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Congress, Partisanship & Paralysis

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. (AP)

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Here’s a scary sense that grips a lot of the nation and, we’re told, a lot of the world: the United States has become dysfunctional at fixing problems just when everything needs to be repaired. Health care, energy policy, infrastructure, education, banking — you name it.

Fingers can point at a lot of reasons for paralysis. Many are pointed at Congress.

It’s got hyper-partisan politics, big money interests all over, a 60-vote bar to clear in the Senate, and a load of dangerous gridlock.

This hour, On Point: Where’s Congress when we need it?

Guests:

Joining us from Washington is Thomas Mann, Congressional scholar and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is co-author, with Norman Ornstein, of “The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track.”

Joining us from Williamsburg, Va., is Larry Evans, professor of government at the College of William and Mary. From 1991 to 1993 he worked in the office of Rep. Lee H. Hamilton and on a bipartisan Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. He’s at work on a book about partisan coalition building on Capitol Hill.

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  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    There’s a sign down the road from my house:

    “Replace Congress”

    I used to think it was rather outrageous, no doubt posted by someone unhappy with Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and Democrats in general.

    The sign is looking better to me (a life-long Democrat) every day.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Up until Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts, it seemed to me someone running for Congress or Senate would have to be someone willing to be herded, someone willing to be run by the machine and run by Big Money. I am catching vibes indicative of change. The extremely low profile of my congressman no longer seems quite so viable. I had thought the best advice to him would be to keep his cards close to the chest, not accept e-mails, not have much of a website, only “play” with big donors, and so on. Only take “safe positions,” though those are getting scarce.
    Now I think a personality of a wholly other sort than the “political class” has a chance to start out in a pickup truck in search of votes.

  • Brian

    Ellen,

    Looks like your man Brown’s pickup truck made a few extra stops to get some donors:

    In a six-day span just before the US Senate election, Republican Scott Brown collected nearly $450,000 from donors who work at financial companies, a sign the industry is prepared to spend heavily in the upcoming midterm elections to beat back new controls and taxes President Obama wants to impose.

    Source -http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2010/02/01/late_in_senate_race_financial_sector_donations_swelled_browns_coffers/

  • Brian

    Financial executives spent big on Brown
    Whole article here http://bit.ly/aoMJom

  • Larry

    Financial executives spent big on Brown
    That is the MO of politicians. Talk a populist message to the low information voters while talking money from the corporations and serving them once in congress.

  • Brett

    The republicans go, “booga, booga, booga, filibuster! Boo!” And the Democrats cower! And, as the Democrats reach out their shaking hands to give another morsel to entice the Republicans into a vote, the Republicans grab it, look it over, swallow it whole and rub their bellies in brief contented satiety. Then they say, “NO!” The Democrats say Republicans are obstructionist; the Republicans say they are looking out for the American people and Democrats are not allowing them any say.

    Caving to special interests are a problem for both sides.

    Republicans initiate approaches and beat a small drum for small ideas; the president agrees to those ideas, then when they see this they no longer wish to pursue matters in that direction.

    The Republicans lie about being shut out of conversations and debate. They demand elements be included in a particular bill, etc., and they get what they want added; then, when it is time to vote, those same Congressional leaders don’t lend their votes. They lie, omit, exaggerate, and spin, in all manner of distortion and fear to make what they are doing and to make what ever bill seem like something else.

    The Democrats have lacked leadership; they have squandered their political capital time and time again; they have treated their majority like a minority. And, they will most likely lose their majority come mid-term election if they don’t get tougher!

    When a vote in the Senate regularly hinges on a single senator…something is broken, either in members’ leadership or in the system itself, or in both…

  • jeffe

    One word: Dysfunctional.
    The Senate is out of control, period.

    My question is when do we call what is happening in DC a Constitutional crisis?

  • Michael

    yea right with the tea bagger folks so keen to kill any moderate republicans from running for office and there complete disdain for anything obama it is highly unlikely that things will change just look at the news many republicans who agree to bill certain bills and commission voted against it cause obama supported it.

    Charles Christ has a run for him money cause he hugged obama and said the stimulus helped. Mccains marvick streak is nowhere to be found, and the Obama and Republican Retreat exchange fox cuts away from obama answers

    “President Obama held a candid, face-to-face conversation with House Republicans today at their annual retreat in Baltimore. After Obama gave his remarks, he had to answer tough questions from Republican lawmakers about health care, the budget, taxes, and other issues. Although the riveting exchange lasted over an hour, both CNN and MSNBC aired the entire event.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/29/fox-obama-retreat/

    However, at 1:11 p.m. ET — when there was still 20 minutes left to go — Fox News decided to cut away and begin its commentary. Anchor Trace Gallagher’s immediate reaction was that Obama was being too “combative” and “lecturing” — like he was at his State of the Union address. Correspondent Bret Baier agreed, saying there was “a little bit of that,” but conceded that there was a “decent…give-and-take on the specifics.” Watch it:

    http://beltwayblips.dailyradar.com/story/fox-cuts-away-from-obama-gop-conversation-in-order-to/

  • Ellen Dibble

    “My man” Brown is my senator but I didn’t vote for him. I know he won by some Republican heavy lifting (big money pouring in, in strategic ways), which was visible from his TV ads a week or so before the Coakley ads started up. But then I hear about his months of seriously connecting with “regular people” via pick-up. And I hear about groups of “disadvantaged” voters who feel he has connected with them and made promises to them. In the case of Scott Brown, I think “yeah right.” In even a long campaign stop, I don’t think he could get a good dose of what stands in their way. That would take many months of watching their interface with the Powers that Be.
    HOWEVER, I do think he set a new standard, and that people across the nation suddenly expect something new, and are watchful and cynical and less accepting of par-for-the-course campaigning. I think somebody else with a “pickup truck” could win an election even without the Republican push, without Mitt Romney et al making sure he had the $$$.
    I certainly hope so. I want real candidates with real commitment to the future of this country, without the baggage of the current lot.

  • Brian

    Good point Michael, but sunlight on both side will benefit us all. Hopefully both parties will agree to question time on frequent basis.

    Righties like Norquist, Bozell and McKinnon along with lefties Nate Silver, Daily Kos and vanden Heuvel have cooked up an interesting idea of just that:

    http://demandquestiontime.com/

  • C Vigneron

    I’ve just finished James Fallows piece in the Atlantic. I especially enjoyed the fact that the (Gang of Six) senators representing 3% of Americans stalled health care reform for the 97% of the rest.

    We’ve a 19th century legislative system that bodes ill for the 21st.

  • peter nelson

    In a six-day span just before the US Senate election, Republican Scott Brown collected nearly $450,000 from donors who work at financial companies, a sign the industry is prepared to spend heavily in the upcoming midterm elections to beat back new controls and taxes President Obama wants to impose.

    Good grief! Liberal darling Barney Frank’s top donors were also large banks and financial institutions. From his last campaign Frank’s top 5 are Brown Brothers Harriman & Co, Bank of America, Manulife Financial, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. And he’s the chair of the House Financial Services Committee!

    I can’t believe the naivete of of some liberal NPR listeners who think that it’s those other, evil GOP politicians who are instruments of special interests while their Democrats are pure as the driven snow. “Snow job” is more like it – wake up and smell the money – almost everyone in Congress is in the pockets of special interests.

    And the voters are fine with this – if the politicians were made to wear corporate patches and logos like NASCAR drivers they’d probably like it even better because it would clarify where a politician really stands, since donations are a reliable indicator of a politician’s future voting record.

    All this information is from Open Secrets – http://www.opensecrets.org. It’s called “open secrets” – “OPEN” because ALL this information is publicly available – and SECRET because nobody seems to know it. Ask anyone you know or happen to meet who – what donors or industries – are “their” Representative’s or Senator’s major donors and they will not have a clue.

    BTW, if you go to opensecrets be sure to look at the LAST election. Candidates are just gearing up for 2010 so their donor list is not statistically significant or representative yet.

  • http://www.tedauch.com Ted Auch

    Populism is Patriotism = Protectionism. We continue to discuss this and that etc etc. The problem is China’s GDP is growing at 10%, their US exchange reserves top 2trillion, our unemployment is 10%. We need to invoke tariffs and rethink globalization and the Shock Doctrine’s that come dressed as democracy.
    Amazing that we still view the planet is something we can plunder in perpetude.

  • William

    7 Republican Senators who co-sponsored a bill to create a bi partisan deficit solutions group actually voted against (and defeated) their own bill after learning that Obama was on board. They honestly do want him to fail.
    Our current system provides incentive for each party to endlessly attack, hobble and sabotage the other, and they’re more than willing to do so. Both parties are guilty, but the Republicans are currently more overt and chauvinistic about their objective to destroy the opposition at the expense of the country. Now that this is so blatant, I’m confused as to why so many voters are willing to be complicit.

  • Louise

    I’m all for obstructionism. I would much rather see nothing get done rather than the legislative proposals being promoted by this congress and this president become enacted into law which in the long run will be to the detriment of this country.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Democrats pure as the driven snow? Who thinks that? They can’t get elected without the special interest money either. And what the Democrats come up with in Congress (Exhibit One, health care “reform”) pretty well exemplifies the extent to which the Democrat “representatives” are “influenced.”
    The Citizens United case decided by the Supreme Court pretty well says no branch of government is going to help us citizens.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If all campaign funding were put into the Natioal Debt, reducing it a tad, would we approach a place where we could get organized for single payer health, in the manner of say Canada?

  • Larry

    Look at the Republicans voting record for the past year.

    NO. NO on everything. The Republicans are obviously playing a political game.

    They voted no even on military spending which they love dearly.

    There was one Republican vote in the house for the health care bill.

    The Republicans should just quit and save taxpayers the money of their salaries and their staffs’ salaries.

  • http://www.lit.org/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    …they have squandered their political capital time and time again; they have treated their majority like a minority. (Posted by Brett)

    Of course. This is what Democrats do best.

  • d dumeer

    Why everyone think this recession will be over in a few years. This might be a new way of life for Americans. Global competitors have never been stronger and sentiment toward the USA is pretty low. We might not be able to fix all these national problems in our lifetime.

  • peter nelson

    Populism is Patriotism = Protectionism. We continue to discuss this and that etc etc. The problem is China’s GDP is growing at 10%, their US exchange reserves top 2trillion, our unemployment is 10%. We need to invoke tariffs and rethink globalization

    Sure – that strategy worked great in the Depression of the 1930′s.

    Read some economic research instead of listening to demagogues (a good place to start is the LSE’s excellent podcast series – http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/podcasts/publicLecturesAndEvents.htm )

    There is some evidence that developing economies in the very early stages of industrial development may benefit from protectionism, but you would hard pressed to find decent empirical data to support its use for a major post industrial economy like the US. Demands for protectionism are just an emotional reaction but they lack a solid empirical or even theoretical basis.

  • Gary Dexter

    Without major reform in our congress, we will follow down the path of other past great states. Term limits, throwing out lobbyists, and campaign financing reform are musts if we are to hand our great experiment on to future generations.

  • Brian

    Peter, I assume you are referring to me as the one with the naivete. I was referring to Ellen’s soliloquy about Brown being some truck driving man of the people. Brown owns 5 homes so he is home in the Senate full of millionaires in both parties.

    Now the Supreme Court has opened up US campaigns to all the world’s corporation to spend and buy elections that fit their quarterly revenue objectives..

  • Larry

    The Senate is now a dysfunctional and destructive body of government.

    The Senate is destroying America. I do not believe that is too strong of a statement.

    It is time to rethink a 18th century body of government that cannot govern in the 21st century.

  • pw

    Michael — Do you receive Fox on your TV? Anyone else here?

    One of the reasons we’re in trouble is because (ambivalent and fuzzy-headed to the end!) we combine dismay about the state of the country with our support of its most subversive, profiteering media.

    I think many agree that Fox is first among many in its irresponsible “reporting” and loud opinionating. We support Fox through our cable/sat subscriptions and through their advertisers, don’t we? Now, is that dumb or what!! Any chance we could do something about our habits or are we too wedded to some of the very forces corrupting our government?

  • Peter from Newton MA

    Fillibusters (meaning cloture votes) have skyrocketed since Democrats took control of the Senate (per NPR report), something like 80 votes in the last year vs a handful each year in the late 90s.

    Would some sunlight on which senator(s) is behind each fillibuster threat show where this obstructionist ideology is centered? Is the information easily available?

  • John, Iowa City

    If you work from the premise that Bush was successful in his administration by placing us into debt and placing anti-government people at the head of various agencies, and thereby making a case that government doesn’t work. Isn’t the Republican congress trying to fulfill that vision showing the government doesn’t work?

  • Dennis Kerr

    When it comes to fillibusters, call them out and make them pay the price.

    First find the fillibuster threat that is bound to be about the least important legislation, let them do it.

    While that fillibuster is going on, committees can still be working just fine. In the meantime, blast them for holding up everything for something not important.

    After that fillibuster is defeated, then pick the next least important issue that they will be willing to fillibuster.

    By the time the important committees are finished with their work, then everybody will be tired of the obstructionist fillibustering.

  • peter nelson

    Now that this is so blatant, I’m confused as to why so many voters are willing to be complicit.

    What’ confusing about it? Liberals who are confused about this need to get out more.

    Democrats pure as the driven snow? Who thinks that?

    I assume that this is what was being implied by bothering to point out that Brown raised a ton of corporate money near the end of his campaign – i.e., that there was something noteworthy, remarkable or significant about this.

    NO. NO on everything. The Republicans are obviously playing a political game.

    So are the Democrats, but the Republicans play it better. And why should they stop – it’s obviously working for them.

    During the NFC championship game some viewers were upset to see the Saints’ stated strategy of hitting Favre hard all game long in order to make him hurt or scramble his brain. It seemed barbaric to deliberately beat up a 40 year old man. But that’s within the rules of football and it WORKED – this is why the Saints are in the Superbowl. The GOP is playing to win and they don’t care what you think.

  • Larry

    The Republicans have been crying about the deficit.

    Yet on Thursday, ALL OF THE REPUBLICAN SENATORS VOTED AGAINST PAYGO!

    Since they did that I really think not one of them should be able to open their mouths about the deficit.

  • Ryan

    I see a tactical political advantage on the part of Republicans, and a general failing on the part of the Democratic party. By impulse democrats govern towards the center, and tacking to the right has never worked for a Democratic president or Congress.

