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January 07, 2004

RHETORIC vs. REALITY....I had lunch with Pandagon co-blogger Ezra Klein a few days ago — he's a fellow Irvinite when he's not studying amongst the redwoods up at UC Santa Cruz — and I mentioned something that's been noodling in my head for a few weeks: we liberals may be feeling pretty beat up lately, but if you listen closely it's pretty clear that we've decisively won virtually the entire public debate with conservatives. The right wing likes to talk a lot of smack about how the country is going their way, but it's really not true even after 20 years of the Reagan/Gingrich/Bush revolution.

To see what I mean, consider the conservative agenda as represented by major Bush administration initiatives. They want to make life less dangerous for big corporations by pushing tort reform and whittling away at environmental standards. They want to promote vouchers and private schools by implementing absurd standards for public schools in the No Child Left Behind Act. They want to reduce and privatize Medicare and Social Security. They invaded Iraq in order to install a friendlier government and give us a base of power in the center of the Middle East.

But that's not what they say. What they say is that tort reform is designed to minimize frivolous lawsuits (though capping payments patently does nothing of the kind). The "Clean Air" and "Healthy Forests" initiatives strengthen our commitment to cleaning up the environment. NCLB will make our public schools better and more accountable. Their Medicare and Social Security proposals are designed to strengthen the system, not scale it back. The Iraq war was for humanitarian reasons — and we're going to get out as soon as we can.

To hear George Bush talk, you'd almost think you were listening to the reincarnation of FDR, and the fact that he says this stuff is a tacit admission that talking about conservative goals openly and honestly would be an electoral disaster. Most people want cleaner air and water, they want strong public schools, they like Social Security and Medicare, and even after 9/11 they don't want long wars or messy occupations.

What's more, on a variety of social issues conservatives have either made no real progress — abortion and gun control, for example — or actually lost ground — gay rights and drug laws.

Off the top of my head, the two biggest exceptions to this are race, where conservatives genuinely seem to have increased support for their positions, and taxes, which they've succeeded in making practically taboo. (Wes Clark suggests raising taxes on millionaires to a bit more than half of what it was when Ronald Reagan took office and it's tantamount to Stalinism.) Still, even here time is not on their side: eventually voters are going to have to choose between higher taxes and cutting back on Social Security and Medicare, and there's little doubt that when the crunch comes it's not going to be the entitlement programs that suffer.

When liberals talk about their goals they talk about what they really want. When George Bush talks, he hides his goals behind surprisingly liberal rhetoric. What does that say about which direction the country is really going? And how long do you think conservatives can keep it up before their carefully erected facade disintegrates?

POSTSCRIPT: Ezra has similar thoughts here and here.

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 7, 2004 06:28 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Honestly, I think the worst of both sides have won out: Liberals have convinced everybody that the government is supposed to take care of them but conservatives have convinced them that they shouldn't have to pay for it.

Posted by: James Joyner at January 7, 2004 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, are you saying that people want both lots of services and low taxes? I think you're on to something!

Posted by: Kevin Drum at January 7, 2004 06:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ha.

You "liberals" act as though you want to better humanity, when (to paraphrase the great Glenn Reynolds) you're actively pro-death. Not only content with murdering as many babies as possible, you also try to force faggotry upon everyone so as to thin out the survivors. And then all this talk about saving spotted owls or caribou, "saving" America, when you really want to destroy it.

Whose rhetoric is really dishonest, my friends?

Posted by: Mr. Blue Babies at January 7, 2004 06:41 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, that should have read "objectively pro-death."

Posted by: Mr. Blue Babies at January 7, 2004 06:43 PM | PERMALINK

Is your foil hat a little tight tonight, Mr. Blue?

How do you feel about the death penalty and those people who support it? Are they "pro-death", too?

Posted by: Frugal Liberal at January 7, 2004 06:48 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Mr. Blue?

If you don't support a national health care system, you are pro-death, too. (When using the slippery slope standards of the "great" Instapungent.)

Have a nice day.

Posted by: Frugal Liberal at January 7, 2004 06:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hah, it must be a full moon, the kooks are really raiding the comments section tonight. Forcing faggotry has always been a preoccupation of mine, thank goodness I no longer have to deny it.

Kevin - You make a good point, and the demographic shifts in the country will only increase the trend. Nonetheless, what does it say about the state of the electorate that most people don't know what they're voting for, or like Blue over here, believe that all Democrats are dying to give it to them up the hyne.

Posted by: Aspasia at January 7, 2004 06:56 PM | PERMALINK

anyone who thinks i'm trying to force faggotry upon anyone can suck my prick.

Posted by: rayc at January 7, 2004 07:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sheesh, I thought people would have recognized the Rush Limbaugh - Blue Babies connection.

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 7, 2004 07:06 PM | PERMALINK

Also, rayc, that took a minute and a double-take, now I'm laughing my ass off.

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 7, 2004 07:06 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin writes: "When liberals talk about their goals they talk about what they really want."

Thanks for the cover. What we really want is a pure communist state. Why just ask any right wingnut, and they will confirm this.

The real trick here is: We let them in on this piece of reality (since they've pretty much run that UFO thing into the ground) to insure their utter destruction. The dialectic* marches on.

Thanks again from the central committee.

*not to be confused with a kitchen device, please.

Posted by: bobbyp at January 7, 2004 07:10 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Moore made a similar point in Chapter 9 ("A Liberal Paradise")of Dude, Where's My Country. He made the point that what Americans say they want in their country, by a large margin, matches a liberal, well, paradise.

Posted by: QrazyQat at January 7, 2004 07:17 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin- I think that they can keep up the front until, at least, November. That is all they care about.

On a sad note, I honestly think the W believes that he is a good and compassionate Preznit. His advisers tell him that the new EPA regs 'really do clean up the air' and he believes them.

Posted by: def rimjob at January 7, 2004 07:18 PM | PERMALINK

It's all well and good that the public generally says "YES" to the liberal agenda.

HOWEVER . . .

Those 24 years of Republican brainwashing have had their effects. Many people are convinced to the very marrow of their bones that Democrats are EVIL. They vote Republican not because they support Republican views, or are right-wing nuts, or even generally agree with anything any Republican has to say. (Hell, most don't even have a vague notion of what the Republican platform is.) They vote Republican because they only know that Democrats are BAD.

