Not Going Off the Rail

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47 Responses

  1. Moishe Potemkin says:

    If you are interested in the truth, why on earth would you conflate people like Rush Limbaugh with the “far right” responsible for “our painful history”?

    Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer whose personal life and political criticisms are often unimpressive. But putting him – and far worse, people who are legitimately concerned about the country’s long-term financial picture – with people that have actually harmed the Jewish people is not only unfair, it’s untruthful.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    1. James Baker, not Howard Baker, was a problem for Jews.

    2. “Far Right” is a very poor descriptor these days, because of the serious differences among those said to be in that category. These include marked differences in attitudes toward Jews and Israel. The most extreme opposition to Israel within the current US government comes from the radical socialist left.

    3. There seems to be a move to relax the “powerful sanctions” on Iran, now that a smooth talker has replaced Ahmadinejad. Does Marvin Schick deny that such a move has real support within Obama’s circle? Does Marvin Schick also deny the rough, insulting treatment Obama has frequently aimed at Netanyahu?

  3. shaya says:

    If Shlomo haMelech wrote Koheles today, I am certain that political ideology and partisanship would be among the top of his list of the vanities of vanities.

    People who understand the importance of good middos — refraining from arrogance and anger, not hating one’s brother in one’s heart, judging others favorably, learning from everyone — somehow throw this all out of the window when politics are involved.

    Modern American political partisanship turns everyone into an angry, arrogant know-it-all who looks down on everyone else who thinks differently, from our family members and neighbors to our political leaders. Rachmana litzan.

    Instead, people should look at politics with a good measure of critical distance and humility. Make careful, even-handed judgements about voting and contributions and one’s public statements, based on good evidence, values and logic. If you can’t do that, it’s better not to have an opinion at all.

    Even better, promote a different political culture, based on reasoned, civil discourse and consensus-building in the task of practical problem-solving. Other countries are much more like this, and less partisan and acrimonious.

    The chillul Hashem factor is also important to consider. According to the Pew survey, around 2/3rd of Orthodox Jews are Republicans, while this is reversed among the non-Orthodox. Playing down politics as an important part of our identity — especially extreme right-wing opinions — in daily discourse can only help in making the non-Orthodox more respectful of and comfortable with Orthodoxy.

    Think about this: if you were a liberal Jew and saw Orthodox Jews who came off as extreme right-wing loudmouths, wouldn’t you conclude that they chose to remain or become Orthodox, not for defensible rational or spiritual or principled reasons, but because of knee-jerk reactions to the egalitarianism or theological liberalism of heterodoxy? In short, we need to take utmost care to be seen as reasonable, fair-minded people with good judgment and character — regardless of how little this is valued in the current attention-obsessed culture of political commentators.

  4. cvmay says:

    “Just the same, it is necessary to speak up, to insist that we be truthful”.

    This mantra of honesty, accuracy and integrity is a must in ALL aspects of Jewish life. No more “rewriting” of history, no more “changing words or deleting words of Rabbanim” that are not political or charadei correct, no more “changing events to fit an agenda”…

  5. Reb Yid says:

    To say nothing about all of the canards about “Socialist” or “Communist” Obama.

    The stock market would say otherwise, especially compared to his laissez faire predecessor.

  6. DF says:

    Everyobody agrees with the conclusion of this post. The problem is, the rest of it is identical with numerous left-oriented publications, all striving to convince Jews that Obama is not as opposed to Israel as everyone thinks, and that President Bush was not as quite the friend to Israel as they thought. Doesnt the Shakesperian “protesteth too much” come shining through here? Do such publications – and Dr. Shick – think we’re all fools, taken in by a sinister GOP lobby? Are they smarter than Israelis themselves, who overwhelmingly favor Bush over Obama?

    I personally think comparisons between one adminstration to another are pointless, as obviously no 2-term president will be perfect, and partisans can cherry-pick what they will. But since Dr. Shick mentions it, let’s recall that Bush opposed anti-semitism and anti-Israel ferment from the very beginning of his office, when he pulled out of the Darfur hatefest. He put sanctions on Syria, appointed Bolton, added Al Aksa to the terrorist list by executive order, backed Israel’s building of walls, stopped Hussein’s financial support of terrorists. He used his bully pulpit loudly and often, to speak out in favor of Israel. Quite different than what Marty Peretz – big conservative, he – described as Obama’s “hostile indifference to Israel.” As for Obama’s position on Iran – whatever it is, obviously it hasn’t convinced Netanyahu of anything. And if to compare this president favorably with President Bush Dr. Shick has to cite the FIRST President Bush’s secretary of state as a source of hostility – well, QED.

