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Plutocracy Now, Plutocracy Tomorrow, Plutocracy Forever

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Alf Landon’s speech opposing Social Security in 1936 could have been made by Paul Ryan today.

These are a few reasons why I called this law unjust and stupidly drafted. There is a further important point in connection with the compulsory saving provided by the plan of the present administration. According to this plan, our workers are forced to save for a lifetime. What happens to their savings? The administration’s theory is that they go into a reserve fund, that they will be invested at interest, and that in due time this interest will help pay the pensions. The people who drew this law understand nothing of government finance…

…Let me explain it in another way—in the simple terms of the family budget. The father of the family is a kindly man, so kindly that he borrows all he can to add to the family’s pleasure. At the same time he impresses upon his sons and daughters the necessity of saving for their old age.

Every month they bring 6 per cent of their wages to him so that he may act as trustee and invest their savings for their old age. The father decides that the best investment is his own I O U. So every month he puts aside in a box his I O U carefully executed, and, moreover, bearing interest at 3 per cent.

And every month he spends the money that his children bring him, partly in meeting his regular expenses, and the rest in various experiments that fascinate him.

Years pass, the children grow old, the day comes when they have to open their father’s box. What do they find? Roll after roll of neatly executed I O U’s.

I am not exaggerating the folly of this legislation. The saving it forces on our workers is a cruel hoax.

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  • Anonymous

    And now Social Security will be bankrupt in a few decades. Kaput. Over.

    Because the problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money, and that’s exactly what is happening with Social Security.

    “Social Insurance” is just another word for Socialism, which is the path to Communist tyranny and bankruptcy.

    • Which is why I support it of course, comrade.

      • Anonymous

        OF course if you do succeed in bringing America under Communism, “useful idiots” like you will be the first to be executed at the show trials.

        • Ramon A. Clef

          No, no. They’ll get you first, never you worry.

          • I’m going to crushed by the falling dominoes.

    • efgoldman

      Break out the trollcakes!

      • trollhattan

        Indeed, although these trollcakes are very watery and unfocused. I believe they might be groat-trollcakes.

      • cpinva

        “And now Social Security will be bankrupt in a few decades. Kaput. Over.”

        got to get a better class of trolls on this site. maybe a filtering test, to weed out the exceptionally dull ones? by definition, SS can’t go “bankrupt”, absent a totally unemployed population and a non-existent congress (ok, some, well, many, would claim we currently have a non-existent congress). any troll who can’t come up with something better than this, isn’t worthy of the name.

        • Tucker

          Hear hear

    • Comrades! He’s on to us! Quick, back to Moscow!

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        you guys go on ahead. I’m gonna drop over to Cuba for a while first

        • MAJeff

          I’ve been missing Cambridge.

          • efgoldman

            I’ve been missing Cambridge.

            Alas, Cambridge as we knew it is just a memory, like New York in the 20s.
            The Commies can’t afford it any more, either to live or to support marginal independent businesses.

      • Why should we go to Moscow if Putin won’t give us money to blog for them but he’ll give conservatives to shill for Russia?

    • Malaclypse
      • Cody

        I was always a fan of this one!

        • Malaclypse

          You are the wind beneath my wings.

    • Sly

      So when do we put the capitalist running dogs up against the wall, comrades? I have some free time next Tuesday, when I won’t be standing around and holding a clipboard in the 3rd Basement Sublevel of the Department of Redundancy Department.

      • MAJeff

        As long as it’s after 2:00. I’ve got classes before that, and I can’t afford to miss, even if it is for so worthy a cause.

      • wjts

        I can’t do Tuesdays at all – that’s the day I have my weekly gaybortion.

        • Hogan

          No Thursdays for me–I string razor wire around the re-education camps.

          • I’m free the next month or so, but after that it’s All War on Christmas All The Time.

            • anthrofred

              I call charge of making sure grocery stores only stock halal meat.

              • Grocery stores? Pfft, we’re only permitting bazaars from now on.

