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More examples of Americans waking up – should we rejoice?

10 October 2009

Getting what I asked for — why am I not happy about it?  A follow-up to The American public is organizing and getting involved! Are we happy now? (12 August 2009).

It’s about public protests by conservatives.  Often considered unfair by liberals, baffled to find their own finely-tuned methods turned against them.  Well worth reading by both liberals and conservatives.

It’s significance lies both in what he gets correct about the sources of the protest’s power — and his unwillingness to consider the great extent to which they represent a genuine wellspring of public anger.  The latter is another example of the willful blindness displayed by Thomas Frank in his 2004 book What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.  To call the views of one’s opponents crazy and illegitimate neither makes them so or wins converts.  Until the left realizes this simple truth, it probably will remain a minority in America.

Excerpt

We have never seen, at least in the modern history of the United States, a right-wing street-protest movement. Conservatives who oppose Roe v. Wademarch on Washington every January 22, the anniversary of that 1973 decision; but aside from that single issue and that single day, the American right over recent decades has, until this summer, carried out its organizing in a comparatively quiet fashion, via mimeograph machine and pamphlet and book and e-mail and text message, and left the streets to the left.

So we have something new in our political life—the summer’s apoplectic and bordering-on-violent town-hall meetings, and the large “9/12″ rally on Washington’s National Mall that drew tens of thousands of people to protest America’s descent into “socialism” (or “communism,” or, occasionally, “Nazism”). How extreme is this movement, and how seriously should we take it?

… What is not hypothetical is that the Tea Party movement has materialized, to those who don’t monitor conservative Web sites and media outlets, seemingly out of nowhere, with an intensity no one would have predicted three months ago (certainly the White House did not). It does not represent a majority of the country, or probably anything close to a majority. Perhaps, based on certain indicators—Sarah Palin’s popularity, George W. Bush’s at the very end, the percentages in polls that strongly disapprove of Obama’s leadership—we can conclude that its followers make up 25 or so percent of the electorate.

But we kid ourselves if we think they are not capable of broader impact. We’ve seen it already: the degree to which self-identified independent voters flipped on health care over the summer from support to opposition, in part because of the toxic town-hall protests, was astonishing.

… This conservative protest movement, though, has three powerful forces supporting it: bottomless amounts of corporate money; an ideologically dedicated press, radio, and cable television apparatus eager to tout its existence; and elected officials who are willing to embrace it publicly and whose votes in support of the movement’s positions can be absolutely relied upon. The 1981 marchers and all the left-leaning protest movements with which we’ve been familiar over the years—and that serve in our minds as the models for street protests and political rallies—have typically had none of this kind of support. For the foreseeable future, what we witnessed on September 12, and over the summer at the town-hall events, is likely to be a permanent feature of the political landscape.

About the author

Michael Tomasky is editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and American editor-at-large for The Guardian.

Other examples of liberals baffled by resurgent conservatives

The Death of Conservatism, by Sam Tanenhaus; Random House, 144 pages (2009) — For a brilliant analysis of (and reply to) Tanenhaus’ thinking, I recommend reading “Is conservatism dead?“, James Piereson, The New Criterion, September 2009.

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling). 

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Other posts on the FM website about public protests:

  1. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
  2. The American public is organizing and getting involved! Are we happy now?, 12 August 2009

Other posts on the FM website about the reforming America (the last 3 discuss the tea parties):

  1. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008  
  2. Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
  3. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
  4. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
  5. What happens next? Advice for the new President, part one., 17 October 2008
  6. What to do? Advice for the new President, part two., 18 October 2008
  7. Are the new “tea party” protests a grass roots rebellion or agitprop?, 1 March 2009
  8. Our ruling elites scamper and play while our world burns, 11 March 2009
  9. The first step on the road to America’s reform, 29 May 2009
  10. The weak link in America’s political regime, 16 September 2009
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30 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    10 October 2009 2:35 am

    I must confess to being confused. I’ve been to a couple of tea party events, waved a sign saying in effect, “You’re spending too much money”, and had a good time. It was gratifying to see the thing grow from a few dozen to thousands, and I hope the movement grows and congeals into a force driving the the country back toward limited government. (I am not even cautiously optimistic about it, but where else are you going to place your bet these days?)

    But is it really backed by bottomless corporate dollars? Really? I could be wrong, but I doubt America’s corporations with their cynical albeit sensible tactic of paying both sides so no matter who wins – they have friends in power – is bankrolling a movement to limit government. And considering right-wing media is a relatively small subset of all media, it seems a little, well… dramatic to credit Beck, Limbaugh et.al. with creating a mass movement out of what amounts to a couple hours of daily air time. And those faithfully obedient republican politicians… I wish it were so, but I think that species is rarer than jackelopes or non-rinos.

    In the end, it seems that Mr. Tomasky’s list of perpetrators consists of witches… … This conservative protest movement, though, has three powerful forces supporting it: bottomless amounts of WITCHES money; an ideologically dedicated WITCH apparatus eager to tout its existence; and WITCHES who are willing to embrace it publicly and whose votes in support of the movement’s positions can be absolutely relied upon.

