Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

When incentives go wrong

By BJ Bjornson

While John�s covered the effect income inequality has on health and healthcare, there was another point in the Tyee article that caught my eye.

The problem is not the poor robbing the rich through taxes, but the rich robbing the poor through tax cuts that wreck the infrastructure. And the rich have to the chutzpah to tell us that this robbery is the way to prosperity for all

That of course reminded me of the excellent Elizabeth Warren statement that went viral on YouTube.


There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Much like the failure to invest in better healthcare for the whole population leads to poorer results for everyone, the failure to provide the government sufficient revenue to maintain high standards in education, fully-staffed police and firefighting forces, and decent infrastructure, both in transportation and increasingly in communications, makes everyone poorer, even if the gap between the haves and have-nots expands as a result of the low taxes on the wealthiest.

Nothing particularly new there of course, and the decade starting from Bush getting the presidency was an almost textbook example of robbing the public bank for the benefit of a very few, with the Republican party and some nearly extinct Blue Dog Democrats ensuring that legislation like the stimulus package was too heavily biased towards tax cuts rather than real stimulus spending or actual investment in the future that infrastructure spending represents, and have now resorted to outright sabotage of any measure that may help the economy to increase their own chances of being returned to power.

I�m reminded if a quote, the source of which I now forget, where a prominent Republican, waxing on about a permanent Republican majority, was asked if he truly thought that there would never be another Democratic President elected, to which he replied in essence, �We will make it so that they cannot govern as a Democrat.� Sadly, he appears to have been right.

There has been a rather dangerous change in American politics in that there is now considerable incentive for the Republican Party to deliberately make things worse economically. Steve Benen has a good post up where he quotes an individual from an AP article who agrees with Obama, but would likely vote against him because Obama can�t get anything done.

That is heartbreaking, but it�s important � Republicans have an incentive, not only to hold the country back on purpose, but also to block every good idea, even the ones they agree with, because they assume voters will end up blaming the president in the end. And here�s a quote from a guy who makes it seem as if the GOP�s assumptions are correct.

It�s hard to say just how common this sentiment is, but it doesn�t seem uncommon. The public likes to think of the President of the United States, no matter who�s in office, as having vast powers. He or she is �leader of the free world.� He or she holds the most powerful office on the planet. If the president � any president � wants a jobs bill, it must be within his or her power to simply get one to the Oval Office to be signed into law.

And when the political system breaks down, and congressional Republicans kill ideas that are worthwhile and popular, there�s an assumption that the president is somehow to blame, even if that doesn�t make any sense at all. Indeed, here we have a quote from a voter who is inclined to reward Republicans, giving them more power, even though the voter agrees with Obama � whose ideas (and presidency) Republicans are actively trying to destroy.

This is part of what James Fallows and others have been on about for some time regarding the media�s treatment of this obstructionism, and why the rare accurate coverage bears notice. Without the media making it clear that there is a deliberate campaign by Republicans to obstruct any and all positive progress, most people who aren�t closely and rabidly following politics, which I would say is the vast majority, are simply going to blame the guy at the top for the failure to improve things and reward the folks who are opposed to the progress they want.

No matter how you look at it, no system can last when the incentives for destruction outweigh those of creation. This either changes, or you end up with one hell of an ugly collapse.

There are some glimmers of hope, such as the recent headlines linked above. And though it may be more about early campaign rhetoric than anything else, the fact that the Democrats looked poised to force further votes on popular job-creating bills to make the Republicans finally face some heat for their obstruction is definitely the right track to take.

I don�t know how much Occupy Wall Street can take the credit for possibly stiffening some Democratic spines in this continuing battle, or in helping put the focus on jobs rather than the deficit, but I do agree with John Cole�s point some time back that this is the way the Overton Window gets moved. Properly focused, it may just get the incentives of elected officials back into line.


  1. In 2008, there was a "historic" shift that gave the White House, the Senate and the House to the Democrats with solid majorities and a clear electoral mandate. It would be hard to imagine a better situation for the party to demonstrate it's commitment to those who placed it in control of the government. That had every conceivable incentive to move this nation to the left - end unpopular wars, create a strong stimulus package, re-regulate the financial industry, pass real health care reform, etc., and they accomplished little more than half-measures. There's no reason to believe a big Democratic victory in 2012 (which is highly unlikely) would be any more productive.
    The system is broken and providing incentives is not going to make it work again.

  2. Charles, thanks for validating my point that most people don�t care why the Dems didn�t accomplish more and instead simply blame them for failing. Punishing those who tried for falling short and as a result rewarding those who pushed for the failure is a sure way to keep said broken system from ever getting fixed.