Tuesday, August 27, 2013


This is the sort of privilege that upsets Glenn Reynolds, according to his latest USA Today column:
All over America, government officials enjoy privileges that ordinary citizens don't. Sometimes it involves bearing arms, with special rules favoring police, politicians and even retired government employees. Sometimes it involves freedom from traffic and parking tickets, like the special non-traceable license plates enjoyed by tens of thousands of California state employees or similar immunities for Colorado legislators. Often it involves immunity from legal challenges, like the "qualified" immunity to lawsuits enjoyed by most government officials, or the even-better "absolute immunity" enjoyed by judges and prosecutors. (Both immunities -- including, suspiciously, the one for judges -- are creations of judicial action, not legislation).

Lately it seems as if these kinds of special privileges are proliferating. And it also seems to me that special privileges for "public servants" that have the effect of making them look more like, well, "public masters," are kind of un-American....
Reynolds go on to complain about "the creation of two kinds of citizens" -- privileged people and the rest of us.

You know what comes to my mind when someone talks about "the creation of two kinds of citizens"? This:
... "We're as busy as we’ve ever been," said Joe Farrell, the president of Farrell Building, during a recent interview and tour of his $43 million, 17,000-square-foot home [in the Hamptons]. The estate, called the Sandcastle, features two bowling lanes, a skate ramp, onyx window frames and, just for fun, an A.T.M. regularly restocked with $20,000 in $10 bills.

To spend a day with Mr. Farrell ... is to see just how fully the Hamptons have rebounded, along with the confidence, and the bonuses, of their wealthier summer visitors.

With a customer base composed largely of Wall Street financiers, Mr. Farrell has more than 20 new homes under construction, or slated for construction....

He ... helped arrange a $900,000 summer rental for the hedge fund manager Marc Leder, who has since drawn scrutiny from Southampton authorities -- and gossip writers -- for boisterous parties that draw an endless stream of black S.U.V.'s.

... local Porsche and yacht sales are climbing once again, and [the club] Pink Elephant reopened this summer in East Hampton offering Methuselah (six-liter) bottles of Dom Perignon for $30,000. It is not just a novelty; the club's co-owner David Sarner said Pink Elephant had sold "a few" this season, and many more "trains" of smaller Dom Perignon bottles for as much as $8,000....
When Glibertarian Glenn talks about "privilege," he wants you not to think about this. When he talks about a society with two kinds of citizens, he wants this sort of high living not to cross your mind.

This is a longstanding right-wing project -- to make sure Americans never get angry at the country's real parasites, the financiers who contribute nothing of value, while demanding every cent they can get their grubby hands on. Right-wingers have been very successful in this project -- they have most of Heartland America convinced that the real parasitic "elites" are college professors and Prius drivers and unionized teachers and other folks who work for the damn gummint.

Meanwhile, Hamptons developer Joe Farrell has a theory about why the good times are back in his neck of the woods:
But most of all, he credits the Federal Reserve for the economic stimulus, which he said has helped the wealthy most of all. "The stock market's flying through the roof and who's that helping, the middle class? No, I mean that's the reality," he said. "Out here, life goes on."
To a large extent, that's Obama's fault -- and yet he would have gone for a second stimulus, and he's called for more investment in public works projects, and, of course, none of this is allowable because Republicans won't hear of it. The only stimulus we can have is the one that helps the most privileged.

And yes, maybe Glibertarian Glenn has a point about public officials getting too comfy because they get perks the rest of us don't. But he stops there. To me, that means they identify more with their billionaire contributors than with the rest of us. To Glibertarian Glenn, identifying with the rich is a good thing -- but if you're in government, you'd better make sure the rich get all the privileges, and not dare to take any for yourself, because government is evil, while rich people in the private sector are sacrosanct.


The New York Crank said...

They are having their "let them eat cake" moment.

Bear in mind what happened next.

Very crankily yours,
The New York Crank

Anonymous said...

None of your 'grunt 'n' grumble' answers Reynolds' main point that government officials are by-passing laws which ordinary citizens must obey.