    I think in generally, Repulicans have weaker ideas that are easier to sell to the American public through fear and rhetoric (i.e. government takeover, fascism, bankrupting our economy, war on terror, etc.)and they govern with authority. So R’s sell their ideas easily and implement them with strict party discipline. Over time, however Americans realize their ideas are weak (i.e. George Bush) and make a dramatic shift.

    Democrats generally have stronger ideas that are much, much harder to sell. These ideas (universal health care for example) appeal to peoples humanitarianism and kindness. These reasons are easily supplanted by invoking fear for ones self. And the democrats lack the strength to combat this fear by passing legislation with strength.

  • kathryn

    I just keep wondering since 60 is the new 51…what if senators could only be elected by a 60 percent majority??

  • Nick

    This Congress is infuriating…special interests will continue to impose more and more influence without the Supreme Court ever intervening to finally say “enough is enough!!!” since they overturned two weeks ago laws that limited the influence of corporations.
    Many politicians seem to care very little about the actual lives and sufferings of the public to actual change anything because they might lose their financial backers, who selfishly are most concerned with the fewest taxes and minimal concern for the majority of Americans….As a high school history teacher, I find it impossible to advocate our form of government to my students with how much outside influence plays a role in the decisions, and how little they actually govern to effect positive change.
    No matter how much Obama keeps ingratiating himself with Republicans, I feel they could care less for the “change” that he actually wants to bring about just so they can be reelected, as they say one thing to him and then vote the opposite way to stay in line with their lobbyists interests.

  • http://www.lit.org/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    It is time to rethink a 18th century body of government that cannot govern in the 21st century. (Posted by Larry)

    I hate to admit it, but you’re right. The Founding Fathers back in the 18th Century looked like the “smartest guys in the room.” But it’s a new day; a new time; a new world and the U.S. is starting to look pretty anachronistic.

  • Chris Miller

    The Republican party is using rhetoric to blow up debate. They are using the worst techniques to politicize the issues and DO NOT speak for all Americans, only a minority who are very vocal (and potentially violent?).

    There is a new “silent majority” in America that does support President Obabma. We understand that this administration inherited a country on the brink. They are trying to deal with the huge crisis looming before us. The individuals who currently control the Republican party WANT health care and this administration to fail. They can ride in on failure and they are doing everything possible to make that happen.

  • Adam

    The mistake the Democrats made was negotiating with the Republicans to begin with. John Boener is simply lying and no one in the media is brave enough to point that out. The Republicans were not frozen out of the health care debates, the Democrats made endless attempts to appease them, but it’s pointless to compromise with Republicans when they are spreading fear and misinformation among the population.

    The Democrats are making the same mistake they always made – they have forgotten who their base is, they are failing to do what they were elected to do, and they are running to the center when the center doesn’t really exist.

  • Larry

    NO. NO on everything. The Republicans are obviously playing a political game.

    So are the Democrats, but the Republicans play it better. And why should they stop – it’s obviously working for them.

    I don’t think the Democrats are pure as white driven snow but they are at least a little for the middle class.

    I do think the Republicans care nothing for the middle class at all. They are the party of corporations.

  • Nate

    It’s sad to think that it’s gotten to the point at which I’d be happy to see the congress do SOMETHING. Though I’m wary about some of Obama’s policies, I’m not willing to shoot them down completely; we need action to initiate change, this inaction by the congress (and particularly by the Republicans constantly voting “NO”) is ridiculous. It drives me away from voting for republican candidates in the future, as they clearly are a party of inactivity.

  • Andrew Ryder

    My biggest fear with the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement is the absolute stranglehold social/religious conservatism has on both. If the shoe right now were on the other foot (and it soon may be) where Republicans had these kinds of majorities in Congress, I would demand my that my representatives oppose and obstruct. More than almost anything, I fear the conservative agenda that squashes individual rights (anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-education, pro-big business). So, I understand a little bit where some of this fear of a more progressive agenda comes from on the right.

    Can there be only one vision of America? Is there no longer room for all of us?

    Andrew Ryder
    Ames, Iowa

  • Gary

    Observe the the bulk of comment on this page, and note the stead fast contentious partisan sniping. The congress is what the corporations tell them to be, and they do what their corporations pay then to do.

    The corporate media has created a bread and circus environment within the general populace to supply the diversion necessary to pump and dump the US economy. Simple minds need villains, and there is great power in this, just study any totalitarian regime.

    The current corporate plutocracy is in full control and only presents the facade of the old republic to keep the proletariat quiet.

    The fault does not lie in congress alone, but in the fully brainwashed sectors of US citizens who wish to exorcise their childish blame game in lieu of real governance. Government is not the problem, BAD government is the problem.

    It has all the appalling similarity to an amalgam of The Fall of Rome, 1984, and Brave New World.

  • Diane Wanek

    Regarding the caller’s quoting of Ronald Reagan’s “the problem is government”: Reagan grew the federal government at an enormously greater rate than any of his predecessors. He talked the talk, but he didn’t walk the walk.

  • peter nelson

    It is time to rethink a 18th century body of government that cannot govern in the 21st century.

    Good grief – get real! Passing healthcare reform is a walk in the park compared to Constitutional changes that you’re talking about.

    There’s nothing wrong with our system that can’t be fixed if voters CHOOSE to take an interest in their government. Voters CHOOSE to watch TV for their news, listen to polemical demogogues for their opinions, and they CHOOSE not to learn some history, civics, economics and geography. If voters choose badly they suffer – being stupid or lazy should hurt.

    The zillions of dollars that are pumped into political campaigns would have no effect if people paid them no credence. If I happen to encounter a political ad I think about it EXACTLY the way I do if I get an email claiming to be from a Nigerian tycoon wanting to send me money. It doesn’t take any more brainpower or willpower than that!

  • Brian

    Gary is spot on about just about everything, though I also blame the fact that 50% of the population is so impoverished that they just don’t have the luxury of worrying about these problems.

  • Helga Mayer

    I believe your discussion is missing the key point: the 75% of the American people feel that Congress is overreaching on the issue of healthcare. We have heard President Obama and Barney Frank’s own words on audio saying they would like to see single payer. Americans do not want that, and know that this is leading to it. Republicans and moderate Democrats who change their mind are simply listening to their constituents, realizing that they will find themselves voted out of office if they don’t. I have asked President Obama to make a SERIOUS attempt at true healthcare reform by getting states and a varied group of people involved in healthcare for real troubleshooting, taking 6 months, a year, or whatever it takes to identify ALL issues and work on real proposals how to solve them. The government should not grow, and should not be involved in running healthcare. Nor should they attempt to shove any bill so recklessly without having done a 100% effort involving both sides, all aspects.

  • peter baker

    I think the Republicans are making the Senate Democrats and Obama look dysfunctional and ineffective. I think the Democrats should bring health care and other initiatives to an attempted cloture and make Republicans actually fillibuster. This would show how crass and cynical they have been, much like Clinton did with the government shutdown. I think this might force Sens. Snow and or Collins to vote their conscience.

  • Jason

    Partisanship has nothing to do with the governments problems this year!

    All Republican representatives could go home and lock themselves in the bathroom and nothing would change. The democrats have had a super majority and could pass anything they could agree on but the Democratic leadership refused to bring bills in front of the body that are centerest that all dems can agree on. If thay can’t do that how can they expect any republicans to support it?

  • peter nelson

    The Democrats are making the same mistake they always made – they have forgotten who their base is,

    They don’t HAVE a base – they’ve never had a base – the Democrats have always been a loose coalition of competing interests. It’s been true forever – even in FDR’s rime – southern whites (yellow dogs), industrial unions, blacks and farmers. What do you think their “base” is today?

    I do think the Republicans care nothing for the middle class at all. They are the party of corporations.

    That’s what I mean by naive. Why do you think the Dem’s are any less corporate?

  • David T

    Tom, one causative factor in this gridlock that hasn’t been mentioned is the impact of Fox News and other right-wing media outfits. They feed the public a steady diet of misinformation and spin, and they play on a sense of fear and anger. This results in Tea Parties, and a sense of mob-rule that scares legislators into fighting against anything the President puts forward. It’s sad. It’s unpopular to say it, but public ignorance is a huge part of the problem.

  • Danny

    I just wanted to take exception with a comment made by Larry Evans, who said the fear of ending the filibuster is that the Senate will become more like the House of Representatives. The problem with this assessment is that the House of Representatives is a product of gerrymandering, so very partisan members are the norm. In the Senate, this can not be a problem, as the Senators are all statewide elected officials.

  • Alan

    I wonder if we could solve this problem of paralysis within the government by taking steps to try and reduce or at least limit the duration of the “career” politician. Those elected to public office used to have other careers, and would see their time in office as an opportunity to provide a public service and improve the country. Now, it seems much of the gridlock stems from politicians short term desire to keep their job, and extend their political career. If we could eliminate this motivating factor, maybe we would see elected officials make more decisions in the interest of their country, and not in the interest of furthering their career.

  • Bruce

    Obama’s lack of leadership or the Democrats’ lack of respect for him have lead to this paralysis. What we know for sure is that they combined to waste a huge opportunity and that what we’re getting is more of the same. I don’t know if he’s Bush III or Carter II but campaign-Obama is nowhere to be found.

  • Nicholas Bodley

    While I have lost nearly all respect for the Democrats, I say that the Republicans are committing sabotage. I need to study definitions of treason, to see whether that applies.

    There are so many fools who, as a practical matter, have unshakable faith in Steve Colbert’s principle of truthiness that I worry whether our nation can survive.

  • George

    Democracy failed in Athens, in Rome, and maybe now in America… only a matter of time. Every form of government has a life span… maybe we’re just witnesses to the beginning of the end for American democracy.

  • Peter

    Every time I hear a Republican root their argument as anti-”Big Government”, I now realize that is boils down to the fact that they are simply anti-government. That leads me pretty quickly to conclude that they are fundamentally anti-American, and a REAL threat to our democracy.

  • Richard

    I think that the entire decision making process, in relation to all American citizens, is misunderstood.

    The zeitgeist of our educational system is that the group outsmarts the individual, not that the individual can best decide for themself the solution to a problem.

    Individuals are taught to to conform to group identity, under the premise that it has each individual group member’s best interest in mind.

    Individual citizens, congressman or otherwise, have difficulty fully buy into this ideology and thus find buying into anything that the group does that isn’t a direct translation of the “group identity.”

  • Seth

    Could you please speak to the change in the filibuster rules in the 70′s? It seems like no one has to filibuster anymore. All there has to be is the threat of one. I think many who are threatening to filibuster wouldn’t actually go through with it.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If right-wing media are contributing to gridlock, and the attitude of we lost but we will block everything — the sheer nastiness at large. As if we are fighting all the time, election or no election. Without any particular reason. Just to prove our muscle.
    Is government the problem? You bet.

  • oddjob1947

    Perhaps it takes two refusals to compromise to have a ‘gridlock’…

    best

  • http://www.lit.org/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    Thank you Thomas Mann. Caller Chris in Buffalo (an obvious Republican) needed the dressing down you gave her. To all those out there who agreed with “Chris in Buffalo,” recall what Arianna Huffington says repeatedly: “Elections have consequences.”

    I would say to Chris, “Grow up.”

  • Lee

    Tom,

    Notice how the first attack caller Chris from “flyover country” made was against you… “you’re annoying me Tom!” or something to that effect. Tom, you are a moderator, a facilitator. To me, this is the problem with the purists (not populists) on the right. They don’t want a conversation. They don’t hide it either. The filibuster is the senate version of the “silent treatment”

  • Heather

    In response to the comment “We’re just trying to take back our country, I’m angry that Obama is trying to take over” or something to that effect.

    What disturbs me greatly is the lack of knowledge about our basic democratic process and taxation. Of course, Fox News, Glenn Beck, et al frame issues in hyperbolic shallow sound bites and it appears that the majority of the Republican base buys into it. What do these people think a representative democracy IS? How do they think they drive on interstates and public roads, send kids to public school, and send and receive mail? The commenter above showed all emotion and zero reasoning and logic, and a fundamental ignorance about our system of governance.

  • Brian

    It seems to me the real problem is the primary system. Only the most dedicated members of a party vote and they tend to be either the most to the right or to the left. So Senators aren’t afraid of losing to the other side, they are far more concerned about losing a primary challenge. If we moved to the the top two vote getters in either primary face off in the general election where the much larger polity votes I think we would see substantial changes in the behavior of Congress.

  • BHA

    What Chris needs to understand is that MORE THAN HALF of the voters in 2008 DO NOT AGREE with her point of view.

    If she wants to let Newt Gingrich style obstruction rule the House and Senate then I say the majority party should vote for whatever they think is best, without discussion with the obstructionists, and President Obama will sign it.

    That, however isn’t how President Obama wants to run his administration. How about Chris and those who think the ‘Obama direction’ is the wrong way sit down with him and put out their arguments.

    This country suffered both domestically and internationally under 8 years of Bush, it is time to pull back from the ‘right’

    If you are not part of the solution, you ARE the problem.

  • peter nelson

    though I also blame the fact that 50% of the population is so impoverished that they just don’t have the luxury of worrying about these problems.

    Do you have even ONE single shred of evidence for this statement?

    The average American spends hours every day watching TV. Anyone who drops 30 minutes a day of TV watching and spends it taking more interest in government and civics and would become a (bleeping) Rhodes’ Scholar of politics and current events compared to everyone else in their neighborhood!

    Let the whining begin – “you mean I can’t watch Lost and American Idle and the Simpsons? It’s too hhaaaard!!! Waaaahh

  • Ellen Dibble

    Primaries are a good point. Where I live you can switch parties, in other words, vote in a primary of choice each election, pick which primary election has the most significant battle. Not all states do this. It is one factor.

  • JP

    For fifty years, before the Republican Revolution, Dems ran Congress and relative civility was the norm.

    Members of Congress knew each other, lunched together, and worked with each other to get things done.

    Those fifty years, from the end of WWII until 1994, were some of the most economically successful and most steadily progressive years this country has ever seen.
    They were also the best years the American middle class has ever seen.

    After Republicans took over in 1994, the civility and cooperation with the minority ended.

    Republicans began excessive use of parliamentary procedure gimmickery… they acted like junior highscoolers, literally hiding behind furniture and running room to room to exclude Dems from crucial meetings, using scheduling tricks, etc…

    Individual consciences among Republicans took a back seat to party unity, led by a social conservative agenda, with “The Hammer,” Gingrich, et.al., keeping everyone in line with punitive consequences.

