Some questions for the American liberals on the boards

Errr…you were saying?

What if I’m an American who is a fiscal conservative and social liberal? Can I answer the questions… when they appear?

Hmmm.

Checks self. Yep. Liberal. US.

Tries to find question. Nope

WTF?

I’m a liberal. I can provide answers without the need any annoying questions.

the answer is: Why the hell not?

If this is a trolling attempt I certainly think this is indeed the lamest.

Mother fucker. Where the holy hell did my post go? sigh Well, here’s another attempt. sigh Abbreviated version:

What level of income disparity would you accept? What methods do you feel are most appropriate? (not interested in general wealth redistribution justification, just what you actually want to get done). While I appreciate that such an answer is rather involved, and I don’t want to pigeonhole anyone into an over-simplistic answer, please do what you can.

Secondly, what are your feelings on unions? They are in serious decline in the US even though we experienced a fantastic level of unemployment (something that should, in principle, make unions stronger). Did the unions themselves drop the ball (IMO, yes), did the government drop the ball (IMO, yes-ish, but not quite as much), or are unions simply not in your idea of the liberal state?

finally, how do you feel about the term “welfare state”? Does it accurately describe your goals, or do you feel that a welfare state leans too far toward out-and-out socialism? If the latter, in what important ways do they differ?

These questions are meant to be answered by liberals that support capitalism, and that my conception if “liberalism” is a political movement concerned with addressing what liberals find to be the flaws of market economics. If this is inaccurate, please advise, though I am more or less only really concerned with economics in this thread, not other areas of social existence.

I would take issue with your definitions. Liberals are not simply addressing flaws in market economics. Liberals question which parts of society should be subject to free market conditions; an example would be national health insurance. They question the “transuteability” of EVERYTHING into a bottom line dollar.

I would say that liberals question the priority of economic values in relation to other social values.

Sorry, my Nessie of an OP made it clear that liberalism didn’t just concern itself with economic matters, but rather that was the aspect of liberalism which I was concerned with in this thread.

Question 1. Eat the Rich! But seriously, folks…

I doubt that there is such a formula, that awards the rich sufficiently with meaningless baubles but doesn’t deny the poor a “fair share” of the Commonwealth. It is the best example of a situation that requires better people, not better laws.

Nonetheless, if a shoolchild in America goes without breakfast to an educational shambles, that theoreticly represents her “opportunity” to earn her share…that is not a crime, that is an obscenity.

Unionization in America was a direct confrontation in slow motion between pitiless corporate greed and the working class. (This is about all the Marxists ever got right). The principles that unions struggled for are now so generally accepted (in much the same way that racism became socially unacceptable) that they have lost a lot of thier historical clout. This is good in the sense that the brutal struggle was largely won. The bad is that as union power wanes more Dilberts are at the mercy of Catberts. This is a bad thing.

I think the “welfare state” is a feeble intellectual calumny, intended to convince the victim that certain people want to turn our Great Country into Tobacco Road with food stamps, like Sweden without the babes. It frequently is found in the company of the suggestion that one might consider emigrating to another country, more conducive to ones political comfort. It is tommyrot, sir! Balderdash!

I do not have any problems with income disparity, where by disparity I mean that some people have more money than others. That is to say, I don’t have any problem with people becoming very very rich while there are still poor people elsewhere in the country. I don’t feel that there is any maximum amount of money that people’s bank accounts should be capped at. What I feel is that all people, regardless of income, should have access to basic necessities such as food and medical care.

Partly what elucidator said. Also it’s worth noting that unions were always more popular among blue-collar workers rather than white-collar workers. Since the percentage of the work force that’s in areas where unions were strong, such as manufacturing, has decreased recently, it’s natural that overall union membership would decrease as well.

My dictionary says that a welfare state is “a social system whereby the state assumes primary responsibility for the welfare of its citizens, as in matters of health care, education, employment, and social security”. This isn’t my goal. I think that people should take primary resonsibility for their own lives, especially when it comes to issues such as finding jobs and planning retirement. The state should be viewed as a kind of safety net for people who aren’t able to work at any particular time for some reason (ex. medical problems).

ITR, granted, most liberals I know don’t have the concept of “too much money” in mind, but clearly any attempt at providing for the bottom is going to have to take from the top. Such is the, er, essence of redistribution. As such, the question becomes: how do we achieve this? When do we stop?

Secondly, do you feel that unions should not support white collar work? If they should, then would you say that unions have, in fact, dropped the ball? If they shouldn’t, why not?