And that is one tough hump for Democrats to overcome. They have been branded, and it's going to take some doing to wipe two decades of right-wing advertising away.

Posted by: Derelict at January 7, 2004 07:19 PM | PERMALINK

So Kevin,

Let me know if I'm understanding you correctly. You're saying that we should take solace, be glad, that c-plus augustus and his minions have to lie, cheat and steal to feather their nests at our expense, trod on our rights and purposefully take the country to the brink (and no further we hope) of bankruptcy, is that right?

Oh what a bunch of lucky-duckies we are!

Posted by: Mark S. at January 7, 2004 07:25 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Derelict: So advertising actually works? I'm crushed. What we need, perhaps, is a "choice, not an echo".

Where have I heard that one before?

Posted by: bobbyp at January 7, 2004 07:27 PM | PERMALINK

Is Kevin saying that politicians say one thing and do another?!?!?!?

Huh. That's a new one on me!

Surely no Democrats are guilty of such a thing...

Posted by: Joey at January 7, 2004 07:29 PM | PERMALINK

Well, now that you folks have won the war, I guess you will be declaring victory and leving.

Exit, stage left...

Posted by: Poker Player (aka Jim) at January 7, 2004 07:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Hmmm, are you saying that people want both lots of services and low taxes? I think you're on to something!"

What I REALLY do not understand about this is the way the general public favors lower taxes even for the undeserving super-wealthy. Why on earth would the masses support repealing the funding of the services they want by taxing half of amounts over $2 million given for free to people who already had the advantages of growing up rich and priviledged. I mean, sure we liberals may complain (rightly) about the way WalMart treats its employees and destroys small local businesses. But I can also see the case for being grateful for the low-cost goods brought to the general public, and admiring Sam Walton for this and thinking that he should be rewarded with the proper market value of his accoplishments.

But do his six useless kids really need a free $20 BILLION each?!? Why wouldn't most non-millionaires want to cap the free from Daddy's death at, say, $100 million and use the rest to pay for Iraq's reconstruction, so we don't have to do so by taking money from people who actually earned it?

Is their any sense to this?

Posted by: Decnavda at January 7, 2004 07:31 PM | PERMALINK

Joey, Kevin didn't talk about Democrats or Republicans, rather liberals and conservatives.

Posted by: Demetrios at January 7, 2004 07:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a registered independent.

I probably agree with - or at least can go along with 65% of Democrat policies, maybe 8% of Republican and for the remainder I find both parties seriously wanting.

I usually vote Democrat (around 90% of the time) because I think they are, ultimately, the lesser of two evils.

I think Bush is not only the worst pres. in the last hundred years or so (maybe ever), but I also think he is an extreme danger to our way of life and the Constitution upon which it is based.

I think that Clinton was a very good pres.

That said, I have to tell you that the liberal -not the moderate Democrat - message is never going to win the hearts and minds of mainstream America.

There are too many fringe elements involved - fringe based on their clashing with prominent American archetypes.

Thus, that the liberals come forth and say what they mean is a detriment to their cause.

You guys have to realize that most Americans don't spend much, if any, time hanging around idealistic and youthful college campuses.

As the framers of the constitution pointed out, people are self interested. So when the liberals champion, say, gay rights the public loses interest.

Most are not gay and while some may agree in principle with gay rights they don't care enough to vote that way. Others are just turned off by the whole topic (archetypes at play).

I'm rambling, but bottom line is that given the alliance of fringe elements that makes up a good sized portion of the liberal body politic, they would do themselves a service if they talked less openly about what they *really* stand for.

Posted by: avedis at January 7, 2004 07:34 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Or, you could simply be articulating how childish simple it is to fool many, many people by sounding liberal but acting hard-right uberfascist. I live out here in flyover country, in the same place as Ezra's writing partner, Jesse, and what I get from this perspective is that most everyone is still believin', even though the manufacturing jobs are fleeing like movie patrons from a burning theatre and Wal-Marts and their cheap-ass jobs are sprouting up everywhere like so many amanita phalloides.

Let's hope your assessment is correct. I would like to think that my copy of The Emerging Democratic Majority was not dead on arrival when Amazon delivered it on my doorstep.

Posted by: JLowe at January 7, 2004 07:38 PM | PERMALINK

Very insightful post Kevin. The ideas 'noodling' in your head were served up most tastefully.

But I can't be quite as sanguine as you concerning this:

...and there's little doubt that when the crunch comes it's not going to be the entitlement programs that suffer.

I can see the programs being castrated via an ad campaign mobilizing Americans to suffer a bit for the good of the country. You know the spiel: "We all need to hunker down a bit in these times of danger and financial distress to rebuild the dream that is America."

Given that republican corporate greed knows no bounds, and that Rove can probably sell ashes to the devil...our social contract is clearly under contract.

Posted by: -pea- at January 7, 2004 07:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure if that's not planned, to be honest. The GOP does currently run on more liberal ideas. They just do them horribly.

It's a matter of execution. And that in the long term, will move things to a more conservative stand-point.

Actually it's not just linking Democrats to their ideas. It's a matter of pointing out that the GOP leadership is just not capable of leading a county. Let alone a country.

Posted by: Karmakin at January 7, 2004 07:46 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. Very nice observations.

Posted by: Aaron Gillies at January 7, 2004 07:46 PM | PERMALINK

Back to substance of Kevin's post, since this is a generally moderate liberal blog and most of the readership seems to be as well, could someone who generally agrees with both this post and Kevin's politics please explain to me why, given this post, so many moderate Democrates are still so pissed at the Nader campaign? I grant there does seem to be a huge difference in COMPETENCE between the President that Bush has turned out to be, and the one that Gore probably would have been. But in terms of idelogy put into practice, or actual policies, which is what most Nader voters cared about, the only dime's worth of difference between the two appears be Bush's unwillingness to PAY for the programs both sides support. If Kevin is futher correct that "Still, even here time is not on their side: eventually voters are going to have to choose between higher taxes and cutting back on Social Security and Medicare, and there's little doubt that when the crunch comes it's not going to be the entitlement programs that suffer," then what's the big deal about Nader? The war is what is Nader's voters cared about, not the battles, and this post demonstrates how it is unclear that he caused any lasting harm here.