    Republicans began a “Party cleansing campaign” to cleanse all public offices of non-purist Republican ideaology, and crated K-Street to see to it that all money in Washington was funnel exclusively to Republicans, or face the threat of being cut off from all Washington.

    Thanks Republicans for creating a dysfunctional environment which we’re all now stuck with, and no end in sight.

  • Gary

    What suggestions can this forum generate to create a solution to the problem. I say Term Limits are inadequate, because it just creates a rush to obtain as much corporate funding as fast a possible, and voting for the sole purpose of getting that lobbyist job when the term is up.

    How about Representative wealth limits. To be a true representative of the bulk of the American populace, then you must live AS an average American to understand what it means to be an American. Millionaires make decisions that benefit millionaires, they don’t represent anyone who can’t purchase their votes.

  • Donna Angell

    Partisanship? YES Money? YES Stupidity? Definitely!
    I remember the statement that a really big lie, repeated loudly and often will be believed as truth by people who think slogans are news. This is a great show – please do more like this and get this distributed much more widely. AND to those that shout over and over, “The American people hate health care reform. The American people don’t want change!”. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Where I live the American people actually want change, and we want the Public Option and we want the Republicans to start being responsible legislators, NOT disgusting obstructionists!

  • Ellen Dibble

    What is getting lost is transparency: Each side employes some sort of sleight of hand in order to get voters on board. Pro-life flip-floppers are just one example. But the budget — I don’t know if I trust it at all, given what accountants can do. The fight for election is very different from the fight for What the People Want. It is deceptive. And campaign financing is one part of it but not the only part.

  • peter nelson

    It’s unpopular to say it, but public ignorance is a huge part of the problem.

    It’s not that unpopular – I say it all the time. The difference is that I don’t blame Fox – I blame the individuals who watch it.

    Look – if someone gets addicted to internet porn or lolcat pages or Facebook or Big Mac’s, whose fault is it? Life is about making choices. No one holds a gun to someone’s head and forces them to watch Glenn Beck.

    In fact, my wife and I watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report on the internet, but lately we’ve stopped Daily Show because Jon Stewart gets so much material from Fox that we’re fed up with seeing so much Fox!

  • Cindy

    I now that the President still speaks for me, and I bet for most people, when he speaks of health care reform, among many issues. Barak Obama, our president, was elected on change; elected for health care reform, environmental reform, foreign policy reform, and educational reform.

    Those issues are still with us, unfortunately the past two-term administration has left us worrying about jobs, economy, and the next meal on the table. These worries, the most basic of needs, isn’t what we should we worrying about now – the public should be, and are, outraged.

    And while worrying about how we’re going to simply maintain our way of living and/or to feed ourselves, it is hard to move forward to other issues we elected our President to reform.

    And if we are not careful, the selfishness of the Republican party will co-opt this message for change and reform simply by pointing to the bad economy – easy to point to now that Democrats have been in charge – and in so doing they are obstructing the realty that it was the Republicans and their poor policies and ideologies over 8 years that lead us to this bad economy. And now they are keeping us from reform by being obstructionist. I hope that the public will not be hood-winked.

  • Uli

    I am a German citizen who has lived in the US for over 16 years. What is going on in the US right now is beyond reason or understanding–as your guest just pointed out, the Democrats won the elections by a huge margin–which made me believe in this country again after eight years of political and intellectual misery–, but it is once again the right wing ignorants, just like your caller Chris who does not have any arguments, just a stubborn and unsubstantiated opinion (“This is not where WE want to take the country”(who is we??? Please do not include any thinking human being in a statement this blatantly reflection-free, polarizing and uncooperative that won’t get this country ANYWHERE. What an insane sense of entitlement!)) who get to block any push forward, without the people’s mandate. Americans don’t really look much at what is happening in other countries except for when they either have financial stakes there or a disaster so big strikes that their truly good hearts reach out, but what happened in Germany between 2005 and 2009, the so-called grand coalition in which the left and the right manned (womanned) the government and FINALLY got things done collaboratively, should be food for thought for people in Washington who have NOTHING but their own reelection in mind and anyone concerned about this country. The US have such problems, I am surprised that it is still running somehow. To block any initiative to take it into a healthier 21st century and to serve the people and not just those who can help themselves already is to betray the mandate and, ultimately, democracy. We are in a time of crisis, and it is during crises that governments have to take the lead. That wealthy Republicans don’t want healthcare because they can afford their health insurance or a visit to the doctor’s any day is no surprise–on the other hand, they probably feel great about themselves when they go to church on Sunday and give money to support charity projects in their communities. If they can see there that support those in need is the right thing to do–why can they not see that on a national and international level? I used to think that this country was one of freedom and possibilities, and that’s why I came. It may be time to go home now– and take my taxes with me, since I cannot vote anyway.

  • Maggie

    As a proud liberal, I can tell you that Fox News is not the problem. At least those people are somewhat engaged, though usually with only some of the facts.

    The biggest problem are those who’ve checked out on our political system entirely because both sides lie all the time. You vote for a politician and then she gets to Washington and goes through some mind-altering where she takes exactly the opposite views of those she had before.

    Most of America became frustrated long before 24-hr cable news ever existed.

  • Ann Miller

    The Senate is the major obstical to the federal government. I’m an engineer who used to design things. I can’t help “re-thinking” how things might be redesigned to make them better. If I had it to do over:
    1). Senators would be 2 from each state, elected in state-wide elections, as today, 6 yr terms.
    2).

  • Natalie

    Obama is gutless. How else to explain his ridiculous budget, his broken promises, his abandonment of change and his general two-facedness?

  • Larry

    Ann

    Are you a good engineer?

  • Greg N.

    The “landslide election” of President Obama that everyone implies did not happen. He needs to govern in the center if he wants to accomplish his and the nation’s goals. The large increases in spending and regulations being created even without Republican support obviously means the will of the minority is not being listen to. We voted for President Obama to change things, not to make the government bigger. There is a big difference. Maybe our congress needs to spend 50% of their time back in their home state meeting with people to see what we want. Their legislation might fix problems versus causing more problems. We should welcome Congress being in session versus praying for the next recess when we are safe from more regulations, spending and taxes being enacted.

  • Chris

    It is a constitutional crisis. The Constitution has not kept up with the influence of partisanship and corporate dollars in our government. Campaign finance reform is not going to be enough to save this sinking ship. Something much bigger is needed, but it is doubtful that the American people have the desire or wherewithal for such a change. And if they did, would our government and its half a trillion dollar military allow it? Suddenly that part about “a well-armed militia” makes some sense.

    Personally, I advocate civic lotteries for electing citizens to the legislature.

  • Ann Miller

    The Senate is the major obstical to the federal government. I’m an engineer who used to design things. I can’t help “re-thinking” how things might be redesigned to make them better. If I had it to do over:
    1). Senators would be 2 from each state, elected in state-wide elections, as today, 6 yr terms.
    2). One of the senators would always be a woman. –A woman’s seat and a man’s seat.
    3). Each senator’s vote value would be weighted by that state’s population, not to a high degree, but perhaps a max. value of 3 for Californina, and a 1 for Rhode Island.
    4). Do away with the filibuster by limiting debate by TIME, not a 60 vote –this is supposed to be the point of the filibuster -to allow more time for debate, not block things.

    IN the end, the House of Representatives would become more powerful, as it should because it actually REPRESENTS the people.

    Sad to think this is impossible. –No way we’d ever modify our constitution in this political environment. Fun to dream though.

  • http://www.lit.org/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    Brian’s observation on the primary system is a good one. So is JP’s on the idea of congeniality among elected representatives back in a “purer” and perhaps simpler time.

    Well with congeniality out the window, I’ve thought for some time that much could be solved by getting rid of the “professional” politician. I go even further by saying that members of Congress should be “drafted” — not elected in the way we think of electing and re-electing these “lifers” in Washington.

    We have had drafts in the military and we may again. Most who were drafted got out after their “obligations” were paid. If congressional “wannabe’s” were made to understand that once their treasured sentiments to “honor, love of country and duty” looks a lot more like 2 years in a foxhole, they’d be more likely to do their job and get it over with.

    Next–okay, turn your head and cough.

  • Larry

    Ann

    Sorry, from your first post I thought #1 was all you had.

    If we weigh the vote by population why do we need the Senate at all?

  • JP

    Correction:

    For fifty years, before the Republican Revolution, Dems ran Congress and relative civility was the norm.

    Members of Congress knew each other, lunched together, and worked with each other to get things done.

    Those fifty years, from the end of WWII until 1994, were some of the most economically successful and most steadily progressive years this country has ever seen.
    They were also the best years the American middle class has ever seen.

    After Republicans took over in 1994, the civility and cooperation with the minority ended.

    Republicans began excessive use of parliamentary procedure gimmickery… they acted like junior highscoolers, literally hiding behind furniture and running room to room to exclude Dems from crucial meetings, using scheduling tricks, etc…

    Individual consciences among Republicans took a back seat to party unity, led by a social conservative agenda, with “The Hammer” and Gingrich, et.al., keeping everyone in line with punitive consequences.

    Republicans began a “Party cleansing campaign” to cleanse all public offices of non-purist Republican ideology, and created K-Street for lobbyists to see to it that all money in Washington was funnel exclusively to Republicans, or face the threat of being cut off from all Washington.

    Thanks Republicans for creating a dysfunctional environment which we’re all now stuck with, and no end in sight. Now the waters are poisoned and we’re all drowning.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The computer and its awesome computing ability has handed us this impasse. Here’s how. First you have Carl Rove under Bush with the RNC sending out large questionnaires to people who often vote Democrat, like me, around 2003, basically pinpointing what single-issue votes I might be tempted to offer to any bidder. Am I a hard-line Evangelical? Am I in the box of the National Rifle Association? Twenty pages of questions like that.
    Next up: the pollsters. Given the info about who cares about what, they can then “sort us,” as today’s guests put it, and guide the political process, with dollars, and polls, into the proper conclusion, all under the aegis of so-called democracy. It’s mathematical manipulation, a kind of Ponzi scheme using people’s wills rather than people’s dollars. One can be herded. Not so much by ignorance as by careful polling over time.
    I guess Obama was right about that in the excerpt played from the Republican caucus he attended.
    I will try to get around it like this. If I want a Democrat elected, I go to the Republican primary and vote for the candidate who seems to have least support, or the one with the most egregious views. I recognize that unless most Democrats did this, it wouldn’t help. And sometimes I think it is more important to get a particular Democratic candidate so I let it be. But presently, all votes are to some extent herded. It’s “in the cards.” It’s predetermined by the mathematical geniuses who do the polling, and who brought us the Great Banking Fiasco of 2008. Not the identical geniuses, but people of that ilk.
    What do you think of that proposition?

  • Tim

    The problem is in this media climate no one has the guts to accomplish anything real. In the last decade the significant legislation we enacted has been Terror reduction programs, No Child Left Behind, a prescription drug bill, tax cuts and a stimulus bill that all contribute to the deficit. When compared to everything else we need to address these are modest. We have reform in Health Care, Medicare, Immigration, Energy Policy, New Financial Regulation, the Deficit, and Jobs Growth in the short term. Most of these have been issues that have needed attention for at least the past 10 years if not longer. We have Fox, AM Talk, and MSNBC that move the discussion to the extremes. When we look back on this period, we’ll see it as a lost opportunity to right the ship. The only hope is that people in the middle can get angry enough to shut the extremes up and solve problems.

  • BHA

    “I’m all for obstructionism. I would much rather see nothing get done rather than the legislative proposals being promoted by this congress and this president become enacted into law which in the long run will be to the detriment of this country.
    Posted by Louise, on February 3rd, 2010 at 10:03 am UTC”

    Louise, would you care to enumerate the proposals and specify:
    1) What is wrong with each
    2) What YOU think would be a better path

    Please do not be vague, I don’t want to see “it will bankrupt the country”, “it is socialism”, etc

    For instance, the only ‘health care solution’ I have seen from the Republicans is tort reform. I have no problem with that, I personally think ALL punitive damage awards for ANY lawsuit should go into a victim’s fund and NONE to the plaintiff and his/her attorneys. I suspect the lawyers would have no incentive to go after big awards if they don’t get a big piece of the pie.

    BUT – tort reform is a very small part of the solution to high costs. It does nothing to unlink health insurance from employment. It will do little to reduce the cost of either health care OR insurance. My daughter got 2 stitches in her chin last year at the ER – $1100 (after writing down from $1500 due to contract pricing with the insurance company) of which we paid over $600.

    Something is definitely wrong with our system.
    EVERY OTHER first world country in the world has a single payer system. They spend less than we do, EVERYONE is covered regardless of their employment and they get better general care. Just where is that wrong?

  • New Order

    Correction:

    Democrats could have done anything they wanted with their huge majority but they proved themselves completely inept to govern. Lesson learned. A different path in ’10 and ’12!!

  • Ann Miller

    Larry asked: “If we weigh the vote by population why do we need the Senate at all?”

    I like the idea of the Senate still being in existance because the senators are elected state-wide. Therefore they represent the state as a whole, whereas the House is made up of reps. that are elected by “equal” populus regions within states. They represent the local people and the local land/geography. The Senate still would represenets States as a whole, giving a bit of weight to the size of that state’s population.

    And yes, I am a good engineer, I just accidently sent my comment the first time before it was finished. How would you redesign the Senate?

  • Maggie

    Looking at both sides of the comments here as well as the callers’ comments it’s hard to understand where all the partisanship in Washington comes from.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Tim, I saw something — maybe on Democracy Now! — as to why the middle isn’t activating itself. The model was the 1960s activism. I can’t recall why. Maybe it had to do with the ability of college-age students to mobilize — oh, it was the draft. Because students were getting sent to a war they were against, it was Big. That was Big. Nowadays, we don’t have the draft. But we have unemployment, so Service serves at least two objectives — jobjectives and foreign policy.
    Another problem is that Tea Party activism is giving activism a bad name. Modern protests have nothing like a Martin Luther King Jr. as a moral backstay. In the 1960s, the protesting groups were deeply organized and deeply moral. They weren’t protesting to keep their homes and tax breaks. They were protesting for justice for all and peace around the world. It takes a bunch of idealists, perhaps, to get that launched. But it helps if the threat of being sent to fight an unjust war is underlying it.
    So the protest movement, such as it might be, is defanged because the draftees don’t exist, their girlfriends don’t exist. Military families are military families by choice, more or less. But also, college students don’t want to be seen as Tea Party folks.
    I invite challenge. I am just making that up. But people in my age cohort, working 24/7, are expressing themselves in the newspaper, on the net, so on and so forth. Do they at the polls? To some extent, but as we have been discussing, actual votes are hugely manipulated (by $$, media, polls).