          • Anonymous

            This is why socialism never works, it just takes up to many evenings…

            To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, I believe.

    • JMP

      What does “Communist” mean, grandpa?

      • efgoldman

        +1954!!

    • DrDick

      Why do you hate your grandmother? Your mother? Your father? Oh, that’s right, you are such vile, disgusting creature that they threw you in the garbage, where you belong.

    • Barry

      “And now Social Security will be bankrupt in a few decades. Kaput. Over.”

      Don’t even have the balls to post a pen name?

      BTW, I’ve been hearing that lie for decades, and it’s been wrong for decades.

  • Anonymous

    Even J. Otto Pohl, who is not a right-winger by any means, has tried repeatedly (and in vain) to warn everyone here, especially the patriotic liberals, the dangers of Communism and has been repeatedly ignored.

    • Linnaeus

      Even J. Otto Pohl, who is not a right-winger by any means

      That seems at odds with his own self-description, IIRC…

      • When you’re a fascist, everyone seems like a lefty.

        • Linnaeus

          Either fascist or neofeudalist.

        • trollhattan

          Can you maybe call the Orkin man? Looks like the joint could use a good fumigation. Have to admit, for a program destined to ruin Amerikka, Social Security sure is slow about it…I hardly have the attention span.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Tom “The Exterminator” DeLay is open for business once more.

            Of course, that would be Matthew 12:43-45 all over again.

    • Warren Terra

      J. Otto Pohl has an interest in and a ready excoriation for the Soviet Union, especially circa 1930 to 1960? How did I not learn of this? I’ll have to ask him about the subject, next time I get the chance, right after I tell him all about this place he might have heard of, someplace apparently called “Ghana”!

      • Barry

        But maybe, just maybe, if we asked nicely and bought the drinks, he could also give us his opinion on the system of higher education in the USA. Is it good? Bad? Only Otto knows.

    • Malaclypse

      Even J. Otto Pohl, who is not a right-winger by any means

      I call parody troll.

      • anthrofred

        Or alternate account, though to JOP’s credit that doesn’t seem his style.

      • Just so I understand, you’re claiming Jotto is a parody troll?

        I buy it. I’ve always thought that account was just Loomis screwing with us

        • Malaclypse

          No, I was claiming that Anon was a parody troll. Although your way also works.

    • JMP

      And we’ve also been ignoring the menace from Carthage! Oh no!

      • Obamacare delenda est.

    • wjts

      Even J. Otto Pohl, who is not a right-winger by any means, has tried repeatedly (and in vain) to warn everyone here, especially the patriotic liberals, the dangers of Communism and has been repeatedly ignored.

      I know, right? It’s like a friggin’ Kevin McCarthy movie around here.

    • Does J. Otto Pohl think that Social Security is Communist? I ask him.

    • njorl

      I wouldn’t know. I’ve been repeatedly ignoring him because he goes on and on about Gha… about that place.

    • njorl

      I wouldn’t know. I’ve been repeatedly ignoring him because he goes on and on about Gha… about that place.

  • Hogan

    I could swear I heard Rick Santorum give that speech in 1998.

    • Why in the name of all that is frothy would you listen to a Santorum speech? You only have a finite number of brain cells and you’re going to use some for that? Memorizing Creed lyrics would do you less harm.

      • Hogan

        I lived in Pennsylvania; I was doing organizing around Social Security and he was at a public forum; I wasn’t doing anything with those brain cells anyway; my time has no value. Pick one or more.

        • In order: my sympathies, good on you, that’s no excuse, you could have been drinking, and “oh.”

    • rm

      G. W. Bush said exactly that in 2005. He said Treasury bonds were just IOUs written on worthless paper. The President of the United States, allegedly.

      • Rhino

        I prefer to call him the usurper.

        • Anonymous

          The Pretender.

      • Mike Schilling

        If Ted Cruz and the Teabaggers have anything to say about it, that’ll be true.

