Jonathan Chait's Latest Libertarian Fever Dream

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about how New York Magazine political writer Jonathan Chait (late of The New Republic) is looking on the bright side of potential "fear of extremism and mob violence" in the Occupy Wall Street protests (which, as far as I can tell, haven't really featured anything like either). He has written a long response (decorated by a glamourpuss shot of Nick Gillespie!) that you can read here. In it, he writes:

Welch, in his latest post, kinda-sorta implies that I'm a partisan hypocrite. He begins by quoting other people hyperventilating about the dangerous violence of the tea party, then quotes me discussing Occupy Wall Street in more sanguine tones. The problem here is that the first batch of quotes doesn't contain anything written by me. That's kind of a necessary ingredient for accusing somebody of holding a double standard. You can't really do it by demonstrating that a person has contradicted positions expressed by other people. And, in fact, I have strongly criticized liberal hysteria over "violent language," and especially the attempt to connect right-wing rage to the shooting of Gabby Giffords.

Actually, I kinda-sorta don't, at least in terms of the word "hypocrite." Many on the left have expended much oxygen hyperventilating about the vaporware of Tea Party violence; Jonathan Chait of the left is talking about the virtues of violent atmospherics, that's about the structure and (limited) point of what I wrote.

In the event, I am glad to be reminded of Chait's sensible writings about the Giffords shooting (which I remember at least re-tweeting at the time), and I only wish he'd had the same reflex when talking about Tim Pawlenty's "take back our government" rhetoric six weeks later ("the shocking thing about contemporary Republican rhetoric is how short the space is between mainstream political speech and incitement to violence"). And for what's it worth, I, too, dislike "take back our government" rhetoric, even more than I dislike Tim Pawlenty.

Chait makes one other clump of misstatements worth addressing:

If you're going to automatically oppose any military intervention, new spending programs, or regulation, and automatically favor every tax cut, you're hardly unbound by dogma. In the same way, communists, UFO conspiracy theorists and followers of Lyndon LaRouche are very non-partisan, but this doesn't tell you anything terribly flattering about their ability to think for themselves.

People like Welch and Gillespie want their readers to judge arguments by using the heuristic of which person is more "partisan," as opposed to which makes the more compelling and intellectually honest case. Their motivation for doing so is obvious.

For the record, neither I (nor Nick) opposed initial military intervention into Afghanistan, "automatically" or otherwise. We are both on record (and on video) favoring some environmental regulations, which (among other things) have greatly and mercifully improved the air quality of my native Southern California. The current edition of Reason magazine (not online yet) contains a feature-length attack on the single-biggest deduction in the tax code. Chait's "dogma" won't hunt, and not for the first time. (Though I confess to being intrigued by the notion that "communists" are "very non-partisan"; what does that "P" stand for, then?)

We definitely agree on one thing, though: Political commentators should be judged on who "makes the more compelling and intellectually honest case." Chait's case that the Occupy Wall Street (and whatever else) movement could provide an "unlikely" boost to President Barack Obama's re-election bid because "fear of extremism and mob violence" can "usefully re-center the debate" really does deserve to be judged on its own merits.

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  • Warty||

    SARCASTICMEOW
    My biggest obstacle with this dude I'm casually stringing along is that he supports Ron Paul. He actually gave Ron Paul a donation.
    Liked By dingoatemybaby and AvenueHebrew
    2 Hours AgoReply|Like
  • Ska||

    Chait is such a flirty little cocktease.

  • Fluffy||

    Wow Chait is a cunt.

    Reason dumps tons of ink on combating the notion that partisanship is a bad thing, and there is nothing but loathing here for the notion of a "responsible center".

    Worthless wretch.

  • Warty||

    I like that his A-game is Fonzie jokes.

  • The Fonz||

    \ HEYYYYY /

  • ||

    Chait thinks of himself as the "responsible center". It is the same act that cunts like David Brooks and Joel Klein play. They pick a bunch of generic liberal positions and deem them "centrist". And then they attack anyone who actually believes in anything to the right of this as extremist. See if we could all just get along and give people like Klein, Brooks and Chait exactly what they want and get over our partisanship, everything would be great.

  • fish||

    hey pick a bunch of generic liberal positions and deem them "centrist". And then they attack anyone who actually believes in anything to the right of this as extremist.

