The Circus is in Town

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Writing self-congratulatory posts about trips booked with miles is great and all, but one risks becoming complacent and boring.

Shall we mix it up a bit then?Dare I dip my toe back into the toxic cauldron of politics? You betcha! (but don’t worry, I’ll tie it in with personal-finance later.)
I can see into Putin’s soul from my doorstep….


It’s that time of year, you know, When the crazies get together in Washington to exchange bile and bluster.  I’m speaking of course about CPAC, the conservative political action committee convention.

And the only people who have more fun than the red-blooded largely white, movement conservatives who attend the conference, are the liberals like me who watch them from afar as they make unforced error after unforced error.

And I’m not even talking about the clownish Trumps, or the McCarthyesque Cruzes.

No, even the mainstream Paul Ryans do a great job of delivering speeches so comically out touch with reality that were they to have been delivered in the 1950s to a Waspy Mad Men advertisers convention, they would have seemed stilted and detached even then.

Paul Krugman had a really nice summary of Ryan’s speech, To which I can simply add nothing more.

But it occurs to me that the times really have changed.

Though I was too young to understand it at the time, by all accounts the late 70s were a time when liberalism was really on the rocks.

There was no FDR core philosophy anymore. There was only a loose collection of aggrieved groups who did not care much about each other’s struggles.

By all accounts the civil rights activists did not care too much about the feminists, who did not care too much about the autoworkers, who did not care too much about the homosexuals, who did not care too much about migrant farmworkers, and so on and so on.

And this disharmony was set against the background of an aging, caucasian dominated, baby boom generation that felt increasingly alienated by the chaos.

And into the breach stepped Reagan and his revolution and the dominant conservative ideology that has held sway for the past 30+ years.

But the ground has slowly shifted. We are a more diverse country now and our values reflect this.  There is a growing consensus for marriage equality, equal pay, multiculturalism, a higher minimum wage, and the liberalization of drug laws.

And against this new reality Conservatism now just seems so small and feckless. The righties are now the ones playing the identity politics game of the liberals of the 70s. But the identity that they cling to is that of a shrinking minority of white privilege, and of fundamentalist religious intolerance.

Their speeches can only ring true only to their benefactors such as the Koch brothers (who’s fortune was inherited ((not earned)) from their beloved father who made his fortune cutting petroleum deals with Joseph Stalin.)


Americans for(The Ongoing)Prosperity(Of Petrochemical Trust Fund Babies)

The lack of empathy displayed when Paul Ryan argues against The value of school lunch programs is as staggering as it is obvious. And as a leftist ideologue I humbly request that CPAC holds a conference from this point forward twice a year, not once.

But now it is surely the time for me to dismount my high horse and to tie this back to the price of tea in China.

Because of course conservatism and liberalism are but two ends of a single spectrum.

And just as there is such a thing as too much taxes, there is such a thing as too little.

And just as there is such a thing as too much civil liberty, there is such a thing as too little.

And just is there such a thing as too big of a military budget, there such a thing as too little.

And just as there such a thing as too much regulation, there is such a thing as too little.

And the same is true in personal finance.

Perhaps the most important lessons of successful personal financial planning are conservative ones.

The concept of personal responsibility is said to be a conservative core ideal. And that is at the heart of saving more and of investing more and of spending less and of not being dependent on others.

(Here, the conservatives seem to often confuse personal responsibility with lecturing others on personal responsibility. As in defending tax expenditures that benefit themselves while decrying the character eroding “cost” of school lunch programs that benefit poor kids.)

But if personal responsibility is a conservative ideal, then we should all strive to be more conservative in our own finances and spending.

And what of taxes?

In our personal finances we would be foolish not to take advantage of legal strategies to reduce our own tax burden.

And hatred of taxes seems to be the single thread that binds all factions of conservatism together.  (Clarification; I don’t hate taxes, but I sure love avoiding them.)