    Let us criticize the Obama administration when it merits criticsim, praise the Bush adminstration when it deserves praise, and stick to the truth. Indeed.

  7. Facts? says:

    Voting for Reagan and planning on voting for Lhota are not exactly evidence of conservatism or of understanding the conservative viewpoint. After all, what were/are the alternatives? Many Democrats voted for Reagan after the disastrous Carter presidency and de Blasio is a radical leftist. At best, this is evidence of some common sense.

    Apart from this,it is unfair and highly misleading to equate (and nearly conflate) the Bush presidencies, as Dr. Schick suggests. True, Bush Sr. was no friend of Israel and Baker especially was a problem. But G.W. Bush was another story. Picking at one instance regarding China is not fair – looking at the totality of his administration gives a more more accurate, and favorable picture.

    As for Obama’s views on Iran the record is much less favorable than Schick suggests, which is obvious to anyone paying attention. Obama originally opposed much of the toughened sanctions now in place against Iran, only supporting then when it became politically expedient to do so. Of course, he is now actively looking to roll those sanctions back and providing ill-conceived openings to Iran despite warnings from Israel and experts and what a mistake this would be. From the Hill magazine just 2 days ago: “The Obama administration said Monday it’s ready to ‘quickly’ lift sanctions on Iran if the country answers the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program.”

    Does Mr. Schick honestly believe that Iran has seen the errors of its ways?

  8. Raymond says:

    Other than the notorious antisemite himself, namely Jimmy Carter, there has never been a President in American history quite as hostile to Israel as has been Barack Obama. Recall his famous speech calling for Israel to return to its pre-1967 Auschwitz borders. Recall how he did nothing to support the people’s revolt against the anti-Israel Ayatollahs in Iran, yet actively ousted the pro-Israel Hosni Mubarek of Egypt. Recall how he has repeatedly leaked military plans that Israel has been making to finally attack and destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.

    Rather than continue with such a list, however, let me say this. When President Reagan and President Bush were in office, they may have been perfect, even when it came to Israel, but on the other hand, I never had to worry too much about America’s friendship with Israel. But when Jimmy Carter bullied the late, great Menachem Begin into handing over what was then 2/3rds of Israel’s land over to Egypt, and now with Barack Obama’s open antagonism toward Benjamin Netanyahu, I am very worried about the fate of our tiny little Jewish land of Israel. About the only comfort I can feel with such a man as Barack Obama in charge of this nation, is that ultimately, it is G-d who is in control of such matters. For reasons I do not understand, G-d has decided that our nation somehow deserves to be led by such an incompetent, radically-driven disaster of a man.

  9. yankel says:

    Raymond – you have underscored the problem Dr. Shick is trying to eradicate. ‘notorious antisemite’ ‘the anti-Israel ayatollahs’ ‘the late great Menachem Begin’ ‘tiny little Jewish land of Israel’. You are trying to create a picture around every fact to force your beliefs on the reader. Carter may or may not have been good for some parts of Israel’s self image, or the hawkish right-wing Israelis, but his antisemitism is not proven, nor notorious. You may agree with Begin’s policies, but it is irrelevant to Carter’s actions whether he was great or not. The reason for President Obama’s intervention, or lack thereof, into the elections in Iran should not be connected to Israel. That would be playing into the old canard that Jewish lobbies run international policies. There are many more facets at play regarding Iran’s elections. But today’s charedi publications, which you Raymond represent here, refuse to see nuance, ignore any multiple ideas, and insist on guilt by association by association by association etc.
    ירא את ה’ בני ומלך
    calling our leader such radically insulting names is not acceptable according to hilchos derech eretz and Jewish tradition. He represents the country that has given you refuge and he deserves some personal respect for that.

