Monday, March 11, 2013

"Dialogue" on Obamanomics (vs. Bruce Townley)

This occurred in a public Facebook thread on my page. I've edited it for more compact presentation. Bruce Townley is an atheist and former Christian (though those things don't have any direct relation to the present discussion) , with whom I've had many (attempted) debates on theological topics, going back several years (he used a pseudonym in those). Unfortunately, the exchanges were always of the unsavory character that we again observe in this instance (hence my use of quotation marks around "Dialogue" in the title). His words will be in blue. I started out citing an article that stated that 296,000 fewer Americans were employed since January.

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Bravo, Obama voters: your guy's doing great for his lobbyists, green companies, and the fatcats on Wall Street, with almost record-high stock prices (for now). For the little guy, not quite so wonderful. I'm barely surviving as a full-time apologist, directly due to his idiotic policies, that have caused reduced sales across the board, for all kinds of products. But at least I still have a job. Pray for those who don't, and for folks to vote Republican in 2014, lest nothing will be done at all for the economy until 2016.  

White unemployment is 6.8%.
Teenagers (25.1 percent),
blacks (13.8 percent),
Hispanics (9.6 percent)

[additional source]

Again, this is the ironic folly of groups voting disproportionately for the candidate who is hurting them the most. They see no relation between his policies and unemployment. The GOP task will be to convince these groups that there IS a direct relation, and that there are alternative policies to this ongoing madness.

This sort of "causal blindness" is extraordinary and almost unprecedented. The only precursor I know of is FDR during the Great Depression: where his policies never ended the thing (only WW II did); yet everyone thought he was wonderful, and so kept blindly voting for him.

The government stops counting certain unemployed after a while: the ones who have given up altogether. So that puts up the appearance of reduction. I think the actual rate would be 12-13%. The real numbers are above: 296,000 no longer employed. That's a lot of folks and a whole lot of suffering.

This nonsense should have started to recover by 2011 at the latest. But because Obama is a socialist it just goes on and on. I still believe that the Dems are gonna pay a huge price in the long run for this economic lunacy. They may hoodwink and fool people for a season, but they'll get their come-uppance once further disasters start happening.

My only raises are new book contracts. I achieved four of those in the last year-and-a-half, yet my income went down 10% last year; it's so bad. My royalties had already been decimated compared to five years ago. Thus I keep knocking myself out, working harder and harder, in order to have less income than I used to.

If the economy were normal I think I'd probably be doing better than ever. If only . . . there has never been an election where the result had such a direct negative effect on my income. Carter would have done the same, but I was in college then and not supporting myself yet.

Dave Armstrong, what Obama policy (idiotic or otherwise) do you attribute to directly reducing your sales?

Higher taxes, more regulations, the various stimulii, health care (that continues to raise health care costs), making the business climate lousy, leading to layoffs and unemployment and reluctance to invest. This affects everyone, so that we have less spending cash, and less disposable income, which in turn lowers sales. Since my income is entirely sales (book royalties) and (to a far lesser extent), donations-based, I have to suffer disproportionately, because folks buy less books and make less donations in a bad economy, when they can barely pay their bills.

Excepting the Great Depression, the average length of a recession or depressed economy is about two years. It is directly due to Obama doing nothing or exactly the wrong thing, that the current mess is now over four years, with no end in sight.

I've observed this in my own life on at least three occasions: the early 70s; Carter and the early 80s (when I was trying to get my first major job and was unemployed two years). Reagan got the economy going again by lowering taxes.

Again, a minor recession occurred at the end of Bush I's tenure in 1992 (thus we see the cyclical nature of it: about every ten years). Bill Clinton knew how to get out of that because he's an economic centrist; even tilting a little to the right. But not Big O: he's gonna do the economically stupid thing come hell or high water: no matter how many people he harms in the process.

Thus this madness looks like it'll continue indefinitely until we see a complete collapse of the stock market, with all the dire consequences of that.

Ah. Ok. I was looking for more than partisan punditry points. Like the actual policy and analysis why an alternative policy would have increased your sales, etc. Some of these points best. Others seem even contradictory to your position.

Ah. Ok. It was straight economic analysis (obviously from my conservative outlook). You asked a question; I answered honestly, and you come back with mere generalized disagreement, minus any substance. This is your pattern. It gets quite wearisome.

If you want real discussion, then engage in it. You're quite capable of that, for sure (apart from your positions), if you put your mind to it. Otherwise I'll simply ignore you henceforth, if you're merely looking for "gotcha" moments and chances to lob insults. But others are reading this, too, so my efforts here aren't a total waste of time.

I don't have time ((let alone desire) for an extensive treatment of basic economics. That is your burden, not mine, if you lack understanding of it. We know from past experience that certain policies stimulate business and the economy and others do not. We can actually learn from history (a novel concept!).