Is it right and proper, and if not, what should be done about it?

Steve M. said...

None of your 'grunt 'n' grumble' answers

Don't come into my house and tell me how to behave, Duff.

Dark Avenger said...

I thought Brits were suppose to be well-mannered. I guess Duff is the Internet equivalent of a chav.

Ten Bears said...

Point to duff though, the public sector has put itself above the rest of us.

Orwell wrote a bit about that, Animal Farm... and in the end the animals couldn't tell the difference.

No fear.

Steve M. said...

All haves have put themselves above have-nots. You can pick a subgroup if you want, but my enemies list starts at the top 0.00001% of net worth and works down from there.

Victor said...

I actually never minded the people who created something useful, getting very rich.

It's their kids, and kids kids, and kids kids kids, etc, who don't add anything jack-f*ckin'-sh*t useful to society - but live their lives like they were entitled to live that way.

They don't deserve to live like that, just because they were the winners of "The Lucky Sperm Met A Lucky Egg Club."

And we used to tax rich people and their beneficiaries, to make sure that we did as much as possible to stop this country from having an aristocracy.
Now, it's too late - largely because the poor and middle-class rubes bought into that whole "Death Tax" thing, and never paid attention when people tried to correct them by calling it "The Paris Hilton Tax."

Anonymous said...

"Calm down, dear, it's only a ..."

Sorry, that's a well-known ad line 'over here'. But, Steve, I was only asking a question, trying to find out *what* you think, not what *to* think. The growth in numbers and power of the bureaucracy is deeply malignant and growing - both sides of the Atlantic and as a Liberal I thought you would be concerned about it.

aimai said...

"The growth in numbers and power of the bureaucracy is deeply malignant and growing...." No its not.

The country as a whole, its states, its towns, its schools, and its roads are all a huge, going, concern that requires constant care and feeding. We aren't living in Somalia and very few US citizens are running small, independent, subsistence farms. On the contrary every household is nested in a city or township with roads, sewers, utilities, health care, and schools all of which need to be tended.

The people who do that work--government servants--are people we choose to employ to get work done, and to protect us from the vagaries of the market and corporate malfeasance. Given that corporations want to exploit us and our land for private gain we probably need more regulation and more bureaucrats rather than fewer.

I'm quite happy to have my tax dollars pay for good social services, good roads, utilities, and health care (and health care administrators). I'll join you in criticizing the growth of the military and the national guard.

Steve M. said...

Government is actually shrinking, and the federal workforce as a percentage of the population has declined significantly and steadily over the past several decades. Some actual facts here.

Victor said...

Facts are like Kryptonite, to the stupid.

Here, try some, Duff, you feckin' eedjit!

Unknown said...

"None of your 'grunt 'n' grumble' answers Reynolds' main point that government officials are by-passing laws which ordinary citizens must obey.

Is it right and proper, and if not, what should be done about it?"

Are you fucking kidding me? You're actually comparing getting off on a parking ticket to the ongoing destruction of our economy by the super rich?

DAmn dawg. You have the false equivalency thing down pat.

Anonymous said...

Aimai, thank you for your response and I do realise you are not Somalia but, er, have you looked at Detroit recently? And have the efforts of your wonderful public servants saved you from 'Lord Gradgrind' in these communities:

General-Purpose Local Government Bankruptcy Filings (8):
-- City of Detroit
-- City of San Bernardino, Calif.
-- Town of Mammoth Lakes, Calf. (Dismissed)
-- City of Stockton, Calif.
-- Jefferson County, Ala.
-- City of Harrisburg, Pa. (Dismissed)
-- City of Central Falls, R.I.
-- Boise County, Idaho (Dismissed)

And according to some sources, these are next in line to go bankrupt:

1. Compton, Calif.
2. East Greenbush, N.Y.
3. Fresno, Calif.
4. Gulf County, Fla.
5. Harrisburg, Pa.
6. Irvington, N.J.
7. Jefferson County, Ala.
8. Menasha, Wis.
9. Newburgh, N.Y.
10. Oakland, Calif.
11. Philadelphia School District, Pa.
12. Pontiac, Mich.
13. Providence, R.I.
14. Riverdale, Ill.
15. Salem, N.J.
16. Strafford County, N.H.
17. Taylor, Mich.
18. Vadnais Heights, Minn.
19. Wenatchee, Wash.
20. Woonsocket, R.I.