But the conservatives certainly do not have a monopoly on the early retirement philosophy.

Focusing on efficiency and sustainability are crucial in order to kick up our own savings percentages. And these ideas are anathema to modern day conservatives and catnip to liberals. (How did the Koch brothers inherited fortune come about again?)

And the decoupling of affordable healthcare insurance from employment will be a big step forward for early retirees, and one that has been widely reviled (though it was  invented) by conservatives.

So there you have it.

Much as the country must swing back-and-forth from conservativism to liberalism in order to maintain it’s equipoise, so too must the early retiree pick and choose his ideology carefully when making financial decisions.

Which is not to say one should ever vote for one of these anti-science, close minded, homophobic, plutocratic, Republicans. No, that would surely be one step too far.***

*** Half joking here. And as evidence of my even mindedness, I am quite interested in republican congressman Dave Camp’s tax reform proposal that has drawn significant heat from both sides.

(And I also have a healthy admiration for John Huntsman, and Colin Powell, Republicans both.)

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28 Responses to “The Circus is in Town”

  1. Robert March 10, 2014 at 5:31 am #

    Never mind that Putin has been playing Obama like a fiddle, making him look like a foreign policy novice–mocking Sarah Palin is a comfortable distraction. You spewed enough bile in this post to make me wonder if you aren’t a GI doc rather than an EP! When you attack a politician that a majority of people in a state support, you are disrespecting those people as much as the politician. You may not like Bible Belt politicians, and maybe you truly don’t like the Bible Belt electorate either, but just be aware that my friends and neighbors are wonderful people and your “liberal hate speech” says more about who you truly are than about who they truly are.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 8:43 am #


      Good point about the bile. If there’s one thing I learned in med school it’s that if the gallbladder is under pressure the bile must be drained!

      I’m a huge fan of Obama’s foreign-policy, and have no nostalgia for the neocon bluster and willingness to get into land wars in Asia. Though I will point out that by your logic, your attack of Obama’s foreign-policy puts you at odds with the majority of Americans. Why must you disrespect Americans?

      I have no doubt that your religious friends and neighbors are wonderful people. But if their religion takes the form of intolerance for others as opposed to love for others, then I could not be more glad that they are part of a shrinking minority.

      If one has a deep faith in Christianity, why not emulate Jesus? Pope Francis seems to be doing a pretty good job of it.


      • Robert March 10, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

        Funny how Pope Francis and Catholics are no fans of your beloved Obamacare and its mandatory contraception and abortion coverage. And Jesus, while offering forgiveness, said, “Go and sin no more.” I think liberals like the church so long as it is warm and fuzzy and talks about love in a way that doesn’t speak against any particular lifestyle choices, but that isn’t biblical Christianity (or Judaism or Islam or any other major religion).

        As for Obama’s foreign policy, I see a lot of “hope and change” being offered to pro-democracy activists in democratic countries but not much support once they put themselves on the line. Miscalculation and over-selling U.S. support characterizes his naïve policy, and allies are realizing that under Obama, the U.S. is a weak reed to lean on. This is not making the world a safer or better place.

        For insiders’ views on the Ukraine and U.S. loss of credibility, please read these short pieces:

        • Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 8:19 pm #


          As an agnostic Jew, I have no stake in what the New Testament says on a religious basis. To me it is another book, and Jesus another character. And I find him to be a likable character, though
          he was definitely more liberal than I will ever be.

          Perhaps the Golden rule is “warm and fuzzy,”and my liberal weakness for warm and fuzzy things makes me think there is some wisdom in it. Since it is so in conflict with the judgmental and anti-compassionate worldview of your fundamentalists, perhaps they should erase it from the Bible?

          Please share with me where Pope Francis has spoken negatively about Obamacare. I must’ve missed it.

          If you would like I would be happy to share his numerous quotations that fall under the rubric of “socialism”in the modern conservative lexicon.