Reagan and Clinton and Kennedy all successfully did that, with regard to stimulating economies, so it's not merely a "partisan" thing. There used to be widespread agreement on what works and what doesn't. The present policies obviously do not work, or else we would have had an upturn long before now.

You voted for Obama (apparently, twice). If you think he is so wonderful and good for the country (for reasons beyond same-sex "marriage": that we know you are fired up about), by all means tell us why. Make your case, if you think mine is so insubstantial. Don't just say in your usual manner that mine stinks. You say you are a "disappointed" voter. Fine: how come?

Like I've said, I have to live with the consequences of Obama's and the do-nothing Democrats' policies (their doing nothing about very important matters, like job creation and the immense debt) every day. You're doing fine in your well-paying occupation. Obama's policies don't harm nearly as much those in the upper middle class and upper class: the 10%; the 1% . . .

Wall Street is doing fine. Hollywood and music stars are doing great. Those with lots of money to invest continue to do so. It's those of us who are struggling every month to simply meet our family budgets who are suffering, while Obama plays golf and hobnobs with Beyonce, etc., and utterly refuses to work together with Republicans to accomplish anything.

My only investment is my own books. My house certainly isn't an investment anymore. It's losing value every month and I am paying over twice what its market value now is. All I have is my books, which are my life's work. Thus, an economy that has very low sales does immense harm to me, and I'm not getting any younger (55 in July). And it is the same with many businesses: especially the small ones, and the sole proprietorships.

The medical profession is also suffering because of the craziness of Obamacare. We have had a wonderful family doctor for 22 years, since my first son was born. He has practically been run out of his profession. He's not a conservative; he's a Jewish liberal. But he knows why he is struggling.
Alas, Bruce and I have a little history. I have refuted his atheist anti-biblical arguments so many times, he's not inclined to listen to what I have to say about anything. :-) That's why we talk past each other and never rise to actual dialogue.

A quick note before I am off to work today. I attempt to obtain information from various perspectives from theist to non-theist, liberal to conservative to libertarian, American to Asian, etc. It is just your misfortune to be one of conservative sources where I occasionally question.:-)

Good for you. You question me, then when I give a detailed, sincere reply you simply mock and sneer and don't engage in conversation. You don't like what I say. I don't like how you refuse to engage in normal conversations (at least with me). So we're at cross-purposes. Like you, I attempt to converse with all sorts of people. Unlike you (again, at least with me), I actually engage them, rather than childishly pursuing "gotcha" moments and rapidly descending into condescending sneering and disdain, as you habitually do with me.
My pattern and practice is easily seen—first I get clarification, then I probe a bit to see how consistent the claim is. Alas, in the past I have interacted with you on your Facebook page in this manner, and the post disappeared. I no longer spend the time doing more thorough analysis, as it seems to be quite a bit of work just to have it disappear.

If I feel that a thread is worthless and unedifying or uneducational to my readers, I get rid of it. Call it quality control. It just so happens that one or two of the threads you were in, were of this nature. If you improve your level of communication (in semi-street language, stop acting like a pompous ass), then it will stay up! Your choice. In any event, my patience with you is running pretty thin.

It's not just with you that I do this, on occasion. I remove political threads quite often, because they aren't my main purpose here. Most of the threads I remove (lately) are dominated by "traditionalist" Catholics. In that case, I am objecting to the manner and lack of argumentative acumen (or charity) of a portion of my own group.

You talk about effort?! I put all kinds of effort into answering you this time, only to get back your usual acerbic, short, disdainful potshot. Sorry, that ain't conversation. You can do far better than that.

You don't need to act like an ass with me. I'm well familiar with atheist modes of argumentation. I treat atheists with charity, as I do any other group with which I disagree. I've visited your group in-person (for the knowledge of other readers): once with sixteen atheists and agnostics and myself as the only theist / Christian in the room: spontaneously answering scores of questions.

Now I ask questions, and if your response does not provide any illumination, I indicate I have read it, and will be moving on. Sure, I do it with a bite—this is my nature.

Here you indicated there were certain Obama policies directly influencing your income. While I suspected this could be difficult to substantiate, I asked first in case I missed something. Perhaps there was some policy or implementation that did impinge your income, and I would agree with you. As I have said before, there are some things I agree with you on Obama, some I disagree, and some (same sex marriage) there is no reason to even comment as we both know each other’s position and disagreement.

Just to show how I would normally respond, let’s take just one of your indicated policies—“higher taxes.” Presumably, because your income is from people spending discretionary sums, you are indicating higher taxes means less income and therefore less buying your books. It would seem the very basic analysis would start with reviewing:

A. When did Obama increase taxes; and
B. Your income level at or near this period of time.

While we may have a “correlation vs. causation” issue, it would seem to me this would be at least the jumping off point. Yet in looking back at the last four years, Obama did not increase taxes! (Until 2013) Indeed, during some of the period, taxes were actually decreased by a reduction in individual social security contribution.