  • Tim

    The Democrats have certainly been inept with their failures to get health care done in the fall. But anyone who thinks Republicans for their own sake are the answer could just reside to watching Fox and listening to AM talk radio rather than feigning to want something different.

  • BHA

    I agree with Ellen on the polling thing. They structure the questions in a fashion that tells nothing, then they claim ‘the American public want …..’.
    “Are you for or against the ‘Obama’ health care bill?”
    Useless question, this is not a yes/no thing. *I* can’t answer the question in a fashion that tells anyone what *I* want. You want to know what people want? You need a huge multiple choice survey with ALL the options. Tally up the answers, pass that.

    Me? I am against it because it isn’t Single Payer. People’s health insurance, or lack thereof, should not be linked to their employer’s benefits package. The bill just gives the insurance companies more ‘customers’ and their executives even bigger bonuses.

    I think the pandering to Lieberman and Nelson was ridiculous. Push them to the sides if they can not get over their single issue or ‘only if you pay me off with something for my state’ attitudes.

    But given the bill as is vs ‘same old’ health care controlled by corporations, I would vote for it. In the end, the rich get richer but at least a person can change jobs without fearing loss of insurance for a ‘preexisting condition’.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    They have to fix Toyota first before making Teas.

  • Benjamin Stewart

    We don’t need 2000 pages to reform healthcare.
    Here’s four lines with a good start:
    Everyone’s in and everyone pays.
    Public option available to all.
    Insurance sold across state lines.
    No pre-existing condition restriction.
    No lifestyle drug/procedure reimbursement.
    Economic cost/benefit healthcare.

  • BHA

    posted by Ann “whereas the House is made up of reps. that are elected by “equal” populus regions within states. They represent the local people and the local land/geography.”

    Except that all Senators and Representatives get HUGE amounts of money from people they do not represent. I think the first step in campaign finance reform should be restricting donations to those people/companies who are actually represented by the person elected. The argument is that doing this would limit ‘free speech’. I disagree, why should people who are pro or con on an issue have ANY ‘say’ in who is elected in a different state? They can say anything they like, but they should not be able to bankroll someone who does not speak for them once in office.

  • Natalie

    Here’s how DC plays the game: Senate Democrats are readying an $80 billion jobs program this week. Since the political environment remains hostile to increased government spending, Democrats have decided to the cut the jobs initiative into small pieces.

    I guess they think Americans are so stupid no one will do the math. They’re right!

  • Tim

    Ellen, I agree with your line of thinking generally. Additionally today there are many distractions that people can use as an excuse to care less. If you have a job & health insurance these other problems just aren’t in your face enough like the draft or civil rights might have been previously. Though I don’t agree with everything the Tea Party movement is, at least they have organized and provided a model for how future movements moral or not may be effective.

  • Ellen Dibble

    BHA, excelllent point. I’m wondering why this hasn’t been decreed, made law, long, long ago.
    The “voice” expressed in an election, for starters, should be the voice of the people doing the electing, the people who need representing.
    Oh, very good point.

  • Todd

    More than a small irony to have Thomas Mann, of the Brookings Institution, addressing this issue. One of the primary reasons we have such a dysfunctional Congress is because non-profit think tank organizations (such as Brookings), right there along with for-profit corporations, are exerting undue influence on lawmakers, in order to shape U.S. policy to suit their ulterior agenda. And, of such organizations, the Brookings Institution is one of the greatest offenders.

    Once again—in the usual Hegelian manner—Mr. Ashbrook seems quite content to interview, and seek solutions from, the very people who have contributed most to creating the problem. On Point has become little more than a soapbox for organizations, such as Brookings, to promote their collectivist agenda.

  • Brett

    I tired of Boehner’s antics long ago; it seems he’s good for a low ball of some scotch on the rocks, a smoke, and a good round of golf. He’s so patently partisan it’s rife for parody. Those whiskey-drenched eyes shouldn’t feel anyone!
    The Democrats need to abandon any overture, pretense, or otherwise hope, of bipartisanship and show the Republicans what truly “ramming” bills though is all about.

    Let the good old-fashioned use of filibuster take its place on the floor of the Senate; push all of this so much into the light of day that no shadows can obscure; have Obama attempt to meet with Republican leaders on a regular basis and show it on C-Span. (If they meet, much will be revealed about what is going on. If Republicans refuse, let that reveal how they know they can’t “win” any political points in that arena, and how insincere they are in being involved in open discussion.)

    And, as Larry expresses, and F. William Bracy concurs, our Founders could not predict what our country would look like over two and a quarter centuries later and maybe our country should take a good, hard look at some of the inadequacies of our system of government that was created so long ago.

    And, as much as I’m dreaming (especially after the SCOTUS decision last week), campaign finance reform is desperately needed. Lobbyists need harsh restrictions on the role they currently play in controlling our governing body.

    Lastly, anyone who thinks Democrats play political games is…wait for it…correct. Anyone who uses that as a response to the concern that Republicans are playing political games, is reductionist when it comes to a spotlight shining on Republican obstructionism.

    P.S. -And while Louise is a village idiot, she’s OUR village idiot; she’s good to have around in that she’s a constant reminder of how the lowest-hanging, garden- variety, neo-conservative fruit processes the world while being a few conductors short of a circuit!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Tim, I don’t think the Tea Party movement provides a very useful model. There was an OnPoint discussion with some Tea Party honchos a couple weeks ago, right before the Massachusetts election, and no, they don’t seem grounded, centered, all that. They don’t seem together at all even on what they stand for.
    Maybe you didn’t watch the Civil Rights movement unfold, the year upon year, with leadership making sure they were for things, not against. Making sure people would go to prison, get beaten up, make a statement like that. NOT by bringing your firearms to the rally. Just the opposite. There was a sense of sequence, of accumulating a real sense of this is right, and this is what has to be, and people who stood in the way were pretty clearly on “the wrong side” — until Congress yielded.
    I didn’t participate, and I didn’t read the news or watch TV, so I am certainly not claiming any credit. But I saw one success after another, where the country rose up and asserted itself, and it worked. Look at those movements, and hope that something similar can take place. The Tea Party captures the anger. But it is more like a temper tantrum, in my humble opinion. A multiple-person temper tantrum.

  • Brett

    When Reagan said, “‘…the problem is government!’” He wasn’t really meaning gridlock, or bureaucracy, pre se, he was meaning that corporate America should be able to proceed unencumbered from regulation. He proved that he was willing to expand government to better enable his vision and to starve democratic (with a small “d”) ideals.

  • Bruce

    Why is nothing getting done? Because Congress is too beholden to unions, trial attorneys, freeloading leftist pseudo-grassroot-non-profits and spin-tanks and a liberal media. Clearly!

  • Wewasrobbed

    I didn’t vote for bigger government and yet government’s payroll is growing while the rest of the economy is contracting. We’ve got a recession and businesses are going under but government is hiring more paper pushers and public relations folks to keep us all oblivious to the destruction they are wreaking.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think Congress should go for budget reconciliation with health care, and go single payer. If there are 50 votes, it could happen. As is, both in Massachusetts where we already have more or less what the Congress is gagging on trying to swallow, and in other states where people have the old status quo, there is in fact emergency care provided to all comers. We’ve been over this turf. Emergency rooms are not the most cost-effective way of caring for the uninsured. And so the result is that people like me pay exorbitant premiums, premiums with co-pays and deductibles that wind up meaning that the hospitals that “serve everybody” do not serve me, certainly not unless the emergency is very compelling, because all my money is spent on the premiums — premiums that go to the care of the uninsured. Well, tax money goes to that care too. In effect I have emergency insurance, and the uninsured (or in Massachusetts those with subsidies of various sorts) have better care. But all the incentives are against me.
    How to redirect the incentives? I think you have to simplify to the extent of having some across-the-board basic plan that everybody has, paid for by a FICA tax like Social Security, but managed outside the government. And then let the insurers offer the more expensive components, and let the consumer figure out what they are willing to pay for. But since we pay for care for everybody at some level anyway, just make it more equal, so that fools like me aren’t paying for most of it. I should have gone “naked” 15 years ago, but I have a sense of responsibility. Unfortunately I would rather exercise that responsibility and ante up my portion to the government than to the insurers with their fat profit motive.
    Will Congress do that? It makes so much sense. Don’t hold your breath.

  • JP

    Brett said:

    “And while Louise is a village idiot, she’s OUR village idiot; she’s good to have around in that she’s a constant reminder of how the lowest-hanging, garden- variety, neo-conservative fruit processes the world while being a few conductors short of a circuit!”

    Good point about Louise (aka Joe, Nancy Natalie, etc), Brett!

  • twenty-niner

    The saddest fact about Congress is that out of 435 representatives and 100 senators, 6 members are engineers and only 5 members are scientists, for a grand total of 11 members with a technical background. I’m not sure if this is the ratio we need to lead the US into the 21st century.

  • Larry

    Why is nothing getting done? Because Congress is too beholden to unions, trial attorneys, freeloading leftist pseudo-grassroot-non-profits and spin-tanks and a liberal media. Clearly! Posted by Bruce

    Bruce, please, congress isn’t beholden to the banks and the multi-national corporations and the ruling elite?

  • Bruce

    Right, that’s why tort reform and Cadillac plans were left out of health care reform.

  • wavre

    People! People! People!

    “We have two feet but we can go only in one direction”
    (African proverb)

    The Congress has two parties(essentially) but there are no fundamental differences, that is why they switch party so easily!
    Democrats don’t want change, just like republicans!

    Democrats are playing us, using the excuses of “filibuster”, The “neccessity of bipartnership”, “the 60 votes hurdle”, ” The newly rediscover problem of the national debt and the deficit””The danger of entitlements programs” ect…

    To preserve the statu-quo of business as usual. Today it’s me(democrats) tomorrow will be your turn(repubicans) and on and on we go!And later we will all cash in as lobyists.

    What the people is going to do?We are the only game in town! They have no alternative.They will not contemplate anything else, with the corporate media in control of the narratives,we are safe and those liberals are retards(dixit Rahm Emmanuel)

    When somebody who doesn’t have health care is again”socialized medecine”, who doesn’t have financial stability is again financial reform, who lives in a crime infected zone, but is again gun control law, who makes minimum wage salary and can bearly survive with two jobs and have lost his house and the value of his 401k, doesn’t want the bonuses of CEO’S to be taken back…

    That’s indicative of a successful control of the mind by the corporate oligarchy and their media.

    That reminds me that most of the soldiers in the south fighting for the confederation, didn’t even own slaves!

    Forget the ridiculous threats of terrorism( a shoe bomb and an underwear bomb fiascos,and some silly plots by some misguided clowns!)
    We are spending billions in defense! Against who?
    Don’t we remember how the Soviet-Union went down?

    The real threat to our country is the kidnapping of the institutions of government(the white house, the Congres and the supreme Court!!) by the corporations and their special interests.

    Finally,i believe that the people will take it to the streets one day(peacefully i hope). I think it’s way overdue.

    I have a dream!don’t wake me up.

  • Bruce

    What is it with Obama and Emanuel and their need to ridicule those with mental and physical challenges? I thought Reid and Clinton were racially insensitive, but these guys take the cake!

  • Brian

    What in the world are you talking about Bruce?

  • Yolanda

    So heartened by (most of) what I am reading here! A lack of mobilization by the public is indeed the problem in our society. The problem we have is that our elected officials do not feel the consequences of their decisions, because we do not mobilize to make them feel those consequences!!

    Part of this is lethargy, and part is oppression. On the first count, we were all cheered by the election results of last November. But President Obama cannot do this work on his own. He requires our work, our sweat and blood, to fight back against those standing in the way of progress. Too many applauded and wept tears of joy at his victory–namely, our victory–but we cannot let that victory slip through our fingers!

    However, we also cannot ignore the deep structural factors that inhibit participation by the majority. Too many people have to work two or three jobs to put food on the tables. Republican and corporate policies have long ensured that 1) wages are ridiculously low, 2) prices for essential goods are inflated, 3) education is restricted to the already-wealthy, and 4) basic birth control is not available to traditionally disadvantaged populations.

    This is why you only see wealthy, white people out “protesting” (I agree with Ellen–these people are merely defending their ill-gotten gains. To say what they are doing is even marginally analogous to those Good Fights of the past is like spitting on the graves of Rev. King and Senators Kennedy). Only they have the time and resources. This dramatically skews our society, and until we have serious leveling in this country–and it absolutely must be done by mobilization–there will be no justice, and no functioning “democracy.” Let us not fail our President now.

  • Yolanda

    Bruce–

    The President has already done more to assist the differently abled in this country more than any individual in history, I would argue. I cannot defend Mr. Emanuel’s in-artful phraseology recently, but to side with Fraulein Palin, whose hate-filled language takes discourse in this country to a new low and contributes nothing to meaningful, rational dialogue, would be the height of idiocy. She pushes for acceptable language (although only from those who oppose her fascistic tendencies), yet the policies she advocates would force millions of U.S. families out of their homes and into abject poverty, and with them, millions of differently abled individuals. Wouldn’t allowing these brave individuals to receive health care, rather than spitting in their faces and leaving them to die in gutters when they are uninsured, be the truly compassionate path?!

  • peter nelson

    what happened in Germany between 2005 and 2009, the so-called grand coalition in which the left and the right manned (womanned) the government and FINALLY got things done collaboratively, should be food for thought for people in Washington

    This naive and displays an ignorance of US political culture. I’m always criticizing Americans here for being insular and ignorant about foreign countries. They have a little excuse because US media doesn’t cover foreign news so the average American would have to put down the TV remote or game console long enough to actually look for world news on the web. For many this is a fearsome amount of work.

    But you Europeans have no excuse for not knowing about the US because the European press is saturated with US news coverage. Die Welt, Spiegel, Le Figaro, etc, routinely cover US news. When Scott Brown won in Massachusetts it was on the front page of Le Figaro, for example.

