Thursday, October 14, 2004

Why President Bush is losing my vote

There is much I could write about the Presidential Debates last night. I am not a big John Kerry fan, but my unwillingness to repeat the mistake I made in voting for George W. Bush four years ago is increasingly leading me to consider voting for a Democratic candidate for president for the first time in my life.

My main issues are three-fold: the increasing veil of secrecy behind which our nation is being governed, the declining conditions in our economy and the declining state of basic social services (education, health care, etc.) in our country.

The first issue is just frightening. In 2000, I had major qualms voting for a ticket that contained Dick Cheney, whose influence virtually shut journalists out of the first Gulf War. However, I felt that he would be one voice among a chorus of others, and that since the Vice President dooesn't do much ...

Sadly, I underestimated the other voices (Rumsfeld, Pearle, et. al.) who also brought to the administration a philosophy of operating behind closed dorrs. During the Bush administration, the national debate about foreign and domestic policy has been largely removed from the public sphere. Rather than discussing the pros and cons of possible approaches, it seems like we increasingly find out how our world works only through the PR management of Scott McLellan and his predecessor Ari Fleischer.

As for the declining economy, my impressions are very personally driven. Yes, I am a member of the middle class who was eligible for a return of funds resulting from the dismantling of the federal surplus four years ago (in retrospect, not such a wise decision). And yes, when it came time for me to pay my taxes, my official government taxes were lower than during the Clinton administration. However, I actually wound up paying more taxes. How can this be? Well, this leads me to my third concern.

Under the Bush administration, many of our social programs were altered to compensate for the lower amount of revenue generated by taxes. Tax programs have to pay for themselves, and the cuts offered come with a price. I don’t think most Americans saw much difference.

However, being a graduate student at the time, I saw a tremendous difference. While it is true that my base tax was less than in years before, the fact that I was a full-time graduate student meant less to Bush than it had to Clinton. I still did receive a deduction for being enrolled full-time, but my deduction was subject to a new formula whereby the deduction from the previous years was factored in to reduce the amount of deduction in the current period. The net result, after paying fewer taxes but receiving less in educational deductions, was that I actually paid $750-800 MORE in taxes under the Bush tax plan than I did during the Clinton administration.

And there lies the heart of my frustration with the Bush approach. Yes, we keep more of our money, but only at the price of losing some of our social programs. What good does it do me to keep an extra $1,000 - $2000 per year if my health care costs double? Or my education becomes more expensive? Or if the amount of support and assistance for basic services is reduced?

To be fair, I understand that dependents who were in school received a comparable deduction as years past. So parents paying the bills may or may not have seen the difference I experienced. But this brings me straight back to my point: why are those who are struggling with the choices of paying their own way receiving the brundt of the reductions in financial assistance? If I had let my parents swallow the costs of my education (and my care), they would have received more deductions on my choices than I did by taking responsibility for myself. Why?

And put another way, the president who claims education as his greatest interest (regardless of how one views the no child left behind efforts), effectively reduced the governmental tax breaks that graduate students used to receive. So, we want to improve education, but only to a certain point? We want to help students make it through high school and to receive a bachelor’s degree while making it more difficult financially to receive a Master’s degree or Ph.D.?

I thought about delving into the comments from the exchange between the president and Bill O’Reilly on the The O’Reilly Factor and explaining how horrified I was to hear the president and a major media pundit portraying university classes as something to be survived (and not an opportunity to learn about the world), but that tirade would be rather lengthy. Read the transcript, it’s interesting. And disheartening.

Personally, I think we should be encouraging Americans to receive as much education as they can stand. We can all stand to be more thoughtful and exposed to a greater diversity of ideas, and I think we should do everything we can to ensure that any student who is capable of bettering their degree of understanding and critical thinking does not run into financial walls that keep them from exploring their potential.


Blogger L. E. Howard, Jr. said...

Now that Bush has won the election, I assume that you've not posted a follow-up because you are either in a deep depression or have resigned yourself to the present situation. Whatever the case, I thought that I might address your three concerns:

“My main issues are three-fold: the increasing veil of secrecy behind which our nation is being governed, the declining conditions in our economy and the declining state of basic social services (education, health care, etc.) in our country.”

1) Veil of secrecy? Have you noticed that the nation is at war? I’m not sure that our troops necessarily need the strategic input of a humanities professor, unless you’re holding out on us and there’s some vast repository of military and foreign policy knowledge that’s somehow missing from your resume.
2) Declining economy? What standards of measurement are you using? Perhaps you’ve forgotten the mess the current administration inherited when the “.com” bubble burst. It sounds like you have an ax to grind from your graduate school days, which kind of amounts to a personal problem (vendetta?), right?
3) Declining basic social services. Once again, you’ll have to show some evidence here, unless your intention is simply to appeal to your audience’s emotions. A cheap tactic, especially for a communications guy.

5:36 PM  
Blogger jrichard said...

Well, while I appreciate all comments, I feel I shoudl adress a few things:

First of all, I had not neglected my personal blog because I was in a deep depression, nor because of any emotional response to the election. As an academic, I was subject to the final schedule that began shortly after the election and then the 4 weeks of Christmas vacation immediately after finals. I used this time to write and edit work for scholarly publications, and now that the new semester is finally calming down, I am finding time to write on my own.

I did not vote for Bush, but as this was my first time voting for a non-Republican, I'd hardly say his victory is a cause for depression. How fragile you must think I am.

But let's talk about the issues raised:

1. Veils of secrecy are most dangerous during times of armed conflict. Greek, Roman, German and French history bear out how cultures can be destroyed when good people give up their voice in order to achieve security. What makes America great are the ideals of freedom and dignity that each member of the country enjoys, and taking away from these freedoms FOR ANY REASON diminishes our greatness.

Also, thank you for the ad hom. attack. It's always easier to attack the messenger than address the message.

