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Kevin Drum’s piece about the Paul Ryan budget was illustrative not only of how horrible that granny starver is and how much of a professional con artist he is, but also of how the current generation of young(ish) Democrats see priorities. Here is an excerpt:

But it gets worse: He wants to cut all other spending—aside from Social Security and Medicare—by 70 percent. And even that understates things. He’s made it plain that he doesn’t want to see substantial cuts in the defense budget, which means that the domestic budget would probably have to go down to something like 1.5 percent of GDP. That’s a cut of 80 percent or so and it affects everything. It affects prisons, food assistance, education, the FBI, assistance to the needy, courts, child nutrition, drug abuse counseling, FEMA, rape prevention, autism programs, housing, border control, student loans, roads and bridges, Head Start, college scholarships, unemployment insurance, and job training. Everything. Most of these programs would simply disappear, and the ones that remained would be shriveled and nearly useless.

You all can talk about the horrible reality of Ryan’s budget in comments, but I found that list super interesting for what it did and did not include. It’s a pretty good run-down of what people value these days. Some traditional subjects–education, unemployment, etc. Some topics that have only recently galvanized our national interest–autism, FEMA. And then nothing on the environment. That’s what struck me. This list in 1970 or 1980 or 1990 would have likely had 3 or 4 environmental programs listed. EPA. Superfund. Clean Air and Water Act enforcement. Etc. Today, nothing. And that’s pretty indicative of how far the environmental agenda has fallen off the map for a lot of young progressives. Today, you have young people with environmental concerns even running away from the term. That’s both shocking and sad for the planet.

Note that I’m not trying to be unfair to Drum. Such a list could have been drawn up by any number of people and it wouldn’t have included environmental programs.

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  • SP

    Drum != young or even young(ish). Which maybe makes it more surprising since he was politically aware when environmentalism was a new, big deal. OTOH, he wasn’t really a liberal throughout that period so maybe he never cared about it.

    • But he is articulating the concerns of his internet readership. Which may or may not skew young I guess, I don’t really know. But I think it is a pretty good list of policy issues that young people care about.

      • Benjamin

        You might want to sample a few more 53 year olds before you draw that conclusion.

      • ajay

        But he is articulating the concerns of his internet readership.

        Is he? I thought he was articulating his own opinion.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks


          And I think it is nearly impossible to be unfair to Drum.

          Simply not paying attention to Kevin Drum will be a small, but decisive, improvement in the political discourse of the “left.”

          • sparks

            That Drum is writing for Mother Jones is enough to tell even the blindest fool there’s no leftist press anymore. He’d fit in right cozy next to McArdle.

            • Steve LaBonne

              +1000. I just can’t read him any more. It’s bad for my blood pressure.

            • Scott Lemieux

              He’d fit in right cozy next to McArdle.

              Oh, fer Chrissakes, this is getting silly.

              • It’s indistinguishable from right-wing ref commentary about the allegedly liberal mainstream media.

                The reader is left with the question, do these people actually believe what they are saying? Or are they bullshitting to work the ref?

                • Steve LaBonne

                  This reader is left with the question, do these people actually have any acquaintance with some of Drum’s fairly frequent posts that stupidly ape right-wing talking points? Yes the McMegan comparison is way hyperbolic, but on his bad days Drum is actually pretty bad. Worse-than-Yglesias bad.

                • Jason

                  I think it’s genuine, not bullshit. As the internet has made abundantly clear, there really is a segment of the left that hates people who share 80% of their worldview as much, if not more, than they hate people who share none of it.

                  It’s presumably true on the right, too, though I haven’t the stomach to look into this matter.

                • tt

                  Drum is a generic moderate liberal Democratic blogger. Which right-wing talking points does he adopt other than those which are already mainstream among generic moderate liberal Democratics?

                • Steve LaBonne

                  You can start with almost anything he writes about Social Security or Medicare.

                • Steve LaBonne

                  (And yes, he’s not unique in that species in that regard.)

                • Anonymous

                  Drum adopts right-wing talking points on SS? Huh? I had a vague recollection hat a repeated Drum talking point is that there isn’t a serious crisis with SS: it does have a funding shortfall long-term, but one that could be solved pretty easily without any major changes. So I did a search–see http://www.motherjones.com/search/apachesolr_search/drum%20social%20security — and pretty quickly I found the following:

                  “The place where the media falls down, I think, isn’t in its description of Social Security’s financial problems. The media’s real weakness lies in its almost total lack of interest in explaining how those problems can be fixed. The answer is: pretty easily. The only thing stopping a simple, no-drama resolution of Social Security’s long-term funding problems is the Republican Party’s jihad against taxes. That’s it. You could pretty easily put together a Democratic coalition that would support a combination of small, phased-in benefit cuts and small, phased-in tax increases that would fix Social Security forever. If you think Social Security is already too stingy, you might not like the idea of doing this. But it’s still a fact that you could get plenty of Democrats to sign up for such a plan, and President Obama has sent plenty of signals that he’d favor it too.” See http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/04/medias-real-social-security-problem . You can also look at http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/09/fixing-social-security-easy

              • Incontinentia Buttocks

                Agree with this, fwiw. Drum is not McArdle.