    Working from the standard Tony/Max/Double Anus playbook then?!

  • Tony||

    Ronald Reagan was views as a radical in his day.

    Ronald Reagan said almost exactly the same words Obama is now saying with regard to taxing the rich.

    You have become even more extreme since Reagan, there's no point in denying it.

  • Gimlet||

    STFU, Tony!

  • Tony||

    And who are you?

  • Gimlet||

    Someone speaking truth to blunder.

  • ||

    And liberals were calling Reagan an extremist back when he was in politics.

    It was ever thus.....

  • Tony||

    It's just bizarre how his ideological descendants assume that radical antigovernment absolutism was always the norm.

    There is a school of thought that this is in fact the case, that it underlies conservatism going back decades, but has never been spoken out loud so much.

  • ||

    Missing from your trenchant analysis is any acknowledgement that circumstances may have changed in the three decades between Reagan's election and now, and that those changed circumstances have rendered what was once upon a time a fairly moderate position -- i.e., that the wealthy should pay a bit more in taxes -- an increasingly radical one.

  • Tony||

    The only way circumstances have changed is that taxes on the rich have gone much lower.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    What's that "fair share" the rich need to pay, again?

    Use the "%" key; it's up there on the top row of your keyboard. You'll have to use the shift button, most likely.

    Now... just type in a number - say, 50 - and finish with the above symbol.

    It's really not that difficult, Tony.

  • Tony||

    FIFY your problem is you blame me for your own stupidity. Fair is not a function of a number. It's about what sort of lifestyle people are afforded in the society they pay for.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Your Team wants to raise taxes about a nickel on the dollar, back to those pre-Bush rates... like it makes a fuck's difference to the debt we're in... and that, among other tax hikes, is touted as The Ultimate Panacea by Team Blue.

    So... here you are, claiming tax rates are NOT the issue.

    Can't have it both ways, Sparky.

  • ||

    Yes. Income tax rates have dropped. In spite of this, the overall tax structure of the country is wildly, egregiously more progressive today than it was thirty years ago.

  • Tony||

    Back up that claim if you can.

  • AZ||

    To be fair, each does consider themselves to be the center - of their universe.

  • ||

    Chait's case that the Occupy Wall Street (and whatever else) movement could provide an "unlikely" boost to President Barack Obama's re-election bid because "fear of extremism and mob violence" can "usefully re-center the debate" really does deserve to be judged on its own merits.

    So Obama presiding over a break down of law and order in addition to a break down of the economy is going to help his re-election chances? Well okay there Jon.

    Seriously, do you have to be criminally stupid to get a job at a major media outlet?

  • ||

    Yes.

  • Tman||

    Yes.

    See: Freidman, Krugnuts, Ezra, Yglsesias, etc.

  • Suki||

    Didn't Lincoln get reelected during a big national scuffle?

  • cynical||

    The "scuffle" sort of took most of the opposition out of the vote.

  • spencer||

    I actually read a opine that the bank of america fees are going to be a good thing for the Obama campaign, in he's come out "against" them.

    Seems like some people don't give others credit for realizing WHY those fees are being charged.

  • MJ||

    I expect they think most people are only going to hear that BOA is charging new fees on their customers, not that the banks old method of recovering costs has been regulated out of existance.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    And Dick Durban is spinning like a top to try and shift the blame for it from his financial "reform" legislation where it belongs over the the bad old BOA.

  • OCCUPYBAGGER||

    DEATH TO THE KOCHTOPUS!

    THE ONLY GOOD SUPPORTER FOR LIMITED GOVERNMENT IS A DEAD SUPPORTER FOR LIMITED GOVERNMENT!

    BOEHNER IS A NAZI!

    DON'T FUCK WITH THE 99%!

  • fish||

    Oh my....Max found his caps lock key.

  • Apatheist||

    "My views tend to place me close to the center of the Democratic Party. I'm in favor of universal health care, education reform, more progressive taxation, lower deficits, hawkish internationalism — the principles generally advanced by figures like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama."

    Where to begin?

  • ||

    My favorite is "hawkish internationalism". People like Chait sure as hell were not too hawkish when someone from the other team was doing it. Then they were all "no blood for oil" peaceniks.

  • Tony||

    Whereas the responsible attitude is "some blood for oil!"