If I were a humanities professor (I'm not, I'm a social scientist), I would hope that my knowledge about how other civilizations have faced precisely the same dangers we face as a society might be of use to those deciding our future. The fact that we have chosen strategies that others have failed with (most recently, Great Britain and France who built nations and tries to modernize the middle east in the 20th century) shows we are not aware of how other cultures react to our ideals or our efforts, and there is significant historical precedent for our failure in the middle east.

I study media messages. And yes, I study how cultures other than our own think and communicate. I do not think our troops are the problem with our current action, but the people who give them orders. Many are the leader who think they can rewrite history. And once the dust settles, history usually has rather harsh criticism of their efforts.

2) Declining economy. Very few of our most respected economists approve of what this administration is doing with our economy. Our deficit is growing, our dollar's value is diminishing (leading many international banks to switch their standard to euros) and our ability to conduct trade with several nations is decreasing.

And, as I stated in my personal blog entry, I prepared my tax returns under Clinton and under Bush. I am well aware of how the changes in the tax code affected the plight of graduate students. (Next time, it would be more helpful to address the evidence offered, instead of falling into the standard "he inherited a mess" response. The mess didn't change the tax code.)

3) Declining social services. My co-pays have been going up, how about yours? Less of my medication is covered, and I have some pretty good coverage. What about people who are less fortunate than I?

I suggest you read the paper. Read how state governors (and Jeb Bush was merely the first) are pairing down the qualified coverage lists or allowing private firms to reduce the standard coverages that until now have been protected by federal law.

I do appreciate your comments, but your arguments did not critique my rationale, nor my justification for my positions. You attacked my person and crafted a quilt of innuendo and unsupported assertions rather than actually adding to the conversation.

But I thank you anyway.

2:13 PM  
Blogger L. E. Howard, Jr. said...

>>How fragile you must think I am. <<

Well, I generally view those who’ve spent their entire lives in academia to be idealistic, elitist, and, yes, fragile. What else can one say about a group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual or social status by virtue of the inability to get a real job?

>> But let's talk about the issues raised: <<

Fine. I promise to keep my personal biases restrained.

>> 1. Veils of secrecy are most dangerous during times of armed conflict...taking away from these freedoms FOR ANY REASON diminishes our greatness. <<

This is a very weak argument. Show me some cause and effect. Your rhetoric is about on par with a mediocre high school debate team. What did Deborah Tannen say, “the medium is the message”? Well, your message is little more than an appeal to the common man; this issue really calls for an appeal to common sense.

My point is that when it comes to the common defense and national security, it’s only logical to allow those who are specially trained in military tactics, techniques, and procedures to do their jobs. I wouldn’t presume to lecture you on journalism. Can you accept that when it comes to operational military affairs – not national policy – the general public has no business getting involved?

>> Also, thank you for the ad hom. attack. It's always easier to attack the messenger than address the message. <<

No problem. My argumentation skills were bought and paid for at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication. Bonus points if you know where that is!

>> If I were a humanities professor...there is significant historical precedent for our failure in the middle east. <<

Please accept my apologies on falsely identifying you as a humanities scholar. But to address your argument, I’d like to point out that you’ve successfully regurgitated a false premise (straw man) that’s been continually postulated by amateur historians and liberal politicians.

The straw man here is that the United States, like colonial Britain and France, seeks to expand its global dominion by empire building. I don’t think any reasonable human being thinks that the Bush Administration wants Iraq to be our 51st state. As evidence, consider how small our military footprint is. Critics continually point out that we don’t have enough troops there. I would agree if it were the intent of the government and armed forces to set up the conditions for a colonization effort.

Further, the assertion that American policy in the Middle East is flawed because we misjudge how “other cultures react to our ideals or our efforts” is absurd. And, frankly, it’s borderline racist. Need I remind you that similar things were said about post-war Japan? As an American of Asian descent, I take great exception to the implication that Eastern cultures are so inferior. Shame on you.

Spare me the notion that Iraq, while highly tribal and ethnically diverse, is somehow incapable of become a democracy. Let me point out that about two centuries ago Germany was more or less a confederation of feudal states.

>> 2) Declining economy. Very few of our most respected economists with several nations is decreasing.<<

Okay, let’s take a look at your argument here. I don’t know what to make of the phrase “very few of our most respected economists.” It implies that you have some sort of data about the opinions of our nation’s leading economists. Fine. I just have to ask:

- What constitutes “very few”? Ten percent? Twenty-five?
- How do you define “respected”? I suspect that the majority of these “respected” economists can be found at our nation’s left-leaning academic institutions.

My preliminary research indicates that you are uninformed or merely using a gross hyperbole. I suspect the former. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of the Economist or Forbes sometime.

The dollar vs. the Euro argument is intriguing, but much too complex to address here. I admit that I am a little worried about how the EU is turning toward communist China as a potential market for military equipment and technology. Greed, it seems, knows no boundaries.

>> 3) Declining social services...less fortunate than I? <<

I’m afraid this is where no amount of insight or persuasion will make a difference. I don’t believe it is the role of government to provide cradle-to-grave social services. If you want your medical expenses to go down call The Association of Trial Lawyers of America and ask them if they’d be willing to take a pay cut. A little exercise couldn’t hurt either.

>> I do appreciate your comments...adding to the conversation. <<

Fine, I’ll back off the argumentum ad hominem. The phrase “quilt of innuendo and unsupported assertions” is very catchy. At first I thought you might have lifted this from somewhere, but I’m convinced now of its originality – no kidding. Do you mind if I borrow this sometime?

1:50 PM  
Blogger jrichard said...


Very well, we have some more ground to cover.

On your views of “those who have spent their entire lives in academia,” let me first caution you that professors in journalism are rarely lifelong academics. Our field straddles the line between the humanities and our profession, which is why most of train as social scientists. And just to remind you, social science (the study of behavior) is an area in which quite a bit of the government officials, military officers and policy professionals have received their training.