    • It stands to reason, since it’s always the same speech.

    • somethingblue

      Mr. Daudier spoke to us for–for some years, we felt. It was the speech a vain average would make to an audience of means. Gertrude had heard him give the speech before; so had I; Gottfried never had; yet Gottfried knew it better than we did, because Gottfried was older than we were, and had heard that speech more times than we had.

      After a while I could no longer hear what Mr. Daudier was saying, and I just looked at him. There were waves like heat waves in the air of the auditorium, so that his face would get big and indistinct, and then small and indistinct; sometimes I would realize that it had disappeared altogether, that I hadn’t seen it for minutes, and I would grope my way back to seeing it. …

      And yet he kept talking about Love; it was always Love, never love, and when he said Love a strange light would come over his face, and make you want to hate your neighbor. He looked much more like stone than stones do: he not only knew that he was right, he knew that he was good–and he recognized the fact that other people weren’t; his face had a look of such grave, muted, self-righteous complacency that it seemed a seventeenth-century engraving designed to illustrate Socrates’ Nothing can hurt the good man.

      • Hogan

        Mr. Daudier had been pushed up and down New England several times, head-first, by a glacier; this face was what was left. (Or, from another point of view, New England was what was left.)

  • Shwell Thanksh

    Economist L. Randall Wray’s 5 Reasons the Federal Budget is NOT like a Household Budget might help clarify to Mr. J.O. Pohl and others why these analogies of the federal government budget being like a really, really large family household budget are simple, obvious, yet completely stupid.

    • Anonymous

      The current federal debt is NOT SUSTAINABLE and will never be paid off in full. Everyone knows it. Common sense dictates it.

      • fledermaus

        Right, the printing press may run out of ink

        • efgoldman

          Notice the runaway inflation of the last five years, while the deficit keeps going up.
          Oh, wait. That’s another country, in a parallel universe.

          • Malaclypse

            Another six months and we’ll know for sure.

            • Bartleby

              The next six months will be crucial. I heard it on good authority from a taxi driver I just spoke with.

          • Lee Rudolph

            We’ll be ZimbabweGreeceGhana, I tell you! GHANA!!

      • Shwell Thanksh

        Busted troll is busted! If you’d read to the end, you’d have seen Wray’s concluding paragraph:

        But since this analogy is invoked so often, I hope that the next time you hear it used you will challenge the speaker to explain exactly why a government’s budget is like a household’s budget. If the speaker claims that government budget deficits are unsustainable, that government must eventually pay back all that debt, ask him or her why we have managed to avoid retiring debt since 1837-is 173 years long enough to establish a “sustainable” pattern?

      • Warren Terra

        I like how “everyone knows this” and yet the government pays low interest when it borrows money. Have you any inkling what is likely to happen to a interest charges on new debt for a given borrower when any significant number of people, let alone “everyone”, has twinges of concern about whether the debts will be repaid?

        • Davis X. Machina

          How about “Knowing that the government is going to just confiscate it all eventually, people are content to earn an immediate, if risible, return.”

          Ok, it’s mostly nonsense, because there are such things as 10-year Treasuries (presently at 2.64%), but it’s something.

          No one says the confiscation has to happen, like, tomorrow.

          • DrDick

            No one says the confiscation has to happen, like, tomorrow.

            That is what the memo I got said!

      • BigHank53

        Well, Anonymous, why aren’t you scampering off for a country with a less foolish monetary policy?

        • Lee Rudolph

          He’s trying his best to save us while there’s still a slight glimmer of hope. No rat abandoning a sinking ship, he.

          (I’d bet a freshly-minted platinum fiat coin that he’s a he.)

      • anthrofred

        You know how we’re always going on about people misusing the term “begging the question”?

        Yeah.

      • Of course the current public debt will be paid off in full. Those notes will come due within a few decades, and they’ll be paid back with a mix of tax revenue and new debt, just like always.

