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Levy's Dreams

Rereading Jacob Levy's case against Bush I'm a bit puzzled by his political ideals:

I dislike Kerry. I've disliked him for fifteen years; in New Hampshire we had plenty enough exposure to him to leave me sick of him a long time ago. And, man oh man would I prefer to be supporting a pro-Social Security privatization, pro-voucher, pro-tax cut incumbent president who was serious about fighting the war on terrorism and democratizing the Middle East and who might appoint Supreme Court justices who would enforce a strict reading of the Commerce Clause. Even support for the Federal Marriage Amendment wouldn't outweigh all of that, since the President doesn't play a direct role in amending the Constitution and anyway I feel sure that the FMA will never pass.
Now as Levy recognizes, current federal revenues fall short of current expenditures by a significant margin. Levy expresses concern about this fact elsewhere in his post. None of these Levy-favored initiatives would seem to imply cuts in federal expenditures. Indeed, it seems that getting "serious about fighting the war on terrorism and democratizing the Middle East" would require increased expenditures. Social Security privatization, too, would increase federal expenditures in the short-term until our current retirees are dead. Vouchers would not, strictly speaking, entail a spending increase, but federal leverage over education policy derives entirely from the exercise of the spending power, so for the federal government to push the country toward vouchers in a substantial way would, again, require it to spend more money. So how, in the context of all this new spending, are we supposed to get a president who's also pro-tax cut? Agricultural subsidies play almost as large a role in my personal demonology as they do in Levy's, but they simply aren't a huge portion of federal expenditures. One could, I suppose, achieve the Levy agenda by simply eliminating (not privatizing, eliminating) Medicare altogether, but that doesn't seem pragmatically achievable, and if one really thinks old people should just die when they get sick, one ought to say so clearly.

July 1, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Too many Republicans live in fantasy land, it's sad to say.

--Kynn

Posted by: Kynn Bartlett | Jul 1, 2004 9:51:01 PM

Return to the days of a narrow Commerce Clause interpretation. Well, as I remember, that would involve revoking child-labor laws and all union protection. The minimum-wage law. The FBI? Who knows how much money we could save.

Fantasy my eye. Think of the booming economy we could have with ten-yr-olds working 16 hour days at 1 dollar per hour. Who ever said libertarians had no heart?

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 1, 2004 10:00:50 PM

Bob is right. Returning to a strict reading of the commerce clause would substantially reduce federal spending so that taxes and deficits could be cut together. The odd thing is that returning to a strict reading of the commerce clause could make federal education vouchers and social security (whether privatized or not)unconstitutional.

BTW, I do say clearly and openly that "old people should just die when they get sick," but I'll clarify that further into an even more easily demonized statement. Poor old people should just die when they get sick. Old people wealthy enough to afford medical care should get it.

Posted by: Xavier | Jul 1, 2004 10:22:20 PM

I don't read Levy enough to be entirely familiar with his views, but perhaps in addition to supporting the intitiatives you cite, he favors means-testing Medicare/Social Security. Serious means-testing coupled with complete elimination of farm subsidies could surely raise, say, $100 billion.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Jul 1, 2004 10:26:46 PM

Note to Goopers:

If social security is ever even partially privatized, it will be during a Democratic administration (in much the same way that it took a Republican to go to China, and a Democrat to cut welfare). Social security belongs to the Democratic Party. If it ever changes it will be because the electorate has given a Democrat the mandate to do so.

Also, school vouchers will never happen in the way you people want them to happen, which is to say without extensive government oversight. We saw what happened in Milwaukee when voucher schools were unregulated - kids sat around on their asses all day long while the founders of the school collected piles of money from the state. We may or may not ultimately see a voucher system nationally, but it will like the Dutch system, in which every last school is subject to intense government scrutiny and oversight.

Posted by: Snarkasaurus Rex | Jul 1, 2004 10:44:10 PM

Well, Xavier, kudos to you. An honest Republican. No heart, no humanity, but at least honest.

Posted by: Dr. Pedant | Jul 1, 2004 11:11:40 PM

Wouldn't eliminating agricultural subsidies improve the economy of countries which can't compete w/ us, thereby improving our relations w/ them (if only slightly)?

Posted by: Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu | Jul 1, 2004 11:21:16 PM

Y'know, I'd rather have Levy abstain than have him add just a little stain to Kerry with his vote. That quotation makes him sound as if he'd just rather hole up in a New Hampshire militia compound.

Posted by: nick | Jul 1, 2004 11:45:56 PM

P.B. Almeida:

"Serious means-testing coupled with complete elimination of farm subsidies could surely raise, say, $100 billion."

