Political Sanity in the USA - To Be or Not to Be ??
I have been a proud RINO since at least 1975 - long before the epithet became fashionable in GOP circles. Accordingly I think some of the best politically-relevent analysis comes from other out-of-favor Republicans who dare question current party orthodoxy.
This blog will eventually develop with my commentary over a long period of time. To kick things off and introduce the work of other good commentaters, I recommend:
How the Media Often Informs and Misleads Simultaneously
I cite the following article by long-time pollster Charlie Cook as a way of pointing out a small example of how the media simultaneously informs but through omission misleads the public. This analysis of President Obama's narrow range of approval ratings is thoughtful and accurate as far as it goes. But like many similar articles it leaves out a politically important detail, perhaps because the pollsters did not ask the right questions. In this case, the detail is that a notable portion of opinion poll respondents who voice disapproval of the President do so because they are liberals who are extremely disappointed with him for a long list of reasons. Similarly, a notable portion of poll respondents who have voiced disapproval of "Obamacare" since the law was passed are liberals who passionately believe the US absolutely has to have a single payer public health insurance system - "Medicare for all" - and believe the Affordable Care Act is reprehensible sell-out to the health care industry. In both issue areas, the GOP has no chance winning votes from that liberal portion of the disapproving masses.
Can the GOP Ever Shed Its Fierce Anti-Science and Anti-Intellect Mania?
I do not expect to see such a "Civil War" within the GOP anytime in the next decade, but there should be. I've been hoping in vain for a strong push-back to the anti-environment, anti-conservationist mania pioneered by Reagan ever since he took office - but the fever has only gotten worse and continues to do so.
President Obama has proposed selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority, and you would think Republicans within the states served by the electric utility would be wildly enthusiastic based on anti-socialist principle. Don't hold your breath.
“original Republican principles (of) fiscal responsibility and economic opportunity”
This quote from Olympia Snowe in an Associated Press story by Bill Barrow really jumped out at me:
Snowe said that conservatives in Congress, she said, have gone from “original Republican principles (of) fiscal responsibility and economic opportunity” to “eviscerating government.”
“That scares people,” Snowe said.
A problem that I believe is finally catching up to the GOP on the national level is that within recent history - since Ronald Reagan became President in 1981 professing unwavering belief in what his running mate and successor George H.W. Bush had previously and quite accurately labeled "voodoo economics" - the national level GOP has embodied quite the opposite of fiscal responsibility and sustained economic opportunity. Reagan, while professing fiscal responsibility on the campaign trail in 1976 and again in 1980, ushered in a sustained period of absolute fiscal recklessness. Reagan's recklessness failed to even launch sustained economic opportunity for the nation as a whole while taking the national debt from $1 trillion to $5 trillion by the time Bush, Sr. left office in a bad economy that sent the most crucial votes he needed to be re-elected to Ross Perot - thus allowing Clinton to become President with a mere plurality of votes.
When George W. Bush became President with fewer votes than Al Gore, he promptly continued Reagan's model of massive fiscal recklessness taking a national debt that had been stabilized at the $5 trillion level during the Clinton years to $10 trillion by the end of his 8 year tenure. Again this fiscal recklessness not only failed to produce sustained economic growth (Paul Krugman, take note), but a variety of failed policies over the previous quarter century left the nation dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s as Bush left office.
Reagan also popularized the "government is the problem" rhetoric that helped give birth to the current GOP "eviscerating government" mentality that Snowe sees as scaring people. Accordingly, I don't view Reagan as the patron saint of the modern GOP. Instead I see his legacy as sowing the seeds of sustained - and steadily worsening - national economic imbalances and thus the potential seeds of the national GOP's destruction if they don't figure out how to really champion both fiscal responsibility and broad economic opportunity in a manner acceptable to swing voters.
Why is Our Economy So Fundamentally Weak?
The answer to this question goes well beyond the situation described in the following excerpt from a Salon article by Barbara Garson - but the excerpt approximately summarizes a big part of how we have arrived where we are and the difficulty we face in restoring our economic health.
Between 1971 and 2007, real hourly wages in the U.S. rose by only 4%. (That’s not 4% a year, but 4% over 36 years!) During those same decades, productivity essentially doubled, increasing by 99%. In other words, the average worker’s productivity rose 25 times more than his or her pay.In trying to move forward from here, the implications outlined in the The kids will be rich, unless Peter Peterson's kids take their money article linked in the Policy Wonk Showcase section below are worth keeping in mind.
This was, of course, a bonanza for corporations and for the richest Americans. In 1976, the top 1% of U.S. families held 19% of the country’s wealth. By 2000, they held 40% of it. In those same years, 58% of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1%.
There was, however, one small problem: we Americans sell to one another more than 70% of what we produce. If the majority of American workers were producing more without earning more, who was going to buy all the stuff?
CEOs and financiers were desperate to answer that question, for during those years of high productivity and low wages, immense profits and “returns” kept accumulating in brokerage accounts and banks. But a bank can’t keep its money in the bank. Under the pressure of those swelling piles of capital, the answer they offered to worker-consumers like Duane was: instead of paying you enough to buy what you produce, we’ll lend you the money.
First, they loaned for big-ticket items: cars, homes, college educations; then, through credit cards, for everyday household expenses. As we came to realize after the meltdown of 2008, the ultimate Ponzi scheme of the era would involve bundling and reselling mortgage loans made to people who couldn’t afford houses in the first place.
The answer offered to those who had ever less money to spend was: take out more loans. The folly of lending money to people with stagnant or declining wages may seem obvious now, but like many houses of cards it must have looked solid enough to some back then.