                But here’s what I don’t get, Scott.

                Your position on Frank Rich is that, because he was very, very wrong about Al Gore, he should be banished from serious consideration.

                Drum was just as wrong about Iraq, yet you continue to take him seriously.

                Drum is occasionally interesting and more than occasionally correct. The problem is that he’s almost never on the right side of an issue when he’s interesting, and when he is on the right side of an issue, he’s totally run-of-the-mill.

                There’s a reason that one notices Drum only when he is (not infrequently) pretty wrong about something. At other times he’s just not that interesting or worthy of note.

                This certainly makes him much less bad than McArdle. But it doesn’t make him worth reading. One loses nothing by simply ignoring him.

              • sparks

                Maybe so, but I’ve seen enough from Drum that I believe he could fit right in at the Atlantic, such as it is.

            • Lee

              I think that Mrs. Drum might have some problems with this.

            • This is, in fact, ridiculous.

              Drum is very bad on some things (to the point of making me swear to remove him from my reader…his article about a obesity study was apocalyptically bad). However, he exhibits neither the systematic mendacity or the pervasive errors and contempt for correctness that McArdle does. He’s also no where near her politically.

          • David M. Nieporent

            It’s true; if you ignore everyone you disagree with, you won’t hear anything that disturbs your preformed worldview.

            • Malaclypse

              Yea, it is better to listen to people who just make shit up.

            • Holden Pattern

              I have my worldview disturbed all the time by people with something meaningful to say. People spouting various forms of verifiably false propaganda for selfishness, bigotry and propping up the power of the wealthy are not saying anything meaningful.

          • Manta

            Come on, Drum takes the time to explain issues in a non-confrontational way, and is willing to admit he is wrong: that alone make him better than most of the pundits around.

            Now, if only he stopped to take McArdle seriously…

            • Steve H


              I mean, c’mon – people are going to stay away from a writer because for a few months ten years ago, he thought that the good in removing a murderous tyrant would outweigh the bad in an Iraq invasion?

              And then changed his mind to what turned out to be the correct position?

              • sparks

                Yes. That adventure was so fucking obviously blindingly stupid that I will not absolve any blogger who had pretensions toward good sense, let alone toward being anyone’s political left. The putatively reasonable position was in fact murderously insane. I still remember Willis writing an approving post on torture that made me sick.

                They can apologize for their position until they’re planted in the ground. Too bad, I’ve got better things to read.

                • What sparks said.

                  The Iraq misadventure was very, very obviously going to end horribly, and many, many people pointed that out at the time. Of course, we’re Coastal Fifth Columnists and Balme America Firsters, and guys like Drum enjoyed their time being Serious.

                  Wrong is wrong. Drum isn’t right enough often enough to make up for his fuck-ups.

                • Holden Pattern

                  What you’re punished for in punditland is not being wrong. It’s being right when everyone else is wrong.

  • ajay


    …maybe Drum is just assuming that the EPA, etc will all get completely abolished.

  • James E Powell

    I recall an interview Al Gore did with Ted Koppel late in the 2000 campaign. Koppel mentioned a few of the campaigns gossipy items and asked Gore why Americans should choose him instead of Bush. Gore said it was about priorities and mentioned a few where the differences were clear. (Remember the patients’ bill of rights?) Koppel looked at Gore like he was kidding and went back to talking about the gossipy stuff.

    Other than the new names and faces, is the corporate press/media coverage of the campaign any different now?

  • Just Dropping By

    Autism is presumably on the list because there are quite a few Republican-leaning married women with autistic children who are beneficiaries of various government programs. (Cf. Sarah Palin talking about how wonderful government programs that help children with Downs Syndrome are.)

    • Ohio Mom/Autism Mom

      I think autism is on the list because of Autism Speaks. It’s the Susan G. Komen of developmental disability organizations — fabulously successful at raising money for itself and “raising awareness.” So there’s a lot more awareness about autism than there used to be — a lot of it needlessly negative and ablelist but that’s another story for another day.