    My questions are: Are these really where the movement’s power comes from? If not, does Mr. Tomasky believe it regardless? And if he doesn’t really believe it, is he simply trying to rally the troops by blaming the usual suspects? I honestly find it almost impossible to fathom the minds of political leftists.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I have no opinions on this one way or the other, but it seems you attempt to discredit this analsyis through exaggeration and mockery (what is this about “witches”?). Do you doubt that powerful interest groups seek to manipulate the media and public opinion — and use front groups to do so? Why might this not be such a program? Why do you find this so unusual or difficult to believe?

    “Are these really where the movement’s power comes from?”
    Partially, but these types of operations typically magnify preexisting beliefs in segments of the public — both by stirring their passions, funding groups which provide organization, and obtaining favorable media coverage.

    Like

  2. Jonathan permalink
    10 October 2009 6:22 am

    When attorney and activist William Kunstler died, Ted Koppel interviewed Alan Dershowitz on Nightline and asked him about Kuntsler being cited for contempt of court several times. Dershowitz replied that Kuntsler considered those citations a badge of honor because he felt the system was racist and corrupt, and he wanted to bring it down.

    People on the left, at the least the extreme ones, tend to feel this way, and thus it is easy to get them to protest. It is harder to get conservatives to protest because it is hard to get people to protest against something they intrinsically support.

    Conservatives, by definition, tend to believe the system laid down by the Founders through the Constitution is near perfection and modifications should be infrequent and minor. That is why so many of the protesters are demanding the government adhere to the Constitution, whether or not they actually understand the details of that document. Protesters on the Left don’t seem too concerned with the government following the Constitution since, as in the words of Obama, they believe it is a list of ‘negative rights’ and doesn’t go far enough.

    Tomasky suggests this movement began in February with the Rick Santelli rant. But it has been smoldering awhile. I think we got a taste of it in 2007 when Bush tried to pass amnesty. We also saw it last fall during the banking bailout.

    Tomasky lays out a good case detailing the corporations like Koch Industries and lobbying groups like Freedom Works that are supposedly driving this movement. I guess he could have written something similar on the Left about George Soros and Moveon.

    If I had not seen these protests or spoken to people who attended them, I might be ready to believe his claim that this is just ‘atroturf’. But I honestly believe it is not.

    When I watched the left attending the town halls, they seemed to arrive on buses with identical, print-shop quality signs. The tea party folks by contrast seemed like an irregular militia with their homemade signs.

    I am happy Tomasky doesn’t blame all of this on race, but he needs to review some of his facts such as this one: …it seems unlikely …that the presence of a President Edwards would have led to people carrying guns to presidential speeches, as happened when Obama spoke to veterans in Phoenix this summer. In fact the man with the gun at that rally was black.

    All in all I think these new found protesters are good. I just hope they remain consistent regardless of which party is in power. Having a strong movement to put pressure on BOTH parties to abide by fiscally responsible policies is a good thing.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for this detailed analysis. The comparison to Moveon — and its cousins (e.g., MediaMatters, funded with $2 million per the NY Times) — is esp cognent.

    Like

  3. SRL permalink
    10 October 2009 6:46 am

    I would be interested to see if there is any data available on the demographic composition of this fledgling movement. The pictures I’ve seen (and I’ve made a point of looking at a number) indicate to me that the average person who attends these things is white and over 40. If this is so, it is an interesting situation. Although they represent a voting block, I don’t see it as a movement with much staying power. I see anything that does not attract youth as not viable in the long run. Even Ronald Reagan had the backing of energetic college kids.

    In addition, these protests may be organized by baby bloomers with some experience regarding street demonstrations. I have conservative friends who attended those rallies so they could meet women…

    Like

  4. Elle permalink
    10 October 2009 10:18 am

    Why is it so hard for the elitist to grasp that many people simply want to be left alone? That the meddling of the elitist is what is causing the protests with the tyranny of good intentions.Must blame always be assigned to the usual suspects:

    “bottomless amounts of corporate money;” I am still waiting for my wheelbarrows of cash from the NRA,or heck,even ACORN,GM,or AIG,FOX,anyone please?

    “an ideologically dedicated press, radio, and cable television apparatus eager to tout its existence;” I would like to actually see some more of this

    “and elected officials who are willing to embrace it publicly and whose votes in support of the movement’s positions can be absolutely relied upon.” Where can one find such publicly elected officials that actually do,you know,the peoples will as opposed to self interest?

    Can’t people just be pissed off at something without the support of press,politicos,or corporations and express that publicly.Or must there always be a deeper,more nefarious reason assigned to it by an elitist with reality separation issues?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: No doubt people are often “pissed off at something without the support of press,politicos,or corporations and express that publicly…” But movements are usually build on an organizational foundation, which takes money (or one of its alternative forms, such as organizational strength — as unions often provide to the Left). True grass-roots organizations are common, but find it almost impossible to develop national influence without tapping some source of institutional power.

    Perhaps MADD was a grass-roots phenom in its early years (1980-1990, anyone have data on this?), but it recieved almost $10 million in 2001-06 (source).

    Like

  5. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    10 October 2009 2:45 pm

    The tea-party movement seems strange to me, and seems driven largely by (?externally shaped?) ignorance and fear.

    Most of the people protesting are NOT in the high income brackets, and would benefit considerably more under Obama’s domestic economic policies when compared with Bush’s.

    Most of the people protesting would greatly benefit from a “Public Option” described simply as “Medicare for All”, when compared with the current system. Heck, a non trivial number are the “Don’t let the Government take over my medicare” crowd. And the arguments they make are driven by external lies (“death panels”? WTF? the “rationing” argument which somehow ignores the insane amount of rationing present in our system, etc).