Do you not get just a teensy-weensy feeling that perhaps all is not well in 'The Land of the Free'?

Steve: Yes indeed, the number of government employees (Fed, State & local) has fallen as a percentage of the population during Obama's reign but that probably has something to do with the biggest financial crash for nearly a century which only the totally purblind (see cities above) would ignore.

But still no-one has anything to say about the deep implications contained in Reynolds' report that there are now two separate law systems at work in the USA - one for the rulers and one for the plebs! Come on, this is not a party political matter, this should concern ALL Americans.

Examinator said...

Personally I agree with aimai on this one.
Mind you we shouldn't be surprised by the right wing commentariate's rhetoric or disregard for facts. After all to be right winged one must ultimately be ideologically belief/faith based. Be that Christianity or Capitalism (religion) both ultimately fail any scientific objectivity.
Both, are self (interest) oriented. Which Christian doesn't pray for themselves and theirs, new house, new car, better job . Which of either makes a donation (sacrifice of money) with out taking credit or tax deduction? How much do you claim for charitable donations, do you wear the badge /ribbon etc.
I find the argument that my perks aren't at horrendous as the 'rich' a self serving justification.
A bit like being stopped for speeding and claiming 'everyone does it' or 'those other vehicles were going faster than me' etc. None would get passed a speed cop.

False equivalence? really? Do you buy clothes or nick nacks (technological toys) from 3rd world countries? Do you really need that 60" color TV, new Cell phone. Most are produced at wages YOU wouldn't work for. Do you consider the consequences on the world's limited resources? Do you care that that cute tee for the baby might have been part of the produce that justified the factory that burned down in Bangladesh. Aren't we culpable for helping the rich to exploit the 3rd world poor. The Principal is the same the only difference is who is getting the benefits.
Most westerners including me have won the mini lucky sperm lucky ova lottery.
But that's somewhere/someone else ... isn't that what the rich say?

I fully accept that ALL perks (by the rich and the not so rich), excesses are obscene largely because somebody else pays the real price..... and that is Capitalism in a nut shell.

So when Churches rake in Billions from their enterprises and don't pay tax I ask why not.

After all Churches are among the richest organizations in the world...how much of their wealth comes back to the people forget non Americans?
Even then it's tied to benefit Americans (usually corporations)... we'll give you aid but we want access to your resources at our benefit and to hell with your people.
You can justify anything if you look at it through the right prism and ignore the facts.

Just thinking, Just being examinator ant.

boba said...

Couple Things:

First is the the sheer number of straw men that were killed in this posting and comments. In the original article Reynolds brings up the propensity of government officials to shield themselves from public accountability. The article is not about about size of the federal or state and local governments, with exception of one throw-away comment. Nowhere does he describe the government workers as parasites or free-riders. The entire gist of his argument is that at every level, that certain members of the government have attempted (and usually succeeded) at avoiding accountability for their actions; save the ability of the electorate to vote them out. Given that the electorate is notoriously reluctant to remove the incumbent, it's a given that this particular check on their power is not exercised enough. Moreover, given that the new set of office-holders will inherit this gamed system, and use it to their advantage, it does not appear to be going away anytime soon.
Second, When you consider the grievous harm that the privileges and immunities have caused, you begin to understand the problem. Civil forfeiture, as documented in the New Yorker, is abused to wide extents across the country. We have tremendous problems with police - civilian relationships in many urban centers (New York and Stop and Frisk; LA with Rampart and the Riders). Heck, if you look at the statutes as written, it's hard to see why the major political parties are not prosecuted under RICO. The substantial barriers that prevent civilian/citizen oversight should not be allowed. And that is what Reynolds proposes, subjecting these privileges to "strict scrutiny."
Now Reynolds may have a history of declaring government as too large or complaining about the inefficiencies or utility of the actions; however, that is not what is being argued. By engaging in ad hominem and constructing straw men to burn, you undermine your credibility and the willingness of others to listen to your arguments. You may find that finding areas of agreement, and building on those, is a better way of finding solutions to the problems facing contemporary society.

