets of NY, hearing my hard-working dad come home every day and unleash some choice words, and then transitioning right after high school in the Navy, cussing was very much part of my vocabulary. The way I look at it, the additional words are merely more tools in one’s verbal arsenal and to be used whenever one feels the need to vent or otherwise express oneself where a euphemism will not do.

    Although I have and continue to make free use of profanity, especially now that we have an empty nest, at elsewhere — especially when missing a 3-footer for par — I did make it a practice not to utter obscenities when my kids were young and impressionable. In other words, there’s a time and place. Of course, TAC is not the place. But next time I stub my toe, which is bound to happen in the next few days, in the privacy of my home, I will not be shouting just “ouch!”

    At the risk of trapping myself in a paradox, I, too, decry the incivility and coarseness of modern society in which cuss words are indiscriminately used, especially by young children. I suppose it’s one of the “privileges” of being a mature adult to be permitted to make use of an expanded vocabulary — judiciously, of course, and with appropriate restraint.

    Given your “almost never” exception, it is a relief to know that an Irishman possessing such high virtue as yourself now and then has a lapse or two.

  • “Given your “almost never” exception, it is a relief to know that an Irishman possessing such high virtue as yourself now and then has a lapse or two.”

    A minor virtue, but my own. I also have never drunk alcohol, other than in Nyquil, which I assume makes me a rara avis among those whose ancestors came from the Isle of saints and scholars. However, I have more than enough sins to account for come Judgment Day to keep me from feeling much pride in mastering certain minor virtues. I also do not gamble, perhaps a legacy from generations of thrifty Scots in my genetic mix!

  • I plead guilty, unfortunately, to the sins you have been able to avoid, which, if I ever return to the fold, no doubt will mean at least 1,000 more years in purgatory.

  • The worst of sins Joe are those involving pride, as exemplified by the fall of Lucifer. I wish I was immune to that particular sin as I am to drunkness, gambling or being foul mouthed.

    One of my favorite passages from the Screwtape Letters on a virtue that I have always found hard to attain, although, as indicated, a sense of humor helps:

    “Your patient has become humble, have you drawn his attention to the fact??? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “ I’m being humble” and almost immediately PRIDE – Pride at his own humility- will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride make him proud of his attempt – and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humor and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go on to bed.”

  • How true, Don. When you try to act humble, it just doesn’t work. I remember after I did an act of contrition or went to confession, I always congratulated myself on what a good Catholic I was. I just can’t grasp why God loves such flawed creatures as we. If I were Him I would have scrapped the assembly line and started over again.

  • He marks the sparrow’s fall Joe. He takes joy in all His creation, and perhaps the overwhelming love of God is the hardest attribute of Him for us to fathom.

  • Pingback: SUNDAY AFTERNOON EXTRA | ThePulp.it
  • When Jesus picked Mary Magdalene out of the gutter, he told her, “Go and sin no more.” I would be neither she nor anyone else, including St. Paul (who admitted as much) could keep that command.

  • I rather suspect that she did not engage in the sin of adultery again Joe which I believe was the sin He was referring to. Saint Peter asked Christ to leave him because he was a sinful man. We sometimes gives up hope for ourselves, and it is therefore fortunate that God does not.

  • BTW, Don, that link you provided (cuss-o-meter) does not seem to work. You mean there’s a Big Brother somewhere monitoring cuss words on the Net? Also, TAC’s low incidence must be the result of censorship by you and others who run this site. So your “score” is more the result of policing the posts rather than restraint on the part of the posters, no?

  • P.S. I did get the link to finally open and tried several other “racier” websites and still got a zero rating, which means that either the cuss-o-meter isn’t very effective or otherwise very liberal in its scoring.

  • I don’t think ‘cussing’ or not ‘cussing’ is the question to ask. I believe that the disposition of a person will dictate speech. If we concentrate on acquiring the correct disposition, our approach to language will fall into place. Some words may be used becauxe they’re popular, even while they may sound rather like ‘cussing’. But the disposition is what people will really notice.

  • It is funny that this particular mark of poor character is one I’ve been working very hard to control or stop practicing. I would never have thought quitting cussing would be harder than quitting drinking or quitting smokes. I think that what comes out of our mouths is a reflection of what is in our souls. So my prayers have been directed to God for giving me a new heart, mind, and new mouth. I have improve over the last few months, but I cannot enter into a discussion about politics without sinning. 😳

  • Politics involves a lot of opinion as I see it. I’ve come to see party labels and platforms as basically relative in relation to the kingdom of God. We learn that Jesus is King, not Caeser or any state. His kingdom alone endures. I don’t even bother to argue politics anymore.

  • “We learn that Jesus is King, not Caeser or any state.”

    We also learn to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. That leaves ample room for political discussion and disagreement.

    Sawman your comment reminds me about a crooked politician who was going door to door seeking votes. One of his constituents gave him an earful and then felt bad about it, that is until he saw his priest doing the same thing to the public thief. God makes allowances I think when we are sorely tested, and some politicians would cause Saint Paul to swear!

  • Yes, I advocate involvement. But I can’t see taking sides with a party since each contains truth and error mixed. Neither party, furthermore, represents God’s kingdom which alone brings about justice, truth, community, etc., in the fullest sense.

  • “since each contains truth and error mixed”

    True, although the same can be said for most things this side of the grave. I am a Republican. That party best represents my political views, although I certainly wouldn’t claim that it is free from error. As long as the Democrat Party embraces abortion, I will work against that party in the political sphere as long as there is breath in my body. However, this discussion is going afield from the topic of my post.

  • Indeed. I think a person within whom the Spirit of God is at work will witness accordingly. Speech will reflect that. People get an overall sense of someone regardless of a slip here and there. Someone may use a certain word that’s construed as ‘cussing’. They won’t do so repeatedly, however, unless it reflects their inward condition.

  • Unfortunately, swearing is a vice I indulge in more than I would like to admit. As a Navy vet, I can “swear like a sailor”. My dad, who was not averse to foul language himself (although he rarely used it around the house), often said it’s a sign of immaturity.

    I wonder what George Washington would think of the modern U.S. military, where profanity is an intregal part of its vernacular. I remember hearing a Marine WWII vet saying he had to speak very slowly and deliberately when he returned home because he was so used to swearing.

  • I think it is dangerous to assume that you can see the inner person through their outward appearance. Sheesh… To hear y’all talk, most of the good men I’ve known are bound for hell for their speech alone.

    You are taking cussin too seriously. Rude? Assuredly, which is why we mutter under our breath rather than sayin what actually comes to mind. There is a HUGE difference between taking God’s name in vain and cussin youself out after doing something stupid.

  • Greg, good point. Ex-swabbie here, too, and when I was at sea for months at a time and in an environment where swearing was the norm, it took me awhile to adjust when I got home. I remember the first few days sitting at the dinner table with all my relatives and we were having a big Italian meal. Without even thinking, I blurted out, “Mom, you making the best f—n lasagna in the world.” The conversation when stone cold, then everyone laughed nervously while I apologized profusely. It’s a matter of conditioning.

  • “By starving emotions we become humorless, rigid and stereotyped; by repressing them we become literal, reformatory and holier-than-thou; encouraged, they perfume life; discouraged, they poison it.” (Joseph Collins)

    Pride may goeth before a fall, but you’ll still feel the pain of a broken tailbone. 🙄

  • “By starving emotions we become humorless, rigid and stereotyped; by repressing them we become literal, reformatory and holier-than-thou; encouraged, they perfume life; discouraged, they poison it.” (Joseph Collins)”

    I represent quite a few people in my criminal practice Invective who let their emotions do their thinking for them. I doubt if many of them view their life as being perfumed by the experience.

  • “I think it is dangerous to assume that you can see the inner person through their outward appearance.”

    Appearance no, G-Veg, but actions usually. Rampant cussing is a sign of societal decay, a symbol that we care more for expressing ourselves, no matter how poorly and unimaginatively,than we do for those exposed to our verbal pollution. It isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it is a bad thing.

  • The thing is, the image we cultivate is rarely the person we are. Actions speak louder than words but many a good man cussed regular and creatively wheras many a cultured monser didn’t.

    Are we talking about cussin for effect or reflexively?

    I hear tell that Grant and Patton cursed something awful. My Senior Chief could bring down a Mig with his invective. I’d swear my gradfather brought rain to his parched fields with the choice words he directed to that North Carolina sun.

    I detest the inclusion if curse words for effect such as many stand-up comics present but I’d expect, and even enjoy, a good and creative string from one of my uncles. (Mechanics cuss better and longer than most Navy guys.)

  • I’d argue that excessive priggishness and loudly proclaiming one’s own superiority is as much a sign of societal decay. Again, pride being a sin, and all.

    One might even say it’s the sign of someone who takes themselves entirely too seriously and may be a bit of a Pharisee.

  • Yes, the Pharisee cannot let God be God. They take themselves very seriously, and they would play his role.

  • “I hear tell that Grant and Patton cursed something awful.”

    Patton yes, Grant no.

  • “I’d argue that excessive priggishness and loudly proclaiming one’s own superiority is as much a sign of societal decay. Again, pride being a sin, and all.”

    I’d say that being foul mouthed and acting as a troll on a website under an assumed name is something a bit more sinful than priggishness. I do not think that anyone looking at our society, at least anyone in their right mind, would regard priggishness as being a major concern.

  • “They take themselves very seriously, and they would play his role.”

    Actually the Pharisees were the closest among the Jews to the message proclaimed by Christ. Much of what Christ proclaimed in moral teaching we find also in the writings of the Pharisees. Christ condemned them not because of what they taught, but because they failed to live up to their teachings.

  • Mac,

    You repeated yourself again: “crooked politician.”

    Joe,

    I cut GI’s and vets a whole lot of slack in this area. “Single men living in barracks don’t make plaster saints.” Kipling

    However, I don’t remember any of the WWII men I knew growing using cuss words. At least, not around children.

    I’m not sure the following is not cussing. C&W singer Billy Joe Shaver, “If you don’t love Jesus go to hell.” But, I doubt Billy Joe is a Catholic. And, I know he is not an Obama catholic.

  • Grant on swearing:

    “I never learned to swear . . . I could never see the use of swearing . . . I have always noticed . . . that swearing helps rouse a man’s anger.”

  • I believe C. S. Lewis was right when he said that our virtues can become our vices. It’s easy to become prideful when we abstain from ‘cussing,’ etc.

  • One can become prideful in anything Pat. Nitpicking on the internet comes to mind for some reason. In any case to engage in cussing so as not to risk pride in not cussing strikes me as perverse.