But, case in point, I have not been an academic all my life. I’ve had several lives. I’ve been a journalist, I’ve been a business consultant and I’ve been a professional Web designer in previous lives. I assure you that I’ve always been able to find a job. I entered academia because I wanted to contribute to the next generation. I found merely chasing the next big payoff unfulfilling.

There are days when I wonder if it was worth going back to school to receive an expensive advanced education only to enter a job where I will be lower middle class potentially for the remainder of my career. And this feelings are particularly acute when tax season rolls around and I compare my financial performance before I went back to school with my recent earnings statements. Hence my blog.

Before I return to the point, let me also point out that in several places in your response, you seem to indicate that you consider me a “liberal.” I wonder if the point of the blog article that raised your ire was not lost on you: 2004 was the FIRST time I had ever voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. I voted for Bush in 2000, I voted for Dole in 1996, I voted for Bush’s father in 1992.

I am not a Democrat, nor am I particularly “liberal” (at least, not in the way we define the term in contemporary American politics. There may be a classic liberal deep down in side of me somewhere, a liberal whose views are more consistent with the times when the Republicans were the liberal party).

But back to the pojnt: be careful with your assumptions. People are more than the labels you push onto them.

Ok, topic #1: secrecy and freedom.

Deborah Tannen? If she said “the medium is the message,” then she must have beeen quoting Marshal McLuhan, who coined the phrase decades before she went to school. And as a scholar of technology and society, I believe firmly that we moved beyond that stage in our social development by the mid-1990s. The medium is no longer the message, the message is the message.

But deconstruction aside, what was the point of your reference? And if I am not appealing to the “common man” (which is what journalists, even journalism scholars do, btw), wouldn’t I be guilty of thee elitism you charged me with earlier?

But your own point is clearer. And I certainly agree that when it comes to the functional decisions of military operations, those who are schooled in those arts should be the decision-makers. However, I’m reading over my blog and trying to find out what I wrote to make you think I was stating otherwise.

My criticism is not of the military. I did not name a single officer or unit. My criticism was of the internal think tanks and the policy operatives who run them (and I named them, “Rumsfeld, Pearle, et. al.”). In my opinion, the policy operatives in the current administration have led us astray. And they have done so behind closed doors in meetings that have produced none of the public records that official governmental meetings are required to produce to the public.

And let’s be straight here: these guys are policy experts, which means they are either social scientists (who have been trained, for example, how to read and use polling data) or former businessman of indeterminable training and expertise. And in my opinion, a social scientist has to ignore a lot of history and a lot of cultural understanding to have committed our military might for the shifting objectives they have announced we are pursuing.

None of the people I names in my blog were current or former military. And I don’t believe I made any criticism of combat tactics. I simply said that those who frame the official line of the administration and who make policy decisions behind closed doors (and noticeably, none of them, or at best very few, with military service of any kind) seem to be disregarding history and subverting the will of the American people to achieve a shifting list of objectives.

And actually, I greatly appreciate this statement: “I wouldn’t presume to lecture you on journalism.” Because many conservatives do presume to lecture academics and professionals alike specifically about how journalism should be created in our society.

I’m glad you are not one of those. Let Dan Rather be Dan Rather and Seymour Hersh be Seymour Hersh. No one who has not done their job can appreciate how well they do it (most of the time, like all of us).

However, one caveat to this discussion: when it comes to matters of national security and foreign policy, I do believe that the American people deserve to know what is being done and decided in their name. I have no problem with the practice of delaying the reporting of decisions or actions until after our forces are out of harm’s way, but I absolutely believe that our government is accountable to the people.

As for education, I’m not sure I can accept bonus point for knowing you went to WSU, because I ran into a scholar from that particular school last June at a conference in New Orleans. I confess were it not for that encounter, I doubt I would have known which institution received that particular endowment.

Moving on to my comments about our nation’s intentions in the Middle East. I also have heard the debates about whether America is a new empire or simply a new cultural force entirely. Personally, I think we are an empire but a very different kind from our predecessors (I think we conquer through markets and mass culture instead of physical territory).

However, this debate has little to do with my comments, because I was not claiming that America was seeking to annex Iraq into our union nor that we were seeking another colony for our empire. My exact words were that “we have chosen strategies that others have failed with.” It’s the tactics of policy that I was critiquing, not our ultimate designs on the region.

The way in which our actions are similar to those who have failed before is that we believe (as they did) that rapid nation-building and increased cultural transfer will transform their culture so that it resembles our model of government and way of life. And history has shown, time and time again, that one civilization cannot transform another at such a rapid pace. Culture is built slowly from within. I believe that our culture has much to offer the countries of world, but I believe that societies evolve towards the social contract we established naturally. History teaches us that you cannot force a group of people to rapidly change their culture. And particularly not through force.

It is in that way that I think our actions resemble the British, the French, the Romans and the Greeks (among many others). It’s not that we’re after the same goals, it’s that our method of nation-building appears to have failed each time it was tried in the history of that region.

Not respecting that history is what has led us to underestimate how much this endeavor is costing us, how much effort is required and ultimately what our shifting reasonable expectations should be.

On your assertion of my profiling a people or race, let me first remind you that there are several races represented in the Middle East. Which one did you think I was belittling, exactly?

Nor do I think my comments said anything about which culture is “superior” or “inferior.” I only was pointing to the historic fact that the cultures represented in the Middle East have resisted external attempts to restructure their society time and time again. I, for one, do not see their culture as inferior. Nor do I think that Western civilization is superior to any of the Eastern civilizations that have achieve far more with less harm to the world.

My heritage is Anglo-English, and my people were one of the two ethnic groups to resist Roman conversion (the other being the “stiff-necked Jews” as the Roman governors of Palestine called them). Resisting cultural domination is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. I think you read into my words exactly the opposite meaning from my views.

And I am not one who will ever say that Iraq or Iran or Syria or Saudi Arabia are incapable of adopting a democratic system. Several of the nations in that region had democratic systems before (and some before our nation was even founded), only to have them undermined by foreign influences.

