Friday, April 04, 2008

Tears of a Clown

Regular readers of the econoblogs Economist's View and Beat the Press will be familiar with commenter Brooks. A few days ago I put up a post inviting him to make his actual case as opposed to trying to sustain a tiring and trying meta-narrative of who said what when with what motives. Well he failed the test, instead endlessly posting self-justifying bleats. Well I took that post down, it advanced nothing. In response Brooks thoughtlessly mirrored the entire thread over at ClownHall, oops I mean TownHall not understanding it just revealed him as being a doof. Which is his right. But all I can say is better their bandwidth than mine. Anyone who thinks I am simply running away in the face of a superior line of argument might need to review the YouTube of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:  'Come back you coward!' After being delimbed by Arthur.
For the more masochistically inclined you can review the entire exchange at


Brooks said...

Be sure to check out the latest, greatest comments on The Bruce Web of Lies!

Bruce Webb said...

What's that smell?

Guess I didn't get all the Brooks off my shoe. Does anyone show any sign of caring?

Brooks said...

Apparently a very large portion of your blog's readership cared enough to reply to my comment, as evidenced by your reply to my comment. (Get it, or is that statement not spelled out clearly enough for you?) So how long before you delete THIS thread, as you did the last one, to once again try to keep people (the few who visit, that is) from discovering what an utter moron you are (by visiting my blog at the link in my previous comment)?

By the way, while I must admit that I don't suffer fools gladly, your stupidity alone would not have driven me to create that blog, since one cannot help being stupid. But you combine stupidity with blatantly unfair and obviously baseless, anti-intellectual, knee-jerk, partisan attacks on people. In other words, you're not just stupid, you're a stupid a**hole, very deserving of ridicule, which, combined with the benefit of pointing out to people the lack of validity in your arguments, justifies my creating that blog.

Sarah said...

Whew! I went over to have a look at Brooks' 'blog' and was about to add a comment-- mainly just to see if Brooks would let it stay-- and did a double take at the sign-up form to post a comment. Thought, "Who are these people that they practically require mother's maiden name and social security number to let me post a comment??!!"

Shoulda known. The Repugs, of course. In return for giving them all my personal information I get the privilege of operating my very own arm of the great propaganda machine-- and be safe from ever hearing any reality-based opinions ever again.

By the way, Bruce-- great service you've done here and on a number of other blogs. You make the case cogently and clearly. I point friends who worry about 'Social Security running out of money' to this blog-- or to
if they have trouble with written explanations.

Bruce Webb said...

Thanks Sarah. And even more thanks for pointing to Lee A Arnold's Ecolanguage animation. Which actually predates its 2006 copyright, Lee had an earlier version up in mid 2005 in time to eviscerate the Posen Plan.

And yeah the Clownhall, hmm Townhall sign up process is a little intrusive.

Brooks said...


First, good for you for checking out my exchange with Bruce. I don't know if you read through the whole thing, including my exchange with him on the related Thoma thread for context (and given the length of all of it, you could certainly be forgiven for not doing so), but if you did, that's commendable. I have no idea whether or not you read it with an effort to be objective and rational, but of course, that's the other important part.

I would welcome any comment or question you may have. You can email me at Or you could just comment here (although Bruce may delete this thread at some point for the same reason he deleted the other) and I'll reply when I check back and see your comment.

By the way, I created a blog at TownHall just because I came across it and found it to be a fairly user-friendly means of setting up a blog, not for ideological reasons. And my dispute with Bruce was not one of ideology or even policy preference anyway, although he tried to make it sound that way. I was merely trying to correct people on a fundamental conceptual error they were making. As you see on my blog -- in the thread from Bruce's blog that I pasted there -- Bruce finally admitted (on his blog) that I was right all along (expecting that he could quickly delete that concession before anyone could see it). What you may not know is that he fought me for months on those points, asserting that they were wrong and reflected ignorance on my part and/or dishonest and a hidden agenda.

And Sarah, your reference to the concern of some about Social Security "running out of money" reflects the kind of conceptual mistake many (on both sides) are making, although I don't know if you are actually making that mistake. It doesn't make much sense, in terms of our fiscal policy choices, to look at projected SS "solvency" in isolation. What matters is our projected OVERALL long-term fiscal imbalance (TOTAL revenues minus TOTAL expenses) and debt level (relative to GDP). We have to decide how much we want to spend and on what, how much we want to tax and from whom on what basis, and how much debt we want to target. The individual "solvency" of a program with a dedicated tax based on the current tax rate and applicable income for that dedicated tax are, in themselves, irrelevant to the decision of whether or not to cut (or increase) projected spending on that program. Ultimately all money is fungible by one means or another (shifts in one tax rate vs. another; which tax revenues fund which programs; etc.). It is simply nonsensical to base this policy decision -- one way or the other -- on projections of SS "solvency" per current SS FICA tax rates and applicable income. Yet that's where the debate is focused, by both people who want to cut SS and those who want to prevent any reduction in SS benefits or eligibility (e.g., means testing; higher retirement age; etc.).

Bruce Webb said...

"Bruce finally admitted (on his blog) that I was right all along"

Well no, that is not a fair summation of any part of any of the exchanges we have had though frankly typical of your willingness to be judge and jury or everybody else's argument and actual state of opinion.

"Even though he knows I am right and will not admit it" is not in fact as dispositive as you would have it. Though you pull this tactic time and again.

Coberly got called on the carpet by a blog host by suggesting that you were mentally ill and really could use some counseling. And conceivably I might call myself on the carpet at some point for saying the same thing, but I think not.

