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Tea Partiers: True Patriots, Misguided Zealots, or Just Plain Idiots

Dear reader, as much as I am loathe to pay attention to anything having to do with politics, economics, etc. (i.e. anything that has practical/real implications for life), the media won’t let me ignore this whole “Tea Party” movement, which to this point I have associated with [shudder] Sarah Palin-ites, grumpy old white people, and ignorant loudmouths.

Social suicide is not an American value

But now it’s come to my attention that a Republican primary candidate for California’s 30th State Senate District (which includes La Mirada, where I live) named Warren Willis has attached himself to the Tea Party movement.  This would not make a lot of difference to me if I didn’t know that Willis was running an organization (the California School Project–CSP) which promotes and empowers on-campus Christian evangelism by students.  I know a number of very thoughtful and intelligent people who work for CSP and who think highly of Willis, so I am left to wonder about his association with this group.

I have run across a few articles of late which have reinforced my predisposition to see the flaws of this movement.  I’d be happy to encounter other perspectives if you can send them my way…

Some quotes from the articles I mentioned:

The movement is not yet united on a single platform or agenda…The lack of specifics allows anyone who is just existentially fed up (and who isn’t, on some days?) to feel right at home. No one will demand to know what he or she is fed up with…

The Tea Party movement has been compared (by David Brooks of The New York Times, among others) to the student protest movement of the 1960s. Even though one came from the left and the other from the right, both are/were, or at least styled themselves as, a mass challenge to an oppressive establishment. That’s a similarity, to be sure. But the differences seem more illuminating.

First, the 1960s (shorthand for all of the political and social developments we associate with that period) were by, for, and about young people. The Tea Party movement is by, for, and about middle-aged and old people (undoubtedly including more than a few who were part of the earlier movement too). If young people discover a cause and become a bit overwrought or monomaniacal, that’s easily forgiven as part of the charm of youth. When adults of middle age and older throw tantrums and hold their breath until they turn blue, it’s less charming…

Some people think that what unites the Tea Party Patriots is simple racism. I doubt that. But the Tea Party movement is not the solution to what ails America. It is an illustration of what ails America. Not because it is right-wing or because it is sometimes susceptible to crazed conspiracy theories, and not because of racism, but because of the movement’s self-indulgent premise that none of our challenges and difficulties are our own fault.

“I like what they’re saying. It’s common sense,” a random man-in-the-crowd told a Los Angeles Times reporter at a big Tea Party rally. Then he added, “They’ve got to focus on issues like keeping jobs here and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.” These, of course, are projects that can be conducted only by Big Government. If the Tea Party Patriots ever developed a coherent platform or agenda, they would lose half their supporters.

Principled libertarianism is an interesting and even tempting idea. If we wanted to, we could radically reduce the scope of government—defend the country, give poor people enough money to live decently, and leave it at that. But this isn’t the TPP vision. The TPP vision is that you can keep your Medicare benefits and balance the budget by ending congressional earmarks, and perhaps the National Endowment for the Arts. (quotes above from an essay in The Atlantic magazine)

Jim Wallis points out 5 contentions between Christianity and the Tea Party/Libertarian movement in a recent Sojourners online post:

  1. The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue.
  2. An anti-government ideology just isn’t biblical.
  3. The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin.
  4. The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian.
  5. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white.

What are your thoughts on this movement?

My Secret Love Affair with Capitalism

I’ve hinted at this in an earlier post, but I’ve never made the explicit jump into economics.  Whether a particular American likes it or not, America is primarily possesses a maket-based economy.  The consumer plays a vital role in the market-based economy.  For example, in such a way as to keep a business “ethical,” the consumer has the option of not purchasing via boycott.  This will either put the “unethical” party out of business or pressure them to change their practice.  I mention these extremely basic principles to eventually point to one of my favorite topics: Major League Baseball.

Now, where I would criticize capitalism is that it is very common that once the public is aware of “unethical” behavior, say, on a corporate level, the damage has been done.  If Walmart moves into town and is doing something unethical, it is very likely that the public will not be informed of this until the small businesses have already been obliterated – if the public finds out at all.  And even if the public found out before the “damage was done,” so to speak, they may not desire to fork over the extra cash to pay for something domestic and/or from a small business when cheap imported goods are so readily available.  The same will go for the agricultural industry.  Thanks to shoving innumerable cows into inhumane stalls that are far too small for their bodies and injecting cows with hormones while feeding them God-knows-what, the impoverished family is much closer to affording beef.  There are more humane/ethical options with regard to purchasing/eating beef (though some might thing there are no grounds for consuming meat at all), but those aren’t exactly options when the steroid beef is but a small fraction of the price.  I believe there is a solution to this problem, but I’m not going to get into that now.  Instead, I will let my mention of “steroid” two sentences ago segue into my main point regarding baseball.