Thirdly, interesting.

elucidator, what is “fair share”? That is, essentially, the question. Is a CEO actually worth 500 times more than a janitor in real terms? Or, like ITR, do you feel that after certain basic needs are met that society may wash their hands of the affair? And, of course, which and how, etc.

Dunno about your conception of a welfare state, but I suppose it isn’t my position to say one way or another here.

erl: *What level of income disparity would you accept? What methods do you feel are most appropriate? (not interested in general wealth redistribution justification, just what you actually want to get done). While I appreciate that such an answer is rather involved, and I don’t want to pigeonhole anyone into an over-simplistic answer, please do what you can. *

Ah, another easy question! :wink: Actually, I don’t have a problem in theory with almost unlimited levels of income disparity; I don’t personally mind at all if Bill Gates or Britney Spears keeps a trillion-dollar megamansion with upholsteries individually spun by specially trained silkworms and tubs of specie for rolling in—whatever floats yer boat, says I. What I want to see is not a maximum level of personal enrichment, but a minimum level; that is, a society should facilitate the luxurious lifestyle of Bill or Britney only after the poorest people have adequate food, clothing, shelter, education and job training, employment opportunities, sanitation, environmental health and safety, transportation, medical care, etc., to meet their most basic human needs. (This doesn’t imply any particular income baseline or material/technological standard of living: a hut-dwelling artisan/laborer/subsistence farmer community with no washing machines or paved roads might well meet the desired minimum, as long as they could be happy healthy human beings and involved citizens.)

The tough part is figuring out whether it is really possible to have the adequate minimum that I think is necessary for a society if it also has unlimited income disparity. Many conservatives, of course, totally reject the idea that income disparity is related to poverty in any way, and some even argue that eschewing redistribution is the only real solution to poverty. As it happens, though, the societies with many vastly wealthy people also seem to be the ones with many very poor and underprivileged people, while the societies that have much less poverty also have much less disparity.

I figure that in the long run, having a truly decent standard of living for all would tend to make disparity self-limiting; but I have no idea what the income ratio would turn out to be. Would the richest person in such a society make a thousand times as much income as the poorest person? ten thousand times? a million? I suspect it wouldn’t ever be less than a hundred times as much nor more than a billion times as much, but I have very little notion of what the actual ratio would be within those limits. And if we really can achieve a decent standard for everybody, I don’t think it will matter very much what the actual ratio is.

Secondly, what are your feelings on unions? They are in serious decline in the US even though we experienced a fantastic level of unemployment (something that should, in principle, make unions stronger). Did the unions themselves drop the ball (IMO, yes), did the government drop the ball (IMO, yes-ish, but not quite as much), or are unions simply not in your idea of the liberal state?

Yes, many unions dropped the ball in becoming overly bureaucratized, resistant to change, complacent and greedy, involved in crime and corruption, and narrow-minded. Yes, the government dropped the ball in slashing budgets for labor law enforcement and oversight, and in leaning too far to “business-friendly” policies. Most importantly, though you don’t mention it, businesses dropped the ball in lobbying against worker’s rights, harnessing executive compensation to stock performance, and otherwise neglecting commitment to their employees, good corporate citizenship, and responsible power-sharing in favor of chasing short-term profits.

But I think you’re overly pessimistic about the decline of unions, though goodness knows the outlook isn’t exactly rosy. Nonetheless, in 1999 union membership experienced the largest percentage gain in 20 years, halting the previous trend of continuing decline in union density. Particular unions like HERE and SEIU, and the Teamsters in the 1997 UPS strike and in Seattle, led some high-visibility collective actions that inspired the term “revived labor movement.” International ties among unions around the world are getting stronger, and American unions are paying more attention to the situation of workers in other countries.

I think that the decline of American unions is reversing. They may never regain the levels of direct political influence that they once had—and perhaps never should—but certainly, as long as we have large-scale business enterprises with great power disparities between employers and employees, we’ll always need some kind of collective bargaining to help level the playing field.

*finally, how do you feel about the term “welfare state”? Does it accurately describe your goals, or do you feel that a welfare state leans too far toward out-and-out socialism? If the latter, in what important ways do they differ? *

Well, I know that the term “welfare state” is used in a broadly derogatory sense by non-liberals to imply, in elucidator’s excellent phrase, “Tobacco Road with food stamps.” But I don’t see much point in analyzing how I feel about a particular term without knowing exactly what policies are really meant by it. Tell me what “welfare state” means, and I’ll tell you whether it describes my goals.

