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3/26/15

The psychology of the flat-tax

Under a 20% "flat tax" scheme, someone making $10,000/year pays $2,000 tax while someone making $100,000/year pays $20,000 tax, i.e. $18,000 more tax. It's somehow OK for the richer person to pay $18,000 more in taxes than the poorer person just because he or she makes more money, but having that person pay $18,001, $19,000, or $25,000 more in tax would be an injustice. This makes no sense whatsoever. - Matt Bruenig
If we can't find an explanation for the flat tax's popularity in morality, we should probably look elsewhere. Fortunately, its advocates are fairly explicit:

  • "It ought to be just a simple, one page postcard," Ted Cruz told Fox News over the weekend.
  • "The Internal Revenue Code's headache-inducing complexity is a scandal," Reason writes.
  • "We need a new tax system that is simple, honest and fair," Steve Forbes wrote in one of the founding texts of the flat tax movement, Flat Tax Revolution.
Strip away implausible language about justice and calls for the flat tax invariably devolve into calls for simplicity. Here is where I think the debate takes a revealing turn. Advocates for the flat tax always come armed with an endless parade of examples of unjustified tax code rules that, in their totality, convey an impression of byzantine complication. And yet, if you subject any one rule to a minimal degree of informed scrutiny, it usually stands on its own merits. It is at least debatable, which is how it survived legislative debate and became enacted into law.

In this sense, the argument against a complex tax code is often better understood as an objection to the complexity of the world that built it and the world that it applies to. This is entirely understandable. As Adorno writes,
Naive persons fail to look through the complexities of a highly organized and institutionalized society, but even the sophisticated one cannot understand it in plain terms of consistency and reason, but are faced with antagonism and absurdities... Thus people even of supposedly "normal" mind are prepared to accept systems of delusions... [which] reduce the complex to simple and mechanical inferences, doing away with anything that is strange and unknown...
Understood this way, the flat tax makes perfect sense: it's an opiate against the oppressive and alienating complexity of the modern world. It quite literally "provides a short-cut by bringing the complex to a handy formula and offering at the same time the pleasant gratification that he who feels to be excluded from educational privileges nevertheless belongs to the minority of those who are 'in the know.'" Confronted with the massive edifice of our tax system, we can invest extraordinary energy into understanding the problems that afflict our world and the efforts we make, through taxation, to address them -- or we can accept gross simplifications, and sneer at the know-it-alls who defend the system and make everything more complicated then it needs to be.

So on one hand, I think we can understand policies like the flat tax as a symptom of late capitalism, with all of its attendant, proliferate social complication; and on the other hand, we can understand them as a kind of psychological defense mechanism against this problem, which victims are well aware of but do not actually understand.

This unconscious dimension of the psychology behind the flat tax deserves more thought. There is, as Matt notes, something odd about a right-wing tax plan which cares less about proportion than rigidity - which is violated whether the government collects $7000 or $1 over a 20% rate. This fixation on purity, the anxiety and paranoia over contaminating the tax code with sinister complications, and the obsession with essentially arbitrary numbers and sequences (9-9-9, anyone?) are all symptoms with a pretty straightforward diagnosis.

3/17/15

We might always be this stupid

The complete inability of our society to deal with obvious consequences of our actions is what has doomed it.  This society will not survive.  The questions are only “How many people will it kill going down?” and “What will the next society look like in the ashes of a world left to us by this one?” 
Whatever it looks like, it will be very different.  

This all may sound pretty dire, but it probably isn't dire enough. That humans will learn from their mistakes after the collapse of civilization seems like a pretty meager hope, but even that may rest on the same optimism about progress and rationality that the rest of Welsh's post sets out to debunk.

It seems just as likely to me that the survivors are going to be just as prey to the same sociopathies as we are. They'll forget the lessons of history just like we do. They'll walk into the same progress traps. They'll kick cans down the road, and eventually it'll cost them.