Again, my statement was not whether Iraqis can adopt a democratic culture. My statement was questioning whether they would choose to with a foreign power invading and forcing such dramatic social change in a short period of time.

Would America adopt a greater system of democracy (perhaps a more classless system) if some greater power (say, the EU) invaded us, destroyed the social infrastructure, fired all of our civil servants and then demanded we raise ourselves up to a new system of government? I think our own people are stiff-necked enough to resist such a demand. We might adopt better systems on our own, but we do not like changing how we live because someone else tells us we should.

Ok, finally to point #2 and the economy.

I do not have statistics on the percentage of economics who support or criticize the Bush administration’s policies (I’m not even sure what the population one would draw a sample from. Current students? Professors? Nobel Prize Winners?).

But speaking of Nobel prize winners, here’s a list of Nobel Prize-winning economists who have been publicly critical of the Bush administration’s policies (mainly most often his tax cuts and deficit spending): Lawrence R. Klein (1980 Prize), Douglass North (1993 Prize), Paul Samuelson’ (1970 Prize),
Robert Solow’ (1987 Prize), George Akerlof (2001 Prize), Joseph Stiglitz (2001 Prize), Daniel McFadden (2000 Prize), Kenneth Arrow (1972 Prize), William Sharpe (1990 Prize), Daniel Kahneman (2002 Prize).

Do a Google search on any of these names and "Bush administration." You might find the reading enlightening.

To be sure, the Bush Administration has their share of economists onboard, but one of the biggest stories of early 2003 was when his own team of economists contradicted his stated views in public, leading him to clean house.

Here’s what Wall Street analysts said a year ago: I do read the Economist from time to time. Have you read the report they commissioned on the poll of academic economist’s raking of the President’s first-term policies? You might find it illuminating: as for your preliminary research on my knowledge, I find your methodology non-existent and your conclusions rather hasty and faulty. Perhaps you should not rush to judge and condemn others or their views so quickly.

On to point #3: Declining social services.

I completely agree that trial lawyers are one of the variables that has made medical services too expensive to be affordable for most Americans. But the trial lawyers are but one point in the triangle of growth. The insurance companies, with their incredibly high rates for malpractice coverage, force doctors to charge more for their services. Doctors, who charge more and more for their services (and the AMA, who helps them close ranks against market forces), make themselves responsible for mistakes and errors (rather than sharing the risk, and the larger income with hospitals) and thus also make themselves the target for lawsuits when mistakes and errors are made.

It’s a complex system and all three forces are contributors to the rising costs. And it’s no surprise that the Bush Campaign blames lawyers: they represent the insurance companies. When Clinton was in office, his administration blamed the insurance companies, because he represented the lawyers.

Whichever side is in power naturally dictates who will be blamed (though no one will dare blame the doctors or the citizenry, for that would be political suicide).

And I exercise plenty and am rather healthy. And I have pretty decent health coverage. But I am not representative of the majority of Americans, and my concerns and my politics are rarely isolated to my own situation.

Heh. I do have a tendency to weave words together into visual images. Please feel free to borrow any of my language, ideas, or arguments. I do not believe that intellectual property is a good thing for society, for in my opinion it keeps us from building on each other’s knowledge and experiences.

Whew! Another long response. I hope we’re starting to understand each other a little better.

7:01 PM  
Blogger L. E. Howard, Jr. said...

Very well said! I feel you missed my point about economists and the Bush administration. I'd like to explore/expand our dialogue a little more, and I'll definitely think about your latest response and get back with you.

6:34 AM  
Blogger L. E. Howard, Jr. said...

Richard -

I’ll start by saying that your voting record was not lost on me. I used the liberal label merely to illustrate the contrasts in our viewpoints.

You imply that pushing labels on people is wrong. I say let’s shed all pretense and show where we stand. This is one of the traits that I admire very much about Bush. Agree or disagree, you know where he stands. While I may not agree with everything he stands for, I am willing to take sides. This is important.

This is important because no matter one might frame things legally, this is a nation at war. Voting out a wartime president while our troops are decisively engaged was, to me, serious business. All other issues aside, what message do we convey to both terrorists and people seeking democracy when we as a nation fail to show resolve?

I understand resolve. I spent most of last year in Iraq, and the one-sided news coverage disgusted me. I found most journalists to be unethical opportunists looking for ways to get noticed by showing the American soldier at his worst. There were and are exceptions, but I’d still caution any servicemember to not turn let his guard down when dealing with the press. Used-car salesmen occasionally give you a good deal, but I’d never trust one to tell me the whole truth.

And the truth is my reference to Dr. Tannen was incorrect. I had to read several of her articles and books while in college, so I thought that she had discussed this mass communication topic at some point. Perhaps I confused McLuhan’s ideas with her “metamessage” thing, which got stuck in my head along with that business about the complexities of male-female communication, etc.

I will clarify the common man angle, which I really didn’t think was all that complex. [I will assume that you are not being obtuse.] I think the Left is divided into many camps, two of which are the academic elite and urban plebeians [my term].

Note: I will purposefully be straightforward and not qualify my descriptions to speed the explanation along.

The term urban plebeian describes those people who live in large cities and tend to make blue states blue. They comprise different ethnic groups and professions, but with few expectations (urban blacks for one) tend towards secular humanist ideas and values. They don’t go to church and view the world with moral relativism. Collectively, the urban plebeians feel that the government’s role includes providing them with employment, health care, and all manner of social services.

The academic elite envy those in positions of power throughout the business community. After all, these men and women, despite less than spectacular grades in school, have someone succeeded, made money, and garnered prestige and power. To bring down the business class, the academic elite produce studies and publish articles highly critical of the former’s practices and procedures.
Journalists gleefully sift through the garbage spewed forth from the halls of academia and put colorful charts and graphs in rags like USA Today for the urban plebs to read. The proletarians, though misinformed, get angry. They protest in the streets, write letters, and vote for weirdoes like Dennis Kucinich.

So, as you see, appealing to the common man is a favored tactic of journalists and the academic elite alike. They rely on the urban plebs’ dependency on the local/state/federal government and their ignorance to gain prestige and curry political favor.