  10. L. Oberstein says:

    To put this in context. I recall an essay by Rav Elchonon Wasserman Zatzal ridiculing those who thought that writing a newspaper editorial against Hitler made a difference. I also just read an article about Stabley Fischer, who gave an interview saying that one thing that he finds very disturbing about Israelis is how much yelling at one another they do. He says that at meetngs they all yell and nobody listens to anyone else. This is no way to run a country. I also watched a “TV” interview with several chareidi politicians on the “internet” and the animosity and yelling is amazing. But, Israel is a little country and after the yelling, we are all Jews and do care about each other. On the other hand, I cannot understand why intelligent people keep aligning themselves with people who shut down the governement and cost the economy 24 billion dollars in a gesture that every experienced politician knew was futile. If, instead of branding :liberals” as evil and President Obama as the incarnation of the devil, we would just deal with reality, we would be a lot better off. No one claims he is a great President, he is an amateur who rose too high too quickly and he has made many errors that a more seasons politician wouldn’t have made. He is not a fundamentalist Christian and thus doesn’t have the same pro apocalypse desire to help Israel that George Bush Jr. had. Some of his best friends are Jews, but not the kind of Jews whom most of you agree with.That is not the issue. I wish we had a normal two party system where the Republicans and Democrats could argue and then go into a smoked filled room and cut a deal. Dr. Schick has years of experience and he knows what he is talking about. Orthodox Jews can support either party and any candidate based on their own ideas and there is no one side that is “the party of G-d”, only the terrorists have that.

  11. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Rabbi Oberstein suggests :”On the other hand, I cannot understand why intelligent people keep aligning themselves with people who shut down the governement and cost the economy 24 billion dollars in a gesture that every experienced politician knew was futile.”

    The answer is simple, and it’s the same reason that he aligns himself with a president he acknowledges is an amateur and error-prone. Given the very limited number of national political options, many intelligent people recognize the looming threats of ever-increasing debt and diminishing freedom that President Obama (with admittedly good, albeit unrealistic, intentions) advocates.

    It would be better, of course, if the Tea Party was more sophisticated in its public relations, and it didn’t have to deal with insincere accusations of racism every time its members explain basic economic theory. But notwithstanding those headwinds, it still represents what many people view as the best of the available options, thus the alignment.

  12. DF says:

    R. Oberstein – I liked your Maor public speaking classes, and was in your home many times, and respect you as a person. But your positions in this forum can be maddening! You conclude with an easily-agreeable platitude that orthodox Jes can support either party, but you undercut that claim by first taking a swipe at people who brand liebrals as evil, and wondering how anyone can possibly support the Tea Party [which you all but name.] Do you simply not realize that you are being just as divisive as the people you are castigating? In essence, you are saying anyone who takes a different position than YOU is stupid – a common claim of the left, and the mirror image of calling the left stupid.

    Dr. Shick did the same thing in his post: conclude with a nice platitude, but not before undermining it by attacking President Bush and praising Obama.

    Bottom line: People are not fools, at least the people on this forum. Everyone has his own reason for voting the way he does. Assuredly no one is going to convince anyone otherwise. We can all THINK to ourselves that the other side are delusional, outdated, racist, myopic, ill-informed, etc etc – and beleive me, we all do! The trick is simply not to SAY it.

  13. Josh says:

    I am in full agreement with Mr. Schick. Although I am very politically conservative myself, the blatant biased rhetoric in frum news sources reflects to me the fact that many of us are closed-minded to other points of view. In the yeshivas I went to and associate with, it is well-known that most people get their news from Rush Limbaugh and the like. While it is true that we agree with him much of the time, we have to remember that the subtleties of the Torah view on life and the world are far more nuanced than anything a non-Torah politician could articulate. For example, our views on social values may seem on the surface to be close to the politically right, in reality they are vastly different. Torah is unique and eternal, and is nothing like any other value system in the world. The danger of the right’s influence is that the nuances and subtleties of our differences with them are just that. Therefore, many are influence to non-Torah ideals that seem to be our own. Our job is to achieve wisdom. To look at all points of you with an objective perspective with Torah at center, and discover what it is that G-d really wants from us to believe and do. Often, this will lead us to the same conclusions as the political right, but we come from a completely different perspective.

  14. Andy says:

    I can’t understand why intelligent, sincere Torah Jews would align with those who, for example, promote same-sex marriage and the gay agenda. If they could force the Boy Scouts to allow openly gay leaders, isn’t it only a matter of time until they try to do the same to the yeshivas?