    And the national debt is a HUGE problem, but the biggest recent contributors to that are two wars, something that most of that audience supports or at least supported under Bush, and tax cuts under Bush which so favored the ultra-rich [1], something the tea party movement completely ignores.

    Elle: You want more idealogically biased press than Fox News? Fox news and the conservative side of the news is a classic “incestual amplification” OODA loop in action.

    [1] A classic example is the Captial gains tax cut under Bush, which means that Warren Buffet’s tax rate is lower than his secretary’s! and NONE of the fortune 100 is any different!

    Like

  6. Honorius permalink
    10 October 2009 3:50 pm

    “This conservative protest movement, though, has three powerful forces supporting it: bottomless amounts of corporate money”

    I’d like to see what his source are on this. I’ve “heard” that the tea party movement has been heavily hyped by fox (because I watch the daily show, I’m so politically astute) but I have not heard of large corporate donation. To whom would they give the money anyway? The Tea party movement is very “open source” in that sense. I think it’s a combination of group with a vaguely defined goal (to oppose Obama) that organize and cooperate through the internet. There is no central authority and as such I think talking about corporate financing is just silly.

    Furthermore, while it seems to be true that elected officials and some media outlet are all over this, it doesn’t mean that the movement has been created by those things (aside from Rick Santelli rallying cry). Elected officials like it because they think they can get vote and media outlet support it because they think they’ll get good ratings. It creates a snowball effect but it’s hardly the cause of it all.

    I think that if we looked at what the Tea Party is, we’d found a composition of several interest “club” loosely cooperating together: Fiscal conservative groupe, Gun loving group, Veteran’s group etc.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: All interesting and valid points! The present is always hidden in fog. Only with the perspective of time will future historians see the truth. Today we can only speculate.

    “To whom would they give the money anyway?”
    They’d give it to organizers to pay for their work and (secondarily) event expenses.

    “There is no central authority”
    There does not need to be. John Robb discusses this in depth on his website, Global Guerrillas. Loose networks have many operational advantages over centralized structures (compare modern insurgent networks vs. the cold war’s communist party structures).

    Like

  7. Elle permalink
    10 October 2009 4:05 pm

    I would humbly submit that the ignorance and fear on display comes not from the tea-party movement itself,but by elitist reaction to the tea party movement. I would submit also that the tea-party movement is already “inside” the elitist OODA loop,if one is to judge by Mr. Tomaskys reaction.The elitist has forgotten Mr. Boyds formula of people,ideas,hardware in that order.

    As far as funding,thus far the movement seems to be self-funded,unless anyone has evidence to the contrary.One may certainly expect to start to see funding coming from all sorts of sources at some point in time,some nefarious.

    “Elle: You want more idealogically biased press than Fox News? Fox news and the conservative side of the news is a classic “incestual amplification” OODA loop in action.”

    Mr. Weaver,ideologically biased press,no.Ideologically based press,yes.I am some what old fashioned and would like to see press based on freedom,liberty,and justice-crazy,I know.

    Furthermore,I am such a simpleton that I don’t really care about public option,or medicare or what government health care will or will not do for me.

    If I get sick,I want to go to a doctor of my own choosing.If my doctor doesn’t offer me a price I can or will pay,I want the choice to go to a doctor that is more affordable.Call me elitist in this regard.

    As far as public debt goes,I have to live within a budget.I think my government is overdue learning to live within their budget and are going to find it’s past time to make some painful reductions in the way business is done.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I strongly agree with your opening sentence. Unfortunately that is not incompatable with the tea parties being supported by elements of our ruling elites for their own purposes. The participant’s lack of developed political and economic though makes them easy to manipulate, in my opinion.

    “I don’t really care about public option,or medicare or what government health care will or will not do for me.”
    That’s the point, of course. As an experiment, suggest scaling back Medicare at one of your protests — as a means to balance the budget. The result will be instructive. Civil servants, veterans, those on Medicaid and Medicare — mostly like their government-funded care — but often strongly believe that others should not have access to it.

    Like

  8. 10 October 2009 5:32 pm

    One of the “happenings” I follow on the WWW is a true grassroots club activity supported by a motorcycle adventure touring club. These guys “pass the hat” internet style, and raise about $20k. The organizers, just a couple of guys, I know one, choose a lucky recipient, typically a guy who helped out a brother cyclist gratis at the ends of the earth, Mongolia, India, China, etc. They bring the guy to the states, (these are dirt poor people) give him a bike (one always shows up/ typically someone donates their own killer touring bike as they’re convalescing) insure the whole thing, give the guy a satellite GPS/911 box and a video cam/. The guy tours the whole U.S. staying at various supporters homes invariably gaining lot’s of weight, (food is love in this country). BMW and the like keep trying to donate/sponsor but all attempts are thrown off. The grass roots purity is a key element. I suspect this same dynamic underlies the “Tea Parties”.

    Like

  9. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    10 October 2009 5:39 pm

    Elle: What IS your health insurance? We are in a current system where if you don’t have health insurance, your healthcare costs more because the big insurance providers and medicare have negotiated rates that no others have access to. You can’t go to a doctor who will charge you less.