There's no evolutionary reason to assume that we'll learn our lessons. Some species narrowly dodge extinction - and then they go extinct. Our mistakes will probably be too sudden and severe to exert the kind of selection pressures that would help us adapt. Consider global warming, for example: it is likely to destabilize civilization within a few generations. If the worst happens, it will completely consume us in a matter of centuries. And the first victims, of course, are going to be those whose ways of life contributed to the problem the least.

The Holocaust provides another instructive lesson on human adaptation, because it is a man-made catastrophe that much of world has taken deliberate and specific measures to avoid repeating. The resurgence of openly neo-Nazi parties and the persistence of genocidal aggression throughout the world shows how well that's going, but consider an even more basic point:

Among the Holocaust's survivors, it has always been a widely shared belief that memory is a crucial safeguard against its recurrence. That's why our culture was immediately flooded with memorials, memoirs, histories, analyses, dramatizations, and other artifacts: not just in mourning, but as a matter of documentation.

And that's why it's so alarming that today there remains no consensus over who the Nazis were or what it is about them that we are to avoid. The American right (and an increasingly large faction of Europeans) now insists that it was something about Hitler's handful of opportunistic socialist gestures that we should avoid - as opposed to, say, the gas chambers. This has obviously happened because powerful people have seen an advantage in transforming our collective memory into an ideological weapon against their enemies. And because of this, our society has become increasingly tolerant of precisely those dangers we set out to avoid.

So it is true that whatever civilization emerges from the rubble will in some ways look different. We may, for example, no longer have much fossil fuel or potable water at our disposal. But insofar as we find a way to survive, our worse instincts will probably survive along with us.

3/10/15

Libertarians can't think dialectically, EG are dumb

A watch made by A. Lange & Sohne known as the Grand Complication—just six were manufactured in 2013—was priced at $2.5 million. But come next month, some fabulously wealthy watch wearers will trade in their handmade timepieces containing thousands of perfectly calibrated moving parts for a far more useful $349 Apple Watch that was mass produced in a factory in China...The bottom line is that the Apple Watch is part of a trend in which the lifestyles and accouterments of the super wealthy increasingly look a lot more like yours and mine. (h/t @hammerdialectic)
The fancy line of criticism here is to observe that the same productive forces that make old technologies less expensive also create unaffordable new technologies, thus maintaining a gap between the rich and the poor. Generalized, this point expresses a dialectical understanding of our economy, which is of course a definitively Marxist understanding, leading inevitably to all of Marx's fancy conclusions and so on.

The simple line of criticism here is duh we didn't always have smart watches you dingus, so maybe we don't have other technologies right now that will widen the gap again?

These are both different ways of saying the same thing, because Marx's arguments are actually pretty simple if you can hold two thoughts in your head at the same time. But complicated jargon about dialectics shouldn't obscure the basic point that libertarians are dumb lol

3/10/15

Sigma Alpha Epsilon's PR denial, and the sociology of dissociation

"You know and I know that this isn't the house we lived in," Sigma Alpha Epsilon alum Blake Burkhart writes, responding to footage of his fraternity chanting racial slurs and singing songs about lynching.

On one hand, this reads exactly like standard PR boilerplate, the sort of flat denial we're used to hearing from spokesmen and press secretaries when their bosses get caught forwarding a racist email or speaking candidly at a private fundraiser. Here, the point is obvious: to cast doubt on reporting of the incident, politicize the audience reception, and maintain the support of third parties.

But on the other hand, Burkhart isn't addressing third parties. He's explicitly talking to people who know what happened and who have personally experienced racism in SAE.

We all live in bad faith to a certian degree, ignoring our crimes and thinking about ourselves in the most positive light possible. Burkhart's formulation, however, suggests that this psychology is susceptible to the norms relentlessly cultivated by our PR industry. Denial, he has learned, is an effective and productive way to engage with inconvenient reality - whether you are dealing with customers, constitutents, or yourself.

But this dynamic should probably be understood as something more than quotidian denial, because it isn't simply coming from the internal defense mechanisms that maintain psychological homeostasis. The key point here is that this psychology is being fostered by industrial practice - that is, by the massive economic forces that make PR denials so ubiquitous and prolific. Ultimately, it's an expression of capitalism itself, which builds a massive media apparatus in which PR denial is effective and useful as a means of navigating the constant injustices and trauma inflicted by our economic system.