Could it? Crunch the numbers, and show us how severe the means-testing would have to be to raise $100 billion (or, at least, the difference between farm subsidies and $100 billion).

And since this is supposed to be a serious proposal, realistically, how are you going to get rid of farm subsidies, anyway?

And then show us that $100 billion would be enough for Levy's laundry list of spending increases. It seems to me that getting "serious about fighting the war on terrorism and democratizing the Middle East" alone would likely require far more than an additional $100 billion, given the money pit Iraq has already become.

Is there even one single solitary fiscal conservative with a serious, realistic proposal for eliminating the deficit through spending cuts?


Posted by: Don P | Jul 1, 2004 11:50:00 PM

Don P: The big two programs spend somewhere in the vicinity of $800 billion annually. Cutting these programs by 11% (targeting the upper middle classes and rich) would yield $85 billion. I think eliminating farm subsidies would get us the rest, for a total of $100 billion. I personally wouldn't deal with the deficit entirely via spending cuts, but would raise taxes (focusing as much as possible on gasoline, tobacco, and alcohol) by a similar amount, to perhaps get us to a total in the $150-$175 billion range. That would leave us with very manageable deficits, and enable us to return to surplus relatively quickly with a few years of continued economic growth and fiscal restraint. I have no idea of the price tag of Levy's desired programs and can't say how much longer it would take to get to surplus if a percentage of the gains I've outlined were funnelled toward spending increases. I'm well aware the votes don't exist for the measures I favor, and I'm equally certain the votes don't exist for $400 billion in tax increases. More red ink is likely in store for our descendants.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Jul 2, 2004 12:34:29 AM

He's a fantasist, who doesn't even realize the impact of his ideas.

Privitizing social security would change it from old age insurance to a pension plan. People who say this stuff have never really thought it through. When they do, they quickly realize the pernicious effects of this rather silly idea.

Posted by: steve_gilliard | Jul 2, 2004 12:37:12 AM

My original post wasn't quite correct. Rolling back the commerce clause alone wouldn't prevent social security or school vouchers. The spending power is distinct from the commerce clause, but I assume Levy was talking about rolling back all federal powers to their pre-New Deal state.

It's a small point and it doesn't really matter, but I had this horrible image in my head of my con law professor reading my post and looking very disappointed. I just had to correct it.

Posted by: Xavier | Jul 2, 2004 12:52:34 AM

Xavier: BTW, I do say clearly and openly that "old people should just die when they get sick," but I'll clarify that further into an even more easily demonized statement. Poor old people should just die when they get sick. Old people wealthy enough to afford medical care should get

I'm glad you state it clearly. Now I know that when I'm old, if I'm poor and get sick I should just put my last bits of savings into insanely powerful firearms, and how to put them to use. You do unconditionally support the 2nd amendment, don't you?

Posted by: Satan luvvs Repugs | Jul 2, 2004 3:18:45 AM

I'm not a fan of Kerry, but linking to one of the Volokh conspirators? I mean, give it up. They are useless.

Posted by: raj | Jul 2, 2004 8:15:06 AM

By the way, this "Levy" character strikes me as being a typical piece of crap. He'd support someone who would bash a few fags just to get what he wants. Who would he support next? Someone who would gas a few Jews?

Levy is a horse's ass.

Posted by: raj | Jul 2, 2004 8:32:56 AM

"Poor old people should just die when they get sick. Old people wealthy enough to afford medical care should get it."

Sounds swell, but if you start saying this out loud, the commies will come to power and send you to the GULAG. So, for your own sake, better keep this one to yourself and instead chat about god, homosexuals and family values.

Posted by: abb1 | Jul 2, 2004 9:00:10 AM

Plus if Xavier ever loses his fortune like all those folks back in the Great Depression, can we safely assume that he'll jump or blow his brains out with one of his Sacred Guns rather than burden the state and those of his former comrades who are still lucky enough to be rich? It would be hypocritical of him to take unemployment or make use of public health systems.

Posted by: bellatrys | Jul 2, 2004 9:54:31 AM

Xavier, you're a classic Meocrat - but are you hypocritical enough to call yourself a Christian too? I'm trying to sort out how much of an overlap between Meocrats and Theocrats there is - a lot of Theocrats seem to be Meocrats in denial, but pure atheistic/materialistic Randy Objectivists are at least honest and not hypocrites to boot.

Posted by: bellatrys | Jul 2, 2004 9:55:34 AM

Nice catch, Matt.

Who are the bigger fantasists, anarchocapitalists or anarchonaderites?

