Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Inevitable ad hominem

The picture above, posted on a friends Facebook wall, became the subject of a debate between a few of us middle-aged conservatives and a young woman who is participating in the "Occupy" Portland group. I thought it might be interesting to share the debate with everyone in this more permanent forum. Here's how it went:

Frances Smith Entitlement attitude is so engrained in so many in this country anymore it's bleeding the U.S. to death. Couple that with so many with minds unwilling/unable to THINK their way out of a paper bag, it's a deadly combination. Whatever happened to pride in oneself? My dad, his generation and those before them, were so fiercely independent the ideas of handouts was nearly foreign, completely unacceptable. Then LBJ and the Great Society...................​......we sure wound up with a great society.

Val Renata Occupy Wall Street isn't about handouts. It's about stopping the Elite from bribing politicians. It's about economic injustices that are committed against the people in a multitude of ways. IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT WELFARE! What's bleeding this country dry are the wars and a corrupt government. Our country doesn't need anymore opposition. We need to join together and fight for what's right. If helping poor people get medical and food is wrong then I wanna be wrong. If helping disabled people get an education then ditto, If helping Seniors with living expenses and medical, ditto.If helping kids get an education when that's all they got? Ditto. I will NEVER agree to ANYMORE CORPORATE WELFARE. This world is so backwards that they think that giving money to banks is going to help the poor!!??? WTF? How backwards is that?

Me I, as a conservative, agree completely that corporate welfare needs to stop. However, the TARP bailout was not a gift to the banks, it was a loan, almost all of which has been paid back in full, with interest. TARP was an emergency effort to keep the entire financial industry from collapsing, and it--arguably--succeeded in that regard. The 900 billion dollar stimulus, however, was pure giant government folly and political favoritism. The lion's share of the stimulus went to state and big city governments as political payoffs to help fill the massive budget shortfalls they were experiencing and forstall public employee layoffs. The role of American government, as conceived by its founders (and enumerated in the preamble of the Constitution), was limited to law, law enforcement, defense, and general welfare--which means only things that benefit ALL citizens (such as roads, libraries, parks, etc.), not classes or subsets of citizens (such as the elderly or racial minorities). Government perverts the market economy, the banking system, and the education system in almost every aspect that it intrudes in those systems. Higher education has become as expensive as it has *because* of government money flowing to it: tuition has raised dollar for government supplied dollar, for instance. The mortgage industry's collapse is due to government regulation, not the lack of it. Subprime loans were invented by the industry as a way of satisfying government requirements to give loans to borrowers who could not meet traditional lending criteria, and the tacit understanding that the quasi-government institutions of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac would cover catastrophic losses encouraged the lenders (with very real approval of federal regulators and congressmen like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd) to take greater and great risks and leverage at higher and higher levels. So I find it fatuously absurd that the OCWS crowd, who purport themselves to be anarchists (in other words, those who should want little to no government) are demanding a completely government take-over of massively more of our lives: our education, our banking, our health care, our businesses, our very market economy--all to be completely and utterly controlled by...GOVERNMENT.

Val Renata It didn't work to bail out the banks because they did NOTHING to help the economy. I don't want to argue with you but please look beyond your conservative agenda and do the research in areas that are not controlled by the right wing media. Thank you. btw, the mortgage industry collapsed due to unregulated banking practices. do the research, please...

Timothy Ley Actually Dodd and Schumer (Dem Congressmen) put through a "fairness" act that made the banks loan to people that didn't meet the standard requirements. Not enough "people of color" and minorities could qualify for loans. Once the requirements were lifted, yes, LOTS of people and banks took advantage of the new laws. Look to where it started! I have the research. Prepare yourself to provide a valuable service. Get paid to do quality work. Save and save. Buy a house with money that you EARNED. No problems. It is not about "fairness", it is about equal opportunity and sound business principles.

Val Renata Actually it IS about fairness. We are fighting ECONOMIC INJUSTICE. Banks should never be allowed to commit fraud and illegally foreclose on people. They were bailed out primarily to help the Real Estate crash. You know the HAMP program? But they didn't help. They didn't do loan modifications as they said they would. Only 4% of the people underwater on their mortgages got help from HAMP. Now they are demolishing the homes that they foreclosed on. How did that help anyone? In fact the banks only hurt their bottom line by being so ruthless. They lied to and cheated all of us. There are millions of people that have lost their homes and millions more to come. They are not losers or bad people. Nor are they sucking off the government teat. They lost their jobs after the crash. The crash that was due to the banks and their illegal practices on Wall Street. I suggest that you go here and do a little research. http://livinglies.wordpres​s.com/ and herehttp://www.democracynow.or​g/ And kill your television which feeds you the Fox News propaganda cyanide, before it's too late.