If individual taxes are directly related to your income, then during the period the taxes were decreased one would think your income must be increased.

I could have pointed this out. I equally could point out concerns about the other general categories you indicated. But why bother if this post will simply disappear?

No more for now, I really must get to work.

I gave the general answers that (fiscal) conservatives usually give. You didn't like the answers; you wanted them to be more specific. I don't think they need to necessarily be with regard to these issues under discussion. My reply was about describing how Presidents (and parties in control of Congress) directly affect the economy. What they do (or don't do) has an impact.

This economy has been in the toilet for over four years now. You can try to blame Republicans for that if you wish. Normally, the party in control gets the blame. Bush sure as hell caught all kinds of blame when he was in there. Yet Obama doesn't seem to be subject to the same criticism or oversight.

He claimed that his stimulus would bring unemployment below 5%. It didn't. He claimed things would be much better by now. They aren't. He had both houses under Dem control for two years. He claimed that Obamacare would reduce health costs. It didn't; they're going up. He claimed that Bush was "unpatriotic" for bringing about a debt far less than his own. He claimed that he would cut that debt by half. He didn't. Instead, he exponentially raised it.

All of this brings down the economy and keeps it down. There is cause and correlation here. Whether it is Obama or not, my income overall has decreased (literally 10% in 2012). My book royalties are drastically decreased from five years ago. Something has caused that. If it's not Obama and the Dems' policies, you tell me what it is. You can't argue that it's decreasing quality in my books (trying to blame me somehow), because I continue to have bestsellers in my field (my current Quotable Newman is doing very well). I managed to obtain four new book contracts in the last two years. An author (in any field) can scarcely do better than that. That's the bread and butter of an author. I even got one with a major Protestant publisher (for my Quotable Wesley), which is a huge breakthrough into new markets.

So it ain't me. It is less disposable income generally. Obama doesn't know how to stimulate an economy. It doesn't have to be the way it is.

When I was referring to "higher taxes," in context it had to do much more with corporations: on that macro-level: not as much individual taxes and micro-level stuff. Thus, much of your present (rare attempt at) counter-reply about taxes was irrelevant from the get-go, since that wasn't what I meant. You took my comment out of context, and ran with it, warring against a straw man. It may look good to the observer, but now that I have noted that it was a non sequitur, it's not nearly as impressive. The argument is that higher taxes and regulations on corporations and small businesses stifles economic growth.

Thus, when both Kennedy and Reagan decreased taxes, including (for Reagan) vastly lower corporate tax rates, the economy exploded with prosperity. That helps everyone: a rising tide lifts all boats, etc.

I give you my word that I won't delete any thread where you are active. Perhaps then you will engage in actual point / counter-point discussions: after I have taken away your great fear of your laborious wisdom being consigned to Internet oblivion.

You want concrete examples of my decrease in income, and arguments indicating direct causation. Well, the most obvious one is the loss of a part-time job in Dec. 2010. That came about as a result of the non-profit organization that I worked for, experiencing a massive decrease in donations (it is an outreach that specializes in Catholics who are joining or returning to the Catholic faith).

Now, clearly the bad economy caused that scenario to come about (that much seems unarguable from any perspective). The question then becomes: whose fault was that? I have argued in the past, and provided documentation that Bush and the Republicans were opposed to the practices of the government-related housing / mortgage / real estate businesses (promoted by the likes of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd). They were warning that a crash was gonna come soon.

Sure enough it did, and of course they were blamed for it, as always (while Dems and Frank and Dodd got a pass). Bush did spend too much and got excessive. Most conservatives agree with that. I say it was primarily the Dems' fault. And now it is almost solely their fault that things continue to be in the tank, since he's been in there four years, and the Republicans have virtually no power. Everything the House does to try to make a change is DOA on Sen. Reid's desk. Thus, how can they be blamed?

This is why I blame Obama directly for much of my own woes and decreases of income. I mentioned earlier that, historically, excepting the Great Depression, economic downturns rarely lasted more than two years. This continues on, 4 1/2 years and running, with no end in sight, because Obama has no clue what he is doing. He does idiotic things, like not okaying drilling, and the famous pipeline, that would create many thousands of jobs and prosperity. We could easily become energy independent, with all that is happening in North Dakota and elsewhere, with huge reserves being discovered: but not with HIS brain-dead energy policies.

