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Michael Lewis in V. F.
Old 10-09-2011, 10:56 AM   #1
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Michael Lewis in V. F.

Interesting, though kind of long, piece by Michael Lewis of "The Big Short" fame on California and by extension, w.t.f. is going on in society at large.

California and bust

"Politicians are elected to get things done and are prevented by the system from doing it, leading the people to grow even more disgusted with them. "The vicious cycle of contempt," as Mark Paul calls it. California state government was designed mainly to maximize the likelihood that voters will continue to despise the people they elect.

But when you look below the surface, he adds, the system is actually very good at giving Californians what they want. “What all the polls show,” says Paul, “is that people want services and not to pay for them. And that’s exactly what they have now got.”
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Old 10-09-2011, 11:08 AM   #2
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“What all the polls show,” says Paul, “is that people want services and not to pay for them.'
There ya go. It's the "youbet understatement of the day." (Haven't issued one of those awards in a long time.)

This reminds me of interviews with demonstrators participating in the Occupy Wall Street thing in NYC I listened to on public radio. Most everyone interviewed wanted something different for themselves but all shared wanting something for nothing. Cancel my school loans, extend my unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks, guarantee me a good paying job with benefits, etc. And, oh yeah, find someone else to pay for it.
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Old 10-09-2011, 11:25 AM   #3
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..."the system is actually very good at giving Californians what they want. “What all the polls show,” says Paul, “is that people want services and not to pay for them.”
Yeah, I would be happy if I was receiving a "free ride", also ...

Where are the adults (while all the childern are playing...)?
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Old 10-09-2011, 11:31 AM   #4
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Soon we will have another ridiculous national election charade.
Very likely the only politician who might be able to make any difference is Vladamir- too bad he has other commitments.
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Old 10-09-2011, 11:42 AM   #5
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Very likely the only politician who might be able to make any difference is Vladamir- too bad he has other commitments.
Please, haha, tell us more.
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Old 10-09-2011, 12:21 PM   #6
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After reading the first posts I moved this thread to the "Politics and Fire" forum. Please keep it related it to FIRE.
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Old 10-09-2011, 12:52 PM   #7
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Great article, thanks for posting. But the last hopeful sentence is an uptick not justified by the rest of the article. 25 years ago I spent 3 years in the US. Dr. Whybrow's observations resonate with my thoughts at that time. My concept of US culture (which I kept to myself) was abundance and decadence as an expectation, which brought to mind the ancient Roman Empire. Met any Roman emperors lately?
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Old 10-09-2011, 01:02 PM   #8
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Did anyone read the Vanity Fair article? There is very little in our lives, except perhaps our personal health, that could have more to do with retirement, FIRE, or even existence as Americans then the obvious fact that we have become ungovernable. A bunch of spoiled babies grabbing the goodies before someone takes them off the table.

Lewis' telling of Arnold's experience in California is very telling. Other than Vladamir [Putin] who would be thought to have more governing power than Arnold?

Blaming our troubles on politicians, or on Wall Street, is valid, but incomplete. The buck stops with us, since voter fraud (ballot stuffing) has not been proven in national elections, we must be getting the results we want.

I have been making pessimistic social or socio-political prognostications since I arrived on this board in 2003. As best I can tell, I have been 100% correct in outline. Our ship is still sailing right for the iceberg. And IMHO, nothing is more relevant to FIRE. Gladstone Gander sitting on his pile of gold is nevertheless screwed when the society around him ceases to work.

Ha
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Old 10-09-2011, 01:05 PM   #9
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I read it. And speaking of Rome....

Like Rome, Is U.S. Doomed to Decline?
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Old 10-09-2011, 01:30 PM   #10
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Perhaps we do not yet have quite enough government sponsored Colosseum-like programs to push us over the edge?
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Old 10-09-2011, 01:39 PM   #11
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Interesting article.

"Classicist Victor Davis Hanson explains causes of Rome’s fall and how the U.S. might follow Byzantium’s more hopeful path."

Why might this happen? To me at least, the article really says, "Hey, it could happen."

Of course it could, but I believe it is a long shot. And to his point about US demographic strength, I wonder. Operating an open southern border while we put huge blocks on the granting of H1b visas is not demographic strength, is it pandering to voters.

Ha
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Old 10-09-2011, 05:12 PM   #12
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When has the political promise of "bread and circuses" ever displeased the proletariat?

One of the funniest reactions to recent populist moves to debigulate the government was in our local election campaign now running. One astute questioner demanded to know when the town would stop laying off teachers, firemen, and police, and start shrinking the size of our 'bloated local government'.

It was pointed out that some 90% of the local government is police, fire, and teachers, along with the water treatment and sewage plant (another 5 people), and there just weren't a lot of other paid employees or management. The elected officials don't get a salary, BTW.