After the 2000 season, Alex Rodriguez, a free agent, signed to the Texas Rangers for a record $252 million 10 year contract.  Eventually he was traded to the New York Yankees and was eventually signed to the Yanks for $275 million (2008-2018).  I did the math just now, and accounting for leap years (2008, 2012, 2016) A-Rod makes $.79 a second.  Every second, awake or asleep, playing baseball or cheating on his wife (now ex-wife), etc., the man makes $.79.  “That’s despicable!” some might cry out.  But this is where my love affair with capitalism actually takes place.

You see, the consumer may find out the salaries of these athletes before they even set foot on the field.  Whatever is unethical about the salaries of athletes is already quite visible to the consumer.  The consumer can choose to boycott baseball.  I may consider it the best sport in the world, but I’m not talking about food, shelter, or clothing.  I’m talking about recreation.  Though I would consider recreation essential to living, baseball itself is not.  Who’s to say they shouldn’t be making so much?  WE pay their paychecks! As I’ve said before, we can choose to turn off the television.  We can choose not to buy their products.  It’s not as if taxes are being distributed from the federal government to these players.  We, in our greed, are in fact jealous at A-Rod makes more in a day than the average American will make in a year (in under three hours he makes more than the average person will make in a year, globally).  In this way capitalism shows, at least in baseball, that the sickness is not in the system itself, but the people in the system – even and maybe even especially the consumer – are responsible for this sickness.

Chávez changes tone concerning Venezuelan-US relations

A section of Hugo Chávez’ speech to the United Nations General Assembly was posted on BBC News online last night.  I took the courtesy of transcribing this portion of the speech:

John Kennedy said, ‘In the south there is a revolution and the main reason is hunger.’  Only a few days later he was assassinated.  John Kennedy was not a revolutionary, but he was an intelligent man, just as I think President Obama is an intelligent man.  And I hope God will protect Obama from the bullets that killed Kennedy.  I hope Obama will be able to look and see-genuinely see-what has to be seen, and bring about a change.  It doesn’t smell of sulfur anymore.  I doesn’t smell of sulfur, it’s gone.  No, it smells of something else.  It smells of hope.  And you have to have hope in your heart and lend your strength to the hope.

Chávez and his rule of Venezuela can be characterized as many things, but I find it intereting to analyze his view of the United States.  In 2006, the last time he spoke at the UN General Assembly, he called President George W. Bush “the devil.”  Now he declares that the smell of sulfur is gone and has been replaced with hope.  We could debate what seem to be his views regarding a link between the assassination of President Kennedy and Kennedy’s stance on South America, but I find his great optimism regarding the presidency of Barack Obama a great opportunity to heal relations with Venezuela and if America so demands it, to exercise some suggestive influence to change certain ways that some Americans might have an aversion toward him and his policies (specifically characterizing Chávez as a threat to capitalism I mean democracy in South America).

Still, some Americans can percieve any interaction with our “enemies” a great threat to national security, and anything divergent from the stagnant animosity America has experienced between itself and a significant portion of this wicked world during the virtuous presidency of George W. Bush ought to be shuned.  Why can’t America talk with these countries?  Why must America set a tone in foreign policy based on closed conditions and global superiority? ◊

Whichever side of the political/economic spectrum we’re on, we can probably agree with a sizable majority that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is incredibly odd.

◊ But I admit that I am rather ignorant when it comes to the scientific study of foreign policy.  I don’t like to be at odds with fiscal conservatives, I simply find that more often than not, I am.  I don’t take my views from this philosopher or that philosopher, but I tend to try to see things through a particular grid, one essentially based on restored relationships between humankind & God, humankind & itself, and humankind & nature.  I am certain that there are ways in which I am totally wrong, but my desire is not to push socialism, capitalism, nor any other -ism, nor is my desire to pledge allegiance to this political party or that political party.  I simply try to view this world as something that was created wisely, broken tragically, and will be redeemed thoroughly via the agenda of one greater than any president or king in this world.