  • Read “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand and “Escape from Davao” by John Lukacs, two unforgettable true stories of POWs in the Pacific theater during World War II treated so cruelly by the Japanese that even the most pious of the prisoners gave scatological and obscene nicknames to their savage guards.

    In wartime, under such dire conditions when men were tortured, starved and treated like sub-humans, I think even God would make allowances for the use of profanity under such circumstances. Point being that cussing needs to be taken in context.

  • Yes, most definately. I think we should make it an effort to speak as ‘correctly’ as possible. Sometimes, though, we can go overboard in an effort to win approval from God.

  • “In wartime, under such dire conditions when men were tortured, starved and treated like sub-humans, I think even God would make allowances for the use of profanity under such circumstances.”

    Quite correct Joe. Just as I think he would have made an allowance for a prisoner sticking a shank between the ribs of an especially brutal guard under such dire circumstances.

  • I appreciate your expertise on American military heroes. I tend to think of Grant as rough and tumble and assumed he. was a drink and swear kind of guy.

    There seems to be a link though between the prior discussion on tattoos and the present discussion on cursing. You present a forceful statement barring all with the collateral claim that the activity is evidence of a decaing society. Only, I fail to see and you have not identified the inherent wrongness of the act.

    If the act isn’t wrong in and of itself then it must be the effect that makes it wrong.

    I just don’t see how a discreet tatoo or cussin under my breath is either wrong on its own or harmful in its effect. Therefore, how can it be that Others cn safely judge me as terribly sinful on either account.

  • BTW, Don, there is a profoundly moving moment in Lukacs’ book when the sole Catholic in a group of 12 attempting to escape from prison camp after the Bataan Death March produced what could be called a miracle. Stuck in swamp, virtually lost and stung by insects and crawling with leeches, the man — Sam Grashio — gathered the men around him and offered up a prayer he remembered to the Blessed Mother. The men repeated every line he said — about five in all — and immediately after they ended the prayer, a sense of total calm came over the group and they were able to resume their escape. That one passage in the book brought me closer to my Catholic faith than anything else in the past 10 years.

  • John Lukacs was a profound thinker and historian. Two thumbs up for Lukacs—read his The End of an Age. Deeply insightful!

  • Ooops….that’s At the End of an Age!

  • pat, that’s a different Lukacs. John D. Lukacs (note middle initial) wrote Escape from Davao and is a much younger man. No relation, I believe. The other Lukacs whom you refer to is indeed an excellent historian.

  • Oh yes….I remember trying to find books by Lukacs and coming across the other Lukacs. Thanks.

  • The story on Sam Grashio, the Catholic soldier I mentioned in previous post:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Grashio

  • Lucaks Confessions of an Original Sinner is pretty good, too.

  • “and assumed he. was a drink and swear kind of guy.”

    Drink yes, although that tended to be exaggerated in the telling. Grant got into trouble with the bottle when he got bored and when he was away from his wife who he loved very deeply.

    “I just don’t see how a discreet tatoo or cussin under my breath is either wrong on its own or harmful in its effect. Therefore, how can it be that Others cn safely judge me as terribly sinful on either account.”

    Who said you were terribly sinful G-Veg. My concern is with public swearing. In regard to tattoos, my objections are in the realm of taste, I simply do not like them, and in their prevalence today, often on parts of the body where they can’t be missed by casual observers. For those who haven’t read my post on tattoos, I link to it below:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/08/15/the-modern-world-is-going-to-hell-a-continuing-series/

  • “The story on Sam Grashio, the Catholic soldier I mentioned in previous post:”

    That reminds me of a priest Joe who was captured when Bataan fell, and endured the Bataan death march. Father William Thomas Cummings. During a field sermon on Bataan he made the famous observation that there were no atheists in foxholes. He was a constant inspiration in the Japanese POW camp, even as he slowly died from disease and starvation. On one of the aptly named Hell ships transporting POWs to Japan as slave labor, he died saying the Our Father. Just before he died he told his fellow prisoners that if he survived the War he hoped to work with street kids in Tokyo. One of the men scoffed and said that the Japanese were hopeless. Father Cummings responded, “Son, no one is hopeless.”

  • From one of the survivor’s account of Father Cummings:

    “By now an evening prayer had become a part of their simple routine. Of the estimated 16 chaplains in the party, both Protestant and Catholic, only three were to live to Japan. The strongest seemed to be the Army priest, Lt. “Bill” Cummings of San Francisco and Ossining, N. Y.

    One Navy man says, “I shall never forget the prayer that Father asked that first night after the bombing, when the Japs would not let us move the bodies. Before, many men had paid no attention, but this night the minute he stood up there was absolute silence. I guess it was the first real and complete silence that there had been since we left Manila. Even the deranged fellows were quiet.

    “And I remember what his opening words were. He said, ‘O God — O God, please grant that tomorrow we will be spared from being bombed.’

    “The last thing he did was to lead us in the Lord’s Prayer. I think every man there, even the unbalanced ones, managed to repeat at least some of the words after him.””

  • Don, I think Cummings is mentioned briefly in the book. The foxhole quote is usually attributed to journalist Ernie Pyle. In “Unbroken,” Louie Zamperini, who suffered brutally as a POW under the Japanese, especially a particularly vicious guard nicknamed “The Bird,” vowed to kill him if they both survived after the war. ‘Zamp’ was obsessed with the Bird and vengeance until he went to a Billy Graham meeting one night at the urging of his wife, found Christ and wound up forgiving his tormentor. Ironically, the Bird, who lived until 2004 in obscurity until found by CBS 60 Minutes, was unrepentant to the end.

  • Of course, one can be self-righteous in their criticism of profanity. But I don’t think Don is doing that here. He is simply making an accurate observation that there is a link between the rot in our culture and the hyper-prevelance of foul language to the point of glorifying it. I remember hearing stories of my maternal grandfather knocking out one of my uncles because he wouldn’t stop swearing in his house.

    As far as invective being good for you. I would say more times than not the opposite is the case. Righteous indignation is one thing. But even here one has to be careful. It can have a dangerously intoxicating effect. There are few things more dangerous than a chip on the shoulder coupled with a legitimate gripe. And I say that from personal experience.

  • Joe, the quote about atheists and foxholes has been misatributed to several individuals including Ernie Pyle. Father Cummings is the one that came up with it in 1942 on Bataan in a sermon. The quotation was passed on in the book “I Saw the Fall of the Philippines” by General Carlos P. Romulo which was published in 1942.

  • “Ironically, the Bird, who lived until 2004 in obscurity until found by CBS 60 Minutes, was unrepentant to the end.”

    More’s the pity for him.

  • Zamp’s first person account is told in “Devils at My Heels.” Truly a transformed man after he was converted. He is now 94 and continues as an inspirational speaker.

  • excellent post.

  • I have seen the following assertion made in several print sources dating back to at least the 1950s: the “Protestant” concept of cursing/cussing is four-letter or obscene words while the “Catholic” concept of cursing is misuing the names of God, Jesus, Mary or any of the saints.

    I always understood that the kind of cursing that was truly a sin was to call down evil on someone else — to say “God damn you!” and REALLY mean it (not just as a passing exclamation) would be a mortal sin. However, at least one catechism used by my mom when she took instructions in the Catholic faith in the mid-1950s claimed that use of four letter words wasn’t a sin of blasphemy, but could be a sin against charity if done to shock or disturb others, and was certainly not something to be encouraged.

    Personally I have come to prefer “dagnabbit”, “crimony”, and “jeeminy” as all-purpose substitutes for the genuine cuss words. The real cuss words lose their impact when overused. An F-bomb coming from someone who normally never curses at all gets your attention in a way that it doesn’t when coming from the mouth of someone like, say, Blago.

NY Times Writers Argue For Dictatorship

Saturday, July 23, AD 2011

William Jacobson has a regular feature on his blog making fun of some of the more ridiculous bumper stickers he comes across.  Today he observes a typical moonbat parading his “thoughts” for the world to see.  Among the litany of bumper stickers he spotted was a classic: “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  Yeah, there’s nothing particularly original or insightful with this bumper sticker, though it does display the leftist predilection to accuse conservatives of fascism.  The funniest part of this is that it overlooks what is obvious to those of us who kept studying history past high school, specifically that it is the left that more often proposes totalitarian policies.

For further proof of this, here’s a charming op-ed from the New York Times.

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51 Responses to NY Times Writers Argue For Dictatorship

  • I’m still a bit awed at the gall of of it all….

  • Why go through this charade every few years? Why do we even need a debt ceiling? it’s merely another excuse for tiresome political theater. As long as the full faith and credit of the U.S. is good — and despite being in the hole by 14 tril — it still is, why not just keep borrowing and printing?

    Secondly, why do the sheeple keep buying into the myth that the federal government is broke? Seems it always has plenty of dough to buy weapons and other crap it doesn’t need, spend on useless aid programs, including billions for foreign countries just to keep them in check, and countless other pork projects. Does the government ever lay off anyone? Stop hiring? All this nonsense about a “deficit” is horse crap. The governments, state and federal, are not broke but want you to think they are so you’d be willing to pony up more and “pay your fair share.” They’re awash in cash and credit, have hundreds billions tucked away in bullion and other reserves and untold assets in land, etc.

    This Obama-Boehner feud will come down to the wire, as all such fiscal drama inevitably does. A “deal” will be struck at the 11th hour with both sides trumping “compromise” and extolling “the national interest” and “the good of the nation.” The old folks and kids will be spared again from further pain and the threat of eating dog food and being starved at school, and the Republic will survive.

    Then we can go back to the important things in life, such as what Princess Kate is wearing and whether there will be pro football this year.

  • Golly, that’s nice to know– I’m not broke so long as I have a credit card!

  • Fox, you’re credit may run out but not the U.S. government’s. By the way, maybe American can raise a few tril by calling in all her markers over the past 60 years, like the nine-figures that Germany and Japan each owe us for rebuilding their countries and reparations. Both supposedly allies now, but back in the 40’s they drained us of tens of thousands of precious lives and billions in national resources. How soon everyone forgets.

  • The quote, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and a cross”, is merely a variation of the original saying by Huey “Kingfish” Long, late governor and senator of Louisiana. The original saying is,”When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag”. Jonah Goldberg in his “Liberal Fascism” makes a pretty good case that facsism has been wrapped in the flag by liberals and foisted upon the American people in various laws and social programs.

  • Fox, you’re credit may run out but not the U.S. government’s.

    Doesn’t address what I said, and fallacious to boot.