Posted by: Decnavda at January 7, 2004 07:48 PM | PERMALINK

following up on pea's comment, the ad campaign will focus not only on the need for everyone to sacrifice some but also on the waste/abuse of some particular element of the entitlement program. A few isolated examples, most of which are simply made up, will be floated--think of the welfare queen driving the cadillac. There will be a concerted effort to poison the public opinion well about the wisdom of having the social service program at all.

Conservatives have already taken this approach on tort reform. We'll see used in other contexts.

Posted by: Binky at January 7, 2004 07:57 PM | PERMALINK

One word Decnavda: electability.

Posted by: Binky at January 7, 2004 07:59 PM | PERMALINK

A few observations:

1. First, part of this is because the news media is overwhelmingly liberal. (Yeah, I read Alterman's book - doesn't change the fact that reporters are left). Thus policies that sound compassionate/charitable play better with the media than policies that are explicitly phrased to be in America's self interest.

2. Second, the fact is that the country is moving in a more libertarian direction. New Democrats and neocons are essentially indistinguishable on most matters. They're right on economics/national security and left on social/racial issues.

So that's why the Democrats all talk about "giving back your money". Some even advocate tax cuts. They aren't talking about your obligation to collectivize, and none of them are inciting open revolt on capitalism like they were in the 60's. The right has won as overwhelming a victory on the economic front as the left has on the social front.

3. This is a temporary state of affairs. The social front is rolling the right's way. Feminist orthodoxy is on the wane, having suffered the one-two punch of feminists-defending-Clinton and the discoveries of evolutionary psychology. Every day it seems there is another Newsweek cover story on the biological, behavioral differences between men and women. Observations about "natural" male/female differences that would have been verboten a decade ago are now possible.

This trend is only going to continue as genetic research progresses. See the haplotype map for more details, or read Sarich's new book. Once the Japanese and Nigerian data sets are published, you're going to see a media firestorm. Hard to predict what'll happen, but most likely it will be similar to the decline of feminist anti-biology orthodoxy. In other words, the left has reached its apogee on the social front. It's down hill from here.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 7, 2004 08:01 PM | PERMALINK

"how long do you think conservatives can keep it up before their carefully erected facade disintegrates?"

A very long time.

Not only have the Bushies appropriated a pile of Demmie rhetoric, but they've also put in all the worst elements of Democratic panderful garbage proposals. Example: the Homeland Security bureaucratic shuffle. Now we've got the worst of both sides. They can keep it up approximately as long as we the opposition liberally tolerate mediocrity in our response. This could be a long wait.

"If you listen closely it's pretty clear that we've decisively won virtually the entire public debate with conservatives." Kevin, did you mean to insert one of those ;-) smileys? I mean, you're being ironic? The inside gang is draining the country and you say we've won some debate? I know it's hard to make sarcasm clear on the web.

Def, my understanding is that "Clear Skies" DOES clean up the skies COMPARED TO some sort of continued non-enforcement of the current rules. Every issue is mined like that -- with a few grains of truth. We can't go wandering off -- it does appear the bastards are playing for keeps.

Posted by: bittern at January 7, 2004 08:01 PM | PERMALINK

please explain to me why, given this post, so many moderate Democrates are still so pissed at the Nader campaign?

Easy Answer, one letter: W

Slightly more thoughtful answer: Nader did not represent the Green Party. Nader represented himself. Ralph has shown himself to be an egomaniacal, selfish, hypocritical ass over the years. His rhetoric that Democratic and Republican policies and proposals were identical was idiotic and insulting.

The Green party is a wonderful liberal party, most of the time. When I lived in Minneapolis and Seattle there were several responsible local officials who were Greens. I would put $100 down that EVERY ONE OF THEM are hoping that Ralph gets over himslef and doesn't run. He did the Green party much more harm than good.

and this post demonstrates how it is unclear that he caused any lasting harm here.

You obviously don't see the forest for the trees. The last 3 years have not been a "battle" as you put it. They have been a tide shift. The GOP now runs ALL THREE branches of Gov't. And controls such trivial matters as fiscal policy and foriegn affairs.

I'll let you decide if any lasting harm has been done.

Now... back to the topic.....

Posted by: def rimjob at January 7, 2004 08:08 PM | PERMALINK

More wishful thinking.

Clinton reduced and reformed welfare, cut back government, initiated NAFTA, created the longest economic boom in modern history; all achievements of a conservative (small government) policy.

Social Security reform, a small government policy, happened under Carter.

Clinton took us to war in Bosnia, not well supported by the liberals.

Remember, big government conservatives have held the White House for 16 years.

Finally, it is wishful thinking to believe that liberals do more to protect the environment when much of the pollution we face today results from liberal interference in the free market; or that other conservative groups do not support government action when necessary.

Ask Kevin why resource subsidies (or negative income tax) does not result in a much greater consumption on the part of the poor? No answer.

Then consider the transfer of wealth from the young to the old. How does that become a liberal value, especially considering the damage we know we do to the young. How is it that entitlement reform is not considered a liberal policy?

In fact, the liberal fantasy is just that, a fantasy that many disconnected ideas somehow fit together, as long as the contradictions are ignored.

Kevin is perhaps confused because the Democratic party is a big tent with many ideas and the only claim to leftism, or liberalism, is that these ideas somehow require government action.

We need better analysis and less stereotypical handwaving.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 7, 2004 08:11 PM | PERMALINK

Decnavda,
For me, this is the war: I think it's been a matter of pure luck that we haven't had a new Supreme Court justice or two named in the last 3 years. I don't think you can overstate the damage that could be wrought to civil liberties and human rights, among many other issues, in the next 2 to 3 decades by adding two new Bush appointees to the high court. I feared no such thing with Gore in the White House.

On Kevin's point: Public response to the Bush-Gore debates demonstrated that a large share of the general public and the media just doesn't care about the facts of the issues, so long as they are packaged into saccarine bite-sized pieces a 9 month old could swallow. Even if you're right that the Bush administration is talking the liberal talk and that hopefully they'll be "found out" soon, it's cold comfort when they can continue to get away with passing poisonous legislation and not getting called on it for weeks or months after the bills are passed.

Posted by: Ross at January 7, 2004 08:13 PM | PERMALINK

def, now you are arguing personalities and party lables? If they do matter so much, then Kevin's post here is probably wrong. I still do not see how this post can be right and Nader's candidacy still be considered a tragedy.