    Germany is not the US. First of all, you have more than 2 parties. Americans’ fetish about having just 2 parties contributes to gridlock because any political move is a zero sum game – if the Dem’s lose the GOP wins and vice versa. Germany, by contrast has many parties. Even though a coalition was formed between the CDU and the SPD in the 2005 election, it was even numerically possible to form a coalition between the SPD, the Greens and die Linke if they could have come to agreement. So think about that – not just one but TWO different coalitions were possible in Germany. And then in your most recent election the FDP gets added to the mix!!

    American voters are simply incapable of conceiving such a thing – it would be like asking them to plan a trip to the grocery store in 5 dimensional space. Their brains would explode.

    The second big difference is that in Europe it’s possible for voters to imagine the government doing something FOR them, to imagine the government being helpful. The average American can’t conceive of this. It’s not that the US government cannot do anything good; it’s that Americans are so ignorant of their own country that they think it’s a joke to suggest such a thing. Hint: if we ever have another war with Germany and you capture some American spies and want to make them talk, just describe the US government as being able to do something good or right – they’ll laugh so hard they’ll BEG you to stop and promise to tell you everything.

    The saddest fact about Congress is that out of 435 representatives and 100 senators, 6 members are engineers and only 5 members are scientists, for a grand total of 11 members with a technical background. I’m not sure if this is the ratio we need to lead the US into the 21st century.

  • peter nelson

    The saddest fact about Congress is that out of 435 representatives and 100 senators, 6 members are engineers and only 5 members are scientists, for a grand total of 11 members with a technical background. I’m not sure if this is the ratio we need to lead the US into the 21st century

    Sorry – the last paragraph in previous posting was by someone else but left over in my edit buffer. What I wanted to say about it was this: If having an engineer in politics is so great then how to you explain Carter?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think there might be a few congresspeople who would help in an activist movement to Take Back the Country. The echo from the past might be Attorney General Robert Kennedy as to the Civil Rights Movement. I note that for nowadays, in Massachusetts one of the candidates for senator who lost to Coakley in the primaries is a congressman by the name of Capuano, and he is working on ways to, um, confront Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision, with a bill to require campaign funders to identify themselves on TV ads. He says people are smart enough to figure it out. Yes, but a lot of people are smart enough not to pay any attention to ads at all. But it seems he’s willing to stir things up a bit. We could use a few good congresspeople to help us get a strategy to redirect this country. I offer him, if any of his constituents have any pull with him.
    It should be a rallying cry for a lot of senators and congresspeople, Take Back Our Country. Throw in your lot with us. Who is us?

  • Natalie

    How snarky! Obama good, Rahm bad, Palin worse. You must do a lot of yoga to bend over so far.

    In unscripted moment, Obama revealed to us what he really thinks about the differently-abled community. There’s no compassion there, only ridicule. At his core, he is horrible.

  • peter nelson

    That’s indicative of a successful control of the mind by the corporate oligarchy and their media.

    And you have a metal plate in your head to ward off the propaganda rays?

    I’m so fed up with this idea (on both the left and the right) that people who disagree with you must be brainwashed!

    Why can’t you conceive of the POSSIBILITY they they might just have a different value system or different set of priorities from you?

    Value systems and priorities are NOT just about who you vote for or your positions on the issues. They are also about how you spend your time, where you seek information, and how skeptical you choose to be.

    I’m a hard-core geek and policy wonk – I like researching voting records and policy and reading the news from all over the world. And I think that advertising (political and commercial) exists only to try to manipulate us so I dismiss all advertising as deliberate lies and distortions, even if I enjoy the ads themselves as entertainment, e.g., funny Superbowl ads.

    But this doesn’t mean I’m “right” and the majority is “wrong”. I would like to live in a society where poor and unemployed people and those with pre-existing conditions have access to healthcare. Many Americans simply don’t care about this, or at least not enough to change anything. The majority of Americans have health care, and many who don’t are either too young and healthy to care or trust more in luck and prayer than they do in doctors. I don’t have any problem accepting the idea that their values are different from mine; why do you?

  • Steve T

    Any one remember?

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

  • Brett

    “How snarky! Obama good, Rahm bad, Palin worse. You must do a lot of yoga to bend over so far.
    In unscripted moment, Obama revealed to us what he really thinks about the differently-abled community. There’s no compassion there, only ridicule. At his core, he is horrible.” -Natalie

    “What is it with Obama and Emanuel and their need to ridicule those with mental and physical challenges?” -Bruce

    Natalie; Bruce: you left out “Nazi,” “Socialist,” “Fascist”…you’re slipping. :-)

    Maybe Natalie is Louse! They both seem to have minds, like Limbaugh’s, that gravitate toward phrases like “bend[ing] over” to convey images of/references to some kind of sexually compromising act…what’s up with that obsession?

    I have worked in the Mental Health field for most of my adult life, and I’m 55. I have also volunteered to help people with developmental disabilities (what used to be termed “mental retardation”) since I was 17. I have worked with both people who are permanently mentally impaired/physically impaired.

    When Emanuel used the “R” word, he was certainly showing how much he lacks sophistication, and he has never been accused of being too charming. He was using the term in the way young people often use it nowadays (which, however offensive, is different than the label imposed on people with developmental disabilities); it is unfortunate, especially because people like me have worked so hard for many decades to change the general public’s perception of what it means for people who have a developmental disability, and to advocate for people with disabilities to be an integral part of every community. Remarks like Emanuel’s reveal someone who didn’t just commit a slip of the tongue but an error in mentality.

    Likewise, Obama’s candid line about the Special Olympics was disturbing, perhaps even more so than Emanuel’s.

    But Palin has opportunistically used Emanuel’s unfortunate remark as political hay to get some digs in against this administration (typical; if you look in the dictionary under “opportunism” you see a picture of Palin). It is disingenuous or just plain ignorant for someone (Natalie, Bruce, or Palin) to accuse this administration of “no compassion…only ridicule.”

    Obama’s Administration has doubled funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He signed into legislation the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act (left without a vote in the previous senate and unsigned by W), and he signed legislation that was passed to extend and expand the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act (CHIP), and he has lifted the ban on stem cell research.

    Ms. Palin…what has she done to help people with disabilities get better services? For that matter, have you, Natalie/Bruce, done anything in your lives to integrate people with disabilities into the community? Improve basic services? Hmm? We’d like to hear of that, it might be inspiring…

  • Yolanda

    In unscripted moment, Obama revealed to us what he really thinks about the differently-abled community. There’s no compassion there, only ridicule. At his core, he is horrible.

    Posted by Natalie, on February 3rd, 2010 at 1:50 pm UTC

    You can’t honestly believe that. I know there are a lot of people in our society who are blinded by hate. I don’t sympathize with them, but I understand that their position is founded in a lack of education, moral upbringing, and general ignorance. I would like to think that, if they stopped to think rationally, they would be forced to admit to themselves some essential truths. And I think that, deep down, they recognize the inherent gifts of our President, but refuse to acknowledge them, because doing so would radically upend their narrow worldview.

    Honestly, have you ever heard the President say anything mean-spirited, even about his over-the-top political enemies?! If someone can remain magnanimous even in the face of the RepubliKKKan Party, you absolutely must credit him.

  • wavre

    It has been proven that misinformed people can vote against their own interests. I’m not making it up!

    Of course a significant portion of the public have healthcare, but how many are satisfied with theirs when they get sick?? Why can’t we like other developed countries, provide healthcare for all? What type of citizen are you not to care for the rest of us uninsured taxpayers? Why a teacher should make less than a congressman? Why are they protecting industries that are destroying the economy and planet?

    What majority are you talking about? Don’t you read surveys? The majority is for the public option and i’m sure if ask they will be for universal healthcare as well!

    Peter Nelson,

    my friend, people are dying everyday,and are being bankrupt because of insufficient or lack of healthcare-coverage. This is not the time for selfish-relativism

  • Yolanda

    Brett–

    Bravo to a terrifically crafted response! I applaud you for your fine work, as well! This shows that some people are certainly answering the President’s call to service!!

  • Brett

    Tort reform not on the table? The insurance industry is tied for #1 in spending on campaign contributions along with the financial industry. Lawyers associations are around #14, I believe. While nobody is kidding themselves that trial lawyers want tort reform (and they are certainly one of the biggest hitters in lobbying on the Hill), the insurance industry wants it even less and has bigger guns and deeper pockets to prevent it.

    Lawyers don’t want to see caps on judgments against doctors, hospitals, etc., of course, but the insurance industry actually don’t want caps on malpractice suits, either! They point a finger at trial lawyers’ organizations, as well as frivolous lawsuits as the culprits in causing them to raise their premiums, but this represents less than 1% of the costs in health care (I’m not factoring in “defensive medicine” as the insurance industry only points to the lawsuits themselves and the lawyers “behind” the so-called high level of lawsuits; it is doctors who point to the problem of “defensive medicine” and that this phenomenon is due to the fact that if they are sued at all, for any reason, their insurance carrier will opportunistically raise their rates, no matter the nature of the suit or outcome).

    If there were caps on damages paid in malpractice cases, the insurance industry would have less justification for charging an arm and a leg (no pun intended) for malpractice insurance to doctors. Yet, they would not reduce rates on premiums. No problems would be solved if there were caps on damages awarded to individuals, in terms of health care costs, but problems would be created for those unfortunate individuals who find themselves permanently disabled because of doctor’s/hospital’s negligence/incompetence.

    True tort reform needs a good evaluation, but talking about “reform” by simply pointing to caps on damages awarded is about like talking about health care reform itself by simply pointing to “reducing taxes” or by “interstate insurance shopping.” Those are talking points and have little merit in terms of true reforms.

  • Natalie

    Don’t worry he’s learned his lesson about ad-libbing. He recently gave a teleprompter speech to 6th-graders and took no questions. The kids might have asked how he pays for all that stuff when he doesn’t have enough money or what about all the promises he’s broken….

  • peter nelson

    Obama’s Administration has doubled funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He signed into legislation the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act (left without a vote in the previous senate and unsigned by W), and he signed legislation that was passed to extend and expand the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act (CHIP), and he has lifted the ban on stem cell research.

    But the average person has no clue about these things. The average person probably doesn’t know how their own Representative voted on any recent bill (or even who that person is). There’s been a ton of research on this and the results are consistent – perceptions and emotion play a vastly bigger role in voting behavior than facts and data. The Republicans “get” this – the Democrats still think if they can line up enough facts on their side, say about healthcare or the environment, that they can win legislatively. Their naive innocence in this would be cute if it weren’t so pitiful. Obama did not win because he had better ideas – he won because he managed to tap into people’s emotions

    That’s why stupid gaffes like this matter and the GOP will milk them for all they’re worth (which is a lot, methinks). The Dems and Obama are going down like the Hindenburg right now. That bag of gas didn’t just fall with a thud – it drifted down slowly, slowly, slowly, the flames spreading, people jumping out and everybody watching transfixed and there was nothing they could do.

  • twenty-niner

    “$100 Million More In AIG Bonuses Causes Another Stir”

    Today’s headline says it all. If the Democrats who own the Whitehouse, have a 78-member majority in the House and a 20-member majority in the Senate, can’t stop these ridiculous bonuses in a reckless company OWNED the government, in a political environment where banks and insurance companies have a lower approval rating than an earth quake, then they are completely hopeless.

  • Natalie

    They are changeless as well.

  • Brett

    Thank you, Yolanda, sincerely, but I am not answering a call from the President. I am doing what I do, and have done for 38 years, because of a personal commitment to helping people with developmental disabilities.

    If I could cite any one source of inspiration, it would have to be a girl named Lisa from when I was five years old. She was my neighbor, and she was a little older than I was; she had Downs Syndrome (called Mongoloidism in those days). Her family kept her completely sequestered from the neighborhood, and all I saw in her window was a sad girl who wanted to play with others. I was too young–and too much a product of that era–to truly understand what was going on and why I felt a deep understanding of her sadness, but the image of Lisa stayed with me.

    I volunteered at a summer camp for people with disabilities at age 17, and I switched majors from English Literature to psychology in my third year of college (I probably would have ended up an English Lit. professor at some liberal arts college if not) as a direct result from remembering Lisa.

  • Benjamin Stewart

    We own AIG. This is impossible.

  • peter nelson

    It has been proven that misinformed people can vote against their own interests.

    Who are you to say what their interests are?

    Of course a significant portion of the public have healthcare, but how many are satisfied with theirs when they get sick?? Why can’t we like other developed countries, provide healthcare for all? What type of citizen are you not to care for the rest of us uninsured taxpayers?

    Who said I don’t care? You don’t read much here, do you? I have long advocated single-payer universal coverage.

    But my point is other people may have different priorities. By YOUR value system (and mine) it seems logical that if I have a low income and small savings account that I should want health insurance because if a major accident or injury happens I could be financially wiped out. Furthermore without insurance a person’s survival odds in cancer and heart disease are significantly lower.

    But those are not necessarily the most important considerations or priorities for other people OR the effort to analyze it that way is not how they care to spend their time. I have asked others here to please crack a book on academic subjects. In this case the field is economics and the subject is intertemporal choice. David Laibson at Harvard (and many others) has published extensively on this. Bottom line – what you can prove mathematically is the most logical choice is not necessarily the one people prefer to make, and it has nothing to do with being brainwashed!

    Don’t you read surveys? The majority is for the public option

    Don’t YOU read surveys? A few months ago I posted a link to that survey and a discussion of it. Basically it was a meaningless survey because it was framed in mom and apple pie terms without any indication of costs or consequences. It’s like asking “Should all puppies have a good home? yes / no.” Who’s going to say no?

  • Brett

    “Obama did not win because he had better ideas – he won because he managed to tap into people’s emotions.” -peter nelson

    Peter, you proclaim this as if candidates may only possess one or the other, and as if voters only respond to the latter.

    Is there never a circumstance where a candidate could be capable of both? I’m not defending Obama; he’s capable of defending himself, but he DID have “better ideas” than McCain, AND he did “manage to tap into people’s emotions.”

  • Janet

    I think what is clear is that the White House is in complete disarray as they jump around like cats trying to respond to the election in MA. This does not give Americans much confidence.

  • peter nelson

    I wrote It’s like asking “Should all puppies have a good home? yes / no.” Who’s going to say no?