    Remember all those big “debt forgiveness” things? I know Clinton did several when I was a kid– you can’t call in markers you don’t have. (there’s some history involved, too)

    If you were being serious, I can think of a long list of things that we could cut to help balance the budget, starting with “stop buying land,” “don’t pay people to sue you” and “stop new programs.” (including regulations)

    Sadly, you don’t seem to be serious.

  • ” . . . the necessities of state, and on the president’s role as the ultimate guardian of the constitutional order, . . . ”

    Let’s just ignore the hyperbolic irony of the statement.

    Seems that was the justification for it in ancient Rome, and in every other failed republic in history. “It” is absolute tyranny.

    “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty.” Mussolini, 1937

    Mussolini is dead and his heirs are credentialed imbeciles.

  • Seems it always has plenty of dough to buy weapons and other crap it doesn’t need, spend on useless aid programs, including billions for foreign countries just to keep them in check, and countless other pork projects. Does the government ever lay off anyone? Stop hiring?

    Uhhh…. Isn’t that the point of this whole exercise? You say that deficits are “horse crap”, and then you say it’s because the gov’t could always cut useless spending. Kinda the point everyone is making, isn’t it?

    Sure, the gov’t theoretically can’t go broke. Just print more money. Ask Zimbabwe about that. Or if seigniorage is not your bag, issue even more debt. But at some point (maybe not today), you have to take seriously the drag that increasingly higher debt has on investment and long term growth.

  • As a son of Italy, I cut Mussolini a little slack. After all, he got the trains to run on time.
    Fox, I am serious and don’t call me Sadly.
    Christian, sorry but don’t buy the ‘debt’ argument as long as we’re owed more than we owe. Screw the Chinese; what have they ever done for us except export crap to Wal-Mart?
    Trouble is we don’t have a president or a Congress with the balls to tell em to stick it. You need oil? You got all you ever need in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which owe us big-time. You need cash? Call in your debts; if we have to pay, let others pony up, too.
    Yeah, I’m all for halting handouts. Take the 47 million off food stamps and send em a case of mac and cheese every week or better yet, put em on Jenny Craig. Most of em are already too fat anyway.
    Enough with the wars. End the Libya campaign, pull out of Afghanistan, stop already with the Pakistan drones; close 500 bases overseas that are Cold War remnants. Hell, we’ve been in Okinawa since ’46. Let the Japs have it.
    And, yes, some of this is tongue-in-cheek. Up to you to figure out what is/isn’t.

  • And, yes, some of this is tongue-in-cheek. Up to you to figure out what is/isn’t.

    Thank you for eventually admitting you’re not serious.

    Paul-I’m wondering where we’ll find the the similar outrage over the 800+ days and counting that the Dems have failed to pass a budget. It’s probably with the outrage over Obama demanding no requirements coming in, and having a big list of his own, right? Or over the flat tabling of the cut cap and balance bill?

  • Instead of dictating, Obama and the regime need to foster private sector economic growth and development. That would dig us out of this hole.

    Whether through incompetence or by plan, the regime has achieved the opposite.

    Giuseppe: Mussolini didn’t go to an Ivy. But, direct opposite of Obama’s failures, he brought prosperity to their peoples before death and destruction caught them.

  • Who the hell us Egan-Jones?

  • “fascism’, ‘constitution torn to shreds’.

    You need to sit down and listen to yourself a while.

  • In regard to fascism and the cross phrase, that has been erroneously attributed both to Sinclair Lewis and Huey Long. Neither said it. Socialist Lewis wrote a novel It Can’t Happen Here in which he postulated that an American fascist movement could come to power promoting patriotism and Christianity, but the phrase doesn’t appear in the book. Huey Long was once asked if Fascism would ever come to America. He said maybe, but we would call it something else.

  • Joe, Mussolini failed to make the trains run on time. His own comment about his government of Italy was that it was not hard to rule Italians, it was impossible!

  • Excuse me Art, but what would you call it when someone advocates handing over unilateral authority to the President because one doesn’t like it when the two elected branches can’t agree on a policy?

    I’m wondering where we’ll find the the similar outrage over the 800+ days and counting that the Dems have failed to pass a budget. It’s probably with the outrage over Obama demanding no requirements coming in, and having a big list of his own, right? Or over the flat tabling of the cut cap and balance bill?

    Foxfier – indeed the silence is deafening.

  • Don, I realize the trains comment was urban legend. Mussolini’s remark reminds me of De Gaulle’s about France: ‘How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?’

  • Excuse me Art, but what would you call it when someone advocates handing over unilateral authority to the President because one doesn’t like it when the two elected branches can’t agree on a policy?

    I would call it ‘someone advocating something of dubious legality for reasons of expediency’. No need to call up the specter of Oswald Mosely.

  • Oh ho hum, someone thinks the President should disregard the Constitution in the interests of bypassing the democratic process due to a perceived emergency. It’s not like that’s the exact playbook of all emerging tyrannies.

    Just because someone isn’t advocating that their opponents be placed in death camps doesn’t mean that their actions don’t lean in a fairly totalitarian direction. Playing on fears, perceived or imagined, in order to circumvent the constitution is precisely “shredding the Constitution.” Sure it’s a couple of egghead academics advocating it, but it doesn’t make it any less pernicious.

  • “Why go through this charade every few years? Why do we even need a debt ceiling?”

    Maybe because it draws attention to how hard the government is screwing us? Or how much money they’re wasting? Getting the public to pay attention to the fact that we’ve borrowed almost as much as the entire economy produces and think about whether or not it’s a good idea to keep that train rolling isn’t a bad thing, IMO. And Congress should have to think seriously about that, too. It’s a shame that this seems to be the only time within recent memory that our representatives have had to think through some of the implications of what they have done and are continuing to do to the nation.

  • The DeGaulle comment has always been linked in my mind Joe with the Mussolini comment!

  • Mandy P., the government is not screwing you, it just is drawing far to much on the capital markets to finance itself. There are systemic problems with the modus operandi of public agencies and some particular problems with American institutional culture and practice which render expenditure in excess of what a healthy agency would do to achieve a given purpose. There are aspects of public expenditure that politicians would be loath to defend without slipping into a sociopathic frame of mind: expenditure which cements deals between politicians, constituents, and advocacy groups. That might be 15% of the total. Then again it might not. Public spending is largely (though not entirely) driven by clear policy choices. There is a difference between ill-advised policy and scams.

  • Just because someone isn’t advocating that their opponents be placed in death camps doesn’t mean that their actions don’t lean in a fairly totalitarian direction.

    Quack quack down comes Groucho’s duck.

    It may be advisable or inadvisable to allow the executive discretion over whether or not to hold a bond sale. It certainly is not ‘totalitarian’. It is regrettable when politicians take action in contravention of law, but sometimes they do. A discrete act such as that does not change the nature of the political order in and of itself. Were Obama to instruct the Treasury to hold a bond sale, he would be committing a ‘process’ offense. There is nothing substantively nefarious about bond sales in either constitutional or authoritarian states.

    There are three questions here:

    1. How well adapted is the institutional architecture to the basic business of government?

    2. Are the habits and inhibitions abroad among salient parties in congruence with the law?

    3. And in congruence with good practice?

    The answers are ‘not very’, ‘no’, and ‘yes in 1947, not today’. Now, you can complain it is absolutely outrageous for the President to hold a bond sale without congressional authorization. The thing is that the Courts and the Congress and the prosecutocracy have long histories of behaving at a variance with Constitutional provisions. I am not talking about misbehavior of individual actors, but of large swaths of the Constitution which have been effectively abrogated. One more kid taking a dump in the latrine will make it only marginally stinkier.

    One thing we might attempt at a future date is some sort of consensual bargain which constructs an institutional set up which people are generally willing to live with as written, which is to say an actual working constitution and not an undertaker’s dressed up corpse of one. To do that, we would actually have to acknowledge what our working constitution is and blast trough the vested interests who like their current deal just fine. Ain’t gonna happen.

  • Art, I’ve got better things to do with my day than arguing with you as to whether the proposed idea is merely bad or totalitarian. Apparently you are in the mood top argue pedantic points. Very well.

  • Ah, the meaning of words. From Alice in Wonderland:

    ‘When I use a word… it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’

  • I’m sorry, Art, but when they’ve borrowed and spent so much that effective tax rates would have to be at 70% for all Americans to even start making a dent, when my children and their children and their children will be stuck paying for this mess- assuming it doesn’t all collapse- what exactly do you call that? I call it getting screwed.

  • Especially since we’ve been talking about this train wreck and the need to fix it for literally my entire life. They’ve known it was coming all this time and still continued to borrow and spend, borrow and spend, borrow and spend. They’ve known that the legitimate “systems” needed to be fixed and what did they do? “Anyone who calls for reform wants to kill grandma and starve children!” borrow and spend, borrow and spend. There is no excuse for what’s happened here. And yes, I call that getting screwed.

  • Mandy,

    I’m sorry, Art, but when they’ve borrowed and spent so much that effective tax rates would have to be at 70% for all Americans to even start making a dent,

    This is not actually the case. Neither does the debt ceiling prevent congress from spending like a drunken sailor, nor would it be necessary to set tax rates at some ludicrous rate to make a dent in the debt.

    Art,

    While selling bonds without congressional authorization is not in and of itself dictatorial (come to that, neither was any of the stuff that King George did in the lead up to our revolution) the idea of keeping the purse strings in the hands of the legislature rather than the executive is a pretty basic piece of machinery involved in keeping our government from becoming one. The open suggestion the president simply take these new powers upon himself is particularly troubling given:

    – It’s in a media organ which has repeatedly talked about how nice it would be if our own government worked more like China’s.
    – The general trend in US history (as in late Republican Rome) seems to be towards soft dictatorship by the executive.

    Given that our country only exists because people got over exited about their political rhetoric in regards to procedure and checks and balances, it seems a little late to insist on less inflammatory discussion now.

  • There’s also the question of: What rates and buyers would be involved in a bond sale of dubious legality. I would assume that kind of move does not come free.

  • Thanks Darwin for, as usual, more calmly and clearly expressing my concerns.

  • “This is not actually the case. Neither does the debt ceiling prevent congress from spending like a drunken sailor, nor would it be necessary to set tax rates at some ludicrous rate to make a dent in the debt.”

    That assumes cuts, Darwin. If we continue spending at such high rates and don’t get the “mandatory” stuff under control, it will necessitate some pretty repressive tax rates. Also, my point at my first post was not that I thought the debt ceiling would stop Congress from spending, only that having it in place and the inevitable debate that comes any time the Feds want it increased is useful in calling attention to the amount of spending and our fiscal situation in general. People paying attention to and assessing the federal government’s stewardship of our tax dollars is a good thing, IMO.