Posted by: Decnavda at January 7, 2004 08:17 PM | PERMALINK

"And how long do you think conservatives can keep it up before their carefully erected facade disintegrates?"

I think it's more a matter of "how much further they can push it" rather than just keeping it up.

By the way, about the taxes on millionaires thing, doesn't anyone realise that the rich, and especially the mega-rich, benefit much more (much much much more) from a well-ordered society than regular people, even people whose entire lives are supported by handouts? People should be as mad as all hell to be subsidising the rich's protection in a civil society and use of society's infrastructure. They benefit so muc more from it.

Posted by: Magnum at January 7, 2004 08:19 PM | PERMALINK

Had Nader not run in 2000, Al Gore would have been elected. And if Al Gore had won, we would not have defied international opinion and invaded Iraq. Had Gore won, we would not be seeing our social safety net and environmental protections being dismantled.

There are lots of reasons to be “pissed off” at Nader and the Greens. Someone once said that the Green Party was actually a Republican-created front organization. While I don’t believe this is true, in light of their practical effect on the outcomes of elections, they might as well be.

Antoinetta III

Posted by: Antoinetta III at January 7, 2004 08:21 PM | PERMALINK

New Democrats and neocons are essentially indistinguishable on most matters. They're right on economics/national security and left on social/racial issues.

You have just proven that some folks actually believe the GOP's softer gentler bait and switch.

And your observation that men and women are different is breathtaking. Modern Feminism has a lot more to do with the fact that when my mother attended college she was asked on her first day, "Do you want to be a Teacher or a Nurse, Honey?".

Posted by: def rimjob at January 7, 2004 08:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - I agree entirely. That's why I think that this Republican majority will prove to be ethereal over time. That's why the thread here the other day was so good.

This ties in.

They have to demonize us because they really can't afford to engage in reasoned debate over ideas. Should they do so, they'll be in for a shock at the polls.

Not to get too Freudian, but deep down I think some realize this. Some, not all.

Over the next several years we'll see the political landscape change. I personally think that we can chalk this whole Bush era up to the something akin to the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century. A period in American history where reform was held back. Eventually the dam will burst.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett at January 7, 2004 08:22 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Blue Babies - Someone forget to pick your meds up today? Maybe, deep down, you have a side of you that wants to come out? Repressing something?

Afraid of your anima side?

Posted by: Tony Shifflett at January 7, 2004 08:25 PM | PERMALINK

def, now you are arguing personalities and party lables? If they do matter so much, then Kevin's post here is probably wrong. I still do not see how this post can be right and Nader's candidacy still be considered a tragedy.

Kevin's post is right on. You brought up "Nader's Campaign", not the Green Party. Hence my focus on Ralph.

Posted by: def rimjob at January 7, 2004 08:25 PM | PERMALINK

Tony,
They don't have to engage in reasoned debates.

The mythological image that Republicans play to is, albeit irrational, more in line wih what dwells in the psyche of most Americans.

It's not reason it's psyops.

Posted by: avedis at January 7, 2004 08:25 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody said this:

"They vote Republican because they only know that Democrats are BAD."

Actually, polls will tell you that people fear Democrats because they fear big government or they fear foreign threats.

The big government charge comes from misleading posts like this one Kevin posted, which seems to strongly imply that Democrats always have government solutions, which is simply not the case. Liberal handwaving is very frightening to the middle class.

The issue about foreign threats come about because Democrats seem to be generally ignorant about foreign affairs, another problem that Clinton was repairing until Dean came along.

The feeling of Democratic ignorance on foreign policy is actually the result of Nixon and Kissinger who held the nation's foreign policy chair for so long, and the Scoop Jackson Dems were forced out of the party. If you watch the pundits on foreign policy gather around the table, it is always Kissinger that gets the lead role, and the main foreign policy event, the collapse of communism, is viewed as a Republican thing.

The problem is that Democrats will never get back to the foreign policy table until they start doing some very hard analysis on economic issues, because the main foreign policy issues today are economic, not terrorism. Ask the American people what they fear most about foreign affairs, and loss of jobs to overseas trading partners looms large.

Democratic weakness on foreign affairws is something that Clark can fix, if Clark shows some hard analysis about economics and trade; and he seems to be moving in that direction.

By the way, regarding gays, it is not the political issue that people think it is, nor have the Liberals really done anything to help gays. The number one reason gays are accepted into society has been television. I think that the main issue about gays is that the majority of urban voters could care less about gay problems.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 7, 2004 08:30 PM | PERMALINK

def:

First wave feminism was about equal opportunity and the right to vote. Suffragettes, Rosie the Riveter, and all that - good stuff.

The second wave was about asserting that men and women were biologically indistinguishable save for the shape of their reproductive organs. This was accompanied by the demonization of men and the "patriarchy" and the conclusion that "all heterosexual sex is rape". That's the GI Jane, "1 in 4 women have been raped" nonsense.

It is the latter that is on the wane, because of that 1-2 punch. NOW's righteous indignation over sexual harassment was revealed to be a political weapon rather than a belief borne of conviction when they stood by Clinton during Lewinsky. And the evo-psych stuff is punishing for anyone who really subscribes to the "men=women except for superficial differences" theory.

(Note - just to make it clear, I liked Clinton's domestic policies and dislike NOW)

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 7, 2004 08:35 PM | PERMALINK

Over the next several years we'll see the political landscape change. I personally think that we can chalk this whole Bush era up to the something akin to the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century. A period in American history where reform was held back. Eventually the dam will burst.

I really, really hope that you are right, Tony Shifflett, and K. Drum too.

But I really fear what the Right has built over the last two decades -- they have an amazing juggernaut in place to ensure political supremacy. It includes a grassroots, organized party (ala the Christian Fundies), almost lockstep support from big money, a plethora of think tanks that get lots of press, a myriad of publications completely devoted to serving up the party line in the form of 'media,' and they are locking up the lobbyists on K Street. They have amazing power, and they face a weak, disorganized Democrat party.

I fear that the Republicans have exploited a prime weakness in our democracy: marketing works. In spite of the fact that most people are against a majority of Republican planks, they vote for them. Further, they have managed to convince the people that the party that more closely matches their interest (Democrats) are intrinsically evil. Marketing trumps the truth on any given day in America. The GOP knows this. They use it to their advantage ruthlessly.