    And to solve this, have you tried to buy health insurance on the individual market? The individual market (those outside an employer or government health plan) is critically broken: you can’t buy it for a rasonable amount, and even for an unreasonable amount, they can and do manage to avoid paying out for something expensive by denying coverage based on something unrelated (undeclared and unrelated preexisting condition is a popular one.) I have. My girlfriend can’t buy private health insurance because she has a skin condition!

    And if you want an ideologically based press, Fox and company are a horrid example.

    EG, if you care about freedom and liberty, really care about freedom, you look at the security measures put in place to keep us “safe” and weep.

    You look at our now pointless war in Afghanistan, our from the beginning pointless war in Iraq, and cry.

    If you actually want the news bias you purport to want, something more honest and focused on real freedom, liberty, and understanding the complexities of the world, might I recommend looking more at NPR and Al Jazeera. At least they try to present the world as a rich and complex place.

    As for this movement, I don’t think it is externally FUNDED, but it does appear to be externally MANIPULATED. Would the Tea Party movement exist withotu the hyper-conservative media? The things they are angry about are things they are fed from a very biased news channel, one which is shaped by a few power brokers, Rupert Murdoch in particular.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Part of the problem is that people like Elle appear to have no idea what happens to people who fall out of the middle class world. For example — have an accident or sickness => lose your job => unable to get insurance to do a new “preexisting condition” => ruinous medical bills => foreclosure and bankruptcy. A fast slide into povery, with nothing to help on the way.

    Making it worse is that hospitals charge individuals without medicare insurance far higher rates — rates that folks without medical insurance cannot pay. The system actively works against them. By definition, people in this condition are politically powerless. How strange that there are no “tea parties” movements to advocate help for them.

    Like

  10. Elle permalink
    10 October 2009 6:08 pm

    FM: “Unfortunately that is not incompatable with the tea parties being supported by elements of our ruling elites for their own purposes.”

    Mr. FM, I can hardly speak for the movement, having been a mere participant. But of course it’s most likely that the movement will be supported by elites for their own purposes. As have many movements that have started out. I think that’s somewhat the point. Will it be the elitists that control the movement? Will the outcome be perfect? Far from it, as history has shown freedom is a messy affair with unpredictable outcomes.But one would certainly think it is superior to the status quo of offerings and current thinking.

    FM: “As an experiment, suggest scaling back Medicare at one of your protests — as a means to balance the budget. The result will be instructive.

    I would anticipate as much wailing and gnashing of teeth on this as if you were to suggest Barney Frank or a Kennedy get their publicly funded health care at a VA facility.

    By the way, when is the Fabius Maximus book on geopolitics and 4gw tying all this together for us neophytes coming out?
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    FM reply: Just a guess, but I suspect that elite control of the movement will result in outcomes unexpected by the participants. In fact, that seems almost inevitable — since the “tea parties” appears at this point to be a viseral protest rather than a program — that is, recommendations based on facts and analysis, to produce reasonable outcomes. Folks with a program and power will successfully control folks having just numbers — but neither power or a program.

    “I would anticipate as much wailing and gnashing of teeth on this as if you were to suggest Barney Frank or a Kennedy get their publicly funded health care at a VA facility.”

    First, I doubt that is correct. Generals and admirals (serving and retired) recieve five-tar treatment at military and VA facilities (e.g, world-class Walter Reed Army Hosital and the Bethesda Naval Hospital). Second, you evade the point. Medical care of Senators is not threatening to drown the US government in red ink. The tea parties include hypocritical protests about excessive taxes by people whose benefits are a substantial piece of the problem.

    “when is the Fabius Maximus book on geopolitics and 4gw tying all this together for us neophytes coming out?”

    Let’s ask! Is there a market for such a thing? Question for anyone who knows about such things: what do you think? Here is are the hits on the articles published during 2 typical weeks:
    * Posted the week of Sept 20-Sept 26: Total 10,527, mean 856, median 863.
    * Posted the week of Sept 27 – Oct 3: Total 13,257, mean 1,503, median 903.

    Like

  11. Elle permalink
    10 October 2009 7:38 pm

    Mr. Weaver, post 7,paragragh 6 IS my health care plan.I have no insurance coverage nor do I see any advantage to having the government mandate it for me.I am the middle class Mr. FM dismisses as having no idea of health care.

    I don’t have any superlative answers for health care for the masses, I just know what works for my family. I don’t quite understand the fixation on Fox news.I prefer unbiased news and rather enjoy Al-Jazeera. As far as “security” and continuing the war in Afghanistan,I did not put those in place,but think reductions in one or both could certainly be put towards reducing the deficit.But this is all above my pay grade.I am not for or against the war in Afghanistan other than hoping we establish some type of stability with minimal losses and adore and support those fighting via Blue Star Mothers.

    No disrespect intended at all Mr. Weaver and Mr. FM,but say your reactions have been very typical of elitists encountered at any tea party.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not understand what you mean by “post 7, paragragh 6 is my health care plan.”

    “If I get sick, I want to go to a doctor of my own choosing. If my doctor doesn’t offer me a price I can or will pay, I want the choice to go to a doctor that is more affordable.Call me elitist in this regard.”