  • Mandy, let’s posit the following:

    1. Initial federal debt as a ratio of domestic product = 119% (which I believe is the post-Reconstruction peak, reached in 1945)

    2. Nominal interest rates on Treasury issues = 7.5% (as high as it ever has been for any period longer than about a decade).

    3. Rate of increase in nominal domestic product = 4.4% (near historic averages).

    4. Budget balance (excluding debt service) over the course of each ensuing business cycle = 0. Stipulating there being no banking crisis or war of national mobilization (as there was not between 1953 and 2008), all new debt is retired within six years or so, perhaps less.

    5. Time span = 40 years (near the additional life span to be expected by a typical American adult).

    What share of domestic product do you have to devote to debt service in order to retire it in toto? The answer is (I believe) 5.3%, or a 6.4% assessment on personal income. That is a way’s away from 70%.

    Not that the political class would have the focus or commitment to actually do that, of course.

  • Art, that assumes that revenue procured by taxes is going to equal the same percentage of GDP as the percentage of the tax rate. That’s the fallacy of static tax analysis; (a) it doesn’t take into account that not everything produced is technically income, so a substantial portion of Product isn’t even in play as far as income taxes go and (b) it ignores that economic behavior, and therefore taxable income, is very, very changeable given the circumstances. In reality a tax of 25% on income does not get you revenue that equals 25% GDP. the two do not equate.

    Your figures also assume quite a bit that I think won’t be happening any time soon. Like a balanced budget and a 4.4% rate of growth. What you seem to be saying is that in the best of circumstances we could devote a small percentage of GDP to debt service and get out from under it. What I’m saying is that given the current circumstances, it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than what you’re insinuating.

  • I would also like to posit a question:

    Since almost half of all Americans do not pay federal income taxes, and even using a static analysis, what additional tax rate would those of us who do pay federal income taxes have to fork over to pay off the debt under the rosy circumstances you set out above? And what would be the effect on the economy?

  • A 4.4% rate of increase in nominal gross domestic product is unremarkable. That could be (for illustration) decomposed into an annual increase of 1.3% in per capita income (in line with the post-1973 mean), a 1% annual increase in population (ditto) and a 2% annual increase in prices (a goal of the Federal Reserve at times).

    If you add an exemption sufficient to exclude the least affluent 30% of the population (and a share of the income of those more affluent), you would have to raise the marginal rate to 8 or 9%.

    My figure on personal income came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the federal Commerce department. That is what they are counting.

    Yeeeessss, it was a back of the envelope calculation in need of some elaboration, as adding to the comparative size of the public sector (all things being equal) reduces economic dynamism. Sovereign default also puts you on a lower growth trajectory. It will not require a marginal rate of 70% on personal income to clear the debt, or anything close to that.

  • That assumes cuts, Darwin. If we continue spending at such high rates and don’t get the “mandatory” stuff under control, it will necessitate some pretty repressive tax rates.

    I realize I’m being the humorless pedant here, but FWIW:

    – It’s not particularly necessary to pay down the national debt, the problem is with it expanding at a rate significantly faster than the growth of the economy in the long term. (After all, buying government bonds is a standard way to save money, there’s a demand for bonds, and thus there’s essentially a demand for the government to maintain some amount of debt.)

    – I agree with the point that we’d have to significantly increase tax revenues in order to maintain entitlements (and other spend levels) at current growth rates in the long term — and I am definitely against this (and thus for cuts.) But it’s not so much that people would have to be taxed at 70% to pay for current spending growth rates as that we’d have to tax the whole population rather than just a minority of it. Countries with much more government spending than ours don’t necessarily tax their rich more more than we do, the big difference is that they tax their middle class and working class more than we do.

  • I think there must be some misunderstanding about the public debt among a lot of conservatives. There is no emergency or impending catastrophe when it comes to the debt, as Art Deco has pointed out. Yes, the rate at which it is growing now is a serious concern, which is why we’re having all these discussions about fiscal responsibility. But I bet a lot of us have mortgages that are multiples of our annual incomes, and yet we manage to pay interest on that debt… Don’t let the large numbers in absolute terms alarm you. It’s the ratios and rates that tell the story in a more meaningful way, and by historical standards, we’re not even close to our highest debt/GDP ratio.

    By all means, start turning the ship around — but the iceberg is not as close as you think.

  • Art,

    Again, that assessment assumes a balanced budget. Which ain’t exactly happening any time soon. At our current rate of growth as well as the current rate of spending including the current rate of increase, I highly doubt 8-9% increase in taxes on even the percentage that do pay into the system is going to do what you imply.

    Darwin and J. Christian,

    Obviously I’d prefer that we pay down the debt. However, I am very aware that it is the debt to production ratio that is so troublesome. And while we may not be at the all time highs, it is extremely important to point out that at the high debts of Post-WWII weren’t so devastating mainly because the US was the one of the few first world nations not decimated by the war. When you’re competing with nations that must spend their resources on rebuilding instead of producing, it’s likely that your growth in production will outstrip your debt fairly quickly. But we’re obviously not in that same climate. Couple that with the ever-growing entitlements and a shrinking tax base and we’ve got serious problems. I think you guy already know that, though.

  • Oh, Darwin, about taxing the lower classes. I greatly suspect that’s where we’re going to have to end up. The tax credits that are rumored to be on the nix list are, I think, the first steps in that direction. I’m not opposed to making sure that everyone pay taxes. Frankly, I favor it. I’d prefer a flat rate with either no or very limited deductions. I worry, though, with the soak the rich rhetoric we’ve been so privy to lately, that they’re going to try and squeeze more out of small businesses and other producers.

  • Mandy, a flat tax is an old idea that in theory sounds good. But the problem always has been on what exactly do you tax. Whether you raise or lower taxes, fiddle with rates, credits and brackets, the fundamental underlying trouble with the economy is not taxes, but as Marco Rubio says, not enough taxpayers. There are more consumers than producers.

    Which goes directly to jobs. With a real unemployment rate of about 17% and the Age of the Machine and Technology ever advancing, there either will be burger flippers or engineers in the future workforce. Manufacturing is all but dead in America except for airplane making and a few other industries. And lost in all of this is rising inflation while wages either are frozen or cut, diminishing rates of person income and savings.

  • The US is the number one manufacturing power on the planet:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41349653/

    What we are seeing is that we simply do not need a lot of workers in manufacturing to produce endless seas of product. As robotic science advances, our long term problem will be how to provide jobs for workers in an economy that needs fewer workers due to advances in technology. My solution of course is to train more surplus workers to be lawyers, as America can never have enough lawyers! 🙂

  • Again, that assessment assumes a balanced budget. Which ain’t exactly happening any time soon.

    It assumed a balanced budget because the problem under discussion was what the tax burden would be to liquidate the debt. If you intend to do that, you have to balance your books to begin with. A different object, to which Darwin refers, is the burden of reducing the significance of the debt. As long as the growth of the outstanding debt is outstripped by the growth in nominal domestic product, you can do that. You still have to balance your books better than we have been.

    There are, by the way, debt free countries. They have sovereign wealth funds. You do not need central government debt to save. There are many other instruments: savings accounts, certificates of deposit, commercial paper, municipal paper, municipal bonds, corporate bonds, foreign bonds, &c. My uncle was born in 1927, and is still in satisfactory health. In his lifetime, we have seen two banking crises, a war which incorporated a comprehensive national mobilization, and a rapid re-armament conjoined to a regional war. That would be one fiscal disaster every 21 years. I would prefer we save our public credit for these sorts of emergencies. That is when you really need it. Otherwise, balance the budget over the course of the business cycle, even if you piss off Robert Kuttner and Paul Krugman.

    When you’re competing with nations that must spend their resources on rebuilding instead of producing, it’s likely that your growth in production will outstrip your debt fairly quickly.

    The first four years after the war were quite difficult economically and there was little economic growth. The period running from 1949-54 was the most economically dynamic of the post war period, but you are still talking along the lines of production levels 10 or 15% higher than trend for the whole period. Again, the back-of-the-envelope calculation I gave you above assumed high interest rates and average rates of growth in nominal domestic product. These are variables public agencies may influence but not control.

  • Oh, Darwin, about taxing the lower classes. I greatly suspect that’s where we’re going to have to end up.

    Income distribution statistics are soft data. FWIW, the last set I looked at had it that that about 5.8% of pre-tax personal income accrued to the least affluent 30%. There isn’t a great deal of money to be had by attempting to tax them (above and beyond what payroll and sales taxes already take).

  • Age of the Machine and Technology ever advancing, there either will be burger flippers or engineers in the future workforce

    I have been hearing that for forty years. Never seems to come to pass. Funny.

  • There is no emergency or impending catastrophe when it comes to the debt, as Art Deco has pointed out.

    To clarify, I offered that it was possible and within reason upon a fiscal consolidation to retire the debt. We are at this time in an emergency, however.

  • OK, Art, I concede to a bit of hyperbole, but it seems to me that the number of jobs for skilled workers is declining. Robert Reich wrote tellining about this trend around 15 years ago.

  • Don, this your office by any chance? 🙂
    http://h1.ripway.com/golfwiscon/LawOffice.jpg

  • Ack! Sorry I disappeared. Had to get the kids in bed.

    About taxes on the lower classes, Art. I don’t propose expanding the tax base to include them as a driver of revenue. Only because I think that we all should be paying in something. It’s very easy to keep voting for people who are going to hand you a check when you don’t have any skin in the game. I see it as another incentive to pay attention. And for all the talk inthe media and political class of people paying their fair share I find it ironic that so many don’t pay anything at all.

  • I understand why you assumed a balanced budget in your figures. What I’m asking, and forgive me for not clarifying earlier, is what is the number when you include what it will take to balance the budget. That assumes that there are no spending cuts and no entitlement reforms, so the approx. $1.5 trillion deficit we’re running would be balanced with increased taxes alone (and ignoring the economic effects on growth, obviously). And let’s be honest, I don’t see any serious entitlement reform happening any time soon. I hope I’m wrong about that. But we’ve got Senators defending spending on “cowboy poetry” as necessary, so forgive me for some skepticism there.

    I’d also like to point out that for those who are not rich, like myself, a 8-9% bump in taxes would be pretty devastating. Heck, a 3% increase would be extremely painful. so getting this under control is not easy peasy. I don’t think you were necessarily implying it would be, but it is important to point out that we’re not just dealing with numbers here, but people and their lives and livelihoods.

    Off to mass, now! Have a great Sunday all.

  • The sum of expenditures was outside the scope of the problem. The problem was the additional increment necessary to service the debt. The sum of expenditures (on current consumption and debt service) would not require 70% marginal rates unless your baseline of expenditure was higher than has been the case in more than sixty years. (Given an exemption to exclude that 30% of the population, it would presuppose federal expenditures in the neighborhood of 40% of domestic product, not the 24% we suffer today).