Newt Gingrich: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Since Newt Gingrich burst on the national political scene in the 1980s, I have considered him to be the modern political equivalent of "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" - with the Mr Hyde portion of his considerable intellect unfortunately and destructively dominant. But when he is being Dr Jekyll, he often makes a lot of sense even if I do not entirely agree with him. Here is an issue where I do:
Why do I agree with Gingrich about gay marriage? Throughout much of recorded history heterosexual couples have been encouraged to get married by most organized religion and by government because their sexual relations often can produce babies whether intended or not. Both religion and government have long recognized what I too believe - that the best possible circumstances for producing and nurturing children is when their biological parents engage in an enduring partnership as a family.
Now I know many biological parents make lousy parents. I am sure many same sex couples succeed as parents to a degree that surpasses the performance of all too many biological parents. But just because many biological parents fail to do a good job at parenting does not in my mind create a case for either religious institutions or government to encourage same sex parenting by offering marriage rights to gay couples. Ideally children need appropriate, ongoing, close relationships with both of their biological parents - not just one. When any child is deprived of an appropriate, ongoing, close relationship with BOTH of their biological parents, I believe that is a tragic violation of that child's most fundamental human rights.
April 14 Update: Three cheers for the RNC!!
The Republican National Committee reaffirmed its view that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, as the party sought to calm members of its base concerned that a rebranding effort might go too far.
Meeting in Los Angeles today, the party’s 168-member governing body passed a resolution that says marriage between “one man and one woman” is the “optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America.”
Will North Korea Launch a War?
This analysis of whether North Korea will seek to resume the Korean War is thought provoking in that it suggests just why North Korea might now choose to initiate war instead of continuing their long-standing policy of making empty threats. While the article concludes that North Korea's leaders are not likely to attack, the analysis lays out a potential benefit of early stage war that might be appealing to the North Korean regime:
In the US a chicken hawk is a neocon who could have fought in Vietnam but did not and often has never even served in the military. In a North Korean context, it may refer to leaders, including career military officials, who are simply not old enough to have fought in the Korean War 60 years ago. Like US chicken hawks, the North Koreans may overestimate what they can accomplish by launching a military attack. They might also underestimate the consequences that would follow in true chicken hawk tradition. Such miscalculation in my mind increases the likelihood that North Korea will attempt an attack based on the plausible rationale for doing so suggested by Stratfor - essentially reasserting their credibility for purposes of long-term extortion - with too little expectation that they will fail to accomplish such goals. I hope I am wrong.
Here is a thoughtful discussion of how to move towards peace:
I have not found much to admire recently in the public comments and statements of either Senator McCain or Senator Graham, but their criticism of Senator Paul for his filibuster - and indirectly of many commentators on the political left and right - are 100 percent spot on. Here are fuller discussions about why the US should be using armed drones, perhaps subject to strengthened checks and balances and Congressional oversight:
Federal Budget Sequestration
This quote from an article in Politico pretty much explains why we had across-the-board Federal spending cuts go into effect on March 1:
Todd Harrison, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, said sequestration has the added bonus of being vague enough that lawmakers who don’t try to block it could avoid taking a political hit if the across-the-board cuts end up cutting programs in their district.
“Everyone can say they don’t like it,” he said, “and still not have their fingerprints on specific cuts.”
This reporting provides some useful background to budget realities and long-standing Federal spending problems:
Want to know why there is substantial political / fiscal paralysis among our elected representatives in Congress? Then read this all the way through - Congress simply is not as detached from the task of representing the American people as many perceive:
... this points to another political reality that has taken hold in Washington. If there’s a tough decision to be made, lawmakers don’t want to be anywhere near it.
Having power means taking the blame when voters get mad. Like most of Washington’s dysfunction, the sequestration stalemate can be viewed through a pretty simple prism: No one wants the risk of responsibility for an unpopular policy.
Unfortunately for GOP lawmakers, public opinion seems increasingly less supportive of their position:
Policy Wonk Showcase
M.L. Jones Background
My personal distance from what has become increasingly dominant Republican ideology began shortly after I started an internship with the Minnesota Republican Party. Although I can claim absolutely no credit for the name change, it pleased me greatly that by the end of my internship this state party had re-branded itself as the Minnesota Independent-Republican Party. This change held until the 1990s. My idealogical estrangement began not by being among these good people in Saint Paul for a few months, but from hearing Ronald Reagan address the group as part of laying the groundwork for his subsequent primary challenge against President Ford in 1976. Reagan's loud complaints about deficit spending, a national debt then rapidly approaching $1 trillion, and waste, fraud and abuse in government spending have rung increasingly hollow ever since.
For additional clues about why I am an unapologetic "RINO" see:
Like just about every other blogger in the blogosphere, I am easily annoyed by current events and the daily news! Yet true despair is derived daily by the severely distorted and democracy-damaging “opinion” – often asserted to be factual news – that floods our airwaves, cable channels and of course the blogosphere itself. Increasingly shrill rants are constantly feeding ill-informed garbage, misinformation and outright lies into the collective consciousness. It is only the shear diversity of points of view and ignorance-fueled rants that offers some value to the democratic process. But unlike many who love to point fingers to assign blame for any problem that can be articulated, I realize that the fundamental problem we face in our life and times is our collective lack of demonstrated wisdom – Pogo nailed it exactly in declaring “We have met the enemy and he is us!” In my mind, that rates right up there with the Golden Rule as transcendent wisdom.
Blog last updated May 18, 2013 - Feedback Welcome - Get blog update notifications via Twitter @greenforex