Or to put it in simpler terms, we have built a culture that encourages us to rely on denial as a way of dealing with our problems. And because this tendency is being driven by massive social forces, it's cultivating a pathology that invididuals are increasingly unable to resist. And as magnitude and proportion are what distinguishes mere denial from psychotic dissociation, comments like Burkhart's should probably be understood as the latter.

3/7/15

"Right to work" isn't a frame - it's a brand

Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast is thrilled that Right To Work legislation is passing in Wisconsin, but his analysis of its success is complete gibberish:
Language is important, and you know your framing has worked when your opponents use it, too. “Right to work is desperately wrong for Wisconsin,” Wisconsin's Democratic leader in the Assembly recently complained.
His battle was lost before he finished saying it. Who could be against the right to work?
Answer: the people who are openly opposing it, mentioned in every preceding sentence. This is a direct contradiction, and it isn't just a symptom of bad writing: it reflects underlying problems in the notion of "framing" in general.

On one hand, people who talk about framing insist that an effective frame should be difficult to contest - that is the entire point. It's what, we are told, makes RTW so majestically clever: the way it transforms a technocratic point of labor law into an epic battle between tyrannical government and industrious freedom. The right side of such a battle should be patently obvious, and no one who has been persuaded by the framing should be inclined to oppose it. Framing succeeds not by winning arguments, but by preempting them.

And yet RTW has hardly preempted anything - as Wisconsin demonstrates by Lewis's own account. Not only are its opponents still fighting, but they are fighting in precisely the way that framing is supposed to prevent. They fight on the political right's own carefully calibrated terms and openly call RTW "desperately wrong". Lewis seems to think this impossible or at least unlikely, but that's precisely what is happening.

The explanation is simple: framing doesn't work. Everyone knows exactly what RTW means: it's a policy of prohibiting union security agreements. People don't support RTW because they've been cleverly fooled by some elaborate rhetoric gimmick; they support it because unions are unpopular, and because there's a systematic incentive to try to free-ride on the benefits won by unions without paying unions dues. RTW opponents are able to plausibly argue against this because unions still maintain a baseline of support throughout the nation, and because some people appreciate the importance of union security agreements. The controversy is more sophisticated than some crude argument over a right to work, and people understand it because, contrary to the partisans of framing, people are not in fact idiots.

So what good is framing? Lewis is explicit about this: "you know your framing has worked when your opponents use it, too". In other words, the criterion of success is not winning the argument; it's just going viral, like a catchphrase.

This makes plenty of sense from a marketing perspective. If you're a PR firm, a campaign consultant, or a political columnist, your job isn't to win: it's to publicize your product in order to get business. Frank Luntz is probably happy enough when Scott Walker signs anti-union legislation into law, but that's not what pays the bills. He wants people using his catchphrase - even his political opponents. When you stop thinking of "framing" as a linguistic magic trick and start thinking about it as a marketing gimmick, the RTW brand is much easier to understand.

3/1/15

The Soviets and Reagan's PATCO strike

Saturday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker repeated a claim that has become a truism among a certain genre of conservatives in recent years:
Walker contended that "the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime" was then-President Ronald Reagan's move to bust a 1981 strike of air traffic controllers, firing some 11,000 of them.
"It sent a message not only across America, it sent a message around the world," Walker said. America's allies and foes alike became convinced that Reagan was serious enough to take action and that "we weren't to be messed with," he said.
The PATCO strike was indeed big news in the United States, but it has always struck me as a bit odd that this would resonate the same way in the Soviet Union, much less significantly impact its decisions. Americans routinely overestimate the rest of the world's interest in our domestic affairs, and this particularly line plays a little too neatly on right-wing narratives about sympathies between communists and unions, the role of "credibility" in foreign policy, and the valorization of Reagan as the single-handed conqueror of the Soviet Union.