"Poor old people should just die when they get sick. Old people wealthy enough to afford medical care should get it."

Nah, let's be egalitarian an implement the Logan's Run solution in which all people are euthanized once they reach a certain age. We can be generous and set the age to twice the movie limit -- 60. Carousel!

Posted by: Bragan | Jul 2, 2004 10:12:44 AM

I concur in letting old people die so long as we also all agree to stop all government funding of diseases that tend to strike the elderly -- cancer, arthritis, alzheimers, heart disease, and so on. Just think the poor should be able to save their tax $ to have a fighting chance to get what care they can (or waste it otherwise having a better time on earth than paying to subsidize the long-livedness of the wealthy).

Posted by: Barbara | Jul 2, 2004 1:02:47 PM

P.B. Almeida:

"Don P: The big two programs spend somewhere in the vicinity of $800 billion annually. Cutting these programs by 11% (targeting the upper middle classes and rich) would yield $85 billion."

I assume "the big two programs" means Social Security and Medicare. You say your aggregate proposed cut would be around 11%, but since it's apparently targetted to a small subset of beneficiaries, the cut in their benefits would obviously be much greater than 11%. So again, what would it actually look like? What Medicare benefits would these people lose? How much would their monthly Social Security checks go down? How much retirement income from other sources would a SS beneficiary be able to receive before his SS benefits were cut? Crunch the numbers. Aggregate percentages aren't very meaningful as an illustration of the real-world impact of your proposed cuts on people's lives.

And even if you could get $100 billion from SS and Medicare, you haven't explained why that would be enough to fund Levy's proposed spending increases. As Matthew pointed out, SS privatization alone would require decades of increased spending until current retirees die in order to keep the system solvent.

"I personally wouldn't deal with the deficit entirely via spending cuts, but would raise taxes (focusing as much as possible on gasoline, tobacco, and alcohol) by a similar amount, to perhaps get us to a total in the $150-$175 billion range."

How much would taxes on gasoline, tobacco and alcohol need to raised to generate that kind of additional revenue? Are we talking about a $3 gallon of gas or a $5 gallon? A $5 pack of cigarettes or a $10 one? Details matter. What are they?

"That would leave us with very manageable deficits, and enable us to return to surplus relatively quickly with a few years of continued economic growth and fiscal restraint."

Again, how have you made this determination? Even an addition $150-$175 billion would still leave us with a huge deficit. You suggest, on a wing and a prayer, that economic growth (and your additional, unspecified "fiscal restraint") could eliminate this, but how have you verified that? What rate of sustained economic growth are we talking about? How long would it need to last? What happens when the next recession occurs?

Posted by: Don P | Jul 2, 2004 1:30:24 PM

Who cares what the reasoning is? All we need is Drezner to officially switch and we can hang a nice big "Kerry '04" banner on the Political Science/International Relations building. It's almost like seeing the record numbers of defectors from the Soviet Union in the years before the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

Posted by: Maureen | Jul 2, 2004 2:00:00 PM

"Xavier, you're a classic Meocrat - but are you hypocritical enough to call yourself a Christian too? I'm trying to sort out how much of an overlap between Meocrats and Theocrats there is - a lot of Theocrats seem to be Meocrats in denial, but pure atheistic/materialistic Randy Objectivists are at least honest and not hypocrites to boot."

No, I'm an atheist.

Posted by: Xavier | Jul 2, 2004 4:49:23 PM

I'm partial to the Dave Barry explanation of supply-side economics (from memory: I don't have Dave Barry Slept Here on hand).

"Ronald Reagan contended that we could INCREASE military spending while CUTTING taxes and REDUCING the deficit by sacrificing a LIVE chicken to a FULL moon. George Bush claimed that this was "Voodoo economics." Afterwords, however, he apologized and explained that he meant "doodoo economics," and, satisfied, Reagan made him his running mate."

Posted by: Julian Elson | Jul 2, 2004 5:57:29 PM

Implement the Reagan memorial budget plan: Zero out the Department of Education. That's 63 billion right there, and there is no reading of the commerce clause that can get education into a federal mandate. Let the individual states educate their own kids. I'm sure most of what the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Energy do have no place in a Federal budget, either. Means test SS and Medicare (or better yet, transition it to state control and finance over, say, 40 years - if states want to work together to solve the interstate transfer problems, by all means help), return welfare funding entirely to the states, and you are up around 200 billion per year to start.

Do this from the perspective of a strict constructionist, and it is pretty easy.

Posted by: rvman | Jul 3, 2004 12:33:25 AM

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