Me ‎1. It most certainly helped the economy to make the TARP loans to the banks. The equation is as follows: without banks there is no money to loan to businesses=without money loaned to businesses there are no businesses=without businesses there are no jobs. ‎2. My *conservative agenda* is to renew and preserve the United States government conceived and created by its founders: a government that secures the rights given by God, that protects private property, that administrates equality of process--not equality of result (the two are mutually exclusive), that is limited in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson when he said, "government governs best which governs least." ...what is your agenda? 3. What fraud and illegal foreclosure are you talking about? When a borrower fails to pay back the money secured against a property, the lender has the legal right to foreclose. You say the banks lied and cheated: how? I'll grant you that they made a lot of stupid loans based on a business model doomed to fail. But they didn't think it was going to fail, and obviously the federal regulators didn't think it was going to fail either because they sanctioned their goofy leverage ratios, mortgage-backed securities, and default swaps that were supposed to dilute the risk. When loan officers told borrowers they could take these ridiculous 110%, no-down, sub-prime and interest only loans with no worries because in 2 or 3 years they could just refinance to a conventional loan on the appreciated value of the property, they weren't lying. That actually worked, over and over again, for several years...until one day it didn't work anymore. But it wasn't a lie, it was just stupid; and it was a stupidity that almost the entire world economy bought into. 4. I rarely if ever watch Fox news, or any TV news for that matter. And I certainly don't read flame-throwing blogs that make wild assertions unsupported by any hard data or attributions. I read. I read books. I read books on economics, monetary theory, history, philosophy, political science, etc., such as Basic Economics, Applied Economics, Knowledge and Decisions, Economic Fact and Fallacies, Cosmic Justice (by Thomas Sowell), Free To Choose (by Milton Friedman), The Forgotten Man (a history of the Great Depression by Amity Schlaes), Slouching Toward Gomorrah (by Robert Bork), Liberal Fascism (by Jonah Goldberg), and Wealth and Poverty (by George Gilder). Cheers.

Val Renata http://www.dailyfinance.co​m/2009/11/20/tarp-saved-ba​nking-system-but-failed-at​-everything-else-expert/

Me Val, the article you linked was written almost 2 years ago. Here's something a little more current: http://www.housingwire.com​/2011/03/16/treasury-99-of​-tarp-paid-back. The additional goals, such as forestalling house foreclosures, etc., were always--I would contend--rhetorical devices to help sell the thing to congress, never the original intent by its architects, Geitner & Paulson. TARP was a hideous desperate act of government to prevent the complete collapse of our economy. I hated it then, and I hate it now. It goes against everything I understand about economic and monetary policy--but it was probably necessary as a government fix to a problem created by government: not a lack of regulation as so many like to say, but rather the *wrong* regulation. (If it was a lack of regulation then why did so many countries in Europe, where there is much more banking regulation than in the US, fall into the same trap?) And there are economists whom I greatly respect--principle among them Thomas Sowell--who argue that TARP was completely unnecessary. I hope he's right and we never make such a government intervention again. But it's something of a moot point now. It's done. It's paid back. As for the housing market, there is only one solution. Prices must adjust to a real market value. Housing all over the country had vastly inflated due to a constellation of reasons: a frenzy of turnover, over building, rising land costs from policies such as urban growth boundaries, but most of all due to the perversion of the entire economy due to the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates ridiculously low--for *years*. No one could make money on money anymore. The only thing going up was property, so financial instruments like mortgaged-backed securities were created, and everybody bought into them--including countries (see Iceland, and the Eastern European states). As these prices adjust to reality, everybody hurts. But there's no hope for it. I ought to know. I lost a house I had lived in and sank my money and sweat into for 15 years. I lost, but the bank lost too. The only thing that saved me from bankruptcy was a last minute short-sale in which the second lender had to write-off a substantial amount of the loan. Government money can put it off for a while, but it's only prolonging the inevitable. Eventually the piper must be paid: prices must adjust to the real market. Treasury: 99% of TARP investments paid back « HousingWire

Randall Elliott (my friend who made the post that started the debate) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for keeping this debate civil! It is good to see you folks bring your data to the table for evaluation. This is the way it is suppose to be done and I commend you, specifically Tim, Val and Don since you come from different angles. Keep it up! If nothing else, we can get better clarity on the issues, even if all we can do in the end is have a clearer direction to vote and better questions to ask our reps at the Town Hall meetings.