    Ach! Mein Gott! This is IT! This is how Obama can destroy the conservatives! Who’s going to say no? The Republicans will if Obama proposes it!

    All Obama has to do is propose legislation that advocates that “all puppies should have a good home.” It doesn’t even have to have any teeth in it. And a law against punishing children by hitting them with shovels. And a law against tripping old ladies when they try to cross the street. And a law against eating babies. Etc, etc. The GOP will reflexively oppose all of them simply because Obama proposed them!

    By the time they come to their senses the whole country will think the GOP is Voldemort and the Dem’s can crush them at the polls.

  • Ella

    Evans is an intellectual god. He is the guru of all Congressional knowledge.

  • cory

    The Democrats have been taken to school by the Republicans. Here are the answers to the final exam:

    1. Rule when you have power.

    2. When you do not have power, obfuscate and plan for your return to power.

    3. The winner of a fight is seldom asked if they fought dirty.

    4. Bipartisanship in American governance is a fool’s errand.

  • Kris

    Thank you, Thomas Mann, for indicting the PUBLIC (AND for being SO DIRECT about your points of view without the punditese) !

    Far too many people say, “government is the problem”, while completely supporting the military. Are they unaware that the military is a gigantic part of the government??? On top of that, far too many of these people can ONLY say, “government is the problem”! They have NO constructive ideas about how to get things done. The WEIRDEST thing of ALL: it is Big BUSINESS — the private sector — that is taking our jobs overseas!!! It is Big Business that is butting its NOSE into OUR government (now even more so thanks to the five activist judges’ Supreme Court ruling!).

    Do the Republicans REALLY think we can AFFORD health care and health insurance on our own? When businesses are FIRING people, HOW will people afford insurance? Talk about “death panels”: Within Capitalism, publically-owned corporations owe their stocks & bonds investors a fiduciary responsibility of high returns on their investment. If the investors will get more investment income from the corporation sending the jobs to China, that’s where the jobs will go, and along with them will go the benefits, including health care, that American workers previously had been able to earn (by WORKING!). Do people REALLY think a Market Economy is going to help anybody other than the INVESTMENT CLASS, which DOES include union members, in some cases; but it does NOT include you if, as a non-union worker you lose your job. WHO but government can help you over that hump until you might possibly find another job? And, as long as YOU don’t have a job, other people will lose their jobs, because YOU will not be able to afford the things they make or serve. WHO but government can help you and the other former workers over the hump? WHO but the government can regulate Wall Street so that there are NOT more shenanigans going on there WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S money, including that of people who have nothing more than their Savings Account in their local bank?

    WHO is everybody kidding with this “Government Get Out” stance???! Who is paying these people to sound populist, when their position does NOT HELP THE PEOPLE???!!!

  • Daniel

    Producers of On Point:

    Please invite Larry Sabato on your program to discuss his book, “A More Perfect Constitution”. His 25 proposals to overhaul the document and make the US a more fair country are long overdue and I think would address some of the callers’ distress (which I share).

    I teach US Gov’t to high school students and have found it to be a valuable discussion tool. Just of his proposals that I favor: increase the size of the House to a 1000. 435 has been the size for far too long (about 80 years). Money wins, average citizens tend to be frozen out when one representative speaks for almost 700,000 people.

    Thanks for a great program.

  • Brett

    “The Dems and Obama are going down like the Hindenburg right now.” -peter nelson

    What, like in some fiery explosion? Or in some evenly descending percentage of popularity, as in some vast and distinct difference from percentages of other presidents in their first year? Maybe it’s just me but the Hindenburg image doesn’t quite fit. Have Democrats’ (in Congress) numbers gone down “like the Hindenburg right now”? RIGHT NOW? I suppose they have been lower than what one would consider a popular view, but RIGHT NOW??? And do the numbers show a steady decline that has increased in momentum RIGHT NOW? And how do those numbers differ from Republican Congressional leaders? Are there data on the differences between Dems. and Repubs. in terms of popularity? Your Hindenburg simile is regarding popularity, is it not?

    And, haven’t Obama’s numbers gone up since the State of the Union Address and his meeting with Republicans in Baltimore the day after? Or, do you mean “RIGHT NOW” in some vague figurative sense removed from actual fact and relying on some emotional sense?

    Where are the supporting data, peter? SOME statistical corroboration, at least! :-)

  • Brett

    Cory from 4:19pm…: We can only hope they can pass the exam! :-) I’m having some doubts…Obama needs to do more of what he’s displayed in the last week, Dems in Congress need to look at your answers!

  • JP

    The fact is President Obama’s popularity among Americans before the Presidential Address was 52% and likely to rise as a result of the Presidential Address and his AWESOME schooling of Republicans.

    Republican’s favorability among Americans before the address: 32% and likely to go down as a result of the address and the schooling they received.

    The Republicans are so far behind, all they can do is hope that lying about their “popularity” fools a few pea-brains into believing they’re not total buffoons.

  • Brett

    peter, your 4:05pm comment reminds me of a Simpsons’ episode from the GHWB vs. Clinton campaign. Aliens had come down and body-snatched the candidates in an effort to take over the US. In one stump speech, one of the aliens said, “Abortions for everybody!” And everybody booed. He/it modified and said, “abortions for no one!” Everybody booed. Next came, “abortions for some, while no abortions for others!” And there was resounding applause.

    Of course, I’m not sure about your “all puppies should have a good home” or the “law against punishing children by hitting them with shovels” strategies. In the former, you know there’d be people complaining that the political leader shows more compassion for dogs than people, or that he/she is a Socialist only interested in making all canines dependent on the welfare state. In the latter, some people would find this kind of rhetoric to be counter-productive to real root-causes for the disintegration of the public school system…and so on…

    “Candidate [X] wants to raise taxes so he/she can provide good homes for puppies, all of this while our citizens go hungry in the streets!” We want our country back; it has gone to the dogs!” -Hey, another Tea Party slogan!

    Or, “President [Y] is engaging in useless rhetoric to pass costly legislation that specifically targets children getting hit by shovels when children get hit by all sorts of objects; shouldn’t Congress be spending their time on other concerns. We already have laws in place that address children getting assaulted! Isn’t this simply more a case, like hate crimes and civil rights legislation, where one portion of the population has more rights than another? What about adults getting hit with shovels? Won’t this increase the cost of law enforcement practices to specifically target crime committed toward children using shovels? Who’s going to pay for the enforcement of this excessive legislation? Local jurisdictions? …..” And so it would go…

  • JP

    … and 32% is being generous to Republicans.

    They poll between 27% and 32%… consistently lower than Dems and no where close to the President.

  • Janet

    Nancy Pelosi said she would balance the budget and yet she is spending millions flying herself and her family around on our dime. The democrates have failed us again.

  • Brett

    Wait just a doggone minute, here…let’s see, Obama was at 52% and is going up after the S of the U and after meeting w/Repubs! Repubs were at 32% and likely lower to between 27% and 32% and going even lower after last week!!

    Let’s see…the Hindenburg, the Hindenburg…uh…um…it’s kind of like the Hindenburg, if it hadn’t hit the tower, caught fire, exploded and crashed but maybe slightly scraped the tower and not torn its skin but merely scratched it a bit, making a slightly bumpy landing!!!!

    There, now this is a much better use of the Hindenburg as political metaphor!

  • Reggie

    Obama looks desperate, even Dodd can see this, and he’s grasping at populist straws. I don’t think America is buying his new-found compassion for the common man. I certainly didn’t buy his fake down-easter accent yesterday.

  • Brett

    Oh, yeah, sure…Republican leaders in Congress never fly anywhere or use “our dime” for anything! I’m sure Boehner would love your analysis when it comes to his golf games!

  • Benjamin Stewart

    I agree with Brett, none of these people could balance a budget and they’re all abusing the system to their own advantage. My Senators, Durbin and Burris, love to take trips abroad (trade and fact-finding missions), have family members that lobby Congress, and have been accused of buying their seats.

  • cory

    Brett,

    I’d like to see an independent investigation on Boehner’s tanning expenditures.

  • JP

    How’s this for a “fake down-easter accent” grasping at populist straws:

    “Hi! I’m Scot Brown and this is my truck… Hyuk, Hyuk, Hyuk!”

  • cory

    Just a comment on the Scott Brown phenomenon, since he seems to have some admirers here.

    The pickup truck and barn coat are the most obvious ploy since the promise of “a chicken in every pot”. My gut tells me you’d have to be stupid to fall for this sort of patronizing act.

    Alas, I am the one who is stupid. These simple and childish slight of hand tricks STILL work well on the American people in the 21st century. I’m anxiously awaiting the return of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!”

    Style over substance again. (see Sarah Palin).

  • Brett

    I know, Cory,
    I actually do a dead-on impersonation of Boehner, so I kinda hope he stays around. I think its funny (or it would be if it didn’t represent abuse of our tax dollars) that he keeps a Miami tan in Washington, in the middle of winter. (And we’ve had a lot of cloudy days and snow this year, too!) He has that wonderful cigarette-tinged voice, just slightly slurred (he has that same difficulty with his L’s as Brokaw, but also his R’s; of course, unlike Brokaw, I think the etiology is different in Boehner’s case) and he’s got those blood-shot eyes…I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who can seem like he’s holding a tumbler full of scotch on ice in the same way Boehner can, except maybe Dean Martin.

  • http://freeourfreemarkets.org steve banicki

    We the people need to keep score and report our findings. If any politician is governing strictly in a manner to be re-elected, instead of doing what is right for the country, throw him from office the first chance we get – republican or democrat. Below is a road map for getting us back on the right path.
    The president must clearly state how we got into this mess. Keep it simple, honest and do it in pieces. The problems are too overwhelming to be absorbed from one speech. This should not just be a Bush-bashing session. It should be more like a fireside chat every two weeks.
    Our entire society has been on a slide for some time because of our consumption, live for today, attitude. We must learn how to save and invest for the future. We must learn how to live within our means and not count on using credit cards and home equity loans to prop up our live styles. Our life styles must match our incomes and our worth. Our parents and grand parents made sacrifices to win World War II. Make no mistake about it; we are also in a battle with other factions in the world. This is an economic battle and if we lose, there will be severe consequences for our society. Everyone in America is in the battle and can affect results – not just our politicians.
    Some private, non-partisan organization, must keep a scorecard of every senator and congressional representatives. This scoring mechanism should not only keep track of how they voted, but also of where they stand on all major issues of the day. Further, post the scorecard to the Internet and in major newspapers frequently.
    Congress needs to start defending free markets. Senator Jim DeMint said, “If the president will consider some free-market economic principles and allow us to leave more money in the private sector rather than demagogue corporations and profits, we might have a chance to work on something.” The problem is that the citizens are losing their right to free markets from the growing number of industries that are changing to oligopolies. This includes banking, Wall Street, health care and software. Strongly enforce anti-trust laws to give us back our “free Markets”. I am amazed that republicans are not hollering from the rooftops to make this happen. Could it be that they, along with many democrats, have been bought off by these oligopolies.
    If things are going to change in Washington, it is up to us on Main Street to hold our elected officials accountable. If we do not we can kiss our way of life good-bye

  • Natalie

    In the words of the mayor of Las Vegas, “Obama is a slow learner.” So true!! In fact, I think he overstates it.

  • Natalie

    Obama wrote the book on style over substance and we pay for it every day. I think Harry Reid had it right (!) and we were all so surprised by the style and his fakey fake compassion that too many Americans fell asleep at the polls. But we’re starting to wake up!

  • cory

    Louise,

    I’d like to know if you agree or disagree with my 4:19 post.

  • peter nelson

    Do the Republicans REALLY think we can AFFORD health care and health insurance on our own?

    Where did they say that?

    What the liberals don’t “get” is that not everybody shares their value system or priorities. The Republicans never claimed that people can afford health care on their own. They just don’t see it as their (or the government’s) problem to solve. They’ve been very clear and explicit about this.

    What, like in some fiery explosion? Or in some evenly descending percentage of popularity, as in some vast and distinct difference from percentages of other presidents in their first year?

    The Dem’s are on the retreat in every major policy initiative. So what’s going down for them is their ability to actually accomplish anything. Democratic congressmen and senators are packpedalling furiously all over the US on everything from healthcare to Guantanamo to global warming to a second stimulus and a host of other issues. Their best chance was 2009 while Obama still had that new president smell and the 2010 House elections were safely far off and voters still blamed Bush for unemployment. The final nail in their coffin was Obama’s ineffectual attempt to turn the tide in Massachusetts. He’s lost his magic and everyone – GOP and Dem’s can see this. Oh the humanity! (or is it ‘Oh the Sean Hannity!’?)

  • cory

    Natalie,

    Regarding style over substance, let’s do a little inventory…

    Obama since elected: financial bailout for banks, first stimulus package, repeated attempts at healthcare, Afghanistan surge. This is just a start. You and I may like or dislike any of the above items, but we can’t deny their existence.

    Republicans since election: Palin quits on Alaska for money, Scott Brown wins on a pickup and a prayer, the party of NO!, the poorly defined tea bagger movement (where’s my freedom, with gentle strum of a banjo), the governorship of New Jersey and Virginia.

    I’m not trying to be TOO partisan here, but shouldn’t the party in power govern?

  • peter nelson

    The fact is President Obama’s popularity among Americans before the Presidential Address was 52% and likely to rise as a result of the Presidential Address and his AWESOME schooling of Republicans.

    Polls go up and down – they mean nothing. Have you looked at the latest proposals from Democratic senators and even from the White House? They are backing away from everything they were saying 6 months ago. Legislatively they are in full retreat. Every day it’s something new – this morning they announced that they are “reviewing” their decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in NYC.

    The Constitution gives Congress the ability to make law – it says nothing about polls. So you can watch all the polls you want – I’ll watch what they actually DO.

  • Ann

    Posted by Louise:I’m all for obstructionism. I would much rather see nothing get done rather than the legislative proposals being promoted by this congress and this president

    Louise, I would be interested to know which specific proposals you are referring to and how specifically you believe they will be a “detriment to our country”. Thanks.

  • Natalie

    Style over substance, partial list:
    Extraordinary rendition continued.
    States secret privilege invoked.
    Guantanamo Bay open.
    H/c debate on c-span/transparency.
    No earmarks.
    Hired lobbyists in his administration.
    Wire tapping continued.
    Out of Iraq b/c surge didn’t work.
    Out of Afghanistan.
    Abandons Tibet.
    Mortgage cramdowns by judges.