  15. Bob Miller says:

    Jews are mainly Democrats for a host of cultural/historical reasons. Habits are hard to break even when good reasons try to present themselves. It’s so much easier, even for intelligent people, to accept old (maybe never accurate) caricatures of the “other side”, including the stereotypes we’re brought up with.

  16. C. Kanoiy says:

    In defence of L.Olberstein.

    The Tea Party has acted in a way that is outside the norms of functioning government. In the entire history of the United States the government has never been shut down as a means to revoke a law. Fuirthermore the shutdown achieved none of its goals. So in essence the statement of “On the other hand, I cannot understand why intelligent people keep aligning themselves with people who shut down the governement and cost the economy 24 billion dollars in a gesture that every experienced politician knew was futile.” is quite understandable.

  17. Raymond says:

    Neither the Tea Party nor the Republicans shut down the government. It was the Democrats, led by Barack Obama, who shut it down. The only thing that the Republicans wanted to shut down, is ObamaCare, and with good reason: health care, just like any other commodity, functions most effectively in the private sector. I, for one, feel terrified to leave the condition of my health in the hands of faceless, indifferent government bureaucrats.

    For me at least, the central political issue is always Israel. To the extent that any given politician is pro-Israel, is the extent to which I support them. Closely related that are the great moral issues of our times, such as fighting the evil of islamofascist terrorism, stopping the vast majority of abortions, and reversing the tide of gay marriage. On all these issues I have mentioned here, there is simply no contest as to which side of the political aisle comes closer to our Torah values. It simply cannot be a coincidence that the Christian Right represents the strongest supporters of Israel we have, while secular, Left-wing university campuses have become the hotbeds of antisemitism disguising itself as anti-zionism.

    Nevertheless, I do think that Joshua above has made some valid points, points which I myself must take to heart. For as attractive as political conservatism is, it must always be tempered by the nuances of Torah values, and nothing, not even the modern Jewish State of Israel itself, trumps the Torah in value.

  18. Andy says:

    I mean no disrespect. I’m honestly at a loss to understand how obviously intelligent people can use a $24 billion loss to the economy (assuming this is accurate)as a reason to vote for a party that has given NO indication that it even wants to slow the growth of the $16 trillion we are now in debt; whose massive spending on, for example, education, has landed us at the bottom of industrialized nations; and who demonize anyone who even suggests that we need to cut anything (“Republicans want children to be hungry, because they want to cut government-funded school breakfasts”). This is the epitome of “Penny wise; pound foolish”.

  19. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    “a party that has given no indication that it even wants to slow the growth of the $16 trillion we are now in debt” Is this the Republican Party? After all, the deficit increased 400% in the Reagan-Bush41 years, and doubled again under W. When the Clinton administration ran a surplus, the Republicans demanded tax cuts to eliminate it. When Bush proposed his tax cuts in 2001, Alan Greenspan testified that without the cuts, the deficit would totally disappear, and this would be a bad thing. Or as VP Cheney put it, “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.”

    Which party indeed?

  20. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding Andy’s comment of October 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm:

    The same types who do nothing about the $16+ trillion pulled the $24 billion number out of a hat. Not to mention that the offsetting benefits of a less-active government could have been significant.

  21. Andy says:

    Lawrence,

    There are Republicans who spend irresponsibly (e.g. George W.). But there are also a significant number who want to lower our debt.

    How many Democrats are serious about lowering our debt?

    Do you actually believe that the Democrats as a whole are as serious or more serious than Republicans as a whole about lowering the debt? If you do, there’s no point in arguing further; we might as well be from different planets.

    Just to clean up some half-truths: 1) Reagan’s top priority was to beat the Soviets. In order that the big-spending Democrats in Congress would agree to this (top Democrats villified Reagan for calling the Soviets evil), Reagan had to make deals with them. This is what incresaed the debt. 2) It was the Republicans in Congress who restrained Clinton’s spending, which led to the surplus. 3) The Laffer Curve shows that tax cuts lead to increased tax revenues. 4) Cheney spent his political life voting for less spending; tax cuts to increase business profits and therefore tax revenues; and fiscal responsibility. You don’t think it’s fair to pull out one quote (probably out of context) to try to make him look irresponsible, do you?

  22. Bob Miller says:

    Clearly, both parties have been complicit in increasing the national debt, but can anyone deny that the rate of increase from 2009 on has been way higher than before? Or that the measures which inflated the debt from 2009 on manifestly failed to achieve their stated purposes?