          • Robert March 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

            “your fundamentalists”??? They are my neighbors, but I’m not one, nor do I own them. But my neighbor across the streets is an example of one. She is a most lovely, generous, kind-hearted, compassionate woman. She’s been an adoptive grandparent to our kids, who love her. So, she’s put an anti-abortion sign in her front yard at times. And I doubt she support gay marriage. But that hardly makes her a judgmental, anti-compassionate person, except perhaps to one-dimensional judgmental people who dismiss or dislike people with one or more conscientious beliefs different from their own.
            I may be wrong on Pope Francis. I don’t know that much about him. I believe he has liberation theology roots and is certainly more socialist than I think is appropriate (and I don’t give Catholic dominated Latin American countries high marks for economic prosperity). I know he has encouraged the Catholic church not to let abortion and contraception be the dominant/defining social issues for which they are known. But do you really think that the president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops or the 43 Catholic entities suing HHS are freelancing and working in defiance of the pope’s views? I doubt that myself.

          • Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

            I’ll take that as an admission the pope Francis has not said one negative word about Obamacare to your knowledge.

            As to your neighbor, her interpretation of the Bible is her business. But when she wishes to infringe upon other people’s liberties and happiness based on her faith it ceases to be her business. And it becomes everyone else’s business.

            I neither dislike her, nor dismiss her. I simply think she is wrong. And she’s wasting her religion on small judgmental follies that in my secular opinion seem to be a complete departure from the most valuable teachings of her “Lord and Savior.”

            I begrudge her neither her right to vote nor her right to pray in any manner that she should so choose. I am merely happy then she and her ilk are part of a dwindling minority.

          • Robert March 10, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

            Infringement cuts both ways. She probably feels her freedom is being infringed when she is made to support with her taxes activities that she believes is immoral.
            As for Francis, I am not going to take the time to research him and what he has or hasn’t said about Obamacare. You can google as well as I can. It is clear that the Catholic church at high levels opposes it or at least the mandatory provisions that conflict with their beliefs. And, it is also clear that Francis has spoken against abortion.

          • Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

            Your statement about Francis was

            “Funny how Pope Francis and Catholics are no fans of your beloved Obamacare…”

            You can present no evidence to support this. So we’ll move on.

            The infringement argument is a red herring as well. Anti-Choice activists wish to overturn Roe V Wade period. Full stop.

            Do you honestly think they would be content to simply have no federal funding of abortion? (and by the way Obamacare already provides no funding for abortion.)

            And since when will your neighbors tax money go to fund gay weddings? I must have missed that bill.

            And why should her church get tax preferences if she’s so for the separation of disparate ideologies from the public coffers?

            As far as I can see the religious right simply wishes to force their narrow point of view on everyone else, which seems incredibly un-libertarian to me.

            Which doesn’t make them bad people. I’m sure their cookies are delightful. I have no doubt they are nice to kids. I wish them no ill will. I don’t begrudge them their beliefs. I just wish them to be a perpetual voting minority to limit the damage that their blind faith and intolerance unleashes on other human beings.

          • Robert March 11, 2014 at 6:53 am #

            You’re incredible. It gets tiresome arguing with you; you misconstrue and duck and weave.
            I presented strong evidence that Catholics are unhappy with Obamacare–they are suing HHS over it. You’d have to have blocked your ears to the news of the past year to not know their opposition. I showed that the senior leadership of the U.S. bishops are involved. So, half my claim is clearly shown–the Catholics oppose it. As for the second half, in a hierarchical organization like the Catholic church, things don’t happen at the bishop level without the Vatican’s approval. Pope Francis has publicly spoken about the “sin of abortion”. The church hasn’t changed its views on this under its new pope.
            I’ll leave it at that.
            As for your cookies comment, it reminds me of Hillary Clinton’s cookies and tea remark. LOL. My neighbor did a lot more than bake cookies, though she has done that a few times. She’s been an educator and owned and operated a successful bookstore for many years. Now that she’s retired, she doesn’t need the money but she still substitute teaches in local schools because she loves kids.