Back to economists and the economy.

Once again, I think you completely missed my point about economists and the Bush administration. I called you to task for the statement, “very few of our most respected economists approve of what this administration is doing with our economy.” I saw this as a careless generalization that did not fairly depict what economists, on the whole, are thinking. Did your PhD come with an omniscience that I’ll never know?

What I found while surfing the web and other sources is that many economists do take issue with many aspects of the administration’s fiscal policy. The budget deficit comes to mind as a key point of contention. This is precisely why I asked for more data and clarification on the word “respected.”

As an interesting counter-point to your list of Nobel Prize economists, consider these economists who signed a letter endorsing the president last year:

Douglas K. Adie, Ohio University; Richard Agnello, University of Delaware; William Albrecht, University of Iowa; Donald Alexender, Western Michigan University; William R. Allen, UCLA; Annelise Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Martin Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Jim Araji, University of Idaho; Paul Ballantyne, University of Colorado in Colorado Springs; Stacie E. Beck, University of Delaware; Donald Bellante, University of South Florida; Bruce Bender, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee; James T. Bennett, George Mason University; M. Douglas Berg, Sam Houston State University; Robert Blake, Forecasters Club of New York; Cecil E. Bohanon, Ball State University; Don Booth, Chapman University; George H. Borts, Brown University; Michael J. Boskin, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Leonard Bower, consultant; Michael Brandl, University of Texas at Austin; Emile J. Brinkmann, Mortgage Bankers Association of America; Horace W. Brock, Strategic Economic Decisions, Inc.; Wayne T. Brough, Citizens for a Sound Economy; Jackson Brown, American Dental Association; Jeffrey Brown, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Phillip J. Bryson, Marriott School, BYU; Todd Buchholz, Enso Capital Management; James B. Burnham, Duquesne University; Michelle Burtis, LECG LLC;
James L. Butkiewicz, University of Delaware; Samantha Carrington, California State University at Los Angeles; Kenneth W. Chilton, Lindenwood University; Ernest S. Christian, Center For Strategic Tax Reform; Lawrence R. Cima, John Carroll University;
J.R. Clark, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Darin G. Clay, University of Southern California; Daniel M. Clifton, American Shareholders Association; Howard Cochran, Belmont University; John P. Cochran, Metropolitan State College of Denver;
John Cogan, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Boyd Collier, Tarleton State University; Phil Colling, Mortgage Bankers Association of America; Roy Cordato, John Locke Foundation; Ted Covey, Prosperity Caucus; Eleanor D. Craig, University of Delaware; Mark Crain, George Mason University; Thomas D. Crocker, University of Wyoming; Coldwell Daniel III, University of Memphis; Lawrence S. Davidson, Indiana University; Ronnie H. Davis, Printing Industries of America; Ed Day, University of Central Florida; Stephen J. Dempsey, University of Vermont; Christopher DeMuth, American Enterprise Institute; John L. Dobra, University of Nevada; Michael Dowd, University of Toledo; Thomas J. Duesterberg, Manufacturers Alliance; Douglas G. Duncan, Mortgage Bankers Association of America; John B. Egger, Towson University;
Isaac Ehrlich, SUNY at Buffalo; Michael A. Ellis, Kent State University; Kenneth G. Elzinga, University of Virginia; Michael R. Englund, MMS International; Stephen J. Entin, Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation; Ed Erickson, North Carolina State University; Richard E. Ericson, Columbia University; Paul Evans, Ohio State University; Frank Falero, California State University; Allen M. Featherstone, Kansas State University; Martin Feldstein, Harvard University; John Foltz, University of Idaho;
Kristin J. Forbes, MIT; William F. Ford, Middle Tennessee State University; Kenneth C. Froewiss, NYU; Robert C. Fry, Washington, West Virginia; David Garthoff, University of Akron; James F. Gatti, University of Vermont; David Gay, University of Arkansas;
Richard F. Gleisner, St. Cloud State University; Claudio Gonzalez, Ohio State University; Ernest Goss, Creighton University; Scott F. Grannis, Western Asset Management; John G. Greenhut, Arizona State University West; Earl Grinols, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Timothy Groseclose, Stanford Graduate School of Business; James Gwartney, Florida State University; David L. Hammes, University of Hawaii at Hilo; J. Daniel Hammond, Wake Forest University; Stephen Happel, Arizona State University; Kevin Hassett, American Enterprise Institute; Joel W. Hay, University of Southern California; Will C. Heath, Heath Economics; Dale M. Heien, University of California at Davis; Pat Hendershott, Ohio State University; James W. Henderson, Baylor University; Melvin J. Hinich, University of Texas; Mark Hirschey, University of Kansas;
Harold M. Hochman, Lafayette College; Robert J. Hodrick, Columbia University;
Lawrence A. Hunter, Empower America; Thomas R. Ireland, University of Missouri at St. Louis; John D. Jackson, Auburn University; Lowell Jacobsen, Baker University;
Sherry Jarrell, Wake Forest University; Michael C. Jensen, Harvard Business School;
Clifton T. Jones, Stephen F. Austin State University; Richard E. Just, University of Maryland; Steven N. Kaplan, University of Chicago; Ed Kaplan, Western Washington University; Raymond J. Keating, Small Business Survival Committee; Kristen Keith, University of Toledo; B.F. Kiker, University of South Carolina; E. Han Kim, University of Michigan; Paul Koch, Olivet Nazarene University; Meir Kohn, Dartmouth College;
Melvyn Krauss, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Peter Kretzmer, Bank of America; Robert Krol, California State University at Northridge; Larry Kudlow, Kudlow & Co.; Richard La Near, Missouri Southern State College; Arthur Laffer, Laffer Associates; William E. Laird, Jr., Florida State University; Russell Lamb, North Carolina State University; Don Leet, California State University at Fresno; John D. Leeth, Bentley College; Ken Lehn, University of Pittsburgh; Cotton M. Lindsay, Clemson University;