  23. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Is this the Republican Party?

    It’s both, really. The fact that power corrupts, and the ongoing demonstration of governmental incompetence that is healthcare.gov (among many other examples), argue for less governmental power. There’s little political support for enduring the short-term inconveniences that are often absolutely necessary for long-term well-being.

    There’s no real evidence that Republican politicians are better people than their Democratic counterparts, who are often motivated by very real problems (which their proffered solutions often exacerbate). To the (regrettably limited) extent that Republicans support less government, their ideas pose less risk.

    But Mr. (Dr.?) Reisman is certainly correct when he recalls the Republicans’ historical profligacy.

  24. Andy says:

    Lawrence,

    There are Republicans who spend irresponsibly (e.g. George W.). But there are also many who consistently vote against new spending bills. ALL voted against ObamaCare, in part because it will undoubtedly increase spending.

    Did any Democrats vote against Obama-Reid-Pelosi on any of their new spending bills? If so, I didn’t hear about it; couldn’t be too many.

    It is therefore more likely that a Republican government would lower our debt, than a Democrat government would.If you don’t believe this, then there’s no point in going further. We don’t have enough common agreement on basic facts to even be able to argue.

    Just to clean up some half-truths: 1) Reagan’s top priority was to beat the Soviets. So that the big-spending Democrats in Congress would agree to this (top Democrats villified Reagan for calling the Soviets evil), Reagan had to make deals with them. This is what increased the debt. 2) It was the Republicans in Congress who restrained Clinton’s spending, which led to the surplus. 3) The Laffer Curve makes a very good argumant that, in many situations, tax cuts lead to increased tax revenues. 4) Cheney spent his political life voting for less spending; tax cuts to increase business profits and therefore tax revenues; and fiscal responsibility. You don’t think it’s fair to pull out one quote (probably out of context) to try to make him look irresponsible, do you?

  25. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Andy: You are right. We could be from different planets. Your idea of what constitutes facts and mine totally diverge.

  26. Raymond says:

    Speaking of making deals, let’s make a deal here. We should not vote for candidates based on whether they call themselves Democrats or Republicans, but rather we should vote for each individual candidate based on the extent to which they are pro-Israel, for lower taxes, for smaller government, for far fewer abortions, for fighting the evil of islamofascist terrorism, and oppose gay marriage. If we used such standards as our criteria, which political party would we be voting for in the overwhelming majority of cases? The answer should be obvious.

  27. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Andy: Allow me to explain just far apart we are on what constitutes facts. 1 – Reagan ran in 1980 promising to increase defense spending, cut taxes, not cut social spending, and reduce the deficit all in one. George H. W. Bush, running against him in the primaries, called this “voodoo economics.” For the first six years of his administration, Reagan had a Republican majority in the Senate, and for most of this period he had a working majority of Republicans and conservative Democrats in the House. He didn’t need to make too many deals. 2 – Yes, the Republicans restrained spending under Clinton, but rather than pay down the deficit, they called for tax cuts to make it disappear. 3 – The validity of the Laffer curve at our low marginal tax rates is rather questionable, and since 1980, not one reduction in taxes has come close to recouping the lost revenues it caused. That has been actual experience. 4 – After the midterm elections, Bush and Cheney pushed for further tax cuts, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill warned that the government was moving towards a fiscal crisis and that rising deficits could impair the functioning of the government. At that point, Cheney cut him and said “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.” Was this taken out of context?

  28. Andy says:

    Lawrence,

    Sorry, I meant for the moderator to publish my second comment, and not publish the first (which refers to “different planets”.)

    Your comment just added more half-truths (and at least one complete inaccuracy). Undoubtedly, you say the same about my comments.

    Instead of going on and on with this, let’s get to the bottom line: as things stand *right now*, which party is more likely to lower the debt?

    You cite the words and actions of Republicans, and apparently believe it’s a toss-up (correct me if I’m wrong). I say that despite this, there are a significant number of Republicans who want to lower the debt, and that there are not a significant number of Democrats who want to lower the debt. Voting records of Democrats and Republicans on new spending for the last few years makes this a fact beyond any doubt. Therefore the Republicans are more likely to lower the debt.