I think there are three people in the planning, permits, and building inspection department, and they're a revenue source. There's a janitor for every two schools, and an IT guy for the school system. Principals also teach classes, and the school secretary is a parent volunteer. There's not much 'administrative overhead' left to cut. That didn't seem to slow down the local loud noises much.
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Old 10-09-2011, 05:25 PM   #13
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Actually it doesn't get much better than this. My favorite is still Mark Twain - you know the guy who wrote The Gilded Age. about the time(roughly) the US GDP passed the the ole British Empire in industrial output.

Now if we could slowly fade into the sunset like them - now there was a class act.

heh heh heh - my ER will survive the current minor irritations - it has for the last 18 yrs.
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Old 10-09-2011, 05:35 PM   #14
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When has the political promise of "bread and circuses" ever displeased the proletariat?

One of the funniest reactions to recent populist moves to debigulate the government was in our local election campaign now running. One astute questioner demanded to know when the town would stop laying off teachers, firemen, and police, and start shrinking the size of our 'bloated local government'.

It was pointed out that some 90% of the local government is police, fire, and teachers, along with the water treatment and sewage plant (another 5 people), and there just weren't a lot of other paid employees or management. The elected officials don't get a salary, BTW.

I think there are three people in the planning, permits, and building inspection department, and they're a revenue source. There's a janitor for every two schools, and an IT guy for the school system. Principals also teach classes, and the school secretary is a parent volunteer. There's not much 'administrative overhead' left to cut. That didn't seem to slow down the local loud noises much.
Debigulate. That's a great word. If it's yours you should trademark it.
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Old 10-09-2011, 05:36 PM   #15
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One of the funniest reactions to recent populist moves to debigulate the government...
Made me look.

Thought for a minute I might need you to do a little disambiguating, but the light bulb finally came on.
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Old 10-09-2011, 05:42 PM   #16
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Michael Lewis is a very good story teller and writer.

Here is an interesting analysis of his VF article by written by someone with experience in muni bond analysis and rating Sutor, ne ultra crepidam
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Old 10-09-2011, 06:44 PM   #17
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Michael Lewis is a very good story teller and writer.

Here is an interesting analysis of his VF article by written by someone with experience in muni bond analysis and rating Sutor, ne ultra crepidam
Thank you for this. An excellent counterpoint to some of the Lewis article.

I have to say that, in general, I don't believe I have the ability to profit from market timing. But the few, rare times when I have (gotten away with it), it has been in the muni-bond market when I have been able to back the truck up to the loading dock, so to speak. And for one of those recent times, I can thank Whitneyesque hysteria.
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Old 10-09-2011, 09:07 PM   #18
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Thank you for this. An excellent counterpoint to some of the Lewis article.

I have to say that, in general, I don't believe I have the ability to profit from market timing. But the few, rare times when I have (gotten away with it), it has been in the muni-bond market when I have been able to back the truck up to the loading dock, so to speak. And for one of those recent times, I can thank Whitneyesque hysteria.
We also are grateful to Ms. Whitney. Maybe we'll have another opportunity now. It always helps to have a little cash handy.
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Old 10-10-2011, 10:25 AM   #19
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That's up there with the famous "keep the government's hands off my Medicare" goofiness.

People generally do not have a good idea of where their tax dollars are going. They underestimate the cost of programs they use and overestimate the cost of the "frivolous" stuff.

At a Federal level, it all boils down to Defense, SS, Medicare, and Medicaid. If you want those programs to exist as is, taxes must go up.

Keeping the current low tax levels mean that spending on those programs need to be dramatically reduced over the long haul.

I'm fine with the low taxes, low services model if that is what voters decide when the choice is honestly presented to them. I'm also ok with higher taxes and keeping the services.

What I am not ok with is pretending that we can keep high services while keeping taxes low. That path will end badly for all of us, regardless of our personal finances. There is no FIRE in a collapsed state.


Quote:
Originally Posted by M Paquette View Post
When has the political promise of "bread and circuses" ever displeased the proletariat?

One of the funniest reactions to recent populist moves to debigulate the government was in our local election campaign now running. One astute questioner demanded to know when the town would stop laying off teachers, firemen, and police, and start shrinking the size of our 'bloated local government'.

It was pointed out that some 90% of the local government is police, fire, and teachers, along with the water treatment and sewage plant (another 5 people), and there just weren't a lot of other paid employees or management. The elected officials don't get a salary, BTW.

I think there are three people in the planning, permits, and building inspection department, and they're a revenue source. There's a janitor for every two schools, and an IT guy for the school system. Principals also teach classes, and the school secretary is a parent volunteer. There's not much 'administrative overhead' left to cut. That didn't seem to slow down the local loud noises much.
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Old 10-10-2011, 05:50 PM   #20
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