        • That’s boringly unapocalyptic. Can’t you spice it up?

          • anthrofred

            …a mix of tax revenue and the blood of gentiles?

            • A fan of Henry Ford’s fiction, I see.

        • DrS

          mix of tax revenue and new debt

          Can this mix also be described as “frothy”?

      • Helmut Monotreme

        When they lose on the issues, when they lose on the candidates, when they lose in the court of public opinion, that’s what conservatives always fall back on. “we can’t afford to take care of people”, “we can’t afford to build roads”, “we can’t afford to do any goddamn thing at all that doesn’t make the rich richer”. And to make the hypocrisy richer its always after a Republican administration gets voted out for spending money like a stereotypical drunk, on tax cuts for the rich, on subsidies for oil companies, on shinier weapons for whatever new land war in Asia catches their fancy.

  • Anonymous

    While the [Communist Party USA] regards both major parties as two capitalist entities in a collaborative dictatorship for established financial institutions, it believes that rule by the Democrats is preferable to rule by the Republicans, arguing that the latter puts the interests of working people in considerable danger.[2] [CPUSA Chairman Sam Webb] has called President Obama a “people’s advocate” and said that some of his early decisions, in reversing some of President George W. Bush’s policies,[clarification needed] were praiseworthy.[3]

    Bold mine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Webb

    • Philip

      I like this troll. “I like making things worse for workers” isn’t even subtext here. It’s just text.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        when ‘corporations’ = ‘people’ then the workers, even in human form, are nothing more than tools to be ‘rationalized’ when their working life is over

        what’s kind of comical is that I’m sure trolly thinks of him/herself as somehow *exempt* from being thrown into the scrapyard

        • efgoldman

          …the workers, even in human form, are nothing more than tools…

          I want to come back as a stilson wrench un my next life. Or maybe a sledgehammer.

          • Malaclypse

            Allow me to share, as Communists are wont to do, the (everything not forbidden is) obligatory reference.

          • I would say that I want to come back as a wrecking ball, but Miley Cyrus shat that bed.

          • Nick

            Will that comment be your testimony?

          • MAJeff

            Damn, I wanna come back as Aretha.

          • Lee Rudolph

            I have always seen myself more as the implement for removing stones from horses’ hooves that is found on every self-respecting Swiss Army knife.

            • Man, Otherkin have gotten really extreme lately.

          • DrDick

            I want to be a chainsaw!

    • Bold mine.

      You think you’re bold. You’re actually ultra-light extra-condensed.

    • I hear Communists like blow jobs too.

      But they HATE having needles stuck into their eyeballs.

      You are a Patriotic American. You know what needs to be done.

      • He’s also a moron. He’s likely to go stick his dick in someone’s eye.

  • Anonymous

    Is it a coincidence the people who always declaim up and down that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme are always the easiest marks for actual Ponzi schemes, and shit like Goldline?

    • efgoldman

      Well, they often have a problem with, you know, reality.
      Anyone who listens to the Glenn Becks of the world, on purpose, every day, pretty much deserves what happens to them.

    • I don’t understand why Goldline would want to trade their valuable gold for my worthless dollars.

      Doesn’t make much sense.

      • Shwell Thanksh

        Perhaps you missed a slight detail in the fine print of their business model.

        1. You mail your gold to them.
        2. They mail you back the number of dollars that they determine it is “worth”.
        3. You spend endless rage-filled time trapped in a vortex of phone-bots and email autoresponders attempting to quibble about their value assignment.
        4. ???
        5. Profit!!

        • Ahuitzotl

          Im pretty sure you have 3-5 in the wrong order

        • efgoldman

          Hey, all the grifters, crooks, and schemers can’t be multi-billion-dollar banks, you know. ‘Murrica was built by small businesses.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Faith, hope, and charity. But the greatest of these is charity.

        • In light of the troll’s comments, let me quote Rodney: “It says in the bible ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ What, I’m supposed to jerk him off, too?”