  • steve Banicki

    JP

    Are you from Saturday Night Live?

    http://www.freeourfreemarkets.org/2010/01/obama-talk.html

  • peter nelson

    The pickup truck and barn coat are the most obvious ploy since the promise of “a chicken in every pot”. My gut tells me you’d have to be stupid to fall for this sort of patronizing act.

    Stupid people have the same right to be represented as everyone else.

    Regarding style over substance, let’s do a little inventory…

    Obama since elected: financial bailout for banks, …

    Bank bailout (assuming you mean TARP) was under Bush. Auto industry bailout was in 2 phases – #1 under Bush, #2 under Obama.

    I think the Dem’s have accomplished everything major that they will accomplish – they will drift aimlessly through 2010 while unemployment remains stubbornly high and get their heads handed to them in the 2010 midterm elections.

  • cory

    Natalie,

    I’d describe your list at 7:25 as broken promises, not style over substance. I accept lots of things on your list.

    Peter,

    Sorry, I thought TARP was a two-parter as well. Obama did try to do things, maybe too many. I agree about 2010. After all, elections are only 9 months away and politicians want to be sure not to do anything that might be held against them. As far as the Democrats taking it on the chin you may be right. I wish the voter anxiety would result in an effective and intelligent third party instead of re-installing Republicans. They are as culpable for our problems (possibly more) as the Democrats.

  • peter nelson

    I can’t quire tell where Natalie is coming from on this but Louise is clearly an average American who the liberals think is extreme right because they’ve never been willing to admit just how far to the right this country really is.

    Personally, I’m mostly left of the liberals but I have a libertarian streak that says people are responsible for their choices, so voters make their bed and should lie in it, i.e., if they elect crooks and idiots they DESERVE to suffer.

    I have contempt for the Democratic party liberals because I see them as the socially awkward high school nerd with the pocket protector who may have the IQ and all the facts on his side but he can’t get the girl and he regularly gets wedgies by the Republican football team players (who do get the girl that the nerd has a crush on).

  • told ya…

    On TOTN Neal Conan recently stated that NPR listeners are 1/3 each…liberals, conservative, independents. As a listener mostly of the second category for 30+ years I take great delight daily with the comment board for On Point. Most of you are clueless; there are exceptions like peter nelson. You had best heed the message from Chris from Buffalo and, study the Tea Party people, and observe the appeal of Palin. While you call them names and snicker at their lack of political sophistication, note that they are beginning to win elections while you dither about nuances of health care legislation, the Bush “legacy”, and the immorality of wealth.

    I find the legislative gridlock proof that the founders knew what they were doing. If the stakeholders were closer together we might be farther along with health care reform. Better to cool off and work together later….

  • Louise

    Ann, I don’t trust Obama’s intentions and I don’t believe that he is competent enough to carry out his duties as Commander in Chief. We deserve better.

  • JP

    Ann,
    Louse is a guy named Joe who also posts as Natalie and Nancy, et.al.

    He never provides any substantial information or analaysis whatever, all his aliases simply “just don’t trust Obama.”

    He obviously believes he will be taken more seriously if he posts as women, so one can assume that chauvinism can be added to his probable bigotry.

    It is very sad, but seems typical of the 28 % of America who were hard core Bushies, hate Obama, can’t stand the Republican hegemony was so short-lived, and now make up the bulk of the tea-bagger pseudo-movement.

  • wavre

    We deserve better?!Base on what criteria

    Who for example? and from which “school of Commanders in chiefs?”

    Elections determine the commander in chief!

    I’m somewhat dissapointed with his early perfomance, but i have to admit that Obama may just be the most intelligent president we have seen in a long time and the problems that he is facing are unprecedented.

  • cory

    On point producers,

    Your deletion of my response to told ya… is strange and arbitrary. You can of course delete whatever you like as it is your comment section. I just don’t think posters to this section should have to be referred to as clueless without being able to respond. I also find your inconsistency with your deletions frustrating. A previous poster on this topic told two people their heads were up their asses! I DEFEND your posters against insult and am deleted.

    Whatever.

  • JP

    …back to the day’s topic:

    For fifty years, before the Republican Revolution, Dems ran Congress and relative civility was the norm.

    Members of Congress knew each other, lunched together, and worked with each other to get things done.

    Those fifty years, from the end of WWII until 1994, were some of the most economically successful and most steadily progressive years this country has ever seen.
    They were also the best years the American middle class has ever seen.

    After Republicans took over in 1994, the civility and cooperation with the minority ended.

    Republicans began excessive use of parliamentary procedure gimmickery… they acted like junior highscoolers, literally hiding behind furniture and running room to room to exclude Dems from crucial meetings, using scheduling tricks, etc…

    Individual consciences among Republicans took a back seat to party unity, led by a social conservative agenda, with “The Hammer” and Gingrich, et.al., keeping everyone in line with punitive consequences.

    Republicans began a “Party cleansing campaign” to cleanse all public offices of non-purist Republican ideology, and created K-Street for lobbyists to see to it that all money in Washington was funneled exclusively to Republicans, or face the threat of being cut off from all Washington.

    Thanks Republicans for creating a dysfunctional environment which we’re all now stuck with, and no end in sight. Now the waters are poisoned and we’re all drowning.

  • JP

    With a couple of ultimately insignificant exceptions, all politicians are corrupt or ultimately corrupted.

    It is the nature of humans working in powerful posts where they are in a position to legislate policy and dole out money… everyone with an interest comes to ask their favor, and that kind of power gets to their heads. With that kind of power, only a very special few in history have managed to avoid the temptations of corruption.

    So what are we left with to help us determine who should be elevated to that status and temptation?

    Our only guide is history, which gives us a fair answer when studied carefully.

    I would beg you to consider the effects parties in Congressional power have had on our country historically.

    Before the Republican Revolution of ‘94, Dems controlled Congress for fifty years! There was plenty of corruption, and up and down economic cycles… yet look what our country accomplished between the end of WWII and 1994!!! We did pretty damn well over all, and civil liberties for everyone progressed steadily over the entire period. America grew the best middle class it has ever seen, and it was all based on real productivity, not the illusion of paper wealth. We had the least class division of any time in American history!

    Then comes the Republican Revolution, and in a mere twelve years, wages stagnate in relation to GDP, manufacturing steadily declines, wealth becomes a paper fantasy, class division increases, military spending sky-rockets, Americans begin to lose civil liberites, etc., etc…

    After fifty years of the relative “Good Life” under Dems, Republicans create K-Street and absolutely wreck the country in twelve short years!!!
    P
    olitical Parties by and large respected each other, lunched with one another, and got things accomplished under Democratic rule.

    Then comes Gingrich, Delay, Dole, et al., and civility in Congress ends abruptly. I mean these guys played childish games, literally hiding behind furniture and running room to room to exclude Dems from important meetings, taking parliamentary trickery and technicalities to new lows, excluding Dems at every turn despite Democrats still representing nearly half of all Americans!

    Look for data about the number of lobbyists on Capitol Hill and see how it exploded under Republican Rule. They created K-Street, for God’s sake!
    …And worst of all, they did it by the most base appeal to culture war fears and jingoistic “patriotism,” preying on the weak-minded, fearful, and biggoted in our country.

    Of course, after all the scandals, we know just how devoted Republican congressmen really are to “family values.”

    I’m not saying Dems are saints, but I didn’t see many Dems trying to fool Americans into believing they were patriarchal saints either.

    This is the gist of my argument:

    Since no politician of any stripes can really be fully trusted, all we have to go on is the historical record, and if we look around the world and at our own history, we know that it doesn’t make much difference if a new party comes along saying they will “do better.”

    What we do have is a Democratic Party that had a pretty fair record overall during fifty of the best years in America.

    Now they are back in power, and they’re not being given a fair chance by a little less than half the American public (thanks to FOX, Beck, and Limbaugh), and by the ultra-obstructionist Republican Party.

    I certainly don’t like the corporate welfare that Bush started and Obama has continued, but if you’ll remember back just a year ago, everyone was scared sh!#less and absolutely no one really knew what to do… what would really help or what would make things worse.

    I was writing in this very forum back then that the banks should be allowed to fail, but that was just my gut instinct and literally every economist everywhere was saying the government had to act because they had studied the inaction of Hoover which supposedly led to the Great Depression. So who can say if the intervention helped or not, and at any rate, hind sight is 20/20. Of course now I REALLY wish the bastards had been allowed to go down, but I’ll give both Bush and Obama the benefit of the doubt that perhaps absolutely no one else could have done better… and there is no way in hell I’m going to blame Obama for the mess he had to face starting on day one of his presidency. That’s just sheer stupidity and utterly beyond reason.

    Lastly, here is a breakdown of debt/GDP of the last 5 presidents:

    Carter (D) – started debt/GDP 35.8% ended debt/GDP 32.6%

    Reagan (R) – started debt/GDP 32.6% ended debt/GDP 53.1%

    Bush I (R) – started debt/GDP 53.1% ended debt/GDP 66.2%

    Clinton (D) – started debt/GDP 66.2% ended debt/GDP 57.4%

    Bush II (R) – started debt/GDP 57.4% ended debt/GDP 75.5% !!!!

    This makes clear that
    DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTS ARE FAR MORE FISCALLY RESPONSBLE THAN REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTS!!!!!!

    Obama may change the trend, but only because he was handed by Bush the worst economy and job market that perhaps any U.S. President has ever inherited.
    Obama is just one more Dem brought in to make the best of a huge mess left by a Republican predecessor.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The Democrats may be all over the place, hardly a team, but I don’t think the Republicans have a clue how to protect their bailiwick, business interests. I think this is because, as someone posted above, the corporatocracy kind of hijacked Main Street USA. Republicans all believed that big is better, that the American Dream is a bigger house and a faster and larger vehicle. And when Big turned out to be a monster, a Too Big Too Fail sort of monster in many ways, the Republicans had “made their bed and now have to lie in it,” as was referenced by Peter a ways back, but in regards to “stupid” voters, not bought-and-paid-for politicians.
    Oh, Peter, the problem with ill-informed voters having to live with ill-informed voting outcomes is that not only they have to lie in the bed they just “made”; the rest of us have to sleep here too.
    So the Republicans are the party of the self-made man, the entrepreneur. And those that did well and became big now dominate Republican life, if not Republican ideology.
    I don’t think there really is a Republican ideology. It’s just a bunch of single issue voters and bunch of moneyed patrons/sponsors whose bidding those Republicans do, to the best of their ability.
    This is too bad, because it is the success of business in this country that is crucially on the line right now. Outsourcing jobs is what we have come up with as a way to cut costs and make the Big get Bigger. We can’t pretend globalization is a phantom. But we can certainly point out that the Republicans don’t have a real answer, and small American businesspeople are tapping their toes impatiently. Where is out Party? Where is the great white elephant? Is it Lousie, my pet louse? A team player if there ever was one? If I had the right idea for getting Joe the Plumber to within a high-jump of a safe and steady income, I would want Natalie/Louise et al on my team. But I can’t get from here to there. Why? That same team is standing squarely in the way.

  • Mark S.

    I could write paragraph after paragraph about what I think of the dysfunctionality and idiocy that passes for a government in this country. All I will say is that, given the tsunami of corporate cash that crosses palms on The Hill, Congress is nothing more than a whorehouse.

  • JP

    Ellen,

    Thanks for your excellent, latest post.

    Especially,

    “Oh, Peter, the problem with ill-informed voters having to live with ill-informed voting outcomes is that not only they have to lie in the bed they just “made”; the rest of us have to sleep here too.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

  • JP

    Ellen,

    your comment:

    “Republicans all believed that big is better, that the American Dream is a bigger house and a faster and larger vehicle. And when Big turned out to be a monster, a Too Big Too Fail sort of monster in many ways, the Republicans had “made their bed and now have to lie in it…”

    was my sentiment in a post a few days back.

    I believe the Tea-baggers are the 28% of America who are disgruntled Bushies, absolutely unable to accept the destruction of the country they so love by the incompetent President they thought God had sent them.

    They are now having an identity crisis, not knowing who they are or for what they stand.

    Allt they can do is deny reality and try to somehow convince themselves that the blame needs to be displaced.

    If they are successful in dragging enough voters along with them (notice I don’t say enough of the country, but “enough voters”… they could never convince enough of the country), then, as you say, unfortunately “the rest of us have to sleep there too.”

  • Ellen Dibble

    JP, I probably “caught” some of the drift from you a few days back, you and many others. Sometimes I think the country is switching from blaming Obama to seeing that Congress has a role too, and that guess who elects Congress. So what do we do about that. We can be sure the paid pollsters and the focus-group coordinators for both parties, and the people who try to figure out what candidates will “fly” — all that will be mobilizing as fast as people think we need a counter strategy. I felt pretty helpless under Bush. I felt pretty helpless under Reagan. Is it the fate of people in democracies to feel helpless? I mean, every administration seems clueless under certain lenses. Very rarely does it seem elected people truly lead, or truly get the drift of the river that leads — to the future? To the sea?

  • peter nelson

    Oh, Peter, the problem with ill-informed voters having to live with ill-informed voting outcomes is that not only they have to lie in the bed they just “made”; the rest of us have to sleep here too.

    No kidding, but that’s true in any system which is even remotely democratic. You can’t force people to care about politics and current events or to devote any time to studying the issues, looking at voting records, or being remotely well-informed. The candidate with the most votes wins – not necessarily the candidate with the highest IQ or the captain of his debating team in college.

    I can make a perfectly good fact-based argument for why access to healthcare for everyone regardless of economic status is better for both society and individuals. But so what? There has been tons of research on voting behavior and it turns out that facts play very little role, what with human being being the way they are. If someone would rather take their chances with no health insurance of their own, and aren’t willing to spend a penny to make sure their poor neighbor gets healthcare then what good are logical, well-reasoned, well-supported fact-based arguments? It’s American politics, not the Harvard Debating Society. – you don’t win on points.

  • jeffe

    Peter, how can one claim to be a Libertarian and left wing?

    The two do not add up. Saying you think people should be reasonable for their actions is not Libertarian in true sense, is it? Libertarian’s want small government and a tax system that pays for the basics, and this includes a small military. Being left of Liberal says something to me. That one is for a national health care system, a good safety net and so on. Of course people should be responsible for their actions, but what do you mean exactly? Do you mean that people who lose their jobs should not get assistance, say something like food stamps?

