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Open Thread for Night Owls
I keep harping on this, I know. I say it nearly every time. But at a certain point, you just have to come to the conclusion that conservatives are conservative because they are, well, stupid.

Via Think Progress, here's Alabama State Sen. Shadrack McGill (a Republican, of course) talking about why raising pay for schoolteachers would not just be a bad idea, it would be against the Bible:

"It's a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher's pay scale, you'll attract people who aren't called to teach.

"To go in and raise someone's child for eight hours a day, or many people's children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn't want to do it, OK?

"And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It's just in them to do. It's the ability that God give 'em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn't matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity.

"If you don't keep that in balance, you're going to attract people who are not called, who don't need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance."

Now that's an impressive level of Bible-thumping bullshit, right there. Among all professions everywhere, somehow teaching children is the one that always gets singled out as deserving rotten pay because that's how Jesus would have wanted it. Teaching is a calling, you see, and you wouldn't want to taint that with filthy, filthy money so that teachers could pay their rent or buy gas for their cars or something. So why do we pay doctors, then—isn't that a calling? What about lawyers? Heaven knows defending people's freedom ought to be a calling, not a job. And don't even get me started on politicians.

What's that? You're going to get me started on politicians? Oh, Lord. Here's Bible-citer Shadrack McGill defending his support for raising legislator salaries from about $30k a year to nearly $50k—in the very same damn meeting:

"That [previous salary] played into the corruption, guys, big time," he said. "You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren't worried about that $30,000 paid salary they were getting," McGill said, adding that lawmakers have to pay for their expenses out of pocket.

McGill said that by paying legislators more, they're less susceptible to taking bribes.

Got that? Teachers should be paid as little as possible so that we can be sure they're doing it for the children. Politicians, on the other hand, should be paid substantially more because otherwise they'll turn corrupt and take bribes and stuff. Hey, you know politicians: They do that sort of thing all the freaking time.

There's a level of cognitive dissonance here that can't be explained by mere ideology. If teaching children is a calling, then so is serving citizens as one of their leaders. If paying legislators like crap would result in shoddy, corrupt legislators, then it does not follow how paying teachers more would result in them turning shoddy and corrupt. I suppose if you base your premise on politicians being naturally shitty people, sure, but it still doesn't explain why all the other non-shitty people out there should have to suffer.

Then we've got the whole push among Mitt Romney and the One Percenters (Worst. Band. Ever.) telling us that we can't possibly tax hedge fund managers or other captains of finance at the same percentage rates as the little people, otherwise the hedge fund managers and other captains of finance will Go Galt and not bless us with their vast, sometimes-apocalyptic wisdom. You see, if these people have to pay a few thousand dollars more on each million dollars they make, they won't want to make any more millions of dollars! Think of the chaos! At the same time, the same candidates and pundits tell us that we need to make sure even the poorest of the poor pay some tax, so they have a little skin in the game.

The common theme is that the rich and powerful need to be rewarded more greatly, less they instead turn to corrupt or apathetic behaviors, and that the poor need to be squeezed more tightly in order to prevent those same moral hazards of corruption or laziness. Apparently, the rich and poor no longer even share the same brain structure, given that the social prescriptions for the two groups are entirely contradictory.

Yes, the only common theme, from powerful conservatives, is that whatever they happen to propose in any given moment will be entirely self-serving. Conservative legislators need to pay themselves more money, because they deserve to be rewarded. Conservative rich people need to pay less taxes, because they goddamn feel like paying less taxes. Conservative corporations (I'm not sure I know of a liberal one—something about dedicating your existence to raw profit seems to fit right in with conservatism) need fewer regulations, because regulations are hard to deal with. Conservatives want everyone else to get paid less, have fewer rights, have fewer legal protections, and so on and so forth because those other people are (1) immoral, (2) benefiting too much from the tax dollars of good conservatives, or (3) because suck it, that's why.