      But yes, a lot of the Autism Speaks people are Republicans. Take for example, Elizabeth Emkin, their former Vice President for Government Relations, an autism mom herself, who is currently the Republican candidate running against Diane Feinstein.

      She’s all about reducing the size of government, the free market, and overturning the ACA. Where does she thinks the services and supports her adult son needs are going to come from?

      And as long as I’ve veered wildly off-topic, Autism Speaks was famously and loudly anit-vax until recently. They’ve toned it down a bit but haven’t quite given up that ghost yet.

  • Leeds man

    Successful demonization of words. See socialism, feminism, etc.

  • Usually just lurk

    I hope Drum does not represent the youngsters. I read him in his early days 10 or so years ago at Calpundit. Back then he was a traditional moderate who was developing slightly left-leaning ways in reaction to the GOP rightward shift. He actually was pro the Iraq War until right before it started.

    His non-interest in the environment isn’t that surprising. A moderate in southern California has seen a lot of the negative side of the environmental movement through a number of well-intentioned but malfunctioning initiatives, and it just isn’t his priority because, since his personal self-identity involves being “balanced”, he naturally will distance himself from environmental elements he sees as the fringe.

    For kids in general, well I have only anecdotal evidence although it is in good quantity. Kids for the most part reflect their parents, and if parents are eco-conscious kids are. If parents are Republicans the kids are usually hostile to the environment. I think, however, that for a lot of Democratic parents, and their kids, there is a mistaken sense of complacency based on the fact that we have hybrids and curbside recycling.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      In fact, Drum supported the Iraq War for a long time during the run-up. Here, for example is an excerpt from a February 22, 2003 Calpundit post:

      my sense from reading the anti-war left is that they don’t really take the danger of terrorism and unstable states seriously. I do, however, and I think the evidence indicates that humanitarian policies alone won’t solve the problem. In the case of Iraq, the history of the past decade pretty clearly shows that the world doesn’t have the stomach to keep up containment for long — an option that strikes me as vaguely immoral anyway — so if we back off now Saddam will be back in business within a couple of years. My guess is that this could be pretty dangerous.

      On the other hand, my sense from reading the pro-war right is that they have a fantasy that all our problems can be solved via military force. In fact, the very idea of investigating root causes is tantamount to an indictment of terminal naiveté from the likes of Andrew Sullivan or Glenn Reynolds. Overall, it’s pretty obvious that the majority of the hawks have no serious interest in the long, tortuous, and multilateral job of promoting democracy and tolerance in the Middle East, and it’s not clear that the American public does either.

      So what to do? There seem to be damn few people in the middle ground, who agree that Saddam needs to be taken care of but are also in favor of sticking around and truly working in a humanitarian way to improve life in the Middle East.

      As for me, I just don’t know anymore. I’m hardly in favor of the horrible and incompetent war that George Bush seems to have in mind, but, frankly, I think that simply pulling out would also be disastrous. Basically, the whole mess is terminally depressing and my Prozac prescription seems to have run out, so I think maybe I’ll take the afternoon off and go see a movie. Perhaps The Quiet American would be appropriate.

      In short: opposed to Bush’s Middle East policies, worried about Bush’s version of the war, but convinced that Saddam Hussein needs to be “taken out.”

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Excuse me, that was from February 24, 2003.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Finally, on March 7, 2003, Drum very reluctantly came out against the war:

          For a variety of reasons related to post-war planning and Bush’s seeming indifference about tearing down international institutions in order to get his way, I’ve been on the fence about war with Iraq for several weeks now. Basically, I figured that all it would take is one more thing to send me into the anti-war camp, and I think this is it. If we’re planning to start a war based on intelligence from the same guys who made this mistake, it’s time to take a deep breath and back off.

          I still believe strongly that we need a tough-minded long-term policy aimed at eradicating terrorism and modernizing the Arab world (among others) — and that this policy should include the use of force where necessary — but not this time. This is the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

          The following day he elaborated on why it took him so long:

          Well, sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows. Yes, I knew that the timing was political, and I knew that the al-Qaeda connection was bunk, and I knew that Bush lied about a lot of things. But I also think the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and I understand that sometimes you have to play rough to build support for a difficult decision. So I did my best to put aside my personal dislike for George Bush and his tactics and support the end result.

          And to be honest, Tony Blair’s support has been meaningful to me. Sure, he’s a bit of a weasel at times, but he has similar sensibilities to mine and his support for war is obviously sincere and heartfelt. I respect his opinion, and I assume he has access to same levels of information as George Bush and his advisors. So that kept me on board too.