          • Miles Dividend M.D. March 11, 2014 at 8:53 am #

            No need to tire yourself out robert.

            Simply admitting that you got out over your skis with your pope Francis comment would surely end that aspect the conversation. (As I would do, had I made an unfactual statement such as “Cardinal Timothy Dolan supports every aspect of Obamacare.” Or “Pope Francis is pro-choice,” but of course I didn’t.

            As to your friend, your neighbor. You seem quite concerned that I am happy that her political views are being shot down in the arena of our evolving democracy.

            But where is your concern for my wonderful gay coworker? (She is as nice and as charitable a person as you could ever hope to meet.)

            And there is an important asymmetry here.

            I propose to take away exactly none of your friends rights, political, economic or otherwise.

            Where as your friend actively works to strip the rights of my friend. The right to visit her wife in the hospital. The right to inherit money tax-free. The right to be recognized as equal in society.

            These are the rights that your friend wastes her time campaigning against.

            So who is the Libertarian then?

            And who is the proponent of big government intrusion into our private lives?

          • Robert March 11, 2014 at 9:41 am #

            Why do you keep attributing my neighbor’s views to me?
            As for Francis, if you can’t see the logic in how a hierarchical church takes legal positions, then I can’t help you.

          • Miles Dividend M.D. March 11, 2014 at 10:15 am #


            You introduced your neighbor into the thread, not I. I am merely pointing out the aspects of your neighbors anti liberty, anti equality ideology that I find troubling, and worthy of challenge. I have Nothing personal against you (or your neighbor.)

            If you do not wish to be lumped in with your neighbor, why not just honestly advocate for your own point of view, and leave the pandering use of your neighbor out of the discussion.?


          • Robert March 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

            I don’t see how introducing my neighbor into the thread (near the start, btw, as part of the Bible Belt electorate) entitles you to ascribe their beliefs to me. As for advocating my own position, that’s what I was doing by using them in my argument. My position is that these people–even though they believe differently than I do–are worthy of respect and they are actually really great folks even if I don’t agree with them on everything. I, too, have gay friends, and I wouldn’t want their rights taken away either. But I also respect my neighbor’s right to believe as she does and I don’t think that calling her judgmental and anti-compassionate is accurate, nor is it helpful to building bridges between fundamentalist Christians and the LGBT community. Just as I brought my neighbor into this, you brought Pope Francis into this–as some kind of paragon of Christ-likeness–whatever positive vibe that brings to an agnostic Jew. And I pointed out that he holds beliefs based on his interpretation of the Bible and his church’s long tradition/teaching that are similar to my Bible Belt neighbors. He and his church are opposed to abortion and to contraception based on their belief that human life begins at conception and a body instantiates a soul at that point. I don’t share that belief, but many of my neighbors do. To deride my neighbors and their “intolerance” and judgmentalism and anti-compassion and then cite Pope Francis as apparently the loving antithesis of that just seems very inconsistent on your part.
            But, if you want to play the “who started it” game, just reread your original blog posting. From the mocking picture of Sarah Palin to “It’s that time of year, you know, When the crazies get together in Washington to exchange bile and bluster.” to “But the identity that they cling to is that of a shrinking minority of white privilege, and of fundamentalist religious intolerance.”, when I read your post I was mentally comparing the caricature you were drawing to the neighbors I knew who were conservatives, who would be aligned with CPAC, who would be fundamentalist Christians–and I found that your caricature simply didn’t match reality. They aren’t crazy; they are successful, sane, decent people. Intolerant? They are graciously accepting and loving people, though holding deeply rooted beliefs that lead them to vote their conscience against abortion/gay marriage/etc. White privilege? Several of my Bible Belt friends that are religious conservatives and most opposed to some of the liberal social agenda are Black. In short, you wrote a blog post that reflected your own prejudices and stereotypes but didn’t reflect reality. I also suspect that if you lived here and had neighbors like mine, you would like them and not say any of this to their face. You might even, over time, come to understand their point of view and respect them.
            I’m going to cut you some slack and say that you were using rhetorical language that advanced your views even while revealing your prejudices. I’m guilty of doing the same from time to time, and you have sometimes pointed out imprecision in my language. To some extent it is a weakness of this kind of communication; we aren’t writing legal briefs, we are carelessly chatting, yet because it is in written form rather than face-to-face oral communication, we read and analyze it as if it were supposed to be like a legal argument. I think we’d do better to have these debates over a pizza! Do you do vegan pizzas? :-)

