Thursday, November 13, 2008
Burgess Laughlin will enjoy the pun, I hope.
As I noted in the comments recently, I am back in Boston for a few days for job hunting. Towards that end, I attended a job fair yesterday, which is to say that I spent a fair amount of time standing in line. Sadly, catching up on Scott Powell's current history course during those waits was out of the question in that context: Ear buds and an iPod strike me as poor fashion accessories when one wants to project a focused, professional image.
So, aside from the brief information-gathering interviews at the end of each line, that time was mostly a wash. But in one of the really long lines, a fellow attendee struck up a conversation with me, which was pleasant enough until politics came up.
I made the mistake of mentioning that I was attempting to transition from academia to industry.
"Most of the people I know are trying to move into academia because the economy is so bad," he noted.
"That might be a mistake. We've been cranking out PhD's in bioscience for the past twenty years. They can't all stay in academia. They can't double the NIH budget every few years indefinitely."
"Oh, the new President's priorities are different."
"I don't think that will matter. There simply isn't enough money to do that." This is simple math. Just input any number into a calculator and multiply it by two over and over again. It quickly becomes ridiculous.
The other guy says something vague (via HBL) about how Obama is going to do a better job with the economy than Bush. Either that or he just asserted it.
"I don't think either one has any idea how to improve the economy."
Something very negative about tax cuts. And how the Republicans have been running things until about two years ago and now we have huge deficits.
"The Republicans got elected on the premise of making the welfare state smaller. All they did was cut taxes. Otherwise, they acted just like Democrats, and so they deserved to lose."
As soon as I drew the similarity between the GOP and the Dems, he says, "Why do I keep hearing that?"
The other guy starts getting progressively upset from this point. In the back-and-forth, either I didn't make the essential similarity between the two sides clear enough, he couldn't grasp it, or he refused to believe it. In trying to make the point, I realize that the guy, probably 10-15 years older than I am, ought to remember the Carter years, so I try that tack.
(I can understand denial on this guy's part. If the Republicans were this bad and so are the Democrats, then we're in a deep, steamy, smelly pile of Greenspan. We are.)
"If we don't cut back on spending, the alternative to a budget deficit is high taxes and inflation just like we had under Carter -- heck, we're probably already going to get inflation as it is." (Actually, we already have it.)
"I'm tired of Republican people," he sneered at me, "telling me we need lower taxes. The top one percent get all the benefits, and the rest of us get nothing." If I read this guy correctly, he buys class warfare lock, stock, and barrel, and sees himself as a "little guy". If so, I hope on that last point that this guy is not typical: A nation of "little guys" is a nation ripe for a dictatorship.
"I am not a Republican."
He was in the middle of saying something angry at me, but as I was at the head of the line, it was my turn, thankfully, to leave, smile, and introduce myself to a recruiter.
Well, when I first learned I would be moving to Boston, people told me I'd have lots of free blogging fodder. They were right.
The next few years will be a time of peril, politically and economically. For myself, intellectually, it will be a chance to figure out how to pitch pro-reason, pro-individual rights arguments to blue-staters. This will be an important thing to be able to do because of the huge populations of the blue states.
I am not sure exactly where this guy was coming from. My gut says he's compartmentalized and not open to rational debate about politics, but we discussed politics for only a short time, so I might be wrong. In any event, it is clear that the Republicans have done a great deal of damage to the credibility of capitalism simply because of their refusal to make good on their promise to at least reduce the size of the welfare state, which must eventually be abolished.
If I am ever lucky enough in the future to find a political candidate I can support, I will never do so without making it very clear (for starters) that I do not belong to his party.
PS: Regarding pro-capitalists having our work cut out for us, Burgess Laughlin considers some aspects of that very question in another post.