          But enough is enough. The ends don’t always justify the means, and the positives of permanently ridding the world of Saddam Hussein no longer outweigh the negatives. So I find myself on the other side of the fence now, while still hoping that eventually we are able to construct a genuine international coalition that will help stabilize global hot spots and make the world a safer place. Sadly, it looks like we will have to wait at least until November 2004 for that process to begin.

          UPDATE: Via email, it’s obvious that I’ve left the impression that my change of opinion was largely due to personal dislike of the pro-war partisans. However, as a few people have pointed out, some of the anti-war partisans are also people I probably wouldn’t want to associate with. Fair enough.

          So this post shouldn’t be taken too literally. My substantive problem is that my support for war has always been strongly influenced by the likelihood of using it to begin building a better Middle East, and this is something that the U.S. simply can’t do alone. With this in mind, it has become increasingly clear to me that Bush’s implementation of this war is the very one that will prevent it from ultimately being successful.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            In short, Drum continued to favor war with Iraq. He just didn’t think Bush could pull it off.

            He was, of course, entirely right about the Bush administration’s incompetence. But his “liberal hawkery” remained. And that was–and is–wrong in and of itself and remains a much greater danger going forward than his temporary mis-assessment of the Bush administration.

            • Scott Lemieux

              I’m interested in the double standard you apply to Drum and Frank Rich. Rich’s actual causal role in putting Bush in the White House had far more to do with iraq than Drum opposing it not entirely for the right reasons, and yet Rich gets a pass from you because…he sometimes writes correct critiques of Republicans six months after every informed liberal in the country has reached the same conclusion? I don’t get it.

              • He WAITED THE SIX MONTHS. Then he knew!

              • Incontinentia Buttocks

                We’re both potentially guilty of a double standard here, I think.

                Here are some areas about which we disagree:

                1) I don’t think that Rich was particularly causally important in Gore’s losing the 2000 election, however regrettable the nonsense he wrote about Gore was.

                2) Unlike you, I’ve found many post-2000 Frank Rich columns on other issues interesting, informative, and correct. As I say above, I have virtually never found that about anything I’ve read by Drum. I get something from reading Rich. I don’t get much of anything when I read Drum. Putting each of their sins aside, Rich simply has more to say, and says it more interestingly, than Kevin Drum does.

                3) After vigorously arguing for war with Iraq for months, Drum decided he opposed it about two weeks before the bombing began, after all the decisions had already been made. Though you’re correct that I’m critical of Drum’s continued support for the idea of a war on Iraq even after this date, from a practical perspective, he supported the war when it counted, during the months of debate and actual decisionmaking.

                • Incontinentia Buttocks

                  Just to elaborate a point: I’m perfectly willing to accept that the collective media attacks on Al Gore made a difference in 2000. It was an extraordinarily close election; everything made a difference. But would Rich’s individual non-participation in the bashing have change the result? I doubt it.

                  Drum’s support for war certainly mattered even less than Rich’s nonsense about Gore (simply because he was blogger, not a NYT editorial writer). But just as the collective media attack on Gore made a difference, liberal hawkery collectively made one in the fall of 2002 and the first two months of 2003 when Drum supported war.

                • Holden Pattern

                  1) I don’t think that Rich was particularly causally important in Gore’s losing the 2000 election, however regrettable the nonsense he wrote about Gore was.

                  I don’t even know how this could be possible, given that there’s not actually any mechanism by which words affect public opinion on anything.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  But would Rich’s individual non-participation in the bashing have change the result? I doubt it.

                  On thing I think you’re missing is that Rich didn’t just write a bunch of really dumb Gush-Bore columns. He made up his own lies about Gore that got widespread circulation. Whether that made a difference is unknowable, but yes I’m not inclined to take anyone who was part of the War on Gore on this level seriously again, and it matters a hell of a lot more than whether a blogger was too late in figuring out that the Iraq War was a terrible idea.

                  If he had suddenly turned into Paul Krugman, of course, that would be different. But as far as I can tell in his career as a pundit he’s never written anything that’s both true and interesting.

                • djw

                  This seems like the key distinction. Being on the wrong side, for a time, of a policy debate (even if being on the right side should have been obviously easy, and even if the wrong side was extremely immoral) isn’t comparable to simply making up nonsensical, pernicious lies for the hell of it.

                  The equivalent or Rich on the Iraq war is Judith Miller, not Drum.