That is an astounding success. They have turned reality on its head. I don't see the Republican control of government ending any time soon. I think we are on track for a good 50 years of this or more. By the time the average person wakes up and realizes that voting 'R' is against their interest, it will be too late. By that time, they will be very difficult to dislodge.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at January 7, 2004 08:40 PM | PERMALINK

the one-two punch of feminists-defending-Clinton and the discoveries of evolutionary psychology

Except that evolutionary psychology doesn't discover shit. It just makes it up.

The issues are simple: women get screwed in the workplace; Republicans want to control women's bodies. (In fact, most Republicans hate the fact that women have bodies, and that includes Ann Coulter.)

Posted by: ahem at January 7, 2004 09:11 PM | PERMALINK

Finally, it is wishful thinking to believe that liberals do more to protect the environment when much of the pollution we face today results from liberal interference in the free market;

Yet another fact-deficient Matt Young comment. Please to be providing examples

Anyway: CAFE standards, anyone?

Posted by: ahem at January 7, 2004 09:12 PM | PERMALINK

Amazing how through all your analyses, you are always on top kevin. Hmmm...I wonder why that is...hmmm...

Posted by: bj at January 7, 2004 09:13 PM | PERMALINK

The number one reason gays are accepted into society has been television.

Well, we all know that television is dominated by the Hollywood liberal elite, forcing their gay-loving leftist ideologies on viewers through 'Queer Eye'. Or perhaps not.

I'm sure that some people thought that racial equality was advanced more by 'Sanford and Son' than the Civil Rights Act.

Posted by: ahem at January 7, 2004 09:16 PM | PERMALINK

Ahem, I too was intrigued by Matt Young's statement. Are you familiar with workers comp, where you get a government program in lieu of the ability to sue your employer for injuries? I sometimes wonder if all those government-issued air pollution and water pollution permits aren't denying us the ability to (a) sue these polluters for damages, or at least (b) harass them and get some payout to stop suing them. Kidding on (b), I think. Truly I don't know the efficacy of environmental protection by private lawyer vs. gov't bureau. Also, a free market approach could work nicely (as long as the recipients of the pollution get the cash flow, of course!).

Maybe I've already cross-posted - - - looking forward to examples . . .

Posted by: bittern at January 7, 2004 09:33 PM | PERMALINK

you're infected, kevin. even a drop of troll juice...you've got to destroy this thread...

Posted by: James W. at January 7, 2004 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Great a softball question, notice how easy it is to set up the dreamers.

"Yet another fact-deficient Matt Young comment. Please to be providing examples"

Lets start with the darling of the "environmentalists" and work back from their.

Hybrid cars are a great drive, but did you know they actually cause more pollution than they prevent? Now, anybody who has done some simple analysis on this issue can easily prove this statement.

In fact, all the hybrid car does is shift pollution from one spot to another spot, and the spot the pollution is shifted to has as much value to the average citizen as the spot it came from.

I'll give you a hint, check out the lifetime cost of a hybrid, then ask yourself, where does that extra cost go, all the way down the production line?

Gas additives:

Look at the MTBF fiasco in California, liberals jumped on the idea of a new additive; then had to backtrack, with enormous cost to remove it.

Natural Gas:

Environmentalists jumped all over natural gas and promoted its use as the most wonderful pollution free, only to discover the environmental cost of transporting the stuff around the country and around the world was greater than they wanted.

Then there is the other environmental contradiction, which I repeat for the fourth time now, with no response. Why are resource subsidies in the form of a negative income tax not considered a liberal attempt to increase resource consumption?


Then we can go back to the little germ that we spent $1.5 billion/yr removing from water even though it only costs a $100 million each decade to cure the stomach poisoning it causes. This came up in the EPA report, which Kevin took for granted without any analysis. The answer was, evidently, that someone in the EPA considered the cost greatet than the benefit, but folks, the $1.5 billion a year we spend removing that germ translates into much more resource consumption, and by definition pollution, than the cost of the disease.

Further, why is support for another wave of immigration from Mexico to the U.S. a transfer of population from a less-consumptive society to a more-consumptive society?

Why do liberals both demand heating subsidies for the poor and energy taxes on oil?

Why do liberals demand both progressive taxation and increased flat taxes on gasoline?

Wealth transfer from one age group to another is not equal protection.

Monitoring racial profiling becomes an arrest quota for criminals that attack Black families.

Black families get a much lower rate of return on social security than suburban whites.

Liberalism should not be taken as a consistant whole. Environmentalism more often than Kevin admits, means trading pollution in my backyard for pollution in some elses back yard, and rarely will you see Kevin doing the actual research into where exactly the costs of pollution prevention are distributed. When someone actually looks into one of Kevin's handwaved EPA reports, then the results are handwaved away again.

In the case of the expensive water born germ, the accepted response from some knee jerk environmentalist was "Well my husband got that germ and it was painful" Thus justifying the preventive cost, without recognizing that some poor village somewhere may just have to suffer pollution in the preparation of the special filters needed to remove the germ.

Resource conservation generally conflicts with income and consumption subsidies. This is the most common contradiction, yet no one, expecially Kevin, has yet to present a good theory about when and where consumption should be encouraged and where it should be discouiraged. The answer allways seems to be, if it gets into the liberal camp, then no justification is necessary.

Liberalism is what a group of Democrats agree on for a time, then parts of it are abandoned when damage occurs and its supporters shuffle away, whistling dixie like nothing bad happened.

Get a theory, and you can win with a consistent theory.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 7, 2004 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

I think Occam should get out the strop.

A) It's true as you contend that liberal ideology is in favor, but by this I mean classic "liberal democratic" ideology. Markets, individual rights, etc. - not to be confused with contemporary Liberal ideology. Environmental, minority, and privacy rights have made strong gains and rightly so, to the extent that they are respectful of individual rights.

B) The primary political differences are over means, not ends. I don't find it hard to believe that Bush and true Republicans want what's best for American society. They simply have little faith in the modern liberal Democrat programs that are seeming to be failing in many ways. Contemporary Liberal ideology appears to be clinging ferociously to institutions of the past that have outlived or outgrown their usefulness, or are simply going too far by using un-democratic means.