    • Vance Maverick

      Front-pagers, could we disable anonymous posting? At least we could force trolls to choose pseudonyms, like “Lazy Rightwinger”.

      • Rhino

        +1

  • LeeEsq

    Attempting to move the conversation in a more serious direction. It goes beyond plutocracy. The American conservative mindset seems to fear any sort of cooperative venture and puts a lot of stock on the virtue of self-reliance. Other conservative movements are much more likely to possess communal tendencies. I’d say that what really animates American conservatives over anything else is a fear of at least looking dependent on other people if not being an actual dependent.

    • Ahuitzotl

      Nope. The american conservative movement fears and opposes anything that might impede the plutocrats from amassing more money. Thats it, and thats all of it. Everything else is distractions and window dressing. If you doubt me, examine the laws and policies they put in effect each time they gain power.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        well, you’re right. the ideas and the bankroll come from the plutocrats.

        but LeeEsq is kinda right, too – the votes come from people who not only fear being dependent themselves, but also don’t want people who don’t look/act/name their kids the same names they do to be “dependent” on *them*

      • LeeEsq

        There aren’t enough plutocrats to keep American conservatism in power. I’m also not entirely sure that I’m comfortable with simply dismissing the viewpoints of my ideological opponents as simply being self-serving because I don’t believe in it.

        • efgoldman

          I’m also not entirely sure that I’m comfortable with simply dismissing the viewpoints of my ideological opponents as simply being self-serving because I don’t believe in it.

          In fact, at the voter level, isn’t it pretty well-established that conservatives will vote against their own interests?

          • LeeEsq

            More generally, there lots of people in the world and lots of different viewpoints. We aren’t ever going to reach the mystical, magical point where everybody agrees on all the important issues. What we need to do is find a system that allows for maximum disagreement with minimal violence.

            • efgoldman

              What we need to do is find a system that allows for maximum disagreement with minimal violence.

              That’s pretty much what-we have now, except for the gun nuts.

              • LeeEsq

                In the developed world yes but recent events have shown that we haven’t arrived there globally yet. My basic belief is that there is always going to be wide disagreement and we just need to find a way to deal.

        • BigHank53

          Have you ever heard the old advertising maxim, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak?” Freedom and the primacy of the individual sound and smell awesome. But looking at the broad history of civilization, that individual freedom is only here because of collective action. Otherwise we’d all still be subsistence farmers or hunter-gatherers because we’d never have gotten anything bigger than a tribe off the ground.

          Capital seeks to draw every dollar under its umbrella. At some point money and power become transitive, and capital will seek to draw all power under its umbrella, too. And that’s the steak.

          • LeeEsq

            Well, I’d argue that individual freedom is here because of technological advancement and some lucky developments in religion, philosophy, and politics that originated from the Jews and Greeks during antiquity. If it weren’t for Abrahamic religion and Greek philosophy than the world would be a different place even if the technology were roughly similar.

            • If Abrahamic religion and Greek philosophy didn’t exist, man would have to invent them.

              • Lige

                Beautifully put.

            • njorl

              Hasn’t the impact of Greek philosophy been overrated. It vanished from the west for centuries, but progress did not stop. You can actually follow a trail of collapsed civilizations which fell after widespread dissemination of Aristotle.

            • Bill Murray

              aren’t pretty much all your reasons put into practice by collective action?

        • Ahuitzotl

          Well, (1) american politics is structured in such a way that money has a direct and large gearing effect, so that there are in fact enough plutocrats to keep American conservatism in power, and (2) I dont dismiss my ideological opponents on the rightwing as simply self-serving – the Democratic Party clearly isn’t just self-serving, as clearly as it is rightwing. I do dismiss the insane plutocratic party as self-serving.

    • Davis X. Machina

      Good piece on precisely this by Steve Randy Waldman today, come to that:

      At least in a methodological sense, it is socialists who are the individualists, attending to the sum of individual welfares, while unsympathetic capitalists rely upon collectivism to justify their good fortune and the policy apparatus that magnifies and sustains it.