    Whether you finance spending out of bond sales or tax assessments, you are re-directing income to common purposes (or politicians’ purposes). It is just a question of whose is re-directed and the future pressure the state faces from the bond market.

    Keep in mind also that the 9% in question is a marginal rate, not a mean rate. Your mean rate is going to depend on the size of the general exemption vis a vis your household income.

    The effect on your household expenditures from such an assessment would be influenced by how much of your budget was devoted to putting funds in money market accounts containing Treasury issues and the distribution of burdens resulting from excising deductions and special exemptions and increasing a general exemption (in addition to any tweaking you do with the rate structure).

One Response to Lilies of the Field

69 Responses to A Bit on the Debt Ceiling

  • So if I understand correctly, on August 2nd interest rates start going up as the Treasury needs to roll over debt. Don’t know how long the Treasury can keep that up. A few day? Weeks? Months?

    Reagan on the debt ceiling:

  • I agree with President Obama (version 2006.1 Beta). The debt ceiling should not be raised until tea party extremists allow him to continue to spend $1.4 trillion more than revenues each year, and also authorize him to raise taxes (just for the evil rich), and spend more and more money (purposeful repetitive silliness here). SARCASM: off.

    Lessee, they’ve raised the debt ceiling 62 times, or is it more?. And, the US financial condition (accelerating downward trajectory toward national bankruptcy) each time got worse. Then, they get in a black man and they want him to fail . . . [Sorry]

    “They” have kicked this can down the road too many times. Soon, if something real is not done to reduce deficits and lower the national debt trajectory, the US will default and [shriek] receive a credit rating agency downgrade.

    FYI: These rating agencies rated AAA about $3 trillion of mortgage-backed CDO’s rated then they defaulted en masse. That is the cause for the Dodd-Frank prohibition for banks from using them for credit decisions.

    The link says sane conservatives (ad hominem: you’re a nut if you disagree) want the debt ceiling raised. Is one definition of “insanity” doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?

    Oh, . . . Both sides are obdurate here. yet, two out of three Americans agree with the House that lowering the deficit/national debt is vital. Seems the elites and academics split the other way.

  • So we are in essentially a no win situation? we have to raise the debt ceiling in order not to default. But raising the debt ceiling only puts us in more debt, because, let’s face, we have no restraint, we max out our credit every time. Which will then cause us to raise the debt ceiling yet again. Which will then put us in more debt because we have no restraint, etc., etc. …. 👿

  • The link says sane conservatives (ad hominem: you’re a nut if you disagree)

    Yes.

    I heard Thomas Sowell interviewed the other day on one of the talk radio stations. His view was that the debt ceiling should be repealed entirely, so that people wouldn’t get the mistaken idea that you could limit spending by not raising it. When even Tom Sowell says not raising the debt ceiling is a bad idea….

  • T Shaw,

    I agree that getting spending more in line with tax revenues (primarily through spending cuts) is vital — but risking what amounts to a voluntary default on our current debt would be an absolutely boneheaded way to achieve that. I can understand if most people who answer polls don’t understand that, but the scary thing is when it’s unclear how many congressmen do.

  • BA: Then, whom is to blame for the impasse? Giuliani says 90% of the blame goes to Obama.

    They’re coming to put the “jacket” on m . . .

  • Well, there’s always the option of defaulting on federal payments other than debt service – not that it would be any wiser or more feasible to do so. You kinda want to avoid sudden disruptions like, say, not giving the military their paychecks. But hey, at least we’d keep interest rates low!

  • It seems to me that there was a bill that would have both raised the debt ceiling and cut spending passed in the House this week. Someone threatened to veto it and someone else insisted on having it tabled. So, the House at least did its job. If we default it’s on the President and the Senate for failing to be reasonable.

  • Mandy,

    You are correct.

    The Democrat Senate shot down the Repub House “Cut, Cap and Balance” in a straight party-line 51-46 vote. Senator DeMint will bring it forward again.

    From “Never Yet Melted”, “Richard Minter, Forbes, notes that we have no choice, we are going to have to stop increasing the beast’s rations. But that is a real problem for democrats, whose entire raison d’etre is the delivery of more federal money in return for support.”

  • Of course we wouldn’t have this debate right now if the Democrats had been able to pass a budget during the two years they completely controlled the federal government and if their solution to our fiscal problems didn’t consist of borrowing as if tomorrow will never come. The Republicans have brought forward proposals to curb our spending spree and Obama and the Democrats in Congress simply refuse to come up with any serious proposals of their own. Republicans shouldn’t budge an inch and force Obama to either give way or add “default” to his list of economic accomplishments. If we do default it will be by his choice since federal debt payments constitute a paltry 164 billion of federal revenue of 2.3 trillion. We do not need to borrow in order to meet our debt payments. Of course this is merely a scare tactic that the most worthless president in my lifetime has seized upon along with his threats to not pay the military or social security recipients.

  • I liked the Gang of 6 plan which was close to the Bowles-Simpson plan and supposedly the secret Obama plan. James Capretta at NR had some valid procedural criticism. If it were an ironclad bill, there would be no reason not to support it except for stupidity. Not raising the debt ceiling will result in a Democratic sweep in 2012. I know, I know “No, it won’t. It will result in 100 years of Republican dominance thanks to their steadfastness.” But I was just talking about reality.

  • “Not raising the debt ceiling will result in a Democratic sweep in 2012. I know, I know “No, it won’t. It will result in 100 years of Republican dominance thanks to their steadfastness.” But I was just talking about reality.”

    Reality comes in more than RINO lenses RR. Not raising the debt ceiling would lead not to a default but rather a cold dash of reality that business as usual is no longer possible. Adding a trillion dollars plus a year to the national debt is simply not feasible either long term or short term, and business as usual is Obama’s policy.

  • MAc is 100% right as always.

    Instapundit cites recent a Rasmussen poll result.

    Obama – 41%

    Ron Paul – 37%

    Another poll: two of three Americans agree with the House “Cap, Cut and Balance” plan.

    Maybe Obamba and Paul will exchange poll places when the O-ster reveals his secret plan.

  • Not raising the debt ceiling would lead not to a default but rather a cold dash of reality that business as usual is no longer possible.

    That cold dash of reality would be ruinous for the economy. If you think things are bad now, just try cutting a trillion or two dollars of government spending cold turkey like that and see what happens. That would be like an enemy destroying half our manufacturing capacity overnight. Remember that Y = C + I + G + X, and even though a lot of gov’t spending is transfer payments, that “G” is an awfully big number by itself. What would make up the difference if we suddenly stopped it? And it’s not just federal employees that wouldn’t get paid — payments on defense contracts would stop, for example, and employees all the way down the supply chain would lose their jobs. (Believe me, there are mom and pop machine shops that are nth-tier subcontractors on this stuff.) We don’t typically think of those kinds of businesses as people feeding at the gov’t trough, but that’s exactly the kind of ripple effect that not being able to borrow or otherwise raise revenues would have.

    Gov’t spending is certainly too high, but the answer isn’t to force the tough choices in such a reckless fashion. Instead of playing political games of chicken with the debt ceiling, what our elected officials should be doing is pursuing a steady, long-term strategy of aligning spending with revenues, with the goal of eliminating our borrowing addiction.

    One could argue that Sen. Bozo and Rep. Doofus have never shown such fiscal restraint, and one would be right. However, the alternative of slashing almost half of gov’t spending overnight is not the answer.

  • If we don’t start cutting spending now J. Christian, it will never get done. Our current path is one leading to debt repudiation in the not too distant future as we amass a debt that is simply unpayable. Unless a gun such as the debt ceiling is placed against their heads, there is no will to cut spending in Congress, at least among the Democrats. It is fanciful to expect anything else but kicking the can down the road by Congress unless a crisis arises that forces them to take action.

    If we simply rolled back federal expenditures to 2006 levels we would have a balanced budget. Such a demonstration of fiscal sanity would have an immensely positive impact on this nation’s economy and more than offset any negative impact from slapping hogs away from the federal trough. Such radical slashing of federal expenditures has been the norm in this country’s history. For example, in 1946 Federal expenditures were 55 billion with a substantial deficit. In 1947 expenditures were slashed to 38 billion with a surplus. The idea of a huge bloated federal budget is a novelty in this nation’s history and like so many of the ills that afflict us these days, a legacy of the sixties.

  • Never fear, the deep thinkers at Daily Kos have a solution not only to the debt ceiling but also the entire national debt:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/07/21/996876/-Beyond-the-Debt-Ceiling:-The-$30-Trillion-Plan-for-Ending-Borrowing-and-the-National-Debt?via=tag

    This idea is actually quite popular among the “reality based community”.

  • but risking what amounts to a voluntary default on our current debt would be an absolutely boneheaded way to achieve that.

    Regrettably, ‘absolutely boneheaded’ seems to describe a critical mass of the House Republican caucus. If the discussions I have had in fora such as this are any guide, these politicians move in a matrix of people for whom that is a descriptor.

    What is curious about this all is that (with the exception of Illinois and California) the state governments of all stripes seem to be able to cope passably with the fiscal difficulties they have faced. The central government, on the other hand, has conducted itself in such away as to discredit just about every component of the political class. They are all unfit to govern. We are about to learn that the hard way and are about to learn also that the institutional architecture of the central government is not so well engineered.

  • Most states require a balanced budget Art, they can’t print money and they don’t control the Fed to magically conjure it out of thin air. In short, they have to do it, and with the Republicans controlling most state legislatures and state houses there is the political will to do it. Where the Republicans control neither the legislature nor the state house, California and Illinois are prime examples, the flight from fiscal reality continues unabated.

    This crisis over increasing the debt ceiling is the most leverage proponents of fiscal sanity on the Federal level have to force the President and the Demcrats in Congress to do anything about the massive borrowing that is destroying the nation’s economic future.

    We are in this mess because for the past five decades we have been ignoring the first rule of a national debt set forth by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in his 1789 report to Congress on public credit:

    “Persuaded as the Secretary is, that the proper funding of the present debt, will render it a national blessing: Yet he is so far from acceding to the position, in the latitude in which it is sometimes laid down, that “public debts are public benefits,” a position inviting to prodigality, and liable to dangerous abuse,—that he ardently wishes to see it incorporated, as a fundamental maxim, in the system of public credit of the United States, that the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment. This he regards as the true secret for rendering public credit immortal. And he presumes, that it is difficult to conceive a situation, in which there may not be an adherence to the maxim. At least he feels an unfeigned solicitude, that this may be attempted by the United States, and that they may commence their measures for the establishment of credit, with the observance of it.”