Larry Lindsey, The Lindsey Group; Dennis E. Logue, University of Oklahoma; Lawrence W. Lovik, Troy State University; Harold I. Lunde, Bowling Green State University;
Donald L. Luskin, Trend Macrolytics, LLC; Burton Malkiel, Princeton University;
David Malpass, Bear Stearns & Co. Inc.; N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard University;
Richard Manning, Pfizer, Inc.; Dick Marcus, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee;
Michael L. Marlow, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; Merrill Matthews, Jr., Council for Affordable Health Insurance; Thomas H. Mayor, University of Houston; Tom Means, San Jose State University; Allan H. Meltzer, Carnegie Mellon University; Michael Melvin, Arizona State University; Stephen Mennemeyer, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Lloyd Mercer, University of California at Santa Barbara; John Merrifield, University of Texas at San Antonio; Jim Miller, Director, Office of Management and Budget, 1985-88; Jim Mintert, Kansas State University; Velma Montoya, National Council of Hispanic Women; Steve Moore, Club for Growth;
John Moorhouse, Wake Forest University; John Murray, University of Toledo;
Harry Nagel, St. John's University; Anthony Negbenebor, Gardner-Webb University;
George R. Neumann, University of Iowa; Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform;
Seth W. Norton, Wheaton College; William Oakland, Tulane University; Lee E. Ohanian, UCLA; Richard W. Oliver, American Graduate School of Management; June O'Neill, Baruch College, City University of New York; Lydia Ortega, San Jose State University;
Karen Palasek, John Locke Foundation; Randall E. Parker, East Carolina University;
James Parrino, Babson College; E.C. Pasour, Jr., North Carolina State University;
Mark Perry, University of Michigan at Flint; Tomas Philipson, University of Chicago;
Barry Poulson, University of Colorado; Edward C. Prescott, University of Minnesota;
Jan S. Prybyla, Pennsylvania State University; Gary Quinlivan, Saint Vincent College;
Richard W. Rahn, Discovery Institute; John Rapp, University of Dayton Eric Rasmusen, Indiana University; Martin A. Regalia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce;Carmen M. Reinhart, International Monetary Fund; Christine P. Ries, Georgia Institute of Technology
Aldona Robbins, Fiscal Associates; Gary Robbins, Fiscal Associates; Paul Craig Roberts, Institute for Political Economy; Charles K. Rowley, George Mason University
Paul H. Rubin, Emory University; Roy J. Ruffin, University of Houston; Mark Rush, University of Florida; John Ryding, Bear Stearns & Co. Inc.; Andrew Sacher, Caxton Associates; Gary J. Santoni, Ball State University; Thomas R. Saving, Texas A&M University; Kurt Schuler, Office of the Vice Chairman, Joint Economic Committee, US Congress; Michael Schuyler, Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation
Robert Scott, California State University, Chico; Gerald W. Scully, University of Texas at Dallas; Richard T. Selden, University of Virginia; Barry J. Seldon, University of Texas at Dallas; John Semmens, Laissez Faire Institute; Richard J. Sexton, University of California at Davis; Sol Shalit, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee; Alan C. Shapiro, University of Southern California; Gary L. Shoesmith, Wake Forest University; William F. Shughart II, University of Mississippi; Charles David Skipton, Florida State University
Amy Smith, formerly with the Office of Management and Budget; James F. Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Rodney T. Smith, Stratecon, Inc.
Vernon L. Smith, George Mason University (Nobel Laureate); Neil H. Snyder, University of Virginia; John C. Soper, John Carroll University; Frank Spreng, McKendree College; Beryl W. Sprinkel, B.W. Sprinkel Economics; Stan Spurlock, Mississippi State University; William G. Stanford, University of Illinois at Chicago; Ben Stein, actor, writer, economist; Carl H. Stem, Texas Tech University; Craig A. Stepenson, Babson College; E. Frank Stephenson, Berry College; Courtenay C. Stone, Ball State University; Robert Tamura, Clemson University; Fred Telling, Pfizer, Inc.
Rebecca Thacker, Ohio University; Clifford Thies, Shenandoah University; Leo Troy, Rutgers University; Kamal Upadhyaya, University of New Haven; Richard Vedder, Ohio University;Tony Villamil, The Washington Economics Group;Richard E. Wagner, George Mason University; William B. Walstad, University of Nebraska at Lincoln; Stephen J.K. Walters, Loyola College in Maryland; Harold Warren, East Tennessee State University; Marc Weidenmier, Claremont McKenna College; John T. Wenders, University of Idaho; Brian S. Wesbury, Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thompson; Walter Wessels, North Carolina State University; Robert Whaples, Wake Forest University
John Whitley, University of Adelaide; John H. Wicks, University of Montana at Missoula
Gary W. Williams, Texas A&M University; Michael E. Williams, University of Denver
Douglas Wills, University of Washington at Tacoma; Michael K. Wohlgenant, North Carolina State University; Charles Wolf, Jr., Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Gary Wolfram, Hillsdale College; Gene C. Wunder, Washburn University; Richard Yamarone, Argus Research Corp.; Andrew Yuengert, Pepperdine University; Paul J. Zak, Claremont Graduate University; M.Y. Zaki, Northern Michigan University; Asghar Zardkoohi, Texas A&M University; Kate Zhou, University of Hawaii; Benjamin Zycher, Pacific Research Institute

So what does this prove? Other than the fact that economists are highly political animals who cannot seemingly separate their beliefs from their pseudo-science, I’d say nothing.

Recall how stagflation stymied economists during the ‘70s. Recall how they scratched their heads and wondered what to do. The situation that ushered in monetary economics and the Post Keynesian era is typical of social science in general. If the situation doesn’t fit known models, then a new model is constructed to fit the situation.

Citing an organization that gave Yassir Arafat a peace prize is amusing. What’s next, a list of Academy Award winners who have opinions about foreign policy?