These questions are meant to be answered by liberals that support capitalism

If under the phrase “support capitalism” you include the meaning “support a mixed economic and social structure with a fundamental but limited role for market capitalism”, then I qualify; if not, kindly disregard this post. :slight_smile:

For me, personally, it is not a matter of income disparity – at least, not in the sense that I want to be legislated. I simply want people who are poor to have opportunities to better themselves and I don’t think that’s possible without large-scale government programs.

**

Frankly, I don’t have all of the answers here. I do believe that limits are necessary in how long people should be able to stay on welfare. I don’t think welfare is necessarily the only or best way, but it’s what we’ve got.

I would like to see a lot more funding going towards encouraging people to better themselves. Rather than requiring people to get a job (this doesn’t, to me, solve the problem – you can’t live, let alone support a family, at an acceptable level on minimum wage), much more should be done to encourage education. I think more emphasis should be placed on finding appropriate schools, as is done in Europe, rather than pushing 4-year college for everyone (while it’s nice, it’s not the most effective means of teaching all professions). People who want to learn skilled jobs should be encouraged. I don’t think we’re really doing that as much as we could be.

Other than that, I can’t really say. I’m generally against slashing social programs because such cuts are usually not done based on the individual merits of the programs. We need to have many different types of programs available, and we need to have more ways to make people who need them know what is available.

**

I am mixed on unions. I am rather upset with them, as I have been recently cost a job by union regulations. (My employer wanted to hire me permanently from a temporary position, I wanted to take it, but we were not allowed to do this because members of the union had lost their jobs, and they should be allowed to take that position without even allowing me a chance to apply.) So, I’m not sure if my position is really fair. At this point I think unions have gone too far. They too often protect the incompetent, in my opinion. They are there to protect their members and not workers in general, and that is problematic. Yet getting rid of them isn’t the answer, either. After working in several non-union jobs, and reading about the history of unions in America, I certainly understand why they’re needed. So, I don’t know what to do about them.

**

I find it inflammatory.

**

I have never heard the phrase ‘welfare state’ used to criticize real socialism. I have only heard it used by conservatives to drum up support against social programs in general. I can’t really comment otherwise, as I find it too biased a term to be usable.

I certainly do not want a state where welfare is common. People should be encouraged to get off welfare and better themselves. We’re not really doing that, and shortening terms to be on welfare isn’t going to help as simply having a job isn’t enough. Getting a full-time job with decent pay and real benefits is not something many people can do with no skills or education.

Welfare is, for me, a way of giving people a chance to better themselves. It’s very hard to do that right now. I’ve been accused of being an ivory tower liberal, but I’ve worked jobs with people who were on welfare. I saw how hard it was. I knew a woman who was working part-time (getting full time jobs is becoming harder and harder – where we worked, no new full time jobs were offered) but just little enough hours to make it allowable for her to be denied benefits, trying to take classes, trying to take care of a kid and her elderly mother, and trying to work out of poverty. I don’t want people to stay in poverty (and that’s basically what I seem to infer from a ‘welfare state’); I want them to have the opportunity to get out.

Some will, of course, decline that opportunity. Do we have an obligation to take care of them for their entire lives if they are able-bodied and able-minded? No. But we simply can’t know that if the means are not there for them to succeed.

Quick note re: welfare state… I was using the term with the meaning ascribed to it in Frank’s One Market Under God (which, btw, is moving along much better after my rant over chapter one, for those of you that read it). He commonly referred to, for example, France and other European countries as “welfare states.” Obviously the term can be used to enrage, but hell, some use the word “liberal” as an insult, so, not being hip, how am I to know? :slight_smile:

More detailed response later, I got a pizza to eat. :smiley:

Missed me a little there, guy. I think the “welfare state” is a chimera, generally used to belittle another argument, like “one-worlder”.

I dont think its a matter of unions not seeking to organize white collar workers, so much as white collar workers rejecting unionization. Many union workers sweated overtime to send thier kids off to college, in the hope that they might join the “better class” of people. God help us, but middle management is something many people * aspire* to.

As to what a “fair share” comprises: spare me, I beg you. The question of CEO’s compensation is too ludicrous for any meaningful discussion, they are the minions of Moloch, there is no hope for their salvation. In truth, I couldn’t begin to suggest what a numeric quotient of the economic value of a “fair share” would be. I am reasonably sure we are in no danger of gross excess in this regard. (Reminded of the line about Reagonomics, the theory that the economy is weak because poor people are hoarding all the money)

But you bring up the value of work, which may be entirely central to the discussion. Some conservatives worship the word, as witnessed by thier determination that welfare recipients shall “work” for thier bountiful largesses, so munificently handed down from on high by men who dont know how much a gallon of milk costs.