      • LeeEsq

        Noah Milman said something similar in 2010, where he had a brief post that attempted to re-imagine political terminology. Usually the terms liberal, leftist, and progressive are lumped together and the terms conservative, rightist, and reactionary are put together. Milman argued that this was potentially wrong. Rather it should be seen in terms of liberal v. conservative, leftist v. rightist, and progressive v. reactionary. A person could be a Liberal Rightist Progressive (Andrew Sullivant or Matt Yglesias were given as examples) or a Conservative Leftist Reactionary (Benjamin Disraeli).

        Under Milman’s thought, the leftist world view is concerned about failure. Concern for the miserable of the earth is the beginning and end of political morality. The rightist seeks to ensure that success, varyingly defined, is adequately rewarded. Its why the GOP is completely focused on tax cuts for the wealthy.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          don’t the terms almost *have* to be lumped together so long as we have the two party system? and if we had a more parliamentary system, wouldn’t we have awfully unstable coalitions dividing ourselves up like that?

          • LeeEsq

            I think Milman meant more in terms of general conversation. Even in multi-party systems, liberal, left, and progressive are used as synonyms and so are conservative, right, and reactionary.

        • UserGoogol

          For the record, here is that post.

          I don’t think I’d call Matt Yglesias rightist per se (and neither did he: he just said “not much of a left-winger”). In the grand scheme of things Matt is more interested in protecting the downtrodden than rewarding the successful, but he doesn’t exactly get a fire in his belly about it, and that combined with his technical beliefs about how to go about helping the downtrodden is what pisses lefties off about him.

  • Ken

    Might be made by Paul Ryan? I’d go with is being made by Ted Cruz.

    • witless chum

      Too coherent.

  • joe from Lowell

    If you ignore the fact that Social Security has never missed a single payment in its many decades of existence, Landon’s speech seems almost prophetic.

  • ns

    Years pass, the children grow old, the day comes when they have to open their father’s box. What do they find?

    US Government Bonds!

    IOW: IOUs that can be sold on the open market to provide the benefits as promised.

    No biggie.

    Also, the father is immortal.

  • bobbyp

    Also, the father is immortal.

    Sure. Next you’ll be telling me the government can print money, control interest rates, and collect taxes.

    In your dreams.

  • docmorgan

    That same quasi-socialist-communist-government may also stop lavishing money on the MIC, tweak S.S. collection on incomes above $110k and the SS holdings now part of that debt. still in the family (seven trillion), would grow so even Paul Ryan could collect his due (after the Sponsors and Interests lost their many exemptions and gifts.

    As a fun project treasury could mint a few Trillion $ platinum coins given all the productivity gained from the Fox & Friends and sponsors of the PAC’s, money then pegged as appropriate productivity growth and pay everyone off next week (but the S.S. IOU’s). Ben takes the coins to Lew and they pay off a few trillion. Lew could vacation, thank Ben and Congressional foresight. Obama could go on the road to explain ACA to undo the spin by the party of the one god, Rand and etc.. The GOP could go on a trip to Texas for strategy session with the great intellects (Cruz, R. Perry, DeLay & Karl Rove) while Obama calls emergency sessons and The Put America To Work Act is passed which raises the minimum wage and puts anyone from 18-25 who wants a job in the reconstituted CCC and WPA. Congress also puts a tax on Carbon and Koch Bros. lose the mines for back taxes due to the Monday-Wed’s levy and EPA orders closure of their chemical works. Make it so Comrads.

    • Tucker

      I’d vote for that.

  • ShelbyC

    I’m not sure what the problem with this paragraph is. It was correct in 1936, it would be correct if Paul Ryan gave it today, and the analogy to family finance works beautifully. All it does is point out what everybody who understands social security should know, that it is not a savings program. It is, as has been pointed out ad nauseum, a pay as you go program.

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