C) The liberal arguments I hear most first posit what is "obvious" to "everyone" about Republican and Bush motivations. These "facts" get more and contorted and outrageous with each passing month, while the obvious issue should be how effectively new policy proposals achieve our common ends. These same liberal arguments too quickly and cynically dismiss free-market reforms as corrupt give-aways, thereby ducking constructive debate.

Posted by: equitus at January 7, 2004 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

Acutally, Matt Young is being fairly well-behaved on this thread and even showing some signs that he is human and not a Cato experiment in AI.

Milton Friedman would agree with Matt's point about gays and TV--they're a market that cannot be ignored by anyone seeking to maximize profits in a very competitive media environment.

As for pollution and interference in the "free market," I call bullshit on the one hand and "sort of" on the other.

Perverse subsidies are a huge problem, but I'm not aware of where the onus lies--I don't know who is responsible for the 1872 Mining Law, for instance, or who supports below cost timber sales, etc. One egregious example of counterproductive interference in the market is Carter's idiotic synfuels program, which is a huge subsidy for coal producers. OTOH the current administration's agricultural policies are bad, bad news for the environment; remember that ag runoff is the #1 pollutant under the Clean Water Act.

That said, it's clear that while some environmental legislation is not as efficient as it could be--CAFE standards, for instance, aren't as good as a simple gas tax would be--without things like the Clean Water Act our shit would be still be totally fucked up.

And here's a hint about moving to a liability-based system, a Cato wet dream: lawsuits are built around--you guessed it--government regulation.

Posted by: praktike at January 7, 2004 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Re: MTBF, the problem is with the leaky tanks, not the additive per se.

Posted by: praktike at January 7, 2004 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Great a softball question, notice how easy it is to set up the dreamers."

Mattmattmatt. That's quite a grab bag you got. You skip through some worthwhile points, though as far as I know you're going a bit wide of your original free-market-interference claim.

"Hybrid cars are a great drive, but did you know they actually cause more pollution than they prevent? Now, anybody who has done some simple analysis on this issue can easily prove this statement."

Well, apparently THAT wouldn't include me!
1. What are you assuming the hybrid replaces?
2. Is this a case of market interference?

"Look at the MTBF fiasco in California, liberals jumped on the idea of a new additive; then had to backtrack, with enormous cost to remove it."

The gov't did require oxygen-containing fuel additives, to reduce carbon monoxide emissions IIRC. Show me three liberals that knew MTBE from TEPP. Show me there's some real risk from MTBE.

"Environmentalists jumped all over natural gas and promoted its use as the most wonderful pollution free, only to discover the environmental cost of transporting the stuff around the country and around the world was greater than they wanted."

1. Cite? 2. Promotion=market interference? 3. So?

"Then there is the other environmental contradiction, which I repeat for the fourth time now, with no response. Why are resource subsidies in the form of a negative income tax not considered a liberal attempt to increase resource consumption?"

Matt, maybe nobody understands your question.

"Then we can go back to the little germ that we spent $1.5 billion/yr removing from water even though it only costs a $100 million each decade to cure the stomach poisoning it causes. This came up in the EPA report, which Kevin took for granted without any analysis. The answer was, evidently, that someone in the EPA considered the cost greatet than the benefit, but folks, the $1.5 billion a year we spend removing that germ translates into much more resource consumption, and by definition pollution, than the cost of the disease."

Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about. Cryptosporidium, which gave maybe 400,000 Milwaukeeans the shits in 1993? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=7818640&dopt=Abstract

Posted by: bittern at January 8, 2004 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

praktike,
I'm not saying it's very praktikell, but you could have a wild west world of pollution-damage lawsuits with no set criteria for acceptable risk. No?

Not my topic but is it primarily gays that watch TV shows with gay characters?

Posted by: bittern at January 8, 2004 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

bittern,

Cryptosporidium was it I think.

The topic came up when the EPA put out a report that the EPA was cost effective, which Kevin took as proof positive that the EPA was cost effective.

So, unlike many, I actually looked through the report, a bit of work which seldom gets rewarded in politically biased blog circles. I found, right away, that the EPA was primarily effective in minimizing diesel smoke and major particulate matter in electric plants, the easy and obvious problems. Then came the tough issues, where each part of the EPA had to judge itself on some smaller individual action it took.

So, I scanned down and picked one issue at random, the removal of the shits causing bacteria in resevoirs. I actually did the work of investigating the outbreaks of the shits from the germ, and found three major outbreaks in the last two decades or so, which put a few hundred in hospital for a few days, and cost a few thousand a few days off work.

The EPA says removal of the germ is a $1.5 billion per year cost, more than justified, according to them.

I didn't quite get it, but I especially didn't quite get why anyone would assume automatically the EPA judges itself correctly, but other agencies do not. Its not that Kevin's bias was any worse than Jim Robinson, at the Free Republic, who assumes the DOD judges its actions correctly, or someone thinking the SEC can judge itself correcty. What struck me was the seemingly automatic blind spot special interest groups think they are supposed to take with regard to their favorite government programs.

It was as if special interests can suspend objective judgement without regard to how idiotic that seems in a public forum.


Posted by: Matt Young at January 8, 2004 02:48 AM | PERMALINK

The gov't did require oxygen-containing fuel additives, to reduce carbon monoxide emissions IIRC. Show me three liberals that knew MTBE from TEPP. Show me there's some real risk from MTBE.

Sorry. Couldn't pass this one up. Here's one (ok, I'm not really that liberal, but I've voted Democratic for close to 30 years). If I know more about MTBE and TEPP than any three liberals combined, does that count? Besides, anyone who tries to blur the differences in risks or hazards between MTBE and TEPP (tetraethylpyrophosphate, CASRN 107-49-3, originally developed as a nonpersistent war gas, formerly used as an insecticide, extremely acutely toxic - of the "one drop can kill" variety - by oral and dermal exposure, powerful cholinesterase inhibitor which produces that wonderful combination of symptoms we used to call "SLUD" - salivation, lacrimation, urination and defecation, along with respiratory arrest, treated by administration by heroic doses of atropine) has a questionable grasp about risk anyway.

Let me issue the reverse challenge. Show me three conservatives who could explain why MTBE was such a good idea as an octane booster, given the way it behaves in the environment, and what the risks from MTBE really are?

Posted by: JLowe at January 8, 2004 04:23 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin

"What's more, on a variety of social issues conservatives have either made no real progress — abortion and gun control, for example — or actually lost ground — gay rights and drug laws."