Looking into this has only deepened my suspicion. First, Walker has been caught in a lie about this before, when he claimed that "documents released from the Soviet Union showed" the impact of Reagan's actions. This was directly rebutted by Reagan's own diplomat to the USSR, who said that "There is no evidence of that whatever."

Beyond those fabricated documents, the only susbtantive claim I can find comes from Steven Hayward's book "The Age of Reagan," where he writes, "The White House realized it had gotten Moscow's attention when the Soviet news agency TASS decried Reagan's 'brutal repression' of the air traffic controllers."

But he provides no further details on this quote, and I have been completely unable to find it in TASS's archives. And Hayward is a conservative iconoclast who has spent his entire career riding the right-wing think tank gravy train, publishing climate change denial and Solyndra conspiracy articles in fringe outlets like The Weekly Standard and Power Line.

I see at this point no reason to take for granted the narrative about Reagan impressing the Soviets with his PATCO firings, and every reason to suspect fabrication in Hayward's book.

1/3/15

No, you should probably tip

For some time, I have been under the impression that our economy is defined by bourgeois control of the means of production. This was Karl Marx’s essential insight, and it goes a long way towards explaining the injustices endemic to our capitalist economy.

So I was surprised to learn in Jacobin that it is actually something about tipping that’s responsible for the plight of low-income service workers. “So long as the karmic tip jar clouds our perceptions,” Ian Svenonius writes in Against Tipping, “the insane injustice of an underpaid labor force reimbursed through only the guilty feelings of their coworkers will persist.”

It’s an interesting theory. But I’m not sure that it actually holds up! And if you look at it too closely, it even starts to look like a standard capitalistic prescription for consumer action – albeit one that’s unusually cruel to workers, even by capitalistic standards.

Tipping is not extortion

Svenonius elaborates at such length on the symbolic meaning and perverse outcomes of tipping that it can be difficult to tease out the basic mechanics of his theory. For instance, we are told that tipping is “erotic,” “highly kinky” and “practically psychadlic” – all undoubtedly true, but difficult to incorporate into a coherent, rigorous economic model.

Nevertheless, we do have the outlines of a simple economic model, relying on a few specific empirical claims. Tipping, we are told, “began essentially as a way to stave off violence by the indigent…adhered to by the privileged class who fear and disdain the less fortunate.”

This -- substantiated for some reason by the author’s travel anecdotes -- does not have much basis in the historic record. Scholars typically trace tipping back to feudal Europe, when as Segrave writes “the master or lord of the manor might give his servant or laborer a few extra coins”.  Since the power of feudal aristocracy was based on its control of arable land, it is difficult to imagine how serfs might have engaged in the “thinly veiled extortion” Svenonius identifies as the origin of tipping. The street urchin in his example is “someone who is not an employee of an establishment but works as an adjunct or as a free agent” – but the feudal serf was in the exact opposite situation, entirely dependent on the good graces of his lord.

So there is little reason to suppose that the “street urchin’s implied violence still hovers over the interaction” when tipping. Control of the land, established in law and enforced by the overwhelming brute strength of the warrior nobility, nullified opportunities for institutionalized extortion by the serfs.

Control of the means of production gives the bourgeoisie the same power today. Because of that control, it can determine the amount of variable capital to invest in wages – including money available to the proletariat for tipping each other. Note how this is functionally just another form of wage distribution laundered through a third party. Of course, service workers are also subject to more direct controls – hiring and firing, tip-pooling arrangements, adjustments in supplemental wages, shift scheduling and assignments – which can all impact individual incomes directly.  In all of this, the underlying circular course of capital – out of the pocket and back into the hands of the bourgeoisie – remains unchanged.

The tip boycott

To illustrate, consider the most likely outcomes of an actual tip boycott. With real unemployment hovering near 13% and a massive reserve labor army hoping for a job, service employees have little immediate leverage to bargain for higher wages. Fortunately, however, we do have a historic barometer to gauge how low wages can drop in the US tipping economy before service workers begin making significant political demands for compensation: the minimum wage. That’s where employers have been forced to adjust wages.

In other words, a tip boycott is unlikely to even begin placing demands on the bourgeoisie until we’ve managed to dramatically slash the incomes of service workers all the way to our nation’s despicably miserly minimum wage.