  • Will Rogers: “It ain’t what you don”t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know that ain’t so.”

  • You neglect a few things.

    1. A legislative body just might ignore the law, which Harry Reid and his confederates in the U.S. Senate have done with regard to the budget process. State legislatures have tended to be more circumspect about disregarding provisions of state constitutions and such.

    2. There are 11 state governments where the Democratic Party controls the executive and legislature, not two. California is in the crapper even though it has had a Republican governor for 23 of the last 28 years.

    3. The PBS talking heads last night were discussing some comments recently made by Christine Gregoire, the Governor of Washington. She apparently said she had to make what she termed ‘terrible’ decisions with regard to fiscal policy, but she made those decisions. Her federal counterparts are very resistant when they do not refuse outright. It is a different institutional culture.

    4. Modes of federal taxation are more procyclical than is the case on the state level. Federal tax collections as a ratio of domestic product are now at 0.149, about as low as they have been in the last 50 years or so. Some of the expenditure has been to service debt accumulated in attempting to resolve a banking crisis (always an expensive proposition) and some has been a result of demographic factors & price dynamics in medical care. A great deal of our trouble is the Democratic Party’s spending electives, but there is a great deal else as well.

    5. This is not going to be pretty, and advocates for the Republican congressional caucus have elected for the most part to behave as if the markets will not react. What is worse, it is coming to a head in conjunction with a sovereign debt crisis in Europe. The European institutions might have taken steps to immunize their banks, insurance companies, and defined-benefit pension plans by building a fund to buy preferred stock and issue indemnities. They apparently have not.

  • Mac,

    The Bernank and Tax Expert Geithner don’t need to raise taxes nor the elevate the debt ceiling nor mint trillion denominated platinum coins.

    They can simply make a book entry at each Federal Reserve Bank

    Aggregate national journal entry:

    Debit Credit
    Cash/effectively a Checking Account $30T
    Due to the American people $30T

    No. They will not draw checks on the accounts that cover “it all.” They will print $30T in crisp, new Federal Reserve Notes. And, that’s how it’s done now. Brilliant! Problem solved.

    Now, I’m having a stroke contemplating how much a bottle of hootch will cost.

  • “1. A legislative body just might ignore the law, which Harry Reid and his confederates in the U.S. Senate have done with regard to the budget process. State legislatures have tended to be more circumspect about disregarding provisions of state constitutions and such.”

    States can ignore laws all they want to Art, I could point out some doozies here in Illinois, but they can’t ignore they don’t have money which is why Illinois is staring at de facto bankruptcy.

    “There are 11 state governments where the Democratic Party controls the executive and legislature, not two.”

    Correct Art, and almost all are in worse fiscal shape than States controlled by the Gop.”

    “California is in the crapper even though it has had a Republican governor for 23 of the last 28 years.”

    I would hardly call the Guvernator a Republican Art. He got into the office due to Gray Davis and the Democrats leading the State down the path to bankruptcy, and, after an initial attempt to return to fiscal sanity, he went along with the Democrat controlled legislature.

    The change is noted here:

    http://usliberals.about.com/b/2006/01/14/arnold-schwarzenegger-californias-newest-democrat.htm

    “A great deal of our trouble is the Democratic Party’s spending electives, but there is a great deal else as well.”

    The current crisis is almost entirely due to the Democrat party, although I would concede that prior to Obama the fiscal abyss we face was a bipartisan disaster. The problem currently is that the Democrats refuse to do anything to meet the crisis and have done their best to make the fiscal crisis worse.

    “This is not going to be pretty, and advocates for the Republican congressional caucus have elected for the most part to behave as if the markets will not react.”

    Of course the markets will react. If the Republicans force through a deal that substantially cuts spending the markets will respond positively. If Obama refuses to agree to such a deal and takes the country into default as a part of political theatre against the Republicans, the markets will react negatively.

  • Don,

    Do you think Tom Sowell views the world through RINO lenses?

  • No he is simply wrong BA. It is possible to be wrong without being a RINO, but being a RINO certainly greatly increases the chances of being wrong on an issue of public policy. Sowell is simply misreading the politics of this based upon a fairly simplistic look at the government shut down of 1995:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/256801/republican-showdown-thomas-sowell

    What Sowell fails to appreciate is that our fiscal plight is much more dire today than it was in 1995, that Obama has been on the spending spree to end all spending sprees and the public knows it, that the economy is in the tank today which was not the case in 1995 and that Obama lacks the preternatural political skills of Clinton. We also do not have Gingrich making an ass out of himself by complaining about being given a proper seat near the President on Air Force One. I think Sowell is a good economist and a poor historian.

  • Actually, the ratio of federal expenditure to domestic product is close to what it was ca. 1984. We are not in virgin territory as regards spending levels.

    There is considerable dreck in the federal budget, but the dreck is not anywhere near 40% of the total. And, of course, the tax take is lower than it has been in decades. The insistence on the part of Republican legislators that there be no tax increase, even one enacted by excising deductions, is foolish.

  • Economic growth is the solution.

    Achieve consistent 3% (private sector) economy growth and tax receipts will climb. If they could get 5% so much better. Conversely, rising tax rates (and more regulations) hamper GDP growth.

  • T. Shaw,

    The only period of time in American economic history where we experienced economic growth rates on the order of 5% per annum for any sustained run of years was in the process of climbing out of the Depression and ramping up war production. Even 3% per year is not to be expected given the rates of labor force growth we are likely to have.

  • “We are not in virgin territory as regards spending levels.”

    We certainly are in regard to amassing huge debt, without a global world war, and not a clue as to how pay for it, and an economy that has been in the tank for years.

    As to reducing federal expenditures, here are some ideas:

    End federal involvement in education. That would save 121 billion dollars.

    Reducing defense spending by 10% would save 72 billion dollars. (I would prefer not to do it, but these are desperate times.)

    Ending Federal welfare programs would save 108 billion dollars. Ending housing assistance would be good for another 60 billion dollars.

    Ending “Other Spending” would save 141 billion dollars. Let’s say 40 billion of that is worthwhile, we will call the savings 100 billion dollars.

    Ending Foreign Military and Economic aid would save 62 billion dollars.

    Abolishing Homeland Security would save 46 billion dollars. The whole thing should be scrapped with anything useful funded, including the INS, for not more than 10 billion dollars under the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice.

    Every Federal Agency, other than the Department of Defense, to be subject to an across the board 10% decrease in funding.

    Abolish retirement at 62 to receive social security.

    I think this would give us a pretty good start on amputating a substantial portion of the Federal budget.

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/budget_pie_gs.php?span=usgs302&year=2012&view=1&expand=30104041702080005051&expandC=&units=b&fy=fy12&local=s&state=US#usgs30250

  • As I said, there is a great deal of dreck in the federal budget, though I think the budget of the Department of Education is about half the figure you quote. The thing is, the Republicans only control 1/2 of the legislature. There is a limit to what they can accomplish in these circumstances and grave dangers accompanying their methods.

  • The figure I gave was total Federal spending on education Art. The Department of Education’s budget for 2011 is 77 billion. The Republicans are in opposition and there is a limit to what they can accomplish. However, this country is headed to a fiscal and economic iceberg, and the Republicans have to establish to the voters of this country that they are doing their very best to change the nations course. Then it will be up to the voters to decide in 2012.

  • Art Deco, federal spending as a percentage of GDP is at the highest since WW2. Granted, it isn’t that much higher than it was in the 80’s.

  • It is about 24%. In 1984, it was 23.5%. Federal spending during the Korean War was higher, I believe.

  • Compared to subsequent years, the Korean War looks normal but it marked a new normal of higher spending and revenue.

    Spending was 25% of GDP in 2009. 23.8% in 2010. The previous post-WW2 high was 23.5% in 1983. Post-WW2 average is 19.6%. Post-Korean War average is 20.1%. While social programs make up a large part of spending, as a percentage of GDP, Social Security is very stable and Medicare is growing rapidly but at a steady pace. The sudden run ups in spending correlate to military build ups and fiscal stimulus. The rest of government, i.e., non-military discretionary spending isn’t much of a problem. If you want to dramatically cut spending you have to look at Medicare and defense.

    Revenue was14.9% in 2009 and 2010, the lowest since 1950. On the other hand, it was 20.6% in 2000, the highest since WW2 when it peaked at 20.9%. Post-WW2 average is 17.7%. Post-KW average excluding the last 2 years is 18%. As a percentage of GDP, revenue is less volatile than spending. Absent tax cuts/hikes, revenue growth should closely match GDP growth. While income taxes and tariffs have been declining, the Social Security tax has been making up for it. It’s clear from the numbers that tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. If you want more revenue, it’s pretty straight forward.

    The hidden story is the growth of state and local government. State spending on health care and local spending on education have exploded. States have been increasing income taxes, both personal and corporate. Local governments have been raising fees and business taxes. Sales and property taxes have been steady. And most of this isn’t to make up for less federal spending (though there’s some of that particularly in education).

  • You can add Grover Norquist to the list of folks who think not raising the debt ceiling would be a disaster. Of course, Grover is noted for being a something of a milquetoast, so I’m sure he just doesn’t realize that Republicans are perfectly positioned to benefit from a default.

  • I think Mr. Boehner offered an extension of some months duration yesterday and was told no deal by Harry Reid. It seems the TEA Party caucus is holed up in Galveston saying ‘nothing’s going to happen’ as the storm surge barrels in and Harry Reid is ready to push down on that plunger betting the ensuing explosion will take out someone other than his crew. Most dismaying.

  • I thought Grover was keeping himself busy defending ethanol subsidies, the federal boondoggle to end all federal boondoggles.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/14/grover-norquist-ethanol_n_876887.html

  • I believe Art (correct me if I’m wrong) is fond of noting something along the lines of America being saddled with the worst political class in our history. If the last few weeks haven’t proven it, nothing will.

  • Don,

    You raise a good point. There is a lot of government spending hidden in the tax code as tax credits and deductions. Ethanol would be one example, but there are plenty of others. A lot of conservatives have mistakenly treated getting rid of these tax expenditures as if they were the same as increasing tax rates (i.e. treating them as being of the devil). So, for example, some conservatives have rejected the Gang of Six proposal on the grounds that it raises taxes, even though the proposal reduces tax rates, because it also eliminates tax expenditures like the ethanol one you mentioned.

    What’s striking about Norquist is that he has been one of the staunchest opponents of eliminating tax expenditures (without corresponding tax cuts), and yet even he thinks that not raising the debt ceiling would be a bad idea.