Oh really?

Social issues like...

The death penalty? Three strikes? Early parole? Minimum sentencing?

Or how about welfare reform? Or forced busing?

But my favorite is gun control.

I'd say conservatives have made lots of progress fighting gun-control, and that the liberals efforts in favor of gun-control have all backfired enormously.

You only have to look at how even the gun-control organizations have run from the word "gun control" to measure how badly liberals have lost the national argument.

Compared to twenty years ago when mostly only cronies of police departments could get a permit to carry a handgun for self-defense, now most of the U.S. population live where they can get a permit.

I believe a half a dozen states have even added the right to keep and bear arms to their constitutions in the last twenty years.

The Clinton clampdown on guns only prompted a frenzy of buying more guns. Gun control zealots are the best gun salesmen in the world. More people own more guns and ammo than ever before.

Clampdowns on imports of "saturday night specials" or "assault weapons" only created brand new domestic manufacturing industries to take up the slack.

But the best backfire was the political backlash. All those angry gun owners not only bought new weapons in a fury they also voted with a fury.

Now the worst of the Clinton crackdown will fade away with the sunsetting of the "assault weapon" ban in September 2004.

The major legacy of the 1990's crackdown on guns is now a Republican President, control of the Senate and Congress, and a Solid South now as hostile to Democrats as they used to be towards Republicans.

Posted by: Brad at January 8, 2004 04:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum says
When liberals talk about their goals they talk about what they really want.
The Repubs talk about smaller government (i.e. lower taxes) and then add/expand programs to get votes. Dems talk about the wonderful new programs they will put in place (i.e. higher taxes) and then don't do it because the cost is too high and they won't get votes.

Both sides are being plenty dishonest with us, Kevin.

I'm not so much opposed to government, what I am is largely opposed to Federal goverment.

My belief is that government should be performed at the lowest possible level. The reason is: I can better keep an eye on what my my city council is doing than I can on what Congress is doing. And furthermore, there is no reason why Wyoming and California should operate exactly the same, the 2 places are widely different.

That is the reason I was happy with the Gingrich congress. And I'll give Clinton credit for signing much of the Contract with America. And that's why I'll pound Bush for expanding Federal government.

Posted by: Ron at January 8, 2004 05:56 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: bob mcmanus at January 8, 2004 06:44 AM | PERMALINK

bittern:
I'm not saying it's very praktikell, but you could have a wild west world of pollution-damage lawsuits with no set criteria for acceptable risk. No?
Ha ha. The problem is that the court system is efficient enough to make this work, so industry has a bulit in advantage. They can do some basic risk assessment and figure out fairly easily how much they can get away with. Not to mention that it's sometimes impossible to prove who is to blame. Courts generally don't like correlation studies.

Not my topic but is it primarily gays that watch TV shows with gay characters?

Looking back I realize that is what I implied. That's a silly thing of me to say. See what I get for trying to engage libertarian java programs?

Posted by: praktike at January 8, 2004 06:45 AM | PERMALINK

From the outset, Bush has talked about being a compassionate conservative. To me, he's a compassionate "conservative" because, except for tax cuts, I've seen little real conservatism in practice.

Posted by: Bird Dog at January 8, 2004 07:02 AM | PERMALINK

"And how long do you think conservatives can keep it up before their carefully erected facade disintegrates?"

As long as the media is controlled by the corporations Bush serves.

Posted by: MattB at January 8, 2004 08:18 AM | PERMALINK

What I think will in the end destroy the Republican Party's hegemony is the Religious Right.

I think Kevin is quite right that, over time, the liberal point of view is winning the culture wars. Now the Republican Party could, in principle, maintain its strength by simply moving the goal posts on its basic ideology -- always siding for the more conservative view, but defining the conservative by, in effect, supporting only those issues that will not antagonize a large proportion of the voters, and conceding those issues that the voters eventually turn against.

The problem with this approach is the Christian fundamentalists, who, essentially by definition, CANNOT change their views on basic moral issues, such as the sinfulness of homosexuality, the permissibility of abortion, even the acceptability of pre-marital sex. Today, their views are at least close enough to the views of a good segment of the public that they don't kill candidates who support them. The time will come when they will, and that will be the day of reckoning for the Republican Party.

Posted by: frankly0 at January 8, 2004 08:33 AM | PERMALINK

If you're awaiting the celebration of a landslide victory (in today's America) of a Democrat who runs a campaign based on homosexuality, abortion and pre-marital sex, I hope you don't have the ballroom booked in advance, frankly0. :)

Posted by: Ricky at January 8, 2004 08:51 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose if people want more services with less taxes, then two choices are either to pretend to give them more services and lower taxes or give them more services and pretend to give them lower taxes.

What bother me most about Bush is he seems to pretend to give more services, and pretends to give lower taxes (to most people).

So we get less service, slightly lower but mostly deferred taxes, and more money flowing to the rich and to the corporations.

Posted by: Tripp at January 8, 2004 09:06 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I think there is a point that you're missing. At any time in our recent history, there were general definitions of what was a conservative & liberal position. When the public was focused on these issues, they became very polarized. Anyone remember the ERA amendment of the 70's? But as the public focused on those hot issues, the positions of other issues that had been contensious tended to become more fluid. Today we're focusing on national security. The environment takes a back seat. Therefore it makes a much easier sell for the admin to talk liberal on an issue that the public has put on the back burner. The environment has been off-topic for awhile and it has allowed the parties to become more fluid in their positions. Conservatives have moved left & Liberals have moved right. Environmental protections are more mainstream issues today than in the 80's.

A capable administration, who wants to make changes or score points, will look for these openings in public opinion and take advantage of them. I don't think that's anything new.

So I guess I don't see that the admin is talking liberal and acting conservative. Rather 1) people care less about the environment today than in the past so he's not hurting his political base and 2) the environment is more of a mainstream issue meaning the issue is no longer a liberal position.

Posted by: Eric at January 8, 2004 09:44 AM | PERMALINK

Correction: the Clear Skies initiative does NOT strengthen our commitment to the environment. It weakens the cuts that would take place anyway if the existing Clean Air Act were enforced.