Suppose, then, that the tip boycott becomes so successful that employers are finally forced to pay the full wage. They will do this first by simply cutting payroll in other ways – laying off workers or reducing hours – keeping the financial consequences of the boycott on the very service workers it was meant to help. Or, the bourgeoisie will shift the consequences onto everyone else by raising prices. This effectively cancels out the surplus wages that they had previously paid non-service workers to be passed along as tips.

What, then, has the tip boycott accomplished? Service workers have exchanged wages that are variable but modest for wages that are static and extremely low – not necessarily an advantageous trade. More importantly, the essential relationship between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie remains unchanged.

The first barista

So we come to to the article’s second – and central – empirical claim: “When the first barista refuses the enforced gesture of happy-go-lucky largesse by their off-work co-worker, then the whole stinking system will collapse in a mound of idiocy and be revealed for the indentured servitude that it is.”

This, to Svenonius’s credit, is a specific and completely falsifiable claim. But again, unfortunately, it’s demonstrably false.

To test it, I asked a good friend who works as a barista at a local coffee shop to reject a tip during her next shift. A good comrade, she played along – but the results were underwhelming. The customer was initially flustered and even persistent, but eventually just shrugged and walked away. Her comrades were mildly irritated since they pool their tips, even after she explained her logic. And of course, rather than collapsing, the tipping system resumed immediately.

In retrospect, it’s pretty easy to understand why the experiment failed.

For one thing, everyone involved was already perfectly well aware of the pros and cons of tipping. Svenonius proposes that service workers are “placated by the idea of chance,” but no one at her coffee shop is actually expecting “a Saudi Sheik to tip them a million dollars”. Just listen to service workers talk to each other about incomes: they’re usually acutely aware of what they can actually expect to make, not just at any given workplace but at any given time of day and on any given day of the week. They do not talk about their jobs like one talks about buying lottery ticket. Moreover, service workers aren’t somehow blind to the fact that their customers are typically their comrades. They’re often extremely perceptive about the finances of potential tippers, and develop a refined sense of what they can expect from who. They get that economic hard times can lead to lower tips from fellow workers, and they’re acutely class conscious when obviously bourgeois customers don’t leave better tips.

Customers, meanwhile, are themselves under no illusions. They get that an assumed tip has been factored into the bourgeoisie’s wage and price-setting calculus. They get that stiffing comrades on a tip amounts to leveraging their incidental position in the tips-as-laundered-wages scheme to personal advantage. So of course they experience “guilty feelings” for further exploiting an already exploitive system – but that doesn’t mean that they’re responsible for anyone else’s tips, or for the system of tipping in general.

That’s because – and this is the main reason why our experiment failed – it is not some failure to understand our “simulated affluence” as “the indentured servitude that it is” which forestalls the end of tipping and the end of capitalism. What forestalls the end of capitalism is a failure to seize the means of production.This, and only this, is what will bring an end to the ruthless exploitation of workers, of which the tipping system is but one expression.

Service workers who live on tips don’t generally think of themselves as affluent. They don’t need lectures about their poverty and economic insecurity, and they certainly don’t need some overly clever contrarian campaign to bring down their income.  

11/25/14

Rand Paul's Ferguson article is a compelling critique of private property

Rand Paul, on Ferguson:
In the search for culpability for the tragedy in Ferguson, I mostly blame politicians. Michael Brown’s death and the suffocation of Eric Garner in New York for selling untaxed cigarettes indicate something is wrong with criminal justice in America. The War on Drugs has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation.
In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft. But the War on Drugs has created a tension in some communities that too often results in tragedy. One need only witness the baby in Georgia, who had a concussive grenade explode in her face during a late-night, no-knock drug raid (in which no drugs were found) to understand the feelings of many minorities — the feeling that they are being unfairly targeted.
Paul is right that the War on Drugs has contributed to poverty in Ferguson, but the evidence he brings up is pointing to a bigger cause. Michael Brown was killed for violating rules about private property. Eric Garner was killed for violating rules about private property. Georgia's SWAT team used force to break into a private residence (culminating in the use of the grenade) because of rules about state access to private property.