              • mpowell

                I agree with this. Rich had a much greater chance of making a difference. And his actions were not likely motivated by a sincere opinion on the issues. He was just being your typical bitchy elitist writer who thinks it doesn’t really matter who wins and just wants to talk about bullshit invented character issues.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  This is a good point too. Barbara Eherenreich, say, was wrong about the 2000 election, but at least wrong for substantive reasons that involved largely accurate critiques of the Democratic Party that led to a transparently foolish remedy. Rich just thought that Al Gore was BORING amirite, and for that reason decided to do what he could to put Bush in the White House.

  • I suppose there’s not much point in replying to this, but you’re all making a mountain out of a molehill. I write about environmental topics regularly, and the reason I don’t write even more about it is that Mother Jones has an entire blog dedicated to the subject.

    As for my list, I threw it together in 30 seconds and I was mostly focused on social welfare issues. You shouldn’t infer anything from the hundreds and hundreds of topics that I left off.

    • Jason

      Yeah, as Drum says, the list isn’t a window into his own interests. He writes about climate change a lot, certainly more than LGM (not that there’s a competition–people can focus on what they like).

    • Two things:

      1. The fact that you threw it together in 30 seconds is why it is so honest.

      2. There really is no difference between environmental and social issues; certainly in the 70s and 80s few would have separated them into different categories, particularly around issues of pollution and waste.

      • Tim O’Keefe

        So the list he throws together in 30 seconds reveals his true priorities, demonstrating that deep down his disregard for the environment, while his record of posts about fracking, climate change, etc., doesn’t?

        • Did I say Drum disregards the environment?

          This is single most ridiculous comment thread in my entire year plus writing on this blog.

          • Warren Terra

            We strive for ever-greater accomplishment.

          • pete

            Um, you DID start it! Claiming you wanted not to be unfair to Drum, you unfairly implied that he is young, unfairly ignored the topics he blogs about, unfairly generalized from one brief (and in itself unexceptionable) comment, and in this response and the previous ones try to change the subject. “Stop digging” is the advice that comes to mind.

            • Christ on a crutch.

              The young thing wasn’t an insult.

              I was making a point that had almost nothing to do with Kevin Drum.

              But let’s spend more time talking about his position on the Iraq War 10 years ago and no time talking about environmentalism. Which only goes to back up my point.

              This comment thread is very fucking stupid.

              • pete

                Writers who blame their readers for misunderstanding them would be well advised to reconsider their position.

                You might have done better to focus on your actual topic rather than to approach it sideways in a way that makes it seem like an unfair attack on someone who is essentially an ally. If you want to make the case that environmentalism has dropped off the agenda, it also would be more effective to cite more than one writer, especially when that writer does in fact discuss environmental issues on a regular basis.

                (“Young” I personally read as implying “naive” — you may not have meant that, but it’s a plausible interpretation. And of course Drum is not young.)

                • Yes, an unfair attack, when I specifically said in the post it was not an attack on Drum.

                  Try harder.

                • I also appreciate the condescending writing advice.

          • Cody

            Yes, this thread is pretty good. Erik even mentions IN HIS POST that this is not a condemnation of Drum. He’s just using it as an example of how environmentalism has fallen off the platform.

            Sure, it’s not completely gone. But I can’t count on zero hands how many times I’ve heard in the press something pro-environment…

            • djw

              Yeah, I thought this one was fairly obvious. The point is that 20 years ago, it would have been very unlikely that someone like Drum would throw together a list like this without environmental issues represented because of the prominent space then occupied by those issues in the collective left-of-center ethos. That Drum actually writes frequently on such issues and clearly takes them seriously drives the point home with force–we’d expect him to be unusually likely to include such issues on a list, and yet he didn’t.

              It occurs to me there’s a sort of blog-law in full and obvious display here that needs a name: if you mention Drum, Yglesias, or Klein in a post, the bulk of the comments will invariably be about global evaluations of them: the precise nature of their awfulness, whether or not they have a track record that demands ignoring, engagement or denouncement, and a variety of other, equally uninteresting, related questions.

          • L2P

            Yes. Yes, you did.

            I agree you’re not literally saying “Drum disregards the environment,” but you ARE pretty clearly saying that, for Drum and others, environmental concerns have “fallen off the map.” When I say that, for my City, care for the homeless has “fallen off the map,” I’m saying my city “disregards” care for the homeless.

            I think that is frankly untrue. I have seen zero evidence that Drum doesn’t value environmental concerns very highly, or that other liberals do as well. But when we’re talking about the budget environmental concerns aren’t the bigger issues, so it’s natural not to focus on it IMO.

            • No, I am not saying that at all.

              But hey, keep saying that I am. After all, what do I know, I only wrote the post.