  • Gimlet||

  • Zorro for the Common Good||

    "People like Chait sure as hell were not too hawkish when someone from the other team was doing it. Then they were all "no blood for oil" peaceniks."

    Chait supported the Iraq War, at least initially. So why would he have been chanting "No blood for oil"?

  • MJ||

    "Political commentators should be judged on who "makes the more compelling and intellectually honest case."

    Obama's case for raising taxes on investment income is based solely on the idea that the "rich" benefit more because they use it more. There is no acknowledgement that other classes pay this rate on some important aspects of their future income, like their 401ks. There also is no discussion as to whether this is an effective way of increasing government revenue, or what kind of effect reducing the future return margin on capital investments will have on the economy especially in a recession. All the argument is for raising taxes on capital gains is that it hurts a minority segment of the population. I wonder if Chait thinks that is a compelling and intellectually honest argument.

  • Ska||

    On distributions from a 401(k), you lose the benefit of the lower tax rate on dividend income and capital gains. There is no tax on the income the years it is earned (and the tax would have been at the lower dividends/CG rates), but it is treated as ordinary income when distributed (the generally higher tax bracket rates).

  • ||

    Treating 401(k) distributions as LTCG would be tax reform that would actually make sense, encourage retirement savings, help the middle class. But that wouldn't punish The Rich so no dice.

  • ||

    Something that really bugs me about all the attention the qualified dividend/LTCG rates have been getting is that "the poor" they are ostensibly hurting can take advantage of them too. If you are really poor, you're probably in the 15% bracket or lower, right? Then you get ZERO percent tax on LTCG. "The rich" in 25% or higher brackets (and I don't think many would argue that being in the 25% bracket is super rich) get 15%, which is equal to or more than the poors marginal rate. This is unfair how?

  • Ska||

    Yes, both good points. The thinking of course is that it's unfair that you have enough money to buy dividend yielding stocks, while the poor guy living hand to mouth can't afford such investments. See, when you're being a prudent investor you're taking advantage of the poor (or something).

  • ||

    There is also a hearty serving of that particular kind of entitlement I tend to see in (especially young) liberals: feeling like they shouldn't have to plan for their own future, even when they are financially able to, and resenting those who do. Many of the people who are for getting rid of the qual. dividend/LTCG rates are actually in the 25% bracket or higher and as such they have no excuse if they're not investing their money wisely (or at all).

  • ||

    The intellectual argument for treating tax rates LTCG separately from income sucks. It is a utilitarian based argument that has its basis in the nudge school of thought.

    It is easy to see why people believe this is inherently unfair.

    As I don't think much of the "fair tax" either, my tax reform would be an income flat tax with 1 standard deduction, no separate tax rates for capital gains and dividends, and no corporate taxes.

  • Tony||

    What about sales and other local taxes? The only reason the income tax exists is to be the progressive counterweight to those other regressive taxes. Our overall system, by now, is largely flat.

  • ||

    It's not even close to flat. A Flat Tax is a reference to the Net Tax Rate, not the Gross. Net rates are all over the place due to the byzantine nature of the code.

    I've never thought that the "fairness" component of the progressivity argument was particularly valid, given the arbitrariness of the dividing lines and the inherent class warfare nature of the "you got more, then we'll take a higher cut" basis of progressivity. Simply put, progressivity doesn't square with my moral code.

    Sales taxes suck not simply because of progressivity. But because of their sneakiness. The "everyone is aware of the tax" argument falls flat when the tax chunks show up as $1 here and $3 there. Awareness of tax burden is most effective when it is done as lump sum annual payments, like property taxes.

  • Tony||

    What I'm saying is to implement a nationally flat tax, you'd have to almost totally do away with state and local and sales taxes, which tend to be regressive. That means the federal government would have to administer state and local functions. I'm not sure that's what you want.

  • ||

    State governments should convert to flat income taxes as well.

    Local governments should be property tax based.

  • MJ||

    I stand corrected.

    But cap gains tax applies to other investments less wealthy people use. The thing is they do not have as much income than the "hedge fund managers" Obama rants about.

  • T||

    Chait's case that the Occupy Wall Street (and whatever else) movement could provide an "unlikely" boost to President Barack Obama's re-election bid because "fear of extremism and mob violence" can "usefully re-center the debate" really does deserve to be judged on its own merits.