It is profoundly stupid to rely on a handful of anecdotal examples to make a highly controversial policy argument, which Paul knows perfectly well. But as long as we're doing that, we might as well note that what every given instance of police violence has in common is an attempt to observe and enforce the rules of private property. Ergo, the obvious solution is to eliminate private property. Right?

11/22/14

The right's conception of power is completely upside-down

Some guy named Chip Jones, writing for some blog called Conservative Report:
When management issues arise in large corporations that are due to size, reorganization ensues. Most often, affiliates are created that maintain their own individual CEO’s, yet answer to a common board of directors, who share a common membership. But isn’t this the exact model our Founding Fathers created for this great Republic? A common board with limited powers overseeing affiliates? The Federal government, limited in its powers, over empowered States?
You could, I suppose, compare our government to a common board with limited powers overseeing affiliates - but that's not how corporations operate. The board of a corporation is absolutely sovereign. Corporations are almost always structured like absolute dictatorships, with an extremely vertical hierarchy of power and ambits that only have upper limits. If a corporation operated like American democracy, then (to take one obvious but crucial example) workers would be able to elect their managers. That is the exact opposite of what actually happens in a corporation.

The right makes this sort of error because it has become hyper-sensitive to the problems of government hierarchy - and completely numb to the problems of hierarchy, and power in general, in the private sector.

11/18/14

I shouldn't have to do this

And yet here we are: a point-by-point rebuttal of H.A. Goodman's ridiculous I'm A Liberal Democrat. I'm Voting For Rand Paul:

1. Rand Paul will be more hawkish in office than Clinton.

To paraphrase the Rep. Barney Frank, Senator Paul has always been able "to luxuriate in the purity of his irrelevance." He has spent most of his political career not facing election and not facing difficult votes. His two nays on defense budgets, for example, were predictably inconsequential protest gestures against bills that were always going to pass with 90+ votes.

When you look at the few times Paul has faced any kind of significant pressure or incentive to change his dovish posture, his response has been telling. Under fire by Republican hawks like Cheney and Guiliani when he sought the Republican nomination, Paul's campaign released statements like "Bottom line, Rand is not in favor of closing down Guantanamo Bay" and "He is not for wholesale withdrawal [from Iraq and Afghanistan]...now that were there we have to win." And as Paul closed in on that primary victory, the National Review noted that he avoided difficult foreign policy questions, since his opponent "Tray Grayson might have been able to paint him out of the GOP mainstream."

Now that Paul needs the GOP mainstream's support again, he is once again adopting a hawkish posture. As Olivia Nuzzi writes, "these days, Paul is publicly entertaining the idea of bombing Iraq, while his advisers have touted him as the second coming of Cold warriors like Dwight Eisenhower...George H.W. Bush....and Ronald Reagan".

The point here is not that Paul is secretly a hawk, and his image as a dove  deceptive ruse. The point is that Paul, like most politicians, is whatever the politics of the moment need him to be. On the many occasions when it's been useful Paul has railed against war and empire, and on the few when it's been useful he's sounded exactly like every other interventionist in Washington.

When we abandon the naive idea that an idealistic politician is going to single-handedly reign in US empire, a different picture of Paul emerges. He would be beholden to the same hawkish constituency and the same network of Republican warmongers that every Republican president is. Like Clinton, many of his allies will be those in Washington who are already calling for war in Iran, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Unlike Clinton, he will have few political allies calling for peace.

2. Rand Paul's position on the NSA is correct - and relatively trivial.

Goodman complains that none of the other candidates for President have made opposition to NSA spying "a top priority in their campaign." Thank god. The NSA surveillance programs may be in direct and obvious opposition to both the rule of law and liberal privacy ideals, but they are also among the least oppressive and least consequential injustices known to man. No liberal who cares about the problems of yawning inequality, increasingly violent racism, pervasive poverty, or any of the other hallmark concerns of the left can look at NSA surveillance and pretend that it hurts Americans more than those more urgent issues. Even if Clinton comes down on the wrong side of this issue, it is largely a first work boutique problem frantically hyped by Libertarians hoping to turn Americans against the government.