              • Manta

                Yes, you wrote the post, and (unintentionally) made the impression of accusing Drum (and other “young” liberals) of disregarding the environment: you could simply add an update to correct the impression, or you could keep defending your true intentions in comments…

                • Or people could be smarter in reading the post.

                • L2P

                  Perhaps you could make it more clear what you meant to say?

                • Obviously, the problem is everyone else.

                  On second read, Erik’s point is clear – he’s attributing the lack of concern to younger people, not to Drum himself.

                  But on first read, I was left with the same impression as…well…everyone else who read it.

                • Murc

                  What joe said.

                  You’re a generally very good writer, Erik, but with the number of people who got the impression that you were coming at Drum sideways, you might want to ask yourself if you dropped the ball there.

                • To add my two cents as someone who isn’t exactly unlikely to clash with Erik from time to time, I also got the impression that he was laying the fault for the exclusion of environmental issues at Drum’s feet, but did not get the impression that he meant that as an attack on Drum, per se, so much as an observation.

          • Leeds man

            Can be a bit like a faculty lounge sometimes. One of the reasons I got out of academia. No mouse clicks to make one’s escape there.

      • Hogan

        Spontaneous =/= honest

  • Steve H

    My situation is similar to Drum’s. I’m a 47-year old suburban white guy lawyer, and while I used to be very concerned about environmental issues, those are not as big a priority for me, either.

    I’m not exactly sure why that is. I think it’s because, intuitively at least, I feel that the environmental laws we have are doing a fairly good job, so the environmental situation is getting better, or at least not worse. But things *are* getting worse when it comes to economic/social/war issues. So those have become much more of a priority for me.

    (I am not including global warming as an environmental issue.” To me, it’s bigger than that – and also, Drum does appear to be interested in that.)

    • Steve H

      (Okay, that’s what happens when I wait a few minutes before hitting Submit Comment. What he said.)

    • sparks

      I am a suburban white guy of an age closer to Drum than you. I have been worried about climate change since 1997 (I know, I was late coming to it). It would be very high on my laundry list now, such that it would never not be listed.

      Drum’s support of the Iraq folly is why I only read him now on rare occasion when he’s linked to by someone I read regularly (include also M. Yglesias, E. Klein, O. Willis, and others).

      • Warren Terra

        I’d separate out Klein, just because I think that project he’s got the WaPo to fund is one of the most interesting, most hopeful things connected with a large, mainstream media enterprise in the country.

    • I think it’s related to the types of environmental issues that we think of today vs. those from the ’90s or before (I’m assuming). Like you, I tend to think the Clean Air and Water Acts have worked, but don’t really think of them as spending priorities or even especially controversial anymore. (Not saying this is right, just how I think of it.)

      On the other hand, I am concerned about climate change and think we need to do something, like a carbon tax or even cap & trade, but those aren’t things I think of when talking about cutting the budget. If anything, they seem ways of collecting revenue, although controversial based on the alleged effect on the economy. Such things as tax credits to encourage green energy or the like seem potentially like cuts, but hardly really a central thing I’d think of when thinking about the budget, and the financial aspect of them doesn’t seem to be the real heart of the arguments about them.

      And like you I am primarily worried about economic issues right now, on which I think the Republicans have become increasingly radical, and especially with the attack on programs for the poor, on the one hand, and on any kind of normal gov’t focus on infrastructure and making sure things run well, on the other. So if I were to dash off a list in 30 seconds of what Ryan’s 80% of mysterious cuts would be, it would likely look something like Kevin’s (there are some obvious but unimportant differences) and likely would have excluded environmental spending, even that I wholeheartedly support.

  • redscott

    The Overton Window in action.

  • The idea that people who were between, say, 14 and 24 when the Great Recession began would not consider the environment a priority is completely in line with the Sustainable Development doctrine that came out of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

  • John

    I, too, don’t understand how a 53 year old man can be considered “youngish”, especially when the person calling Drum that is, what, almost 20 years younger than him?

  • pete

    Drum is generally worth reading because he tries to be accurate as well as essentially liberal. This sometimes makes him tentative on subjects where some folks want rah-rah rhetoric. It’s also noteworthy that he has been known to change his mind (and I mean in the very short term) and to post corrections and clarifications. I don’t always agree with him but I like him and recommend his work.

    (His commenters unfortunately include two or three of the most annoying right-wing trolls on these here interwebtubethingees.)