8:49 AM  
Blogger jrichard said...


You have been blunt and I will endeavor to do the same. Rather than parse your words back, I will try and number my responses and paraphrase the section I am responding to.

1. The Election. In any election campaign there are thousands of reasons why people vote as they do. Some vote on economic issues, some of foreign policy, some on domestic infrastructure, some on personality and some simply because of party loyalty.

I understand your rationale for your vote. Be careful that you do not push your rationale as a litmus test for others.

But within your rationale, I have a dissenting opinion. If your rationale is the litmus test for the election, then half the country has a dissenting opinion (I think this is a false assumption, because people voted for a variety of reasons).

"what message do we convey to both terrorists and people seeking democracy when we as a nation fail to show resolve?" I think it shows an honest willingness to listen to each other and behave in a more civilized manner. I think it shows that we actually believe in this thing we call democracy, that dissension and fragmentation are not to be feared, but cherished. I think it shows that a nation can prosper without exacting violence on those who have a different opinion about politics

But let's flip these questions to the other perspective for a moment. What does it say to terrorists and people seeking democracy when their most powerful opponent resolves to use pure force to exact its will on smaller countries? Are we telling terrorists they are wrong only because they are the weaker force? That is they were only stronger they would be in the right?

What would it say if, in any war, a civilized society did not have mixed feelings about causing death and destruction, even if that death and destruction was for some higher purpose? Wouldn't that justify the twisted logic of a terrorist, who has no compunction about killing if he or she thinks it's for a higher cause?

But removing either of our ideologies from the equation for a moment, having a diversity of opinion on the subject that is aired and discussed proves that we have a soul as a society. I am more comfortable being a dissenter whose president is continuing a war effort than I may not agree with than I would be if we all put our heads down and lock-stepped behind a politician because of an impending crisis. Democracy is valuable because it allows a variety of views in times of stress.

I other words, democracy works, and the President's re-election proves it. But we shouldn't chastise those who voted against him, it's their civic duty to vote their mind.

2. Dr. Tannen. Thanks for tracking that down. Marshal McLuhan was an interesting person, and while I didn't necessarily agree with his conclusions, the Dr. Tannen comment didn't seem to sound like the same thing.

3. Common man and liberals.

Lowell, there are a few assumptions you display here that I feel the need to punch holes in. Not because I think you're wrong, but I think there is a tendency to misunderstand and overgeneralize people who stand in opposition to us.

First of all, I think there are many more classes of "the Left" than you've described. Stereotypes can help us categorize thought, but they can also blind us to complex sentiment and feeling.

"Urban plebians." Well, I hate to point this out, but the characteristics you assign to such a large group of people cannot be true.According to the gallup poll from the beginning of this decade, over 86% of Americans believe in God (not counting the 8% who "believe in a higher power" that brings the number to 94%), of those, 92% (79% of all Americans) go to church at least once a year and 64% of the believing Americans (or 55% of the total population) go to church more than once a week.

Yet, 49% of Americans voted for George Bush and 48% of Americans voted for John Kerry (the rest threw their votes away on Nader or some other non-party candidate). Only 9% of Americans say they belong to no religious organization. Only 8% say they never attend religious services. Now, assuming the Democratic votes represent "The Left," where does this discrepancy come from?

The answer is that there are plenty of people who go to church that vote for Democratic candidates. I am one who did this time, and I know quite a few people who go to conservative churches who voted for Kerry.

And among the Episcopal and Unitarian movements? Many church-going "leftists."

I know the big media frame is "conservative church-goers" vs. "liberal secularists," but you shouldn't buy into media frames.

(Interestingly, I once saw data that suggested that less than 10% of journalists attend religious services regularly. This makes sense, since most professional journalists work on Sunday, but it does explain why journalists are so out of touch when it comes to stories involving faith or faith culture).

Just be careful, because there are many people who for religious reasons are on the left of our political spectrum. (And I actually understand the case for a liberal Christian, if you are curious about that).

A liberal voter is no more likely to avoid church than a conservative voter is to watch Nascar. Certainly Nascar watchers tend to be on the left (though I know there are liberal Nascar watchers) and atheists tend to be on the left (though I know several conservative atheists), but that doesn't mean those people represent the whole.

But on "values," (and I'm talking about the political rhetoric here, not insinuating that these actually are values) there is a difference. People on the left do tend to believe more in grace and charity, and tend to think that the government should provide basic services so that people can focus on careers and opportunities. People on the right tend to believe in the merits of competition and tend to think that supporting a basic standard of services is rather like telling a particular group of basketball players they cannot foul out of a game.

But both positions have roots in our core philosophy. Both have intellectual and proactical reasons for believing as they do.

As far as the academic elite, let me assure you that most of the academics I know do not envy the leaders in the business community (btw, not all academics are even liberal. How many liberal business schools professors do you think there are?). The academy is designed to critique society and so academics do it. Partisanship usually has little to do with it.

I certainly don't envy business leaders. Knowledge has always been more important to me than money (as my Amazon account will attest). There are quite a few people in our country for whom money is not the end of their existence.

True, the politics of fiscal conservatism does tend to lead to the right respecting money more than other values (though not always). But the very fact that you are talking about the left should remind you not to assume the same set of fiscal values to the left. If the left viewed money the same way that the right does, there wouldn't be a distinction between them on fiscal policy.

Now, this of course is a generalization. There are many leftist millionaires and billionaires who are driven by personal economics in their world-view. And there are many rightist middle class individuals who are not drive by personal financial pressures in their politics.

And there are many rich people on both sides who are very generous and not given to the pursuit of money as an end.

My point is that those on both the right and the left have many different reasons for holding the politics they do. Yes, the right is more unified (conservatism brings a certain desires to bond together), but that means you should absolutely not try to lump those who are not on the right into discrete categories. The left and the right are not two sides of the same coin. The right is the coin the left is the "not coin."

BTW, I don't think people who read USAToday were very likely to vote for Kucinich.