  • It is hard to take issue with the proposition that eliminating tax ependitures is different from and superior to raising rates, as long as the term “tax expenditure” is properly defined. And therein lies the rub — it is not that easy to define. Theoretically it describes in disparity or departure from a hypothetically perfect tax base — whether based on income, consumption, wealth, or some more idiosyncratice option. For instance, sales tax exemptions for manufacturing machinery are often tagged as tax expenditures, but that is probably not correct. The term has utility, no doubt, but is often employed too readily without sufficient discernment. That said, ethanol subsidies would and should satisfy pretty much any knowledgable person’s definition.

  • Mike,

    I agree with you that it can get to be a tricky issue. This is why I think an absolute insistence on never raising taxes doesn’t work. Norquist has tried to maintain that position, and has ended up tying himself in knots, arguing against eliminating ethanol subsidies one day, then saying that he’s fine with letting the Bush tax cuts expire the next.

  • Agree, BA. I am no admirer of Norquist. There is no magical “right” maximum tax rate or maximun “right” size of government. These are prudential concerns, and reasonable men of good will can disagree in good faith. I favor smaller government with lower taxes, including lower tax rates, but not every tax increase is automatically unfair or unreasonable. As between removing ethanol subsidies versus increasing tax rates, it should be obvious that the former is the easier and more sensible policy decision — the fact that Norquist can’t see it that way demonstrates what happens when one contrives shakey principles to follow slavishly.

  • I rather suspect that the true reason that Grover is against deep sixing the ethanol subsidy has little to due with his alleged inability to distinguish between ending a subsidy and raising a tax.

    http://www.redstate.com/erick/2011/03/29/on-ethanol-conservatives-should-stand-with-tom-coburn/

    This stinks to high heaven and I am glad Coburn is hanging tough on this.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-17/senate-ethanol-vote-signals-ill-wind-for-other-energy-subsidies.html

  • You may be right, Don, but I suspect that he knows the difference but his positions are informed by the rather crude “starve the beast” “the smallest government is best” prime directive. In other words, concerns about horizontal equity or fairness, or even economic efficiency, just take lower priorities than his prime directive. I have never been impressed with his thoughtfulness, but one cannot help but be impressed with his influence in GOP circles. He had a role in sabatoging much needed tax reform in GA.

  • Here’s my 4-STEP ACTION PLAN:

    (1) FIRE Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell; replace them with Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Jim DeMint … .

    (2) CUT all Federal salaries by 15% beginning on October 1, 2011 … .

    (3) CUT the number of Federal employees by 15% beginning on October 1, 2011 … .

    (4) FREEZE the Federal Debt Ceiling at $14 Trillion … .

  • “There is no magical “right” maximum tax rate or maximun “right” size of government. These are prudential concerns, and reasonable men of good will can disagree in good faith. I favor smaller government with lower taxes, including lower tax rates, but not every tax increase is automatically unfair or unreasonable.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Like I’ve said before, tax hikes should be treated like a declaration of war — a last resort to be used only when all else has failed or clearly will not work. If “all else” has not been tried, then don’t do it. However, to declare that one (as a head of state) will absolutely never raise taxes under any circumstances is as imprudent as saying that one will never, ever declare war under any circumstances.

  • Here’s my 4-STEP ACTION PLAN:

    ‘Cuz you got four years worth of beef jerky and canned goods stockpiled in a basement vault.

  • AD: “Four years worth . . . ” ❓

    In a collapse, America would have about a week away before mass violence, rapine and starvation. After a couple of months, there would be nothing left.

    Pray for the best. Prepare for an economic apocalypse.

    The debt ceiling will be raised and short term they will pay all amounts due. However, without a sharp reversal, insolvency and Greece-style default are inevitable. Greece has Germany and the ECU to save their bacon. The US does not have that.

  • Blackadder, ethanol is a subsidy, which is different than a tax credit. One allows you to keep more of the money you earn while the other takes money from one tax payer and gives to another.

    Don… nice arguments.

  • Tax credits are subsidies. Gasoline companies receive a tax credit for adding ethanol. Even if they were subsidies in the traditional sense, it makes no difference whether you keep money that other people cannot or whether you pay the taxes that everyone pays then get a refund that other people do not.

  • Subsidies can come in the form of a tax credit, but tax credits are not subsidies. There is a significant difference between the government allowing one person to keep more of their money and the government taking money from one person and giving to another. The former is tax abatement and the latter is called theft.

    True, the goals of both are the same, to encourage a behavior, but the means vary.

  • A refundable tax credit is the same as a subsidy. There’s really no difference between the two except in name.

  • A tax credit may not exceed total tax liability. A subsidy may, i.e. you can receive monies exceeding your tax liability. Some would call this profiting. I suggest you study the way these two examples work: agricultural and COBRA subsidies.

    Tax deduction tax credit subsidy.

  • Last line should have read …

    Tax deduction != tax credit != subsidy.

  • Kyle’s distinctions are legal but not substantive. Any departure from a Haig-Simons income tax base is a subsidy of some sort, if not legally, substantively. Limiting subsidies to the amount of one’s income tax liability does not make it less a subsidy,

  • A tax credit may not exceed total tax liability.

    If a tax credit is refundable then you get a “refund” of the full amount even if this is more than your total tax liability.

  • Sorry. Missed the “refundable” part. I am speaking of nonrefundable tax credits, which is usually the case.

    Mike, I assume you believe any tax cut is a subsidy. In fact, you could say anything less than 100% of your income to the government is a subsidy.

    Lowering the tax burden sometimes costs the government revenue, but is not the same as a subsidy. A subsidy is wealth redistribution whereas a nonrefundable tax credit and/or deduction is wealth retention. That is a substantive difference.

  • Mike, I assume you believe any tax cut is a subsidy

    Varying the tax rate according to economic sector constitutes a subsidy for the favored sector.

  • Varying the tax rate according to economic sector constitutes a subsidy for the favored sector.

    Only if you start with the assumption that all money is property of the state.

  • Kyle,

    I think you are missing the point. Suppose that Congress, in its infinite wisdom, decided to create a special tax deduction for people not named Kyle. To object to such a deduction doesn’t require you assume all money is property of the state.

  • Only if you start with the assumption that all money is property of the state.

    No, that is not the case. The only assumption is that some sort of tax is being assessed, either on enterprises or on households drawing income from enterprises or purchasing from them. Varying the rate of that tax confers a comparative advantage on the economic sector so favored.

  • I think you are missing the point. Suppose that Congress, in its infinite wisdom, decided to create a special tax deduction for people not named Kyle. To object to such a deduction doesn’t require you assume all money is property of the state.
    No, but calling the money the people get to keep a “subsidy” would be incorrect. It was their money in the first place. The government is not subsidizing their income by allowing them to keep more of it. If anyone is being subsidized in this scenario, it’s the government.

    No, that is not the case. The only assumption is that some sort of tax is being assessed, either on enterprises or on households drawing income from enterprises or purchasing from them. Varying the rate of that tax confers a comparative advantage on the economic sector so favored.
    I agree with everything you say here except the idea taxation is an assumption. It’s a certainty.

    I would add that not only does it give one party an advantage over the other by allowing them to keep more of their money, but taxation can be used to discourage behaviors by penalizing a party. Sadly, this taxing power has been abused in recent times.

  • but taxation can be used to discourage behaviors by penalizing a party. Sadly, this taxing power has been abused in recent times.

    There are externalities afoot in markets. Making use of excise taxes to render such costs internal to the producer (and consumer) is not an abuse of the power to tax.

    I agree with everything you say here except the idea taxation is an assumption. It’s a certainty.

    Unless you are running your government on some sort of royalty, there will be taxes. Particular instances of taxation are not certainties, however.

    If anyone is being subsidized in this scenario, it’s the government.

    You are confounding the manifestation of something in accounting with its economic effects.

  • Kyle,

    Let’s consider a couple of scenarios:

    1) Person A pays $10,000 in taxes. The government then turns around and cuts Person A a check for $2,000. This is a subsidy. Very bad.

    2) Person B pays $10,000 in taxes. The government then turns around and cuts Person B a check for $2,000. But it labels the check a “refund” for taxes paid. This, apparently, is not a subsidy, but is simply the government let people keep more of their money.

    It is senseless to treat the two scenarios differently. If you object to 1 but not 2, all that will happen is that the government will label more and more of their subsidy checks “refunds,” which is in fact what has happened. Ethanol subsidies, for example, take the form of a tax credit. The fact that it takes the form of a tax credit, however, does not mean it isn’t a subsidy.

  • There are externalities afoot in markets. Making use of excise taxes to render such costs internal to the producer (and consumer) is not an abuse of the power to tax.

    Any power can be abused, including the power to tax. Just because one has the authority to tax doesn’t mean there is no possibility of abuse.

    1) Person A pays $10,000 in taxes. The government then turns around and cuts Person A a check for $2,000. This is a subsidy. Very bad.

    2) Person B pays $10,000 in taxes. The government then turns around and cuts Person B a check for $2,000. But it labels the check a “refund” for taxes paid. This, apparently, is not a subsidy, but is simply the government let people keep more of their money.

    The $2k was never the government’s. The citizen’s invoice was for $10k. As a reward for behavior the government would like to promote, it tells the citizen to keep $2k of the money he sent the government. He is getting back $2k of the $10k he sent the government. That is the $10k from his pocket. It was his money, not the government’s. He gave it over willingly as his duty requires. He profited nothing; he simply received a portion of what he sent.

    Now, if he paid $10k in taxes and received $12k back, that is a serious problem which happens way too much.

    I am 50/50 on the idea if he paid $10k and received $10k back. It depends on why he is getting the $10k back.

    A dollar has a life. It’s either productive or not. The dollar takes residence in the private market or public sector. Every dollar returned to the private market has a much better chance of being productive and beneficial to the country than one going to the government. So, I am not offended at the sight of every tax break. Some are worthwhile and many are not, e.g. ethanol subsidies.

  • Some are worthwhile

    Which ones, and why?

  • Art, are you about to argue a flat tax is the only fair tax system?

  • The $2k was never the government’s.

    The money was deducted from your paycheck and sent to Washington as taxes, where it was deposited with the treasury (and then likely spent). In what sense is this money “never the government’s”? Only in the sense that the government says the money was never theirs. What your view boils down to is that the money is your property if and only if the government says it is. If the government calls something a subsidy, then it’s a subsidy. If it does exactly the same thing but calls it a tax cut, then it’s not a subsidy, but a tax cut (except perhaps in the special case where the “tax cut” is more than the total of what you paid in taxes).