    This is not clear to me. Are you saying…
    (a) You have the good fortune to have a major medical insurance plan (private or public) that offers a wide choice of doctors. Perhaps with a large deductable or co-pay. (see note below).
    (b) You have no major medical, but are wealthy and can self-insure should I need medical care costing tens or hundreds of thousands $.
    (c) You are not wealthy and have no major medical, so the rest of us are your major medical. That is, if someone in your family gets very ill, the “system” will either absord your unpaid bills after bankruptcy or a charilty claim, or you will go on Medicaid (how quickly depends on how quickly you deplete your savings).
    (d) In the event of a serious and expensive treatment, you plan to refuse treatment — or in the case of your child, move to Mexico to prevent court-ordered treatment at public expense.

    Note: (a) is wonderful, but can change to a less pleasant state. Such as following a chronic illness that results in loss of employment and inability afterwards obtain medical insurance (pre-existing condition). The large medical bills will result in foreclosure and bankruptcy, followed by Medicaid.

    Like

  12. 10 October 2009 8:36 pm

    To restate a point I have several times made on John Robb’s blog: Things will get interesting when so-called left wing “extremists” and right-wing “extremists” begin – at least on occasion – to work with each other rather allowing the so-called “elite” to define and divide them.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed. That process might have already started. Note how today support and opposition for our wars cross the usual ideological and party lines.

    Like

  13. Mikyo permalink
    10 October 2009 9:50 pm

    Lefties go long. Conservatives, hang back and block. :)

    Like

  14. Robert Carruthers permalink
    11 October 2009 1:29 am

    Re: “when is the Fabius Maximus book on geopolitics and 4gw tying all this together for us neophytes coming out?”
    FM: “Let’s ask! Is there a market for such a thing?

    Yes, there is a market. I’d be one of the less likely of your readers to buy a book as I strongly disagree with most of your positions. But there is more than enough wisdom in both the material I agree and disagree with to make me read your site regularly. I’d happilly pay for a book that would give me a more profound and detailed understanding of your conceptual framework and views on issues. Many of your commentators display a degree of understanding that suggests they read books, so they should provide a market.

    Like

  15. Ryan permalink
    11 October 2009 3:08 am

    FM: “Do you doubt that powerful interest groups seek to manipulate the media and public opinion — and use front groups to do so? Why might this not be such a program? Why do you find this so unusual or difficult to believe?

    Fabius, the powerful interest groups are only organizing and encouraging these people. These people aren’t being paid to go to these events. The fact that thousands hold tea party protests are evidence enough for me.

    Besides, with the rise of the internet and the fall of television, most protesting might be decentralized to the blogosphere, and the interest groups shall only be more limited in their power. Barring the next telecommunications breakthrough, which is far off.

    Also. I might buy a book you’ve written. And some people with a substantial blog following do publish books. They might not make a fortune off of it, but it’s enough. For example: Captain Capitalism:

    A disillusioned economist who predicted the banking meltdown, was fired because he wasn’t a “teamplayer” (Communism in my opinion) and currently runs a conservative blog, while making a living off of being a dance instructor. Runs a good blog. Haven’t read the book but it provides insight about the housing crisis.

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    Fabuis Maximus replies: Replay the tape!

    that thousands hold tea party protests are evidence enough for me.”the powerful interest groups are only organizing and encouraging these people. These people aren’t being paid to go to these events.”
    Agreed. As I said in reply to comment #1: these types of operations typically magnify preexisting beliefs in segments of the public — both by stirring their passions, funding groups which provide organization, and obtaining favorable media coverage.

    (2) “that thousands hold tea party protests are evidence enough for me.”
    Evidence of what?

    Like

  16. Elle permalink
    11 October 2009 4:19 am

    FM: “First, I doubt that is correct. Generals and admirals (serving and retired) recieve five-tar treatment at military and VA facilities (e.g, world-class Walter Reed Army Hosital and the Bethesda Naval Hospital). Second, you evade the point. Medical care of Senators is not threatening to drown the US government in red ink. The tea parties include hypocritical protests about excessive taxes by people whose benefits are a substantial piece of the problem.”

    I seriously doubt the average citizen would receive anything close to five star treatment under a .gov insurance plan. Looking at socialized medicine across the sea, the costs are continually increasing with service continually decreasing. Non-sustainable.

    Hypocrisy at a political event? I am shocked!Shocked I tell you.One would expect to see more cohesion as the movement evolves.

    As for choices A-D,I go for E,none of the above. Again,I have no solutions to health care for the masses and am hoping for something better than the current offerings. You have stated many times the state is in decline. Do you have any evidence why I should support it or participate in the decline more than I already have to?

    May I humbly suggest you attend a tea party yourself and form your own perceptions? Your insight would be greatly appreciated.The price is free,Mr. Kinders suggestion can be implemented,it will be worth another post and the book can be promoted! You’ve already got at least three buyers,the momentum for the FM book is building almost like a …….tea party!

    Blessings
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not understand your opening paragraph. I doubt elites receirve an average level of care in any system around the world, public or private — in the past, now, or in the foreseeable future. That’s a benefit of elite status. Which was my point, in rebuttal to your comment about the Senators.

    “Looking at socialized medicine across the sea”
    This ignores my point, just as tea parties do. Medicare is socialized medicine, and is not sustainable in it present form. By rebelling against attempts to reform this system — clinging to their benefits, ignorning the lack of care available to other today, and proposing no reforms — they are part of the problem. BTW, I know of no evidence that the medical systems in any developed nation are worse than ours in the terms you describe: “costs are continually increasing with service continually decreasing.” Most of the system in Europe are stable both in terms of cost and service. Propaganda focuses almost entirely on the UK’s NHS, which is one of the worse in terms of service (although not in costs).