Appealing to the citizen is what media are charged with doing, and for every constituency there is a specialty magazine, a general paper and a couple hundred blogs. Where do the media look for answers to society's great questions? Well, yes, to the academy. We're paid to do it and they can find us all bunched together in one place. Reporters are lazy at worst or economical at best. Why search through the phone book for a sharp "man on the street" when you can have a semi-articulate response that seems to be a bit more thoughtful?

Academics do not generally appeal to the common man. They tend to be more interested in building up a reputation among their fellow scholars. One can't get tenure or any accolades by courting public opinion. Of the millions of studies produced each year, the general public is aware of very few of them.

Who are these celebrity scholars you seek to be talking about? I can think of a handful, but the academy usually views them as sell-outs.

But yes, journalists appeal to the common man. Journalists usually interpret their first amendment duties as providing the information to the voters that makes democracy work.

4. The Economy and Economists.

If it makes it more palatable, would softening my statement to "there is much resistance to the Bush administration's plans from many noted economists?" It just seems like we're quibbling over words.

And yes, I did jump out with a rather overgeneralized statement. Even at a university surrounded by conservative economics professors, I've heard nothing but rancor about the thoughts of privatizing education or healthcare or even our military. Debate after debate about whether competition drives down costs or whether the resulting tradeoff in quality will eventually send buyers to other markets ... it's simply not the case that the Administration has the full weight of economists behind it. No administration ever does, but most don't try and frame their campaigns around the assumptions that they do.

There have been many notable and respected economists who have cried foul at the claims that privatization can solve most or all of our economy's ills.

And just as an aside, if you have such a low opinion of university academics, does that mean the list of university-sponsored economics professors you provided for me means anything to you? Or are there fields at the university that get more weight?

And does it matter to you if the researcher is associated with an unaccredited research institute? Does this make the person more trustworthy or less so? I'm really just curious.

As far as economics theory and pseudo-science, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable viewing their field in quite this way. Theory is rarely carried out perfectly in the real world, so just because this particular theory didn't pan out or that one yielded unexpected results does not mean the theory is less scientific.

Chemists have the luxury of controlling all the variables in a laboratory. Economists have to wrestle with political compromise, unforeseen changes in human behavior, third-party effects for which there is no model (i.e., a terrorist attack) an a host of other contaminants in their implementation of their theories that work so well on paper. And perhaps the most frustrating thing for them has to be that politicians hedge their bets with multiple strategies to avoid appearing to be led down the wrong path, and often these multiple implementations of competing theories counteract the effectiveness of each other.

5. And as for the Nobel Peace prize, remember that the original irony was that the first peace prize was handed out for the invention of dynamite. But they have different categories for different judgments and I'm sorry that their judgments don't all line up with your political views.

And I don't think I would be ready to write off the entirety of Nobel Laureates if I did disagree with one of their selections.

1:04 PM  
Blogger L. E. Howard, Jr. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:20 PM  
Blogger L. E. Howard, Jr. said...

I find it interesting that my mention of journalists in Iraq generated no comments. Does silence imply agreement or did you simply have nothing to say about this?

I make no apologies about my voting “rationale.” Perhaps you’d see things differently had you spent anytime in a place where bad men dropped mortars and rockets in your vicinity daily.

Or had a friend or two die from enemy action.

Or inventoried a buddy’s personal items for shipment home to his wife and two young children.

No, I’m happy that some Americans have the luxury of wringing their hands while wondering how we can ever possibly repair diplomatic relations with France. Or something along those lines.

Congratulations, by the way, for successfully assaulting the straw man I held up. My purposeful generalizations in the common man discussion were, well, generalizations. Did I not make that clear?

Don’t you think it amusing when you look at the fact that you countered my overt generalizations with statistics? Mark Twain would be delighted. You must admit; this is not without humor.

For what it’s worth, I do agree with your assessments about complexity of the American political spectrum. I just choose to be openly cynical about it. I think it’s okay to root for one side or the other, accepting that everyone cannot possibly agree on everything. More infuriating to me than someone who simply disagrees with me about something politically, is someone who points to problems with the whole system and refuses to take any position.

These are the people who explain that in this or that election how screwed-up all the candidates are, so it all boils down to the lesser of two evils. This, my friend, is where my faith in the common man takes a complete and utter u-turn. Whoever first said, “Well, I don’t like either guy, so I will just vote against this one,” should be mentioned in the Guiness Book of World Records under the heading of Worst Thing to Happen to Democracy Ever –followed closely by exiting polling.

As we are all shaped by family, friends, and our environments, I for one find it impossible to pigeon-hole even myself into a nice, neat category. Many people might even find my opinions on certain issues difficult to believe. But my ego won’t prevent me from recognizing that others are equally complex. It’s just that it’s much easier to convey my thoughts on issues like this with admittedly broad, sweeping statements. I have no desire to start a dissertation. I had a hard enough time writing my master’s thesis!

Your assessment about reporters is insightful. Equally so is the observation about the “millions of studies” published each year that the general public knows little about. However, I can’t help but think that unlike studies or research in the pure sciences, one cannot possibly conduct social science experiments without the influence of one’s personal beliefs or politics.

Thus, would not a study of some aspect of society not appeal to some segment of the population? I guess that’s not exactly what you’d call courting public opinion, but one does like to have an audience. Right?

To set the record straight, I don’t have a low opinion of university academics. There are some disciplines that I seriously question. I can understand how there might a class or even perhaps dozens of classes on women’s studies or African American studies, but a Ph.D. program? Before I get labeled as a misogynist or racist, can you understand the point? Where does this stop?

But to answer your question about whether or not there are fields that I weigh more, I’ll say yes, absolutely. My father-in-law, for example, has a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard. I have a very difficult time with the notion that some guy who knows a great deal about social rules and processes is called a scientist with the same deference.

It’s not even a question of being in the same league. It’s a matter of not even talking about the same sport. But if it makes you feel any better, I’m not exactly comfortable with the term “military science” either.

11:23 PM  

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