This is some of the reasoning I bring to bear in analyzing why things are the way they are. I'm the one suffering (with many millions of others). You're doing fine, as far as I know. It's easy to "armchair quarterback" on the economy when you're doing great. Those of us who have been harmed by the economic lunacy have a very different perspective. I'm trying to support four kids and pay a mortgage. Teaching and being an author never were very lucrative professions. I didn't choose this profession for big money in the first place. I just wanna pay my bills. I need all the help I can get, but Obama literally harms me and makes it far tougher to survive as a full-time author and Christian worker: precisely because bad economies greatly lower contributions to religious workers and book sales alike.

This will be my last comment (I apologize for the delay; busy weekend.)

It is no surprise you (and those sharing your beliefs) consider my positions refuted, or that I am a pompous ass, or grant no charity. Equally unsurprising, th
ose sharing my beliefs consider the same about you. [shrug] It is human nature in these types of discussions. I am resigned to it, and muddle on.

I also understand you don’t like my style. I use different means depending on medium--as Facebook is a more shortened form, I figure a few sentences or significant question demonstrating a difficulty is sufficient. (And as previously pointed out, even that much effort can disappear—why exert even more?) As all my presentation forms upset you, I will refrain entirely.

And to finish this discussion, if by “Higher taxes” you were referring to corporate tax; again I would note corporate taxes did not increase during Obama’s first term. [Although one could point out increased corporate contribution to Social Security, this did not occur until 2011, after your indicated loss of income.] Again, the analysis fails to conform to the claim. I would also note Reagan increased corporate tax, so I am unclear as to your claim regarding Reagan “vastly lower corporate tax.” [Indeed the very reason Reagan could lower individual income tax was by offsetting it with increased corporate tax.]

[I did make an error here. I confused the corporate and individual tax rates. Reagan lowered the highest individual income tax rate from 70 to 28% (that's what I was referring to). See an article about it. According to another article, here are the results of Reagan's policies:

1. 20 million new jobs.
2. Inflation dropped from 13.5% in 1980 to 4.1% in 1988.
3. Unemployment fell from 7.5% to 5.5%
4. Net worth of families making between $20,000 and $50,000 grew 27%.

5. Real gross national product rose 26%.
6. The prime interest rate went from 21.5% in January 1981 to 10% in August 1988. 
7. Employment of African-Americans rose by more than 25% between 1982 and 1988.
8. More than half of the new jobs created went to women.
9. Federal spending actually went down in 1987.
10. The Tax Reform Act of 1986  brought the lowest individual and corporate tax rates of any major industrialized country in the world.

The Gipper wisecracked, with a wry smile: "I could tell our economic program was working when they stopped calling it Reaganomics." Elder George Bush famously had called his policies "voodoo economics" during the 1980 primaries. Would that we had much more of this "voodoo" and would bring it back today!]

You did ask a pertinent question with, “Something has caused this. If it’s not Obama and Dem’s policies, you tell me what it is.” A quick perusal of Google will demonstrate varied and conflicted reasoning regarding the 2007-2008 recession. However, for whatever reason, we all see it did occur. This Facebook status indicated (for whatever reasons it originally occurred) Obama’s policies either continued the problem or worsened it. I was curious as to what particular policy. One mentioned was “higher taxes.” My study on tax rates in the past decade made me question how this policy was even in force, let alone contributed to the recession. I have my answer as to your position.


Be well. Again, it is evident that there is no dialogue here. I tried.

You've insulted me a number of times, in many ways (not just in this exchange, but in many of ours), yet you can't handle one "pompous ass" and now take the cowardly route of appea
ling to others of your fiends who feel the same about me (ad populum fallacy). Your choice. I was actually trying to have a conversation, as clearly seen by my lengthy replies and the time put into them. Unfortuinately, this was certainly not a real, constructive dialogue, in the classical, constructive sense. It's "mutual monologue."

The entire exchange will be posted on my blog. Feel free to post it on yours, too, if you're convinced that you did so well and that I manifestly stand refuted.

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1 comment:

Duke of Earl said...

Strictly speaking, it wasn't the War itself that led to America's economic recovery, it was the post war period where America had manufacturing capability, other countries needed stuff, and the manufacturing ability of the rest of the world had been bombed to hell.

Broken windows works if you've killed the other glaziers.

Lowering taxes doesn't really change anything, because those who would be in the income bracket that would supposedly benefit from tax drops have very good accountants and never pay that much anyway.

Back in the 50s if I recall correctly, the top tax rate was about 90%, but of course the actual tax rate after accountants was about 30%. Dropping the tax rate from 90% to 40% say, would have increased tax take only because it became cheaper to pay the tax than pay your accountant. Of course the law of diminishing returns comes into play.

It is common to romanticise the actions of past leaders, but economic recovery after depressions occurs anyway. Doing nothing is generally as effective as doing something, except when doing something makes it worse.