    “Do you have any evidence why I should support it or participate in the decline more than I already have to”
    You have not stated how you get your medical care, which might give us an idea what you are talking about. Or what we should do about our dysfunctional system. What you’ve stated makes little sense.

    Like

  17. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    11 October 2009 4:18 pm

    Elle: If you REALLY looked, you’d see that our system has even HIGHER expense and more rationing than the systems in Canada, Great Britain, etc. Yet worse outcomes. We spend more and we are sicker!

    Likewise, almost everyone I know on the US socialized system (VA, Medicare, public-service pension) loves it with the exception of Medicare Part D.

    Medicare Part D is also the only part that isn’t really a socialized system, rather it is a collection of distinct private insurance policies. As my dad experienced, Ph.D. engineers have a difficult time choosing the proper Part D plan! If anything, part D is proof of how the private sector can’t solve these problems, and I would personally oppose anything that does not at least offer a “medicare for all” public plan competition.

    One of the remarkable things (GASP) about the VA system is they actually track benefits and outcomes, to see if the $100K surgery really does perform better than the $10K option! This is the “rationing” people complain about in many cases.

    Also, Elle, you seem to miss the common economic realities present in the “on-faith” libertarian population. Market Failures. Tragedy of the Commons. Adverse selection biases. All these societal facts seem ignored in your world view.

    If you do not have health insurance, what would happen if you get a $100K medical bill? There is certain nontrivial odds of you hitting this negative-lottery, what will happen then? At least see if you can get some form of catastrophic coverage, a $10K+ deductable plan. You will be depressed at just how much that costs per month, which gives you an idea of just what the probability of having a $100K+ bill is for someone young and healthy.

    Like

  18. Greg permalink
    12 October 2009 3:39 am

    I agree completely with FM on these Tea Parties — the tone, support, origination and substance. They reflect deeply felt anger from the participants even as civilized these Events appear to be. Similarly the participants would respond exactly as he asserts if you tried to take their Govt Funded health care away or even suggest that they “share” their good Coverage with the less fortunate.

    To dismiss them and the roots of this anger is to be very shortsighted.

    Having been self-employeed all my life, having had to seek and provide coverage for my Employees and now for the last 20 years being insured as an Individual with a Major Med. High Deduct Plan (same one as Gov Employees — less 1st $$ Options!), I always find that most people have simply NO IDEA what real insurance costs (and what a great deal it is — AFTER you experience a Major Event!)

    The entire Health Care Debate simply glosses over/ignores and hides the lack of Wage Growth in the USA for over 35 years. And just now some are realizing that it is symptomatic of the the Plan to deeply undercut the middle earners in this Society.

    Until Health Care is regulated and established as a Utility the USA will simply see higher costs and more and more afloat on their own.

    This will not end well.

    Connolly

    Like

  19. Elle permalink
    12 October 2009 4:52 am

    Gentlemen,

    I believe if you take the time to actually read what was posted instead of seeing only what you desire to see you will read “I have no insurance coverage nor do I see any advantage to having the government mandate it for me.” I believe MR. FM has a post regarding change blindness that is similar to the phenomenon occurring here-willful blindness.

    If something untoward occurs in the near future I will just have to muddle through,won’t I?It isn’t as if tragedy hasn’t happened to people before and they haven’t managed to deal with it.Again gentlemen,people,ideas,hardware in that order.People are far more resilient than your ideas credit them for.

    And again,I will humbly say I have no solution to health care for the masses.I am not a geopolitical or 4gw or political expert of any type.Merely a housewife employed part time that has attended several tea parties.If this disqualifies me from posting here,then feel free to ban me.

    There is one condition that will forever keep a man in ignorance,that is contempt prior to investigation.

    Instead of accepting third hand,biased media accounts of tea parties I will again humbly suggest you get out from behind the monitors,stand up from behind the desk,and actually go to a tea party yourself.There is much more being bandied about than just pet theories on reform.If you have a better idea or solution,that is a place to offer it.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I did read what you said; that was the basis of my question. You have answered it, clearly stating that you are part of the problem:

    (c) You are not wealthy and have no major medical, so the rest of us are your major medical. That is, if someone in your family gets very ill, the “system” will either absord your unpaid bills after bankruptcy or a charilty claim, or you will go on Medicaid (how quickly depends on how quickly you deplete your savings).

    Why you consider this meritorious is a mystery to me. Whatever your justification, should you need expensive care our society will not let you — or your family members, if any — die, and we will pay for it.

    Like

  20. Elle permalink
    12 October 2009 5:32 am

    May I also suggest consideration of solutions outside the current system.Such as self funded health-care co-ops,peer to peer health care,and the possibility black market health care may exist?If the state will not reform,and it has given little evidence it is willing to do so in any satisfactory manner,then non-state supported solutions will appear.These will come from people tired of the old ideas offered and willing to employ non-traditional hardware,or health care in this case to find solutions.
    .
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    Fabius Maximus replies: If “the state will not reform” then we are all well and truly screwed. Certainly that will be the inevitable outcome if a majority adopt that fatalistic attitude. Fortunately our ancestors did not, when faced with far greater problems. And I have faith that enough Americans will rally and work to reform our nation.