Yet we know there isnt enough work to go around, never has been. Men who’ve never missed a meal in thier lives discuss knowingly the “acceptable” rate of unemployment.

At best, a “fair share” is an abstraction, actual numbers most likely to be a matter of negotiation (or “class struggle”, which amounts to the same thing).

However, as I said, this is ultimately going to be a matter of better people than better laws.

elucidator, honestly, my intent here is to learn what the “other side” is all about. My desire is to understand if the anti-libertarian feelings I’ve been having are, in fact, a form of liberalism. So I won’t spare you from anything so long as you are a participant in this thread. Spare me from dodging the questions :wink:

I understand the justification for wealth redistribution schemes; my interest is simply: “when does it stop?” I don’t think it is an unreasonable question at all. For instance, one might answer, “Well, I think that it can never stop because technological growth and innovation constatnly raise the standard of living. However, at that, I think we should guarantee that everyone may attend the schools they qualify for, receive a medical plan which approaches a payment plan like 80/20 or something, and that instead of building public housing units we should struggle to supplement people so that they may interact in the community without being tossed in a leper colony.” As such, of course, the “bottom line” is always moving, but of course no dollar amounts are necessary. And yes, it would largely be a matter of negotiations; but, to you, what is an unreasonable request?

Also, in what way is CEO compensation meaningless?

Finally, you imply that those who tackle welfare don’t know what they are doing. Who should know, and how do they come to manage it? Come on, man, step up to the plate! You’ve really got a sympathetic ear, here.

fluid, I duno what to do about unions, either.

Kimstu, glad to have you participate so soon! I don’t get to read you enough, I’m afraid.

… adequate food, clothing, shelter, education and job training, employment opportunities, sanitation, environmental health and safety, transportation, medical care, etc., to meet their most basic human needs.

In what manner would you account for “being able to provide one’s self” with these things? For example, do you feel that accounting for cost-of-living in the area is appropriate, or should poor people be strongly urged to move away? I am thinking, largely, of city-to-burbs or burbs-to-city (depending on which is cheaper) rather than moving from state to state or something. In other words, how do you feel we can provide something like housing without creating a definite class of people in a geographic location (as I assume you would want to avoid something like the segregation that occurs around urban “projects”)? Of course, we could never eliminate class-ish neighborhoods, but I feel that projects are, in most cases I’ve seen, pretty terrible places.

The food issue is interesting, too. Do you feel that hand-outs or heavy subsidies are really the way to go? As it stands, of course, we are taking a little of both, but I am more or less wondering if you are satisfied with food programs now, or if we still need to be more aggressive (and in which areas).

As you, and others, have noted: “And if we really can achieve a decent standard for everybody, I don’t think it will matter very much what the actual ratio is”, I can only say that I do agree, but what concerns me is the idea that income disparity does, in fact, cause relative poverty within a society. Perhaps not absolute. I confess I don’t know much either way.

Most importantly, though you don’t mention it, businesses dropped the ball in lobbying against worker’s rights, harnessing executive compensation to stock performance, and otherwise neglecting commitment to their employees, good corporate citizenship, and responsible power-sharing in favor of chasing short-term profits.
I agree, and the more I think about it, the more I think I hate the conception of “the corporation.” In fact, I have never liked the idea of a legal entity which real people can hide behind while they economically assault other people. Of course, without the corporation we couldn’t have the stock market in its current form, but then, without the stock market, perhaps we wouldn’t see such reckless growth, either. It is almost too much to conceive of. As I often stress, there is no real reason why a corporation can’t be friendly, and a friendly corporation is certainly a great ally, but it continues to amaze me that no corporation really steps up to the plate here. And, in fact, has feed my skepticism of their nature.

Oh, and, of course you qualify for the discussion. I must say you are one of the people I had desperately hoped would participate! :slight_smile:

I agree completely. The funny thing is, conservatives are the ones who always crying about the “welfare state,” but what they really mean is aid to poor. [really] Rich people recieve welfare on a daily basis: tax cuts to corporations. looking the other way on industrial pollution. land grants. subsidies. I’d say almost everyone in American politics (including “laissez-faire” capitalists) are in favor of welfare. The question is whom do you give the welfare to; the rich or the poor?

colin

You must first walk towards the light.