3. Rand Paul has teamed up...to reform the criminal justice system.

Again, it's profoundly misleading to take Paul's political maneuvers as an irrelevant Senator as precedent for his potential as president. There is no reason to believe that this kind of legislation would ever reach Paul's desk given the still-overwhelming bipartisan opposition in both chambers of Congress. To accept this as a consideration is to prioritize aspirational pipe dreams over the actual practical consequences of a Paul presidency.

4. Paul is worse than Clinton on Wall Street.

This is one of the most egregious problems with Goodman's argument, and frankly calls into serious question his credibility as any kind of liberal. Paul is a libertarian radical who believes that Wall Street can regulate itself and that problems of economic corruption / injustice are necessarily problems of government intervention. His critique of "the GOP's love affair with corporations" is transparent populist demagoguery built entirely on the right-wing premise that big corporations will spontaneously wither away in the hyper-competitive market of a laissez faire utopia.

Clinton, like Obama, is a liberal state capitalist who will maintain a corporate welfare state and turn a blind eye to financial corruption. But she will also do all of the minimal things that Democrats do to make late capitalism slightly less horrific than it could be - like promote imperfect legislation to patch systematic problems, not destroy the Federal Reserve, and so on.

5. Rand Paul thinks Edward Snowden

lol, see 3

6. Rand Paul publicized the issue of a possible government drone strike, on American soile, against American citizens.

This is if anything a great reason to vote against Rand Paul. As I wrote elsewhere, this is ridiculous for three reasons. First, there is no coherent reason why we should expect a separate legal or ideological disposition for one form of state violence as against all of the others we do accept - simply because it's delivered by a drone. Second, a related point: if we are concerned about state violence against Americans, there are much bigger and more urgent issues than drones, as anyone in Ferguson right now can attest. And third, even if we are specifically concerned about state violence via drone, drone strikes against Americans should still be at the bottom of our priority list, since the overwhelming majority of victims aren't Americans. And Paul, incidentally, is on record supporting drone strikes against them.

7. Rand Paul could bring back an era in American politics when conservatives and liberals socialized with one another.

This is crazy, utopian thinking, though it certainly reveals much of the motivation behind Goodman's endorsement. The partisan divide in America is not some superficial controversy imposed by evil or inept politicians; it is the expression of real and substantial disagreements and the collision of powerful socioeconomic interests that we're all invested in. Rand Paul is not going to magically cause racism to disappear or ameliorate class antagonisms - more than likely, in fact, he would make both worse.

8. Rand Paul will not gut the economic safety nets of this country

This is completely false; Goodman is either uninformed or deliberately misleading. For example, Goodman claims that Paul "doesn't want to dismantle Social Security," but Paul is on record calling it a Ponzi scheme, calling for its privatization and implementing other policies (like raising the retirement age) that fall under every definition of "dismantle Social Security" there is. His rhetoric mirrors the rhetoric of every Republican, and if anything he is more ambitious.

9. Neoconservatives hate Rand Paul.

This is only a half truth, since - as mentioned in point one - Paul will still be politically dependent on them. Neoconservatives are a large and influential faction of the Republican coalition, and unlike Clinton, Paul has to bargain with them. Personal rivalries with the Cheneys are mostly irrelevant.

10. Rand Paul could be the answer to our philosophical conundrum as a nation.

It's unclear what Goodman thinks this "conundrum" is, but he does take the opportunity to complain about "a Democratic Party more focused on defending Obamacare than stopping endless wars or protecting civil liberties". It's unclear why he thinks this some kind of self-evident problem. Government threats to our civil liberties are a much less pressing problem than the basic issue of affordable health care; we should be more concerned about preserving Obamacare. Regarding war, the left has clearly made a tactical calculation that its energies are best spent keeping right-wing radical hawks (McCain, Romney) out of office. This is not a great solution, but there's no reason to suppose that Rand Paul provides any kind of alternative.