Posted by: The Ecologist at January 8, 2004 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Thought this might be relevant to the discussion:

"Dean considers proposal to ease tax burden

No timing announced yet for release of such a plan

Thursday, January 8, 2004 Posted: 12:53 PM EST (1753 GMT)

BURLINGTON, Vermont (AP) -- Howard Dean's advisers say they are considering a new proposal to reduce the tax burden on the middle class as he faces increasing criticism that his economic policies would take money from working Americans."

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/01/08/elec04.prez.dean.taxes.ap/index.html

Yep, certainly seems as if the left-wing has won the public debate on taxes!

Posted by: Al at January 8, 2004 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Ecologist, read the article more carefully. He's quoting Republican rhetoric, not agreeing with it.

Kevin, this is in general an excellent and encouraging article. But you missed another issue where liberals lost the debate: crime. (And again, this is because rehabilitation is lampooned as being against public safety.)

California is having an 'only Nixon could go to China' moment, as Schwaz is moving to parole nonviolent criminals -- not out of a sense of rehabilitation but because we can't afford to keep them locked up. But we've lost the public debate on crime.

Posted by: eyelessgame at January 8, 2004 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

If you're awaiting the celebration of a landslide victory (in today's America) of a Democrat who runs a campaign based on homosexuality, abortion and pre-marital sex, I hope you don't have the ballroom booked in advance, frankly0. :)

Well, I had in mind basic acceptance of homosexuality, abortion, and premarital sex, which Democrats can advocate, and Republicans, because of the Christian Right, can't. The point is that over time it's going to divide the Republican Party. When? Maybe not for a decade or two. Among other things, to put it bluntly, a certain number of people have to die, and their attitudes with them.

Posted by: frankly0 at January 8, 2004 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

JLowe,
When Rick Santorum used homosexuality and incest in the same sentence, the Dems accused him of equating the two. When Howard Dean used Congress and cockroaches in the same sentence, the GOP accused him of equating the two. When I used MTBE and TEPP in the same sentence, you say I'm losing any grip I ever had. You're like them; you're so unfair, JLowe!

I was trying to make a point that most of the liberal environmentalists that worry Matt Young probably didn't personally push MTBE, not knowing what it is. I only picked TEPP cuz it has the same number of letters. It was fun to say, but my point was weak since it wasn't really oppositional to anything Matt Young actually said. Oh well.

I like your TEPP tox description, though. The stuff's registered for agriculture, SLUD notwithstanding. I haven't seen anything as interesting on MTBE toxicity. I can draw the thing but I wouldn't recognize the stuff if you stuck my foot in a bucket of it.

I don't think your reverse challenge is fair. I don't think I know more than three conservatives and octane enhancement is outside their range. Anyway, was MTBE originally more for performance or anti-pollution?

Posted by: bittern at January 8, 2004 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Eric says: "Therefore it makes a much easier sell for the admin to talk liberal on an issue that the public has put on the back burner. . . Conservatives have moved left . . . Environmental protections are more mainstream issues today than in the 80's."

Eric, correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be joining Kevin's celebration over having the Bush administration use all our favorite phrases, never mind the actual effects of the policies they institute.

Posted by: bittern at January 8, 2004 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, no matter how the right dresses up their ideas and programs, if they continue being successful at *implementing* them, it won't really matter what they, or we, say or how ideas are expressed, because the reality will be that they will have won. It's far from impossible for a country's accepted ideology to be at odds with the actuality of its policies. (In fact, it may be the case more often than not.)

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald at January 8, 2004 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

bittern,

I'm neither celebrating or disparing over the language Bush has used to put forth proposals. Just merely stating that I think, at least on the environment and some other issues, that the reason he can use that kind of language is that the country has taken a few liberal positions and made them more mainstream. Coupled with a distraction of national security & war means the Bush admin can talk about formerly liberal issues without drawing much attention. that's all.

Posted by: Eric at January 8, 2004 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Expanding on Ron's idea that local gov't is better than federal: First, Ron says local conditions vary, so rules should. Is there general agreement on that, or no?

Ron says he can keep an eye on city council better than on Congress. If you're in a group of, say, 30 like-minded people in a particular geographic area, you can actually take a part in directly governing yourself, if any real powers are left to local government. To me, that's a great attraction. With 30 people, you have only the most remote, and generally symbolic, authority over Washington. That authority does have the characteristic that through Washington, you get to tell millions of strangers what rules to follow, if that floats your boat.

On the other hand, Ron's "lowest possible level" looks doctrinaire to me. There are some issues for which an assertion of national scale is not just marginally justifiable but strongly warranted. Since the wind blows across state lines and over 'most everybody, regulation of SOx and NOx air pollutants seems a sensible candidate for federal regulation.

I forever fail to get whether and why centralizing government authority is a fundamental "liberal" tenet. Anyone? Please?

Posted by: bittern at January 8, 2004 01:16 PM | PERMALINK

Matt Young,
People are funny about their water. They eat and drink all kinds of funky crap, but they want their water beautiful and clean. I'm a bit that way myself. You might think it illogical, but I'm not bothered with paying $6 a year if I think it means a significant difference in the chance of getting grossly ill from my tap water. Many people are freakier on that than I. I mean, compare your $1.5 billion to the amount people spend on bottled water. Too, the way you include only medical costs and lost wages wins few points for rigorous cost/benefit analysis. I'm not sure EPA's conclusion is all daft in this case.

Further, limiting diesel smoke, if that was EPA's best cost-benefit work, was hardly picking cherries. Lots of obscure/obtuse EPA rules preceded getting the diesel regs passed. You called it easy and obvious. Maybe I'm just not used to your style yet.

I'll second you, though, that EPA evaluations of EPA are of limited value. 't's crazy, mon.

Posted by: bittern at January 8, 2004 01:45 PM | PERMALINK

Bittern,

I went and re-read your post, and I did blow my lines. Thank you for following up and letting me know about it. Sorry about that, and I'll try to do better next time. It serves me right for reading these things at 5 am.

Actually, the MTBE thing was a trick question. The deal there is that it leaches through soil almost as if it were water, is obnoxious-tasting, has a very low taste threshold (handy property for a potential carcinogen), biodegrades slowly and is difficult to treat in groundwater. If you wanted to custom-design a chemical for polluting groundwater, you couldn't do better.

What little I've read about its use indicates that it initially was a performance enhancer, but later used for emissions control.

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