Timothy Ley ll parties participated in. It is a huge minority of homeowners that are loosing their house due to job loss. Many took iss advised adjustable (fully legal) loans and re-fis. It is actually moral if they are in trouble due to their own actions that they cannot perform. Tragic for many, but moral. I personally counselled many to NOT take those loans for these very reasons, yert nearly all did. And I am well aware of the modifications that haven't taken place. A huge part of that is not the banks fault- read the studies associated there....

Val Renata You are sadly misinformed sheep. READ THE LAW: Contract law and International Accounting law. What Wall Street and the Bankers did was illegal. If you know so much then you should've read about this and been outraged. So there is no sense in talking any further to you because you are not digging deep enough into what they've done and you are obviously a cold, selfish person who doesn't stand for the truth. End of conversation.

Me And...there we go. I suspected this would happen eventually. When someone can no longer argue an issue, he or she will often recourse to ad hominem: attacking and impuning the character or motives of his or her adversary. Notice the formulation: "I don't need to defend my position to you because you are a bad person." Also notice that Val fails to actually cite any statutes or law, but commands us to read contract law and (sic) *international accounting law*. Despite the fact that pundits of leftist orientation often use the term "international law", there is in reality, no such thing. Laws are created by law-making bodies--legislatures--and until the nations of the earth abdicate their national sovereignty to a world government, no such *international* law-making body exists. What gets dubbed as international law is in reality treaties between countries. I've never heard of an accounting treaty. Considering that so many on the left actually start their arguments against conservatives by condemning us as bad people, I suppose I should be grateful that it took Val this long...and yet I'm not.

Timothy Ley I see that only 1/2 of my last comment made it on-sorry! Bottom line, Both the banks and borrowers let greed get the best of them. Banks made ill advised loans (prompted by Dodd and Schumer). Profits were huge and overrode their business sense. Borrowers refinanced out of greed, getting more than their homes were worth- and they knew it! And then bought boats, 2nd homes, huge remodels... Val- the banks mostly lost their butts in this and many are now gone! Borrowers also lost because they took loans that there was no way they could repay. When you don't pay on your loan, you loose your collateral AND what you bought. You would do the same if you were the lender. Personal responsibility matters. Consequences to bad behavior matters. And this cold, selfish sheep has spent his lifetime helping people reclaim and restore after bad situations.

Val Renata I recognize your desire to be right. I've been there. I also recognize the plight of millions of people who are suffering not because they could afford their mortgages. The very people that are foreclosing on them are the ones who rigged the game they got caught up in. Until you stand up for what's right YOU ARE THE PROBLEM! You are obviously sittin; pretty. And sorry I don't believe you when you say you help people. It just doesn't ring true. If you cared you would have joined the Occupations. To quote a very GREAT MAN: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor " - Desmond Tutu.

Randall Elliott Well, it was fun while it lasted (dammit). Val, you do not know anything about Tim or Don, and you are dead wrong about them both sitting pretty. Therefore: "Liberal" resorts to an ad hominem attack and looses this round. Point goes to "Conservative". Sorry, cuz. Try again when you can present your data and not your prejudice.

Here are some further thoughts on this short debate:
1. Ms. Renata seldom actually addressed points made by myself or the other writers, but relied on blanket or categorical statements:"It's not just about welfare!", "...it is about fairness. We are fighting economic injustice.", "The crash that was due to the banks and their illegal practices on Wall Street.", etc.
2. Even at the beginning of the discussion, she verged on personal accusation: "Our country doesn't need anymore opposition. We need to join together and fight for what's right.", "...please look beyond your conservative agenda and do the research in areas that are not controlled by the right wing media."
3. She made references that were completely irrelevant to the discussion: "...kill your television which feeds you the Fox News propaganda cyanide, before it's too late.", "I recognize your desire to be right. I've been there."

I've written before about the lefts' propensity for vilification and straw-man argument instead of honest debate or even disagreement, but this was instructive to see it in action on a personal level. But I admit to being disheartened by the experience, and left wondering how we can ever hope to even clarify what our disagreements are if one side simply refuses to argue their case in lieu of sloganeering, condemnation, and self-righteous dismissal.