  • DrDick

    To the extent that the absence of environmental issues on that list is meaningful and relfects the concerns of his readership, I think that the problem is twofold. Firstly, I think environmentalism is to some extent a victim of its own success in eliminating the most egregious problems directly affecting the majority of people (it is much like feminism in this regard). Secondly, I think that given the economic mess we are in, especially for younger people, that more immediate concerns are taking precedence. The emphasis could then change when or if we have an actual recovery.

    • L2P

      If I was slightly slower posting, I would have just said “I agree” instead of posting below.

  • L2P

    I think you’re overreacting.

    This campaign hasn’t focused on the environment, so IMO Drum’s list of lost programs isn’t focusing on the environment. IMX young liberal and Democratic voters are even MORE concerned about the environment than other voters, but right now the economy is a disaster and that’s taking over the thought processes. Drum has posts about Fracking and sea depletion and etc. all the time.

    • SuburbS

      Drum has also written about suburbanization, land use, parking, HSR, fuel efficiency, peak oil, climate change and a bunch of other environmentally related issues.

  • Cody

    I think the issue is public perception. I care about the environment, but when the economy is bad the Republicans picture of it as a job-killer wins.

    It’s not a fight to pick, it’s a fight to keep in the background while unemployment is high. People just don’t care about the environment, for Pete’s sake almost half of voters thing Republicans are HELPING the country.

    I just hope Democrats still think about it when they can.

  • Warren Terra

    I think this line of attack on Drum is a bit silly: he makes the important point that everything-but-Social-Security-and-Medicare-and-Defense will get slashed by 80%, and then he rattles off an arbitrary list of some of the things in that “everything”. His list had huge gaps, including as you say in the environment, but it was just one list, chosen because they’re issues that particularly concern him, or that he thinks are close to his readers’ hearts, or that he thinks resonate well with swing voters, or whatever. Given my own priorities, I was unhappy to see no representation for science (NIH, NSF, NASA, etc), but I could interpret the text and realize my own ox was being gored here – indeed, eviscerated. No one who cares about the environment would be unaware of the implications of Ryan’s torching of the Government for environmental protection.

    It might be fair to write a post asking why environmental protection didn’t make Drum’s list – why wasn’t it higher in his internal list of priorities, or why did he think it wasn’t an important issue with which to appeal to his audience – but such a question should more effectively be asked in a less confrontational, loss condemnatory manner.

    • “but it was just one list, chosen because they’re issues that particularly concern him, or that he thinks are close to his readers’ hearts, or that he thinks resonate well with swing voters, or whatever.”

      Right, for whatever reason, it’s just interesting.

      But I also think it is telling, not so much about him, but about the state of the Democratic Party.

    • Because in the 1970s and 1980s, environmental issues WERE AT THE VERY TOP of Democratic priorities, it would have been a no-brainer that they’d be on any list.

      Now they near the bottom of priorities for Democratic voters.

      • Warren Terra

        I wish we were doing more on the environment, and it’s an issue where I think better public awareness could change things. But as a campaigning issue, it’s one where the Republicans have moved so far off the playing field – they are so actively hostile to every slightest notion of conservation – that you might ave to assume that every voter capable of being moved by environmental concerns already has been, and so you’re better off harping on other issues.

        That’s not necessarily my position – I think that the lack of a clear environmental vision will leave many people uninspired and inactive, and that’s only the political implications, and ignores the environmental consequences – but it can explain why a dedicated political hack (a description I do not intend as an insult) would spend little time on the issue.

        • The environmental movement itself deserves some blame for these issues as well.

          But it’s a complex chain of causation here.

          • I blame the constant drumbeat of bullshit about turning off the lights and planting trees I’ve been fed since second grade.

            • Except that those things actually are good things to do.

              • Seriously. Planting trees is a bfd.

                • firefall

                  Seriously, its not,unless you’re suffering local soil erosion issues.

                • Or if there is too much carbon in the atmosphere, or if your city has a heat-island effect, or if you don’t like dust and glare as you walk down the street, or if you dislike flooding.

                  Other than that, though, trees are no big deal.

                • Indeed, urban trees seem to be more and more helpful, even putting aside the fact that cities with tons of trees are way nicer.

      • Malaclypse

        But they were at the top of the list because of how very bad things were in the 1970s. I hate to sound all “you kids today” but I remember being a kid and being unable to play outdoors on the days that the wind was blowing from the plexiglass plant five miles away, because those days your eyes would water and your throat would burn if you played outside. I remember once a year or so, the wallpaper plant would simply run a fire hose into Neshaminy Creek and pump this orange-green sludge out of their tanks and into the water. Things were unbelievable awful then (in ways more visible than global warming today), so of course that was a priority.