    Alternatively, maybe our argument is that you say the main way to lower debt is through tax increases; and I say the way to lower debt is through cutting spending, and stimulating the economy by letting more people spend or invest their money, leading to new jobs, more taxpayers, and more tax revenues.

    Does either one of these summarize our disagreement?

  29. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Andy: You accuse me of at least “one complete inaccuracy.” Pray tell, what is that?

  30. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Andy: Actually, my truths are your half-truths and falsehoods, and vice versa. That’s why we could be on different planets; your first posting was on the mark. And quite frankly, I do believe that it is a tossup as to who would lower the debt. As to our disagreement, you do not summarize it at all. I sincerely believe that the the geshrei the Republicans are making about the deficit is nothing but a cover for a more important agenda, namely to dismantle the social safety net, to get the government out of the business of helping people, and dismantling any and all programs that might ameliorate income inequality. I, on the other hand, believe that there is a place for government to do good, help people, and equal the playing field for everyone. And that, quite frankly, is the root of our disagreement. Everything else is rhetoric; it does not even rise to the level of commentary.

  31. Andy says:

    No, your summary is also insufficient; there is one more major point of disagreement.

    I say that if we stay on our current debt trajectory (which the Republicans *maybe* will do nothing to stop, but the Democrats *certainly* will do nothing to stop), we will eventually reach a point where no one trusts that we will re-pay our debts, no one values the green paper we keep pumping out of our mints in the trillions, and therefore they refuse to lend us money.

    And people won’t want to work for the Government in return for this green paper, which is no longer valued enough to be used buy what their families need—including soldiers and policemen, as well as social workers.

    And then, my friend, we are ALL in great trouble. When the Titanic went down, people of all classes died.

    I offer as evidence: the Soviet Union, Cuba, Spain, Greece, Detroit….

    I assume you disagree with this assessment.

  32. Bob Miller says:

    A lot of what passes for government help to citizens actually creates multi-generational dependency. It sometimes does this by design to create dependency on specific politicians and parties. Not all worthy sentiments expressed (and many are smokescreens for the opposite) have translated into worthy policies. It would be better if the political debate focused on the positive, proven accomplishments, if any, of various approaches rather than expressed sentiments.

  33. Observer says:

    Lawrence – you sincerely believe, as you state, that the Republican concern for the deficit is but a cover for what you say is their real agenda of getting out of the nanny state, whilst you think there is a place for government to do good. This, you say, is the root of your disagreement with Andy. One problem. He’s talking facts, you’re talking fantasy. You’ve juxtaposed your views with what you “sincerely believe” are the GOPs views. Why not actually take them at their word? You know people say the same thing about democrats? That their talk about “equality” is nothing but a cover for their more important agenda, namely, the emasculation of America, communism, and atheism? (And in each party there are those who state these views explicitly.)

  34. Andy says:

    Lawrence,

    Forgive me, I don’t often have a chance to exchange ideas with a sincere, intelligent Torah-true Jew with your political views:

    Torah Jews are obligated to provide necessities to poor people, preferably through facilitating their employment. And we are obligated to pursue justice.

    But does your insistence on “ameliorat[ing] income inequality” and
    “equal[izing] the playing field for everyone” have a source in the Torah? Or does it have a different source?

  35. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Observer: Your comment that Andy is talking facts while I am talking fantasy just proves my point. We are on different planets, and we are dealing with an entirely different set of “facts.”

    Andy: I had previously asked you to provide one example of a “complete inaccuracy” that you claim I posted. I am still waiting. While we are talking about Torah sources, I would like to cite the recent agricultural appropriations bill passed by the House. It cut food stamp funds by 20%, but increased farm subsidies to agribusiness, a wealth component of our economy which doesn’t need the subsidy. I will not debate the wisdom of cutting food stamps; I realize we will just have to agree to disagree. But raising agribusiness subsidies, that increases spending, increases the budget deficit, and goes against everything the Republicans claim they are for. So what’s the Torah source for that?

    Also, you might want to read the Simpson Bowles report and an eloquent Alan Greenspan article predicting that if major steps to cut the deficit were not taken, we’d be in severe financial crisis withing 2 years, all the awful things you raise in your post. The Simpson Bowles report came out in 2009, and Greenspan’s article in 2010. More than 2 years have passed, and the end is no nearer.