Ten Bears said...

I graduated long ago ex from Tax the Churches! to just burn the damned things.

No fear.

Steve M. said...

"Nowhere does [Reynolds] describe the government workers as parasites or free-riders."

No -- for that you need to go to, um, every third blog post he's written for the past decade-plus.

jim said...

Scapegoating public workers to distract from the perfidy of the elite = BULLSEYE.

Of course all those municipal bankruptcies cited above can't possibly be related to taxes being kept flat for decades on end while population rises, let alone with corporations being able to move out of state - or overseas - at a moment's notice. Nor has it anything to do with municipalities getting royally hosed circa five years ago by shady operators whose Grade D items were faked into Grade A by ratings agencies to make the grifting nice & easy for them - an epic fraud for which precisely zero people went to prison (unless you count Madoff, whose real crime was targeting people rich enough to have good lawyers & being too stupid to flee to Bermuda when he had the chance).

Wonder what happened to "The Obama deficit is about to destroy America at any moment"? Oh yeah, it's actually falling for the first time in ages - so now it's those evil firefighters & teachers who are the culprit ... meanwhile, Wall Street is doing exactly the same things that nearly ruined the global economy for good in 2008, & their media lapdogs aren't saying a peep.

Grab your ankles & get ready for "TARP Part 2: Economic Boogaloo," coming soon to a wallet near you!

Anonymous said...

Well, Jim, I have to hand it to you and your government. They have managed to hold the national debt to $16,699,396,000,000 - for 100 days! Not a penny up or down! Exactly $16,699,396,000,000!

Are you sure Madoff isn't running your economy from his cell?

Perhaps part of the reason that the Obama deficit 'appears' to have dropped is because his government is refusing to pay out on public service retirement funds and suchlike in order to stop from reaching the legal debt limit.

Incidentally, *reducing* a deficit does nothing for your debt which continues to grow bigger!

Dark Avenger said...

because his government is refusing to pay out on public service retirement funds and suchlike in order to stop from reaching the legal debt limit.

Gotta link?

Because I think you're confusing that with the sequester, which of course was agreed to by the Congress, including the Republicans who control the House of Representatives.

Sorry you're fiscally illiterate, Duff, as Ezra Klein explains:

Let’s stop talking about the deficit for a minute and simply talk about the demand the government creates for goods and services. The CBO is saying that the federal government will be pulling demand out of the economy in 2013, 2014 and 2015. It will then start adding demand back in again — meaning we’ll be increasing the deficit — from 2016 through 2023, and presumably beyond.

That is literally the opposite of what we should want. Textbook economics says the government should add demand when the economy is weak and pull back when the economy is strong. The economy — and particularly the labor market — will remain weaker than we’d like in 2013, 2014 and 2015. That’s when the government should be helping, or at least making sure not to hurt too fast. It should be much stronger from 2016 to 2023. That’s when the government should be backing off.

The types of policies matter, too. We want to cut the deficit by reducing spending on programs that don’t add much to the economy and raising taxes on people who can afford it. Instead, a lot of our deficit reduction is coming through sequestration, which everyone agrees is pretty much insane, and which focuses on the part of the budget that isn’t growing. Basically none of the savings are coming through entitlement reforms that will grow in the second or third decades, or through tax reforms.

It’s as if we took all the good ideas people had to help the economy and reduce the deficit and did the opposite. But because Washington myopically focuses on the number that denotes the deficit rather than the policies behind it or how well it matches the likely path of the economy, many in town are celebrating the report and declaring their work pretty much done, at least for now.


But thanks for sticking up for the 1%, Duff, with friends like you, who needs explanations?