          • Miles Dividend M.D. March 11, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

            Ah, Now we are getting somewhere.

            If I read your response correctly, you took my attack on “the crazies”at CPAC as some kind of a tribal attack on your neighbor Or those of her ilk..

            Fair enough. Though I was referring to the Sarah Palin’s, Donald trumps, and Ted Cruzes of the world Who are featured at CPAC.
            And I stand by that. Based on their ideology they are either crazy, or calculating demagogues, Who play on others irrational fears and prejudices for their own political benefit.

            As I said multiple times, I do believe that your neighbor is a good person. But when she wishes to force her narrow ideology on me or others who don’t share it, I think it is fair to label such overreach “fundamentalist religious intolerance.”

            And Francis provides a fine example of someone who is antiabortion in his beliefs, but not intolerant. I frankly could care less what anyone believes about homosexuality or abortion. I respect everyones right to their beliefs, and wish them to respect my right to mine.

            Francis is smart to move his church incrementally away from The petty and judgmental Politics of sexual morality and towards the more universal messages of compassion and service to others. And I believe the Catholic Church is starting to reap some benefits from his enlightened leadership. They are becoming less associated with sexual molestation and hypocrisy, and more associated with good deeds and humanism. When he washes the feet of criminals, that is inspiring even to an agnostic like me. Were he (like his predecessors) to stand in judgment of homosexuality, at the same time his priests are raping schoolboys that would not sit so well.

            And I have hope that Fundamentalist Christians, like your neighbor, also have the potential to step away from their own intolerance into embrace the better half of their religion.

            But intolerance is intolerance.

            As to the pizza, vegan pizzas are no problem. A simple Marinara with garlic and olive oil is quite delicious. And I would even make it with whole-grain for you. Though it would surely not be a good day for your diet, I am quite sure you would enjoy it, and I would enjoy our conversation.

            So to summarize:

            A. My inflammatory liberal rhetoric has the potential to insight tribal hostilities in others, just as right wing rhetoric insights tribal hostilities in me.


            B. The exchange of ideas with unlike-minded articulate people is a tiring but valuable exercise.

      • Robert March 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

        Oh…and you probably already heard of this much-talked about piece in the not-exactly-conservative-newspaper The Washington Post, but in case not, here’s the link. It quotes a number of liberal commentators who have also reached the same conclusion about Obama’s failed foreign policy:

        • Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 8:32 pm #


          Remember that time you tried to sell a William Crystal editorial in the New York Times as liberal because it was in the New York Times?

          That was a hoot.

          on a related note, I really enjoyed the attached piece from the “right turn” blog in the Washington Post.

          Obama’s foreign policy is one that is based on diplomacy, coalition building, and avoiding wars at all cost. It measures what US interests are in each conflict before engaging militarily. And he has ended two wars started by Bush. And he has taken out Osama bin Laden. And he continues to target the leadership of Al Qaeda.

          He is now building a coalition for economic sanctions against Russia. He has put together a generous aid package for Ukraine. And he is engaging in diplomacy with a minimum of bluster.

          This suits me just fine. If you’re for invading the Ukraine, why not come out and say it? And if not what do you or any of these neocon critics propose that we do differently?