    I'd judge Chait's argument on the merits but I can't seem to find any.

  • ||

    Chait is a whiny bitch and at least a few of the comments on the NY Mag site acknowledge that.

    Also: I am a bit too young to have watched Happy Days and hadn't heard the "sit on it" line before. I am mildly surprised they would say something so overtly sexual. And that Chait would use it as a subtitle to a close up of Nick's face. Might reveal more than he intended.

  • Warty||

  • ||

    That was my first thought when I saw the subtitle. It was awkward.

  • Esteban||

    Chait does suck balls. I have proof.

  • Warty||


    MUSICINCURSIVE
    Chait is only partisan to the party of Chait...
    Liked By GayFinJock, NYCUsagi and 2 more
    2 Hours AgoReply|Like

    PORTRAITINFLESH
    @musicincursive - I would so join that party. Maybe the other party could be the Party of Frum. Just imagine how much more productive and relaxing politics would be.
    1 Hour AgoReply|Like
  • ||

    *barf*

  • cynical||

    A Frum Party? Is that where everyone tries to frizz up their pubes and then hangs out in whitey-tighties a couple of sizes too small?

  • marlok||

    A man who wants to "relax" in a sea of Frum and Chait. It's a dangerous and deranged world we inhabit.

  • Suki||

    We are both on record (and on video) favoring some environmental regulations

    I did not want to believe it, but it is true. This place is a Cosmotarian mad house.

  • ¢||

    (Though I confess to being intrigued by the notion that "communists" are "very non-partisan"; what does that "P" stand for, then?)

    The firing line through a ditch full of Jews capitalists.

  • ||

    (Though I confess to being intrigued by the notion that "communists" are "very non-partisan"; what does that "P" stand for, then?)

    So any ideology that has a party named after it is partisan? Bad news for libertarians.

  • cynical||

    I was thinking the same thing. Now, Communists, that's a different story.

  • The Heresiarch||

    Just get it over with. Rent a room and grudge fuck each other until gentle sleep soothes your sweat-dappled limbs.

  • marlok||

    There's nothing productive about getting pulled into one of Chait's adolescent pedantry. The man loves him some Democratic party, and if you criticize their policies you are [insert pejorative, synonym for ignorant].

  • Jonathan Chait||

    Fuck, I'm such a cunt.

  • ChrisO||

    I'm saying that I did not say what you said that I said!!!! Got that?

  • Max||

    Wow, you and Gillespie are for some government regulation of the environment then? Great. Not being total right-wing assholes will give you some wiggle room as the country turns to the left. You guys know what side the bread is buttered on! Workers of the world....

  • Sensible||

    The more you people keep up this "limited government" nonsense the closer we get to being like Haiti.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/a.....erica.html

  • cynical||

    Partisanship is to Party/Ideology as Bigotry is to Church/Religion. It isn't about believing a certain set of arguments, but rather about judging other people by their group affiliation or identity rather than their ideas/actions. It's inherently intellectually dishonest.

    If you created a scenario about a made-up, low-ranking politician with a moderate (non-ideological) ethical lapse and showed it to a partisan and told him the guy belonged to his party, he would try to make excuses for the fake politician. If instead you had told him that the guy belonged to the other team, he'd suggest that the guy be impeached and driven out of office, if not tarred and feathered.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    No, no, no. You have to say we are getting closer to Somalia, not Haiti. Otherwise we don't all have to take a drink

  • Franco||

    I can't believe that anyone could think the Occupy Wallstreet types might become violent. My quick observations while taking smoke breaks is that they're a very gentle bunch.

  • Bored||

    Can we please top taking the Chait-bait?

    It got boring a long time ago; you're a great writer, Matt, and you could be producing much more compelling content if you just ignored him.

  • rob stone||

    Mr. Welch, engaging in back-and-forth with Jonathan Chait is a waste of your time.

  • rob stone||

    Mr. Welch, engaging in back-and-forth with Jonathan Chait is a waste of your time.

  • ||

    Awww, your poor wittle gilbertarian fee-fees are hurt. He called you out for it and the truth hurts.

    All you glibertarians are just conservatives that are too chickenshit to call yourselves conservatives.

    And do let me know when you pansies actually have ANY representation in office, excluding some wackjob rancher in Montana or Wyoming.

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