    If this were just a manner of semantics then it wouldn’t really matter. But you seem to think that having the government send people checks based on engaging in some government approved activity is bad if it’s labeled a subsidy but okay if it’s labeled a tax credit. By that logic, two individuals could receive the same amount of money from the government via the ethanol tax credit, and in one case in would be a government subsidy while in another it’s just letting people keep more of their own money, just because the initial tax burden of the second guy was a little higher than that of the first.

    Every dollar returned to the private market has a much better chance of being productive and beneficial to the country than one going to the government.

    This is only true if people are free to spend that dollar as they see fit, rather than as the government directs. A person who gets a welfare check has a lot more freedom as to how to spend that money than does a person receiving an ethanol tax credit. The former can spend the money however he wants, whereas the latter has to spend the money on ethanol or it will get taken away from him in taxes.

  • Art, If not fixed, then taxes must vary. As learned here, that would require unfair subsidies. I think there is value to a varying tax system.

    The money was deducted from your paycheck and sent to Washington as taxes, where it was deposited with the treasury (and then likely spent). In what sense is this money “never the government’s”?

    This is why I abhor payroll deductions. People begin to believe payment arrangements define the way the tax system works. If I was president, I would eliminate W-2’s and make everyone work 1099.

    The way the income tax system works at its most basic is you earn an income, and the government bills you for a percentage annually. That invoice comes due Apr 15th. Everything else works within that basic framework.

    Payroll deductions are one avenue of paying your taxes. You could simply cut a single check between 1/1 and 4/15. Or, you could pay quarterly, which is the most the IRS will allow if you annual income reaches a certain level. You could also pay every month, every week, and even every day. These are avenues to settle your invoice. They are payment plans and are not the tax system.

    In regards to the $2k, where did the government get the $2k? Certainly not from its profits. The $2k, if paid out, has to be an account receivable before it’s an account payable. If not paid out, i.e. a tax credit, it never reaches AR and there is no AP. They simply record less in AR. They never possessed the $2k.

    Non-refundable tax credits are not the same as subsidies. People profit from subsidies without regard for taxes due, e.g. cash for clunkers, etc. Non-refundable tax credits are a reduced obligation which may not exceed you tax invoice amount. You cannot profit from them. You can only retain more of what was yours to begin with.

    The welfare check is wealth redistribution. It’s a redistribution most people are willing to accept to an extent, certainly not the proportions we see today.

    I am not for ethanol subsidies. They are an attempt to create an artificial market condition with unhealthy results.

There’s A Law About That?

Thursday, July 21, AD 2011

The FCC is coming under fire from Congress for lax oversight of kids’ programming.  So what’s the problem?  Is Joe from Blue’s Clues working a little too blue, if you catch my drift?  Are the explicit drug scenes from Yo Gabba Gabba getting a little too out of control?  Is the lack of parental oversight of Max and Ruby sending a bad message?

No, none of that.  Evidently there are too many commercials.

I am not making this up.

TV watchdog groups say the Federal Communications Commission needs to better target kids’ programs that have too many commercials, and they want the commission and Congress to strengthen oversight of the Children’s Television Act.

Fueling the drive is a Government Accountability Office report issued last week that highlights FCC shortcomings in enforcing the landmark 1990 law intended to raise the quality and educational value of children’s programming while also limiting advertising. The report said the FCC has been lax in ensuring compliance from cable and satellite providers and questioned the commission’s guidelines for determining the educational value of children’s shows.

You mean to tell me there is a law out there that dictates the amount of commercials that can be shown during children’s programming?  Surely you jest.

Congress crafted the law in response to a decrease in educational shows during the 1980s that corresponded with an uptick in commercial blitzes during children’s programming. To shield youngsters from excessive commercials, the law restricts advertising during children’s programs to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

I repeat: there is a law, passed by Congress, signed by a President, that actually dictates the amount of commercials that are to be shown during kids’ shows.  The government of the United States deemed this an issue worthy enough of oversight.

Moreover, there are people who think the government isn’t doing enough.

During the Clinton administration, the FCC was “paying attention to children’s education, and the quality of children’s programming improved,” said Dale Kunkel, a child media expert and a communications professor at the University of Arizona.

“We slowly moved to a posture in the 2000s where they completely ignored the issue and the broadcasters offered whatever they want,” he said.

Wait a second.  Broadcasters can offer programs that viewers have the option to watch, or not watch?  What is this, a free country or something?

Look, I’m all for making sure that the airwaves are generally clean for kids.  While parents have the ultimate responsibility for watching their children and making sure that the content of what they’re viewing is appropriate, it’s helpful to be assured that they’re not going to watch all the animals from Franklin get a little too friendly (and at least they’ve finally had the decency to put some clothes on little bear).  But do we really need the government to dictate the quality of educational programming available, or the precise amount of commercial time airing on television?  Is there anything that busybodies won’t ask the government to oversee?

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16 Responses to There’s A Law About That?

  • A nation that has no sense of God and no morality is ever in need of more and more laws and regulation. The fantastic and ridiculous because the ordinary. George Orwell would probably not like to see this fulfillment of his prophecy, as it were.

  • Actually, yes. Marketers are all about money. And kids (unlike adults) can’t reason that something isn’t true when an advertiser tells them it’s true. There are children who actually believe that Shrek mac n’ cheese tastes better than regular mac n’ cheese because the advertiser told them not because they’ve tasted them both.

    So while it may seem a bit ridiculous to you, it’s a relief to me. The less commercials telling kids essentially lies (and for that matter to adults too), the better.

    I don’t want my child to be a walking billboard either. Even from birth children are marketed everything from Winnie-the-Pooh to Leapfrog. The idea is that children will remain brand loyal.

    Yes, I could not watch television ever (not just my child, but myself), but you can’t avoid it. There are billboards, dolls, diapers, shirts, shoes, backpacks, lunchboxes, etc all branded. And no I don’t buy that stuff either if it can be avoided. Other parents, however, do and unless I want my child to grow up in a shoe box isolated from his peers I have to face branding.

    Having less commercials for him to see on television helps alleviate the branding problem. I want my child to learn that having the latest silly bandz does not make a person better than another. Integrity is more important.

    BTW my father has a degree in marketing and he taught me how bad the business is especially when it comes to children.

  • I want my kids to watch only commercials so they get desensitized.

  • In case you were unaware, Nickelodeon’s programming isn’t regulated by the FCC.

    The government allows the use of the public airwaves by private companies in order to enrich the life of its people. Those people do include children.

  • I agree with Mr. Zummo. This is just nanny state nonsense. My kids are now grown, but they certainly were inundated with targeted advertising and marketing. Yet, they didn’t have much money to buy stuff without our approval, and my wife and I never found it all that difficult to say no.

    That said, I do want the FCC to make sure that they don’t encounter filth when kids turn on the TV, something most can do without parental approval and monitoring.

  • “The government allows the use of the public airwaves by private companies in order to enrich the life of its people.”

    A nice injection of humor into the thread MZ! Whatever would the nation do without the government sponsored anti-Catholic bigotry of NPR?

    http://4thepriests.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/nprs-anti-catholic-bias-an-old-issue-no-one-gets-fired/

  • I wouldn’t go full libertarian and say there should be no FCC — as Mike says I think that the basic obscenity rules which are enforced on broadcast TV are a good thing. But the idea that congress is passing legislation on the number of minutes per hour of advertising that can be run is very, very silly.

    (And also, the idea that use of the airwaves is a “public service” is deeply silly. It’s a commodity which has to be apportioned by some authority to keep people from broadcasting over one another. As a valuable commercial commodity, it should be auctioned rather than distributed.)

  • “I think that the basic obscenity rules which are enforced on broadcast TV are a good thing.”

    What obscenity rules? One can watch a TV show like “Bones” and get the full brunt of the today’s sexually promiscuous life style where hedonism and homosexuality are promoted as normal. One can watch any number of TV shows that depict women in all manner of undress, and hear cursing without end. It seems that the only word forbidden in main stream media is the “n” word.

  • I am the parent of a four-year-old and an eighteen-month-old. As such, I am responsible for what they do and do not consume. Therefore, I have solved this problem by doing two thing:

    (1) I limit how much and what type of television my kids can watch. Believe it or not, you can exist without having the TV on all day. And if you really need the background noise, put on a cd. As far as what type of programming, we mainly use Netflix (no commercials!) and occasionally watch PBS Sprout (on cable, so we do pay for it). I also DVR any programs we adults would like to watch so that we can put them on after the kids are asleep.

    (2) The effects of what little. In the way of commercials they do see are mitigated by the fact that Mommy (that’s me) has told them that we only buy things we need and that we do not need anything we see on TV. I’ve explicitly taught my oldest that commercials are there to try and sell you things you don’t need and that we don’t want to be wasteful with our money. So, whenever my kids are exposed to commercials my oldest always says, “Mommy, we don’t need that. I wish they’d stop the commercials.” Success! No whining, no fussing, no ‘gotta-have-it’. Nada.

    It really is all about how parents approach the issue. As is just about everything to do with kids.

  • I agree with an earlier comment: Laws are put into place when they are needed. (The law exists for the lawless.) The less lawful people are, the more laws will be needed. The more lawful people are, the less they will require official laws.

  • And according to this morning’s paper, the AMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics are demanding that the Motion Picture Association rate all films that have smoking in them “R.” I kid you not.

  • The nanny state regulations have all but destroyed the classic kid shows that many of us grew up with. The regulators told the producers no more cartoons, no more silly comedy bits, and put more educational stuff in the programing. The kids tuned out in mass. They didn’t want to be “educated”, they wanted to be entertained, dang it!

  • Yeah, I find a lot of these kids shows to be almost condescending, not educational. I didn’t grow up with the characters on these shows turning towards the camera and asking me to help them. Don’t break the fourth wall!

    My kids a little younger than Mandy’s, but we’ve tried to do the same thing. Movies and Nick Jr, so little temptation from the advertisers to begin with.

  • I have a five (almost 6) year old, a three year old and a one year old. What Mandy said in spades. I explicitly tell my children that the commercials are there to make them want to buy stuff they don’t need and we don’t take orders from commercials. I tell them the same thing about store displays.

    I also have to agree with Paul. Most of the kid shows today are so mind-numbingly condescending, I wouldn’t let my kids watch them with zero commercials. We have a very limited diet of shows my children watch. The basic criteria is if I can’t watch it without wanting to jump off the roof, my kids don’t need to watch it either. So no Dora, no Diego, no Barney, no Elmo, no Disney Channel…My children have a very mean mommy. 😀

  • I am collecting old Three Stooges DVDs, so that when I have grandchildren they will be thrilled to come see grampa!