Perhaps, perhaps not.
You ask, when “does it stop?” Does that imply you think such a threat is imminent, that we have spoiled the poor with affordable cable tv and emergency room access?

I hope you are not seriously demanding that I present and defend the ideal tax rate for a single male with no dependents making 80K a year as that impacts the issue of economic justice? In which case you entirely overestimate my intelligence, as well as my patience.

Well, who is making the “unreasonable request”? I think you are implying at what point a poor person is demanding too much in the way of economic justice. Are you seriously asking me at which point I could consider such a “request” unreasonable? Advise.

Because there is nothing, repeat, nothing a man can do that can justify a compensation of $10 million per year. I wouldn’t pay Jesus $10 million. He’d just give it away, anyway.

I don’t imply. so far as I know, that they don’t “know what they’re doing”. I might well imply that they don’t care.

Perhaps I misunderstand, but it seems as though you are asking at what point we have taken too much from the oppressed rich, those masses huddled in gated communities…

“Gee, guy, sorry about that, but we nationalized your SUV and boiled it down into bicycles and brown rice. Turns out we’re over our quota, so here’s a Toyota Corrolla.”

The horror, the horror…

  1. Income disparity. Good for it. Just don’t make people with lower incomes subsidize people with higher incomes. Current U.S. system gives big incentives to have high incomes for people who set incomes by having them fully deductible. Ordinary taxpayers do not have that luxury. There are other examples. The current income tax is more or less flat, except that social security taxes have a cap that makes them fall more heavily on people not having the advantage of higher incomes, as I’ve noted in other threads.

  2. Unions are a good thing. They allow people to politically organize and get better working conditions. Weekends, eight hour workdays, benefits, safety, labor laws etc are all union creations. Without unions you get what is happening in high tech and to doctors: impossibly long hours and ever declining pay and benefits except for those most able to leverage their positions. As someone pointed out to me the other day, we are now a generation of professionals, where our parents (or in youngsters cases grandparents) could afford to buy an nice house and raise a family, that is increasingly rare.

  3. The “welfare state” was invented by that right-wing fanatic Otto von Bismarck. Less than 1 percent of the U.S. governmental budgets (all 50 states, sorry no cite) were spent on welfare before welfare reform. It is now less. But tough sounding politicians get a lot of mileage and make people who don’t look at the facts feel superior to the untermenschen by referring to it a lot. It is a highly loaded term. I want to give the current two years at a time and five years lifetime system a long try, as it sounds like it may work. If you are talking about something broader than welfare or “general assistance” as it is technically called, you will have to be more specific with respect to the program.

“Welfare” is not key to understanding the left side of the normal American political spectrum normally called liberals. It is simply not important except that the right uses those on “welfare” as a whipping boy and boogie monster. The key issues are equal rights, equal treatment, right to address grievances, right to vote, etc. Unions are an important constituency for liberals because they are in the business of representing the direct interests of large numbers of workers, and as a result, they tend to support liberals because of the equality stuff mentioned above. Liberals tend to be more supportive of a “progressive graduated income tax” (term of art referring to the idea of taxing richer people at a greater marginal tax rate, and thus the different brackets) that we used to have before 1986, where the tax code as a practical effect had everyone paying a flat rate. The argument for a flat rate is that you want to have an incentive for people to earn more and more money to put back into the economy in investment, and if you tax them at a higher rate, they won’t have such an incentive. (Which in my opinion is proven wrong by every instance of every rich person in history continuing to invest money, except for the weird exceptions of those who stuff their fortunes into a mattress.)

No. I think I have stated my request at least three times, and it simply boils down to “What do you feel is reasonable to provide people?” I am not sure how else to ask it. It seems like a question that cannot possibly be loaded at all, especially from the context of seeking to fucking understand your position. If your position cannot be undertood, please just say so. I will stop asking you to explain it.

No. In fact, my last post to you explicitely stated that such a thing shouldn’t be necessary to sufficiently explain your feelings on the matter. In fact, I thought that asking for specific dollar amounts or tax rates would prove impossible.

Well, I wouldn’t use the term “justice” but whatever. I think “fair” is more accurate, but that’s just MO.

Yes. Seriously.

Ah, so we have found at least one unreasonable request. Too bad it had nothing to do with providing for people. But, at that, what is it about CEOs that you dislike so? How should a CEO be compensated?

Or you might answer my request for what you would consider is a solution. If that isn’t too much to ask for THREE FUCKING TIMES.