I am not a clinician, I don't know whether the formal diagnosis would be monomania or sociopathy, all I know is that you have a screw loose that prevents you from any self-critical analysis or serious engagement with the logical arguments of others. It is always just about Brooks. And always in the same self satisfied tone. As if at any time you were actually scoring points off of your self-selected opponents.

I called this post 'Tears of a Clown' for a reason. Clowns constantly play with the boundary between Comedy and Tragedy, but the professionals know what they are doing and cause the audience to laugh/cry with them. Whereas amateurs cause onlookers to laugh at/cry for them. You sir are an amateur and simply evoke an odd mixture of amusement and pity.

Brooks said...


I won't bother to address your bizarre comments about me except to say that they are quite obviously grossly fallacious and ironic, to say the least.

As for your dishonesty or inexplicably poor memory, yes, you did admit finally admit -- after months of arguing otherwise -- that the point I had been making from the beginning (see below) was indeed correct.

After struggling for months to get you to engage substantively and rationally, and trying repeatedly on this occasion, I tried once again:

"I'll try yet again. Do you agree that all four statements below are true?

"1) Under current spending policies and at current levels of taxation, we face a huge, unsustainable OVERALL long-term fiscal imbalance that must be substantially reduced via higher taxation, lower spending (vs. projection), or a combination of the two.

"2) Every dollar we spend on anything contributes to this imbalance, so SS spending contributes to this imbalance even if it is/were projected to be “solvent” forever, and a reduction in projected SS spending would reduce this overall fiscal imbalance.

"3) Reducing projected SS spending would NOT require defaulting on the Trust Fund bonds even if, under the current SS FICA tax structure (tax rates and applicable income), SS is/were projected to be “solvent” forever, because we could simply lower the SS FICA tax rate (or the limit on applicable income) accordingly to match the lower level of projected spending (so that SS surpluses and Trust Fund assets don't grow forever). And this would not necessarily mean a net tax cut, since we could offset SS FICA tax cut with increases in other taxes, resulting in no net change in overall taxation, but a reduction in our overall fiscal imbalance.

"4) Just as it is a bogus argument for anyone to say a supposed lack of SS “solvency” means we must cut projected SS spending, it is bogus (and nonsensical) for anyone to say that supposed indefinite (eternal) SS “solvency” means that SS spending does not contribute to our overall fiscal imbalance, that there would be no fiscal benefit to cutting projected SS spending, or that reducing SS spending would require defaulting on the bonds.

"Do you agree that all of the above are completely true? If not, what's false/incorrect?"

In your reply (in which you wrote that "this post and all its comments will disappear fairly soon", you finally conceded "As for answers to nos 1-4. True and trivial."

I'm sure you wish there were no record of you admitting that my point was correct, and obviously you intended to erase that record. But unfortunately for you, I preserved a record* so you can't deny it without being exposed for the liar that you are.


Brooks said...

Oh, by the way, coberly, too, finally admitted (today) that the point I've been making all along is correct.

Oh, and just for kicks, what exactly are you now saying you said to me, that you DON'T really think my point is correct? Or are you going to pretend that the point above is somehow substantively different from the point I've been making from the beginning, counting on the fact that a reader of this exchange here probably will not know that the point is indeed the one I've been making from the beginning? My guess is you'll go with the latter, since counting on people's ignorance of the facts is probably the only way you think you can get away with lying yet again. If you do that, perhaps I'll dig up my initial comments from back at the beginning just to show any of your readers (perhaps my use of the plural is giving your blog too much credit) just how blatant a liar you are.

Of course, you may end up deleting this thread, too, although you now know doing so would only erase it from YOUR site (I'll just post my copy on mine, along with using it elsewhere in writing about what is wrong with political discourse today in America), and that the exchange (and the fact that you deleted it from your site) won't really disappear, something that must be quite frustrating for you.

Brooks said...

Just to recap our exchanges from beginning to now:

- Several months ago I pointed out a conceptual/analytical error people were making about a very important policy issue.

- From the start and for the next several months on numerous threads, you strongly assert that my point is incorrect, and that it reflects utter ignorance and/or dishonesty and a hidden, malicious agenda on my part.

- Ultimately, you admit that the point I had been making all along is correct. You do so on your own, relatively untrafficked blog (relative to those on which you strongly disagreed and attacked me), and in the same comment in which you state your intention to promptly delete that exchange, which you then promptly did. Your concession that I was right was most certainly NOT due to any change in the point I was making, nor to any greater clarity of my explanation than I offered from the very beginning. Apparently, you simply either finally realized I was correct, or finally wanted to be honest for once, knowing that you could quickly delete the evidence of your concession.

When I talk about what's wrong with political discourse in America today, your attitude and behavior is quite representative of the problem. You apparently spend a lot of time in partisan echo chambers with like-minded people, ideologically and "factually" inbreeding, losing the capacity for anything resembling objectivity or a good-faith quest for truth and reason, consumed instead by the partisan battle and sacred talking points. When someone comes along and says something that questions or challenges some premise of some talking point, you react reflexively and persistently with hostility, along with evasion of substantive discussion/debate of the arguments, joined in that behavior to some extent by others with your same basic mindset.

This problem is a topic of interest of mine, and one which I am currently researching. I should probably thank you for providing so much relevant material. Only problem is that you are so stereotypical as to perhaps border on the incredible. Fortunately, though, anything I author can contain links to your comments online for those who are skeptical that someone would really conduct themselves in such a manner.

Brooks said...

Wouldn't want you to miss this, you utter moron.