  36. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Observer: Why not take Republicans at their word? Maybe I do. So far, the Republicans haven’t come up with one solid idea as to how to reduce the deficit. Paul Ryan, the supposed financial guru of the party, says he will cut waste and unnecessary programs, but can’t identify which ones he wants to cut, while he calls for lowering the top income tax rate to 25% (which will lower revenues not raise them). I took the Republicans at their word when they said nothing about the deficit from 2001-2008, except possibly to echo Alan Greenspan’s 2001 comments that eliminating the deficit would be a disaster and therefore taxes should be cut. I take them at their word when Dick Cheney said to Paul O’Neill and Alan Greenspan in 2003 “Reagan taught us deficits don’t count.” I take them at their word when in the late 1990s, they argued to cut taxes so that the surplus would disappear and the deficit wouldn’t be paid down. And by the way, supply side economics has proven wrong since the 1980s. Reagan pushed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 through a Republican Senate and Republican-Conservative Democrat House,. It lowered tax rates and tax revenues, and increased economic activity did nothing to replace the lost revenues. By 1982, Congress had to raise taxes again with the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which Reagan signed under protest. In 1986, Reagan agreed to “tax reform’ only if it didn’t raise additional revenues and cut the deficit. And by the way, if you look at the legislative history of the 1986 act, Congress fully understood that the top 28% tax rate would have to go up in the future, which of course it did. (The 1986 act was the work of a Republican Senate and a House with a Republican-Conservative Democrat working majority).

    For the record, I voted for Reagan in 1984 and Bush41 in 1988. I went back to the Democratic party in 1992 precisely because the Republican party was not serious about dealing with the deficit. They’re still not.

    Also, please remember a little bit of what Keynes really said. There is nothing sacred about a calendar year. It is saner to try and balance a budget over a business cycle, running a surplus when the economy is good and running a deficit when it is bad. In that situation, government spending in a downturn stimulates the economy, while a surplus in good times acts as a damper on overheating. Today’s Republicans are saying they want to run deficits in the good times and cut programs in bad.

  37. Andy says:

    Lawrence,

    “For the first six years of his administration, Reagan had a Republican majority in the Senate, and for most of this period he had a working majority of Republicans and conservative Democrats in the House. He didn’t need to make too many deals.”

    Your implication that Reagan had smooth sailing, and generally got what he wanted, is completely inaccurate. He had some blue-dog Democrats, but also some RINO Republicans to deal with in Congress. There was constant fighting, name-calling, and negotiating; neither side got what they wanted. This is not only my memory of the period, it’s in history books I’ve read.

    Now, if you have the time, please directly address my question about equality.

  38. Andy says:

    Lawrence,

    As you’re well aware, I could spend all day citing counter-examples of Democrats as well engaging in pork-barreling, of Democrats as well making dire predictions that didn’t come true in the time frame predicted, of Democrats as well not quite living up to their own stated ideals, of Democrats making knowing, pre-meditated, bald-faced lies(“If you like your health insurance, you can keep it”), etc. ad nauseum.

    I think it would be more productive to pin-point precisely where we disagree philosophically, and and call it a day. Agreed?

  39. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    “Your implication that Reagan had smooth sailing, and generally got what he wanted, is completely inaccurate. He had some blue-dog Democrats, but also some RINO Republicans to deal with in Congress. There was constant fighting, name-calling, and negotiating; neither side got what they wanted. This is not only my memory of the period, it’s in history books I’ve read.”

    Completely inaccurate? Not according to my memory. And by the way, there was very little fighting when it came to Reagan’s pet tax legislation. What he wanted, he usually got. The 1981 ERTA and the the 1983 Social Security Amendments Acts are perfect examples of where Reagan got close to 100% of what he asked for. The 1982 act was an exception. The 1986 act had Reagan’s imprint on it all the way.

    Our memories diverge, and so do the facts.

    And as far as I’m concerned, I have pinpointed where we disagree philosophically. As for the deficit, I would only ask if you felt this strongly while we were under Republican administrations.

    As for reducing income inequality and the unequal accumulation of wealth, I would point to “Justice you shall pursue.” I could also point to pikuach nefesh as a society. History has shown that those societies that go to extremes with the inequality of income and wealth decline and disintegrate. Renaissance Venice, pre-revolution France, and 18th and 19th century Latin America come to mind.

