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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Playing the Percentages

After occupying the headlines for far too long, Occupy Wall Street was dispersed by a combination of inclement weather, mayoral irritation and having served their purpose. Occupy Oakland will go on doing what it can to depress the economy of an already economically depressed city by attacking its ports. The other Occupations are being moved along back to the Starbucks that spawned them.

As committed Warmists, the Occupiers might have expected that temperatures in the northeast and the midwest in November and December would feel just like a day at the beach in Santa Monica. But while the manipulated hockey stick graphs might have been on their side, the weather wasn't. Neither were the already overstretched urban budgets turned inside out by having to pay for police overtime, electrical generators and cleanup duty. But most of all they had served their purpose as a launching pad for the Obama 2012 campaign.

The job of the Occupiers was to move the 99 and 1 percent memes into public consciousness, which in between the homeless camps, the rapes and the cardboard signs, they managed to do. Or the media did it for them. Around the time when well-meaning idiots began wearing 99 percent buttons, I thought of getting a 100 percent button. But the 100 percent button wouldn't have been very accurate. It implies that we're all in the same boat which is not the case.

The percentage debate is so much nonsense because the issue isn't class, it's position. OWS wanted the rest of the country to pay for a small government subsidized middle-class that would either work directly for the government or in occupations supported by government funding. The rich weren't being pitted against the poor. University grads were pitting themselves against the remnants of the aspirational working class.

Optimists see the glass as half-full and believe that with some effort it can be filled up all the way. Pessimists see the glass as half-empty and want to drink it all, before someone else does. Economic pessimists are also redistributionists, striving to secure their position within a shrinking economy. Economic optimists believe that wealth can come from outside the existing system and don't see the need for redistribution.

The economic pessimists of the left are acting like stranded castaways who keep bringing up cannibalism as the only way. OWS and Obama 2012 sound like the Donner Party, campaigning on who should get eaten first. Rarely has an incumbent campaigned on economic pessimism. It's all the more startling when a candidate who ran on hope is now running on hopelessness, but the only way to beat the call for change is to convince people that change is hopeless. That change will leave them even worse off. Economic pessimism is the ideal tool for the job.

The Republicans claim that things will get better while the Democrats whisper that they will only get better for people who aren't you. Forget about opportunity and vote for someone who will cut you a big slice of the leftovers so you can ride out the decline and fall of the West.

Obama 2012 and OWS is about patronage and their 99 percent slogan broadens the promise of patronage to everyone. Like Ivory's 99/44 clean or most other 99 percent advertising slogans, it's a clever fraud. 99 percent of the public can't be subsidized by the 1 percent, especially when the 1 percent are the ones doing the governing.

The percentage of the public that will be subsidized is the one that the sloganeers need to win elections and maintain their power. It won't be 51 percent, but between government employees, union members and those on the dole, it will probably be in the thirties. The rest will work low paying jobs in the private sector and a handful will work in the financial industry, though their jobs will mainly involve dubious transactions with no future. That will leave us with a very European economy of Muslim immigrants running businesses under the table and paying just enough taxes so the government can subsidize university degrees and conferences on poverty.

That latter group, the degree getters and conference attendees, are the ones targeted by OWS. The young and the cutting edge who bought into a dysfunctional educational system and now want the patronage of the government as their exit strategy. These are the same people who helped Obama get elected and bringing them out in 2012 is a priority.

Patronage is the issue. Or the old Russian term "Protektsia" transplanted to Israel, with parallels in most countries with a heavy bureaucracy. It's what happens when the "Pull" or "Connections" that are invaluable for mid-level personnel within the bureaucracy looking to get anything done become universalized so that public access to the system depends on their level of political access.

The left likes to say that everything is political, and when they make the government big enough, then everything really is political because you have to deal with the government to be able to get anything done. Since government bureaucracies are hideously inaccessible beasts, the only way to get anything done is to have friends within the system. The more you want, the bigger your friends need to be.

American politics has become so dysfunctional and the country so indebted because the system kept expanding its reach while the politicians kept doling out more pork. The bigger the system grew, the more the human touch of the pols was needed to compensate for it. This game of Good Government- Bad Government has taken most cities and the country to the breaking point. Between the restrictions and the favors, we have ended up with a country that has less freedom and more debt without anything to show for it.

Redistributionism is the final act of thieves looting the treasury who don't think there will be anything left for them. When Chavez brought Venezuela's gold home, he wasn't doing it for the people, he was doing it so that if he and his family and their cronies need to flee the country, they can carry with them a form of wealth that won't fluctuate like their currency or depreciate like the dollar. And when Obama offers patronage to tens of millions of his supporters, he's only doing it to be able to go on looting the treasury on a much larger scale.