          • Robert March 10, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

            I’m not a neocon (I’ve already told you about my libertarian leanings and sympathy for Ron Paul, who is certainly not a warmonger). I’m not for invading Ukraine, for sure. My complaint would be the support/encouragement we gave those rioting against the Ukrainian president. We may be sympathetic to pro-Western Ukrainians, but it is irresponsible to encourage them to take actions that are guaranteed to invite Russian aggression when we aren’t prepared to back them up when those actions elicit the predictable strike.

          • Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

            Robert, What support/encouragement are you referring to?

            And what do you argue a Pres. Romney, Or a President Paul for that fact would have done differently?

            There are limited options in this conflict, and in my opinion Obama is playing this as well as is possible.

            Incidentally I think Putin is taking a much bigger gamble here. The economic stakes for Russia could not be higher.


          • Robert March 10, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

            What support? Well, let’s start with Victoria Nula. Heard of her? I thought so. Picking who should be deposed and who should be selected to govern Ukraine? $5 billion spent in “democratization activities”? Sounds like supporting a rebellion/revolution to me.
            BTW, I am an equal opportunity blamer. I think Bush provided similar encouragement to Georgia but he, too, couldn’t back up his words with effective action. I think Obama is doing this more consistently and often, though, and the damage to U.S. credibility is even greater than the damage done by GWB.

          • Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 10:56 pm #


            To lay this Nuland dog turd at the feet of Obama is not credible, seeing as how she is the daughter of a seminal neocon and was continuously employed throgh the entire Bush Presidency.

            Surely you don’t claim that pro democracy meddling in the former soviet sphere started with Obama? This has been a continuous CIA game ongoing since about 1917. Do you deny this?

            Your Georgia analogy is much closer to the truth. Even neocon hawks didn’t see fit to do much of anything when Putin cracked down on Georgia. (because there were no credible options.)

            Saying that Obama has done more damage to US credibility than Bush (9/11, WMD, Iraq? Guantanamo? Abu Ghraib?) is a real stretch. It seems to be an opinion born more out of your own political ideology rather than any facts presented here.

          • Robert March 11, 2014 at 6:05 am #

            Typical Democratic response; it is never Obama’s fault–always his predecessor. I guess in a sense it is true–everything goes back to the Civil War, and before that to the Revlutionary War, and before that to the destruction of the native Americans, and before that…
            You play the hand you are dealt. Obama was dealt a strong hand, and he has misplayed it.

  2. Tom March 10, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    I lean neither right or left. I dont always agree or follow Democrats or Republicans. I truly try to keep an open mind when I read/see something that has a political tilt. You sir have once again proven why I tune the likes of you and your’s out, be it right or left.
    I will not be back to your website.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 8:29 am #


      I’m sincerely sorry to hear that. You’re welcome back anytime.


  3. Ryan March 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    I generally consider myself a social liberal and fiscal conservative and I most often vote libertarian when I can. I have no idea what the previous commentator is trying to say but I really appreciate reading all view points and enjoyed your post. Thanks for not fearing the wrath and actually sharing your political views. Most bloggers keep their politics out of the money discussion but I think they are intertwined and fair debate topics.

  4. Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Thanks Ryan,

    That’s the reaction I hope for when I write such a post.

    It’s a tough line to cross. And I know that by writing provocatively about my political views I will alienate some people (which is certainly not optimal.)

    This is not a political blog, but it is a personal blog, and I am political.

    My goal is not to sell things. My goal is to engage people in an honest and entertaining fashion that reflects my worldview and is in someway relevant to the themes of this blog.

    I love engaging with people who think differently from me and do not censor their comments in anyway. I have also tried to acknowledge when others have made good points against me.

    I guess In the end my calculation has been that my favorite bloggers are those who write honestly from their own unique perspective. So I will continue to write from mine.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read the blog and to comment on it.


  5. Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 9:35 pm #
    • Robert March 10, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

      At a loss for words? 😉

  6. Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    You know me….

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