    Like

  21. Elle permalink
    12 October 2009 5:42 am

    FM: “If the state will not reform” then we are all well and truly screwed. Certainly that will be the inevitable outcome if a majority adopt that fatalistic attitude. Fortunately our ancestors did not, when faced with far greater problems. And I have faith that enough Americans will rally and work to reform our nation.

    I think you have arrived at the crux of tea-parties!
    .
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That was the point of the post. Are the tea parties a visceral and unprogramatic response, perhaps manipulated by powerful interest groups? If so, they are just inconsequential protest — like the left’s fun and ritualistic protests at WTO and G-8 meetings. Fun self-expression and venting of grievances, but of no series consequence. A polite version of the many peasant’s revolts in the pre-modern era, more suited to our passionless culture.

    Like

  22. Elle permalink
    12 October 2009 6:47 am

    FM: “Are the tea parties a visceral and unprogramatic response, perhaps manipulated by powerful interest groups? If so, they are just a way of venting — like the left’s fun and ritualistic protests at WTO and G-8 meetings. Or pehaps a polite version of the many peasant’s revolts in the pre-modern era.

    Stop wondering,get off your ass and into the field to investigate for yourself.Leave the safety of the desk.Go to one or more tea parties and participate in what you write about.At least observe first hand and give us your conclusions instead of relying on third hand accounts and speculation.

    Your insight is valuable.With your background you will be far more likely to see any manipulation or lack there of and will have a better idea of what its about and if it has staying power and the potential to provide reform.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Life is short, and none of the tea party supporters on this site (or their sites) have said anything of sense about their goals.

    Let’s rewind to your discussion of health care. The US has health outcomes broadly similar to those of other developed nations, yet pays far more. Some of the reasons:
    • We pay our doctors about 50% more than most comparable countries.
    • We pay more than twice as much for prescription drugs, despite the fact that we use less of them than most other countries.
    • Administration costs are about 7x what most countries pay.
    • We perform about 50% more diagnostic procedures than other countries and we pay as much as 5x more per procedure.
    Some conceptually simple reforms might reduce costs so that you might be able to afford insurance, instead of relying on the rest of us for major medical care. When I see folks discussing that I’ll be interested. Watching retired folks saying “keep the government away from my government health care” is a waste of time, IMO

    Like

  23. Elle permalink
    12 October 2009 1:10 pm

    My apologies for the above suggestion.In hindsight it would compromise your objectivity to actually attend a tea party in person.

    At present,it is difficult for someone at my level to determine if manipulation for nefarious reasons is taking place.However I am certain opposition observers will not hesitate to point out any actual or perceived manipulation.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: At ground level it does not matter. Just ask yourself if those around you are part of the problem (seeking to preserve what they have, but not pay for it) or part of the solution (seeking to cut what we can and pay what we must).

    Also, this site makes no pretense of neutrality or objectivity.

    Like

  24. Greg permalink
    12 October 2009 2:21 pm

    It really is THIS simple: {see FM reply to comment#22}

    And the willful ignorance of the entire Tea party phenom is symptomatic of too much of the intellectual foundations of this segment of the population. All the while the powers in charge easily distract the discussion.

    This current sack of Bills to “reform” Health CAre are so woefully inadequate to hardly warrant comment. But “protest” all you want. You will feel better for awhile. And then you can get on with your Insurance-less Life……………

    Silliness.
    .
    .
    Sabius Maximus replies: I say with regret, but it appears you are correct.

    Like

  25. 12 October 2009 4:32 pm

    I believe that tea party activists have by far the strongest moral foundation of any group of humans ever in existence — natural rights.

    The idea of universal health care, income redistribution, etc, all use tyranny to support the aims of certain people against the aims of others, while natural rights stands in direct opposition to this. It is immutable in the way ‘a right to health care’ or ‘a right to a job’ is not; those ‘rights’ depend on the level of civilization. There could not have been a right to health care without its invention. And of course, if everyone else in the world disappears, they are violating lots of rights people like you maximus, have imagined, but they would never be in violation of your natural rights.

    So you think of your self as morally superior, you liberals, but the bedrock of your beliefs is really the concept of ‘to do whats right’. But most evil in the world has been undertaken with such aims – Nazism, ‘white mans burden’, etc. And so this reasoning is obviously invalid but you are so closed minded that you can’t see this.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for sharing this little essey about your religious faith. I’d discuss it, but am not dressed for church.

    Like

  26. Greg permalink
    12 October 2009 4:57 pm

    After you finish elucidating us about Natural Rights and moral superiority simply consider the snippets of Reality one can find daily by a little searching. A Path to Downward Mobility, Robert J. Samuelson, op-ed in the Washington Post, 12 October 2009:

    “The young’s future has been heavily mortgaged. Taken together, all these demands might neutralize gains in per capita incomes, especially if the economy’s performance, burdened by higher taxes or budget deficits, deteriorated. One study by Steven Nyce and Sylvester Schieber of Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a consulting firm, examined just health spending. The continuation of present trends would result in “falling wages at the bottom of the earnings spectrum and very slow wage growth on up the earnings distribution. These dismal wage outcomes would persist over at least the next couple of decades.”

    To be sure, extra health care enhances our well-being. Some care extends life and improves quality of life. But the connections between being healthy and more health spending are loose. The health of most people reflects personal habits and luck. They get few benefits from high spending. The healthiest 50 percent of Americans account for just 3 percent of annual spending, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation; the sickest 15 percent represent nearly 75 percent. Half of spending goes to those 55 and over, a third to those 65 and over. Any expansion of health care tends to be a transfer from young to old.