Those who think that they are part of the 99 percent are really just bad at math. The percentages don't break down along income level, they break down by position. The government employee with a secure pension and early retirement is better off than the 1 percenter who lost all his money in bad investments. When patronage is pegged to the treasury and the lending power of the wealthiest nation in the world, then position matters more than stated income. A professor with tenure in a state uni is more secure than his contemporary working in the free market.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may both be in the 1 percent, but Gates makes money when his shares go up, Buffett makes money from a sweetheart deal in a government backed financial company. It's not income that matter. Only "Protektsia".

When the Democrats took Tammany Hall national again, they promised patronage for everyone in exchange for votes. The country is still trapped in their Democratic oligarchy where the economy can be destroyed as long as the right number of people go on voting for their government benefits and the Buffett's and the Soros' keep funding the United States of Tammany from the top.

The patronage economy brought us to economic disaster when the pols decided to create a subsidized mimicry of the free market by funding homes and college educations. Now we're a breath away from turning the entire economy into a way to sell environmental indulgence bonds as the price for being able to manufacture or do anything. And when that happens then the looting will finally be complete because there will be no industry left.

The problem is power. Centralize control and you create something like absolute power. Which is why income numbers don't matter. Money is a form of power, but it only buys you so much access from the outside. It's whether you are on the outside or on the inside that matters. It's your affiliation that counts the most.

Playing the percentages is more than an election strategy, it's a strategy to reconfigure the country. There will still be rich and poor, and a diminished middle-class, but wealth will increasingly align by affiliation, rather than by initiative or success. There is no competing with the oligarchy. You are either with it or against it. That is the absolute of absolute power turned into absolute corruption.

6 comments:

Edward Cline said...

Good essay. The solution is to get the government out of the economy. That will take a Constitutional amendment. “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade….” I take that hypothetical wording from the last page of Atlas Shrugged, in which a judge who went on strike against the Aristocracy of Pull is marking up the original Constitution, crossing out and correcting its contradictions. Of course, a Congress that was prohibited from abridging the freedom of production and trade would have little left to do, and would sit perhaps two months out of a year. There would be no junket-generous lobbyists or crony capitalists, no munificent salaries and perks for Congressmen and Senators, no indemnification against proven malfeasance and other crimes, no special privileges. What bureaucracies remained in existence would be pared down to about 5% of their workforce. Virtually the whole alphabet soup of agencies and bureaucracies would be abolished, because they all abridge or infringe or skew the freedom to produce and trade. That includes ObamaCare. Congressmen and Senators would need to go home to their actual private sector jobs to make a living.

But both Democrats and Republicans would kill first to prevent such an amendment from circulating among the states. They’d put a contract out on the individual who proposed it. He would die in mysterious circumstances, just as several people did during the Clinton administration. I’m afraid that before anyone is successful in proposing such an amendment, things must first get very, very nasty. It will entail, among other things, those who work in the private sector going toe-to-toe against the storm troopers of the OWS and the Feds.

As the original patriots and Founders learned the hard way that there was no way they could produce and trade under the British mercantilist system and had to go to war, I am certain modern Americans must learn the hard way that it will take extraordinary action to get the beast off their backs.

careyrowland said...

Do you really mean it when you say there is no competing with the oligarchy? Surely there is way somewhere for those resourceful enterprisers among us to circumvent the behemoth State? Did not the Czechs pull this same improbable prospect out of the depths of communist lethargy in 1989?

Anonymous said...

Near me is a $2 million house with a sign in the front yard that reads, "we are the 99%." Every time I drive by it, I am reminded why we are doomed.

Anonymous said...

:The rich weren't being pitted against the poor. University grads were pitting themselves against the remnants of the aspirational working class."

You hit the nail on the head. BTW, Occupy Buffalo was given the royal boot out of Niagara Square last week by police at 2 a.m. It's ironic that some cops and firemen supported these idiots, since the OB website indicated that they wanted the support of the unions "for donations."

Their new agenda is Move to Amend. From what I understand they want to amend our court system.


Keliata

Anonymous said...

You are one of the few people to understand the working class, and I do appreciate that.


Keliata

fsy said...


Washington is not interested in Israel's selfish need to be nuked.


How about "not to be"?

(I'm willing to do a quick and unprofessional proofreading on your columns in return for the privilege of being the first to see them.)

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