A lack of empathy explains a lot of it. A nearly sociopathic lack of empathy or concern for others would explain a great deal of it indeed, especially among many conservative leaders. As supposed ideology, however, I have no patience for it anymore. I used to at least respect the notion of conservatism as philosophy, and at least recognize some raw pragmatic value behind the premise, but this version of conservatism is overtly regressive, not conservative. It lacks any coherent point other than the self-centeredness of the practitioner.

But then I hear people like Alabama State Sen. Shadrack McGill talking about how paying teachers a living wage would be violating a "Biblical principle," while paying legislators a living wage is a damn fine idea, and the far simpler explanation rears its head. Most of these people aren't ideological about anything. They're just profoundly stupid people. They're not conservative, they're just self-indulgent scolds or self-interested collectors of public power. They're only "conservative" because that's the ideology that will best support stringing together random words to accomplish those goals.

Could we use their own arguments against them, and would those arguments gain leverage? Let's tell Mr. McGill that if we do not raise the pay of our teachers, our teachers will be reduced to selling drugs to our children. Or will be more prone to passing children in exchange for cash bribes from parents. Or, what the hell, will be more likely to sell our children into slavery during the lunch break. If we don't pay teachers the same wages we pay our legislators, our teachers might act as corrupt as legislators do!

Would it work? Of course not. It would make their little heads explode with outrage, as they contemplated all these new conspiracy theories, but of course they would not embrace the same basic economic principles for schoolteachers as they do for politicians, or hedge fund managers, or the entire oil industry. Again, there is nothing close to consistency in the minds of people like Sen. McGill. Doesn't enter his foggy head. Do what you want, cite the Bible a few times, and call it done, but large swaths of America has attempted to win arguments with conservatism by citing facts or science or logical conclusions, and it never does a damn thing. Climate change can't be happening because (insert Jesus reason here), or last decade's Bush and Republican policies didn't balloon the deficit because (magical timespace distortion putting Obama in charge eight years before he was elected president). There's no winning when your opponents pride themselves on not being consistent from one issue to the next, or on not listening to knowledgeable opinions of people who might have studied the matter more than they have.

Sometimes I get people scolding me for being mean to conservatives. Frankly, I just don't care anymore. I'm just too tired of it. Many of us were called traitors for not believing that yellowcake uranium meant we had to go to war with Iraq because also al Qaeda and/or freedom fries and/or strategery or whatever the hell the eventual argument was. Not a day seems to go by now where some prominent, high-level Republican isn't accusing Obama of wanting to "destroy America" or "hurt the economy" or whatever else the scary black man is supposedly doing now that was all perfectly reasonable, banal stuff back then. There's no ideological core there. Perhaps there once was, but at present, among the power brokers of policy, of punditry, and of the wider base, it doesn't exist. The calls for smaller government end up with a larger government, the calls for reducing the deficit get replaced with massive deficits, the calls for individual freedoms or states' rights or whatever other crap is being peddled one moment gets just as easily discarded the next.

The one remaining consistent principle—tax cuts for rich people, and screw everything else—is not an ideology. At least, it's not one that deserves to be taken seriously.

Blast from the Past
. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009:

In the wake of this week's House vote on the Obama economic recovery package, we learn that our brave new post-partisan world, as mcjoan wrote this afternoon, sure looks awfully similar to the old bitterly partisan world we've always lived in. And, as ever, we have the Republican Party to thank for this.

Let’s not pretend that the House bill, which passed 244-188 with precisely zero Republican votes, was exactly a shining moment for the party (although the fact that it has passed at all is certainly something of a victory for the administration). House Republicans see this as their own victory, and for the short term, they may be right.

They've managed to exact major concessions from the administration and House leadership on the $819 billion stimulus package, including the excision of family planning, of funding for public works projects on the National Mall, and the addition of major tax cuts for businesses...and proceeded to vote unanimously against the package anyway. Furthermore, they managed to turn the stimulus into a political wedge issue, even after winning on the oh-so-sacred tax cuts for big business (apparently the only issue of any consequence to today's Republican Party). It's an impressive, if cynical, example of political gamesmanship. It does not, however, have to be yet another case of the Democratic Charlie Brown trying once again to kick Lucy’s football. In fact, there’s no reason the administration and party leadership can’t use the stimulus vote as an opportunity.

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