    The road to downward mobility is paved with good intentions. The health debate has focused on insuring the uninsured and de-emphasized controlling runaway spending, much of which is ineffective. The priorities should have been reversed. The chance to reorder the medical-industrial complex to restrain costs and improve care has been mostly squandered. Some call this “reform”; no one should call it progress.

    Good luck out there, be ye “Liberal or Conservative”
    Connolly
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Great article. Thanks for the link!

    Like

  27. 12 October 2009 5:34 pm

    There are only two ways to reduce costs of health care while preserving the quality of care:

    1) Tort Reform
    2) Limiting drug prices

    Tort reform is obviously a good idea.
    Limiting drug prices would cause most innovation to cease, since the US is the last remaining major power not to do this, and would be a classic example of mortgaging the future in order to improve the present. Since this is not clearly necessarily a good idea, and since many people disagree with this time orientation, it would be an obvious tyranny for those that do to impose it on those that don’t.

    The real reason health care is getting continuously more expensive is because its continuing to improve — new treatments are coming to market all the time. If you want 1990 state of the art health care, well, that becomes cheaper every year. But people want the current year state of the art. At some point, people will need to accept less than state of the art health care, and some people will die because they can’t afford a multi-million dollar treatment that extends their life by two years. Thats okay, because their is simply not enough money in the world pay for everyone to have such care. But the democrat, and to some extent the republican, response has a classic result: In order to make everyone equally healthy, we must all be equally unhealthy. What there should be are less expensive health care plans that exclude the most expensive treatments while allowing others. This exists to some extent, and people will increasing learn to accept it.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I believe that your “only 2 ways” grossly oversimplifies the situation, although both are important factors. As for your “real reason”, international comparisons show that US health care produces similar outcomes at far greater cost than in other developed nations. We may recieve far more inputs, but the results don’t show them to have much effect.

    Like

  28. 12 October 2009 5:39 pm

    PS — Spending most of our nations wealth on health care is not a bad thing if that’s what people want to do, as long as they individually make the decision to do that.

    Like

  29. Greg permalink
    13 October 2009 3:30 pm

    GS says: “There are only two ways to reduce costs of health care while preserving the quality of care: 1) Tort Reform 2) Limiting drug prices.”

    Sorry but he simply parrots the Health Profit cartels “talking points” with no and I mean NO support or numbers. Which are the places one can find a dose of reality.

    TORT REFORM—whatever that is(?) may mean limiting awards against failures to provide good care. Well
    It already exists in many States
    It already exists in many rules of Litigation
    It already is a very small part of the health care $$$
    *less than 2% of HC Dollars per CBO (source)
    So delete that one from GS!

    Regulating Drug Prices? Must happen to bring down costs. And is an essential part of the reason whu Health Care should be de-coupled from the need/addiction for profit.

    High prices are essential for R & D?? PFFFFTTT….. “VIVA VIAGRA” …does anyone beleive that nonsense, even you, GS?

    High Prices are essential for COMMERCIALS and PROFIT and EXEC COMP. …that is all it is good for. Do you really believe the Docs need commercials and do not know what drugs are efficacious? These idiots should be regulated. End of story.

    Connolly
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Another factoid supporting your point about drug innovation — the vast majority of substantial innovation (i.e., the high risk work, not “me too” drugs) is funded by the National Institutes of Health, 28% of the total as of 2003 (source). I don’t understand why the government (us!) gives the results away to the drug industry.

    Like

  30. Elle permalink
    14 October 2009 6:51 am

    “Fabius Maximus replies: Life is short, and none of the tea party supporters on this site (or their sites) have said anything of sense about their goals.”

    We don’t know anything about your goals either,and you have been around far longer than the tea party movement.Hence the request for an FM book.

    Although your insights can be brilliant,your thoughts are spread out here,some are at the DNI and some probably at others places I am unaware of.Much like the tea party movement in its current state.

    No cohesiveness seems applicable without a summation in the form of a grand strategy,or a book simple enough for a blond to understand.

    “Let’s rewind to your discussion of health care. The US has health outcomes broadly similar to those of other developed nations, yet pays far more. Some of the reasons:
    • We pay our doctors about 50% more than most comparable countries.
    • We pay more than twice as much for prescription drugs, despite the fact that we use less of them than most other countries.
    • Administration costs are about 7x what most countries pay.
    • We perform about 50% more diagnostic procedures than other countries and we pay as much as 5x more per procedure.
    Some conceptually simple reforms might reduce costs so that you might be able to afford insurance, instead of relying on the rest of us for major medical care. When I see folks discussing that I’ll be interested. Watching retired folks saying “keep the government away from my government health care” is a waste of time, IMO”

    All these facts and figures are dandy,but do they accomplish anything? One may certainly suggest reform and present such facts and figures and hope that the powers that be implement them in some fashion.What has been your experience with actually accomplishing reform with this methodology?

    To my knowledge most folks don’t want to be a burden on anyone else and would like solutions,of which the .gov seems to be short on.Hence the suggestion solutions may appear outside the realm of .gov

    The health care issue was merely the spark of the tea party movement.To keep returning to it as representative ideology or treating the movement as a one issue only movement would be an error.

    Like

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