        • Certainly this has much to do with it. I do not doubt what you are saying at all. At some point, I am going to write something about the senses and history, which I also think is important when it comes to problems in explaining climate change. The fact that the air is clean and the water drinkable is a huge issue.

          I don’t think it is all of the story, but it is definitely part of it.

          • Cody

            Luckily for us fracking will make pollution more visible for some of us!

            As someone who grew up in the country (and is under 25), I can say I’ve never seen real pollution. Unless you count the Ohio river… which obviously I would never touch because I’ve seen the mutated fish. However, people did use to swim in it all the time.

            • Ohio Mom

              Um, some of us are drinking it. Though the Cincinnati Water Works treats the river water before they send it down the pipes to us.

          • Malaclypse

            That is a good way of putting it. Pollution then was such that there was an immediate and undeniable sensory impact. It is easier to fight that than to fight about parts per million of CO2. Nobody could deny that, ooh yea, today there is a fire hose pumping evil-looking/smelling shit into the water supply.

            • sparks

              I guess we need a new Dust Bowl before people begin to get serious, then. I don’t mean that in a “we’re going to do something” way, but in a “we’ve got to appear as though we’re doing something” way.

              Nice climate we had, shame we irreversibly fucked it up.

        • DrDick

          I was in college in the early 70s and smog was horrendous in the cities, white limestone buildings were black from soot, rivers and waterways were horrendously polluted (they even occasionally burned), and Lake Erie was officially declared dead. The problems were much more grave and much more obvious in many more parts of the country than they are today. There are still a lot of very serious problems mountain top removal, nuclear waste disposal, cleaning up past pollution, and depletion of water resources to name a few), but they are much less evident to as many people.

      • L2P


        Here’s the 1976 Democratic platform.

        See what’s down there in section V? And only mentioned third? Yah. The environment. It’s not really at “the top of the list.” It’s buried under paragraph after paragraph about economic issues.

        You seem to be vastly overestimating the environmental consciousness of the 70’s, and vastly underestimating that of today.

  • Jim Lynch

    I “participated” in our country’s last military draft (I won!). Eight or nine years later, after Reagan reinstated mandatory registration, I asked a group of 18-20 year old guys how they felt about it. They were perfectly OK with it, and my only thought was that they didn’t have a clue about The Machine. That wasn’t the case with guys my age. It was a real eye opener.

    • Cody

      That reminds me, I need to update my SSS information.

      I hope I’m not already a federal fugitive.

      • Cody

        P.S. Being director of the SSS seems like the best job ever. All you do is maintain a website? I mean… not like any politician is going to reinstate the draft anytime soon.

      • Jim Lynch

        You’re probably not a fugitive, yet.

        However, if you are a member of the (“your 18-35 year old ass belongs to Uncle”) brigade, you might want too reflect on the consequences of a Romney victory.

        • Malaclypse

          It is a whole lot more politically feasible to trash the economy, such that you have a massive underclass with no economic hope other than Signing Up, than it is to implement a draft that might cause Tagg Romney some chance of an inconvenience.

          • Jim Lynch

            How many troops do you think it would take to garrison Iran?

            Too many for a volunteer army.

            • Malaclypse

              How many long-term unemployed can Republican policies generate?

              • Jim Lynch

                The better question is: how few jobs can they generate, while still retaining political control?

                (An aside- I’ve never read A Tale of Two Cities).

          • Cody

            That is an interesting idea. Indeed, who needs the draft when the only way out of poverty is enlisting?

            One can also assume that under Romney there would be increased need for soldiers with all the wars and money he diverts their way.

            Of course, most of the money Republicans put into the military is immediately diverted to a campaign contributor who wins a “contract” to develop something.

            • firefall

              the only way out of poverty is enlisting?

              I think you may be overselling, there, given the way ORs are paid and treated.

    • DrDick

      Yeah, my number was 3 in 1971. It was a whole different world by 1980.

  • H-Bob

    Why is Ryan considered a “deficit hawk” when his budget (even with all of the absurd budget cuts and fantasy-land projections about tax revenue) won’t balance the budget for 40 more years ? Why is that considered “serious” ?

  • pete

    Erik, I seem to have got under your skin. That’s unfortunate. Since I am a saint in human form, I shall overlook your tone and simply say that I agree with you that environmental issues deserve more attention. From my regular reading of his blog, I am quite certain that Drum would also agree. Which makes him a bad hook on which to hang an important argument.

    I’d like to see you make the case that I think you thought you were setting out to do.

  • chris

    I thought the omission of environmental programs just reflected the fact that they’re almost nonexistent already, and a budget cutter, like a bank robber, has to go where the money is.

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