  40. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    And by the way the statement, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it” is not exactly a bald-faced lie, since it’s been proven true with about 80-90% of all existing policies. As for the rest, the problem could be fixed with a technical corrections act, something that has followed virtually every major government program to iron out glitches that couldn’t be seen beforehand. In fact, bills to grandfather existing policies have been introduced in both houses. However, given the Republican Party’s preference to kill Obamacare entirely rather han give it any chance of working, I’m not optimistic. But you never know; this could be the exception.

  41. Andy says:

    Ok, so you believe that even though millions, maybe tens of millions of people had their policies cancelled, and even though this was clearly codified in the ObamaCare legislation beforehand, it’s not a bald-faced lie because of the 90% (assume true for the sake of argument)that kept their policies.

    Based on this, I leave it to the reader to decide which of our philosophies led its adherent to half-truths and moral confusion on political issues.

    And I *mean* political issues. Lawrence, you could very well be a much better Jew and human being than I am. I have no doubt that your intentions are good. But, again, I write the above only as regards political issues.

  42. Andy says:

    Lawrence: “As for reducing income inequality and the unequal accumulation of wealth, I would point to ‘Justice you shall pursue.’ ”

    Tzedek tzedek tirdof means you can’t play favorites in enforcing the law based on someone being rich or poor. And the mitzvah of “tzedakah” means providing necessities, especially jobs, to the poor. As far as I know, neither one of these has anything to do with making people income-equal.

    Please provide a source which interprets “Justice shall you pursue”, or any other mitzvah, as requiring us to make people equal when it comes to income.

    Lawrence: “I could also point to pikuach nefesh as a society. History has shown that those societies that go to extremes with the inequality of income and wealth decline and disintegrate. Renaissance Venice, pre-revolution France, and 18th and 19th century Latin America come to mind.”

    Every society since the beginning of time has had extreme inequality of income. The difference in societies is only in the extent the poor were given equality before the law, and were helped with necessities when they couldn’t help themselves. Or, the extent to which the poor were oppressed.

    But every society whose government tried to force income equality on its citizens has been a disaster directly because of this. The lucky ones had others to bail them out, so they only suffered financial disaster—the Israeli kibbutzim, Detroit, Spain, Greece, etc. The unlucky ones additionally suffered horrific mass murder and oppression—the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Revolutionary France, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Cuba.

    Certainly, US government funding should be used for people who can’t obtain their necessities in any other way. But this insistence on income equality—THAT is what must be avoided due to pikuach nefesh, if we look at history.

  43. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Andy: I never said I was for absolute income equality. I am for programs that ameliorate income equality and the accumulation of wealth. Extreme accumulation of wealth has been recognized as destructive to democracy, even if you don’t see it. Andrew Carnegie, not exactly a raging socialist, argued against the undue accumulation of wealth when he testified in Congress back in 1912 in favor of the federal estate tax. In our time Warren Buffet has also come out in favor of the estate tax for the same reason.

  44. Andy says:

    It’s interesting that Bill Gates–great capitalist, but not by any stretch a conservative–and his billionnaires charity club are not, as far as I know, giving away the bulk of their money to governments. They are investigating needs and expending their great portions of their wealth where THEY think it will do the most good.

    I think they’ve discovered what Carnegie would have had he lived long enough: that big governments–both Democrat and Republican–are notoriously wasteful and prone to corruption and fraud.

    But this is beside the point. If we taxed all billionaires and millionaires 95% of their income, and even 95% of their assets, it would still be a drop in the bucket compared to the $16 trillion, and many more trillions in government-mandated spending, that we owe or will soon owe.

    Our only hope is to cut spending, cut taxes, and hope that this stimulates economic growth that leads to more investment, more employment, and more tax revenue.

    You don’t see this?

  45. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Andy: After all this, you can say “Our only hope is to cut spending, cut taxes, and hope that this stimulates economic growth that leads to more investment, more employment, and more tax revenue.” And then ask me, “You don’t see this?”

    I will give you credit for not giving up hope. But if you haven’t figured out by now that I don’t see things the way you do, then you get no credit for listening to what I’m saying.

  46. Andy says:

    How would you go about reducing our debt?

  47. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    How would I go about reducing our debt? In a manner that you would consider destructive to society. We’re just not going anywhere with this discussion; our perception of facts is so different that we cannot maintain a common ground for discussion.

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