  • jeffe

    OK Peter is you don’t win on points and all left wing people are idiots, what’s the point? Should all of these people just move to other countries and leave the US for Right? Of course this is absurd, and correct me if I’m wrong but I think you’re saying debating is waste of time.
    Well if this is so then does this not mean that our democracy is dieing?

  • Sam

    I really disagree with the idea repeatedly presented in today’s show that the majority should rule without the moderating effect of an active minority. This would destroy the interests of minorities, a treasured and protected portion of American society. Yes, Democrats won a couple of elections. Perhaps they’ll win many more, but we have to remember that the majority, be it Democrat or Republican, doesn’t represent everyone’s needs or ideas. It was only a few decades ago that Southern Democrats were an intransigent, hostile majority block, standing in the way of racial law reform and desegregation. If America had followed the advice of the moderator today, we would never have seen many of the landmark pieces of legislation that came through the 1960’s.

  • http://NPR CR Sader

    To the moron who wrote this:
    “I’m all for obstructionism. I would much rather see nothing get done rather than the legislative proposals being promoted by this congress and this president become enacted into law which in the long run will be to the detriment of this country.”
    “Posted by Louise, on February 3rd, 2010 at 10:03 am UTC”
    ========

    #1 How can an Obama led initiative, that I hope will
    bring jobs, economic confidence, and security be
    worse than what Bush 43 has already done!!?? Check the
    Bush record over his tenure, and you’ll see that his
    performance is not something to be proud of.

    #2 Comments like this are the very reason why people
    like you give this country a bad name!
    The very thing you prefer (as a result of this illogical
    fear of what Obama will do) is the very environment
    that is going to BE detrimental to this country. Obstructionism = Gridlock! And I’m sure that
    anybody who cares about this country would not want
    this government to end up like that. Even though we
    can have dis-agreements, we should be able to find
    common ground and find solutions; not sit around like
    the Republicans, and complain, complain, and not agree
    to anything the Democrats propose, even though it is
    a Republican idea that Obama happens to agree with.
    But people running around shooting at each other
    because of a job loss, people in backruptcy, a Congress
    that can’t get ANYthing done is not good at all!
    Flat out . . .NOT GOOD! I have to question your
    loyalty!

    CR Sader

  • JP

    I’m certain it’s no coincidence that the hardcore Bushies who kept Bush’s approval rating from ever falling below 28% are the very people who keep Republicans from falling below 27-28%, as well as the people Obama couldn’t win over when elected and his approval number was at 72%.

    The numbers all fit together nicely in that scenario.

    These people would certainly find it impossible not to totally delude themselves now, as the guilt would simply be too great.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The value of self-deception and its perpetration — insularity. Hmm.
    I’m thinking that the Republicans these days are shameless in their manipulating the electorate. If they figure they get just enough of an edge by gerrymandering, they do that. Both sides try anyway. And then if they can get just enough edge by kowtowing to the religious right, then you do that, for decades, however long it takes, and if you do non-family-values things, do them in Argentina, or a public restroom. Anyway, Democrats simply don’t function like that. They campaign on having the best ideas for the most people, the best way to get to the best kind of future. Even with Marilyn Monroe on the ticket, I don’t think that would win. The mathematics of focus-grouping till you know just how x, y, and z will vote, and polling to make sure — that will win.
    If the Democrats can’t stoop to the same procedure, their goose is cooked.
    Or rather, they have to try the alternative strategy, the strategy used on Mr. Abdulwhatever, the underwear bomber. Once you capture him, once you elect him into congress, then you sit down with him, maybe bringing his parents into the room, and you explain to him: Whose side are you on anyway? And you wait till the light of reason dawns.
    I wouldn’t try that with individuals with no sense of humor, however. (Oh, and the underwear bomber has a sense of humor? You know — I won’t go there.)

  • JP

    By the way…

    If the assumptions are correct in my last post, that means the only people who support Republicans now are the hardcore Bushies.

  • Derwood

    JP–

    Who are you? David Axelrod?! You have been harping on this talk Obama had with the House GOP as if it were the Sermon on the Mount. Guess what? Almost no voters have actually seen any of it. Even if they had, voters are increasingly concluding that talk is not going to get us out of our spiraling debt and our high unemployment. Obama can blame the GOP for being “obstructionists,” just as many people here do, but that strikes me as a lame defense. The Democrats had many months where Republican obstructionism was absolutely impossible. And yet the only substantive thing they passed was a giant pork bill. Epic fail.

    Next, you trumpet these poll numbers showing dissatisfaction with the GOP brand. True, but you also neglect to highlight that the overall poll numbers for (the Democrat-run) Congress are even lower. Also, you can comfort yourself that the GOP brand is unpopular, but then who were all those voters that handed the vaunted Kennedy Seat in Massachusetts to, gulp, the GOP a few days ago?!

  • JP

    Well Derwood,

    Let me dissemble the typical Republican talking points you posted, and which I’ve seen you post before.

    First,
    Republicans were indeed able to obstruct, as they vote 100% what their leadership determines is to their political benefit, as though they have no individual conscience whatever, but are instead mindless automatons who are concerned only with what their leadership tells them is good for the next election cycle.

    Democrats, on the other hand, never vote 100% with their leadership, as they DO have consciences, and when they disagree with their leadership, they have no trouble voting their minds. No group of nearly 60 intelligent people can possibly agree 100%, especially if they are true to their constituents whose interest vary greatly geographically, economically, and even culturally.

    Also, despite the lie from Republicans like yourself, Democrats never had a philibuster-proof majority in congress, as two non-Republican senators are independent… one of those, Joe Lieberman, can almost always be expected NOT to vote with Dems, as it turns out.

    Republicans were, therefore, crucial to getting ANYTHING passed in Congress, and your assertion that “Republican obstructionism was absolutely impossible,” is simply another Republican lie and talking point.

    Secondly,
    Republicans consistently poll lower than Dems in Congress, and anyone can verify this assertion by simply googling “non-partisan polls.”

    Thirdly,
    Another Republican delusion/lie is the reason for Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts.

    Imagine! A candidate wins when he is the only one campaigning for months before the election.

    Imagine! He is able to lay his spiel on the voters, while his opponent never rebuts any of his assertions, nor does his opponent ever campaign to lay doubts about him in the minds of the voters, as he did to his opponent.

    Imagine! His opponent makes a much publicized and unforgivable gaff about the home team in one of the nation’s most fanatical pro sports states.

    Wow!!!!! It must mean it’s a referendum against Democrats and the Obama platform!

    Some big surprise Brown could have possibly won.
    Talk about “lame.”

  • Michael

    “gulp, the GOP a few days ago?!”

    What Browns from the GOP, I thought he was a independent who was going to keep his independence? unless of course he was not being truthful who he is and once Ma independence and Dems(supposedly 22%) find out he just like the GOP hacks in Washington he be gone the next election cycle.

    “The Democrats had many months where Republican obstructionism was absolutely impossible. And yet the only substantive thing they passed was a giant pork bill. Epic fail.”

    Another false statement above, Democrats had a 58 seat senate and 2 independents, one (Lieberman ) who ran as a Independent not democrat, who also supported Mccain during the election, You also fall to Mention it took 6m months to seat Franken (remember that) so there were 59 senators for 6months, 57 dems and 2 independent, yet the news media went on saying they had 60 yet there ability to vote 60 was not realizable Until Franken was seated. You Also fail to mention the gang of six, the committee of 12 republicans and democrats, working with Senator Snow, view more committee’s. And the constant bartering and giving up key elements to garner republicans support.

    JP points out what the republicans are doing, they will hope for failure of our country (thanks Rush) in hopes to gain back power.

    The fact that they pushing for lower taxes while we are at War should tell you something about there financial responsibility to our country.

  • Brent

    Wrong “O”, it’s Democrat overreaching. Democrats have no core beliefs or ideals, nothing that unites them. They serve themselves, no wonder they are completely ineffective at governing.

    Polls shmolls, the last three polls that mattered went against the incompetents.

    Obama and Clinton and other party leaders came begging (it was hard to watch) in MA and they were rejected soundly. You definitely aren’t from here because you certainly don’t understand how the machine works.

  • JP

    Thanks Michael… I forgot to mention Minnesota’s Senatorial debacle regarding Al Franken.

    … and Brown will almsot certainly be ousted this year, as all it will take is someone actually campaigning against him, and a more typical MA voter turnout.

  • Brent

    Now it’s confirmed you don’t know what you’re talking about, he’s not up for two years.

  • Mike Harris

    I very much enjoyed the segment of On Point discussing the possible failure of congress with Thomas Mann. This is a topic that I have been considering for some time and it is my conclusion that it is not so much a failure of congress, or the president, as much as it is a failure of the voting public.
    Thanks to the rise of power with the news media and with the availability of instant communications it has become impossible for anyone to be a true roll model. We all have limits and failures. To have them publicized for all to see eliminates the possibility of anyone with great talent from running. It has also created a public that will not follow. Trying to lead the American people is worse than trying to herd cats. The harder you try, the less respect you are given.
    Congress cannot function, the president cannot function, and there does not appear to be a reasonable solution to this problem. We cannot turn back the hands of time to the way things were before; that way allowed politicians to run out of control. We cannot ignore the problem and hope for the best; that is an open invitation to a totalitarian regime (Yes, it can happen here.) Somehow, we must discover a way to change the viewpoint of the American people to allow politicians to be human beings. They are going to make mistakes, and they are going to play power games. That is just the nature of the beast. We must demand that the checks and balances that prevent our government from getting out of control function properly while at the same time allow politicians to remain human. They must have the freedom to function as leaders and policy makers without the fear of having issues from their personal life, that are inconsequential to the job they are elected to do, be blown up into a public scandal. Get over it people, it’s none of your business who they go to bed with! It’s none of your business what they eat for dinner! It is your business if they are not creating policy that you agree with. If they do then vote them out. if they are doing the job you wanted then let them work in peace and hopefully this will encourage people who are truly qualified to run for the office.

  • JP

    Okay then… in 2012.

  • JP

    … and I never claimed to be from MA.

  • JP

    … and hey WRONG”O,” get your polls straight.

  • Brent

    I was talking about the VA, NJ and MA polls, you know, the ones that count. But kudos to you guys in getting Gallup, too bad you don’t get anything for it.

    In addition to a referendum on Obama and healthcare, the election here was about Democratic incompetence to govern generally. But since you’re not from here, you probably didn’t get that.

    Are you from NH? I hear he wasn’t well received there either. Seems like the tide is turning in New England.

  • Kris

    JP

    Republican Senator John Cornyn (Texas) was on Tavis Smiley tonight saying that George W. Bush left office with the deficit only 3% of the GDP. Heritage Foundation says the same thing.

    I have NEVER heard this figure before and doubt its accuracy. It feels like virus to me, virus & spin. Because of your much more believable chart at 9:05 p.m., above, I ask you, do you know what this is all about???!!!

    Thanks!

  • Kris

    JP,

    Also, Cornyn, thru a Flip of the tongue, made it sound on Tavis Smiley like the Obama administration STARTED the borrowing our government has done from China.

    I HATE it, but Obama was NOT the first US Pres to borrow from China!

    Disingenuous spin! THIS part I KNOW is disingenuous! HOW do these people live with themselves? People are getting sicker than they need to be and dying, people are going broke & losing their housing, sometimes losing their marriages because of the stress of joblessness, illness, and underlying it all: the Republicans are blocking health care reform. These Republican Senators have TERRIFIC HEALTH PLANS THEMSELVES, yet they OBSTRUCT, OBSTRUCT.

  • Grace Clark

    A book was referenced, I believe on the program, during a discussion about global financial leadership on Feb. 3rd that I wanted to read but was driving and unable to write it down. Now I have forgotten the title. Do you by chance recall such a book. Two books were actually refrenced and I can recall neither. I would appreciate your help in

  • Gary

    IMO Scott Brown was elected in MA because the electorate was sick of the Kennedy machine, and a very very unsavory democratic candidate (Ms. Coakley)…Even the independent candidate was named Kennedy (No relation).

    In NO WAY is this some kind of conversion of New England into a new found conservatism as the media has been stating. Massachusetts is neither Red or Blue it is Independent purple. The independent voter could not vote against Ted Kennedy, because there was rarely any other name on the ballots.

    The Independents will vote Brown out if he does not make good on his Independent bolster. Too far to the right, and he is gone. Kerry will also be gone, when something better comes along. Kerry sealed his fate when he suggested using taxpayer money to fund a Ted Kennedy memorial, and none of the (Kennedy or Hines) personal fortunes.

    Republicans and Democrats that do not govern are out. It not a new Republican or Democratic Paradigm. Its a growing Independent voter sword of vengeance, and it cuts BOTH ways.

  • Peter Nelson

    The two do not add up. Saying you think people should be reasonable for their actions is not Libertarian in true sense, is it?

    I noticed that you capitalized “libertarian” – that’s your first mistake. Libertarianism as a philosophy (i.e. small-”l” libertarianism is not the same as libertarianism as a political movement (large “L” libertarianism.) Small ‘l’ libertarianism posits that individuals should be free to make their own decisions and experience the consequences of them good or bad as long as they are not directly hurting someone else. They reject outside meddling in personal affairs. Note “outside”, not “state” – today the state is seem as meddler-in-chief but when the philosophy was first being developed it was often the Church. Thus gun ownership, sexual choices, gay marriage, marijuana use, and in this case whether to be a well-informed citizen, are all up to the individual for better or for worse.

    Large “l” libertarians. e.g., the LP, draw their own right-wing political conclusions from this, but many liberals and lefties are small-l (sometimes called social libertarians). I know plenty of people who own guns or smoke marijuana who also advocate single payer national health insurance. So libertarianism as a philosophy covers a lot more political territory that you seem to think – from socialist to anarchist. There’s a whole movement called Libertarian Socialism whose leading advocate in Noam Chomsky. In fact the first person to ever call himself a “libertarian” was Joseph Déjacque, an early French Communist.

    Letting the LP define libertarian philosophy for you is like letting the Jehovah’s Witnesses define Christianity for you.

  • JP

    Kris,
    I can’t tell you what John Cornyn is about other than to say he is just another Republican prevaricator.

    Republicans have longed banked on the ease with which they’ve been able to dupe just enough of the population to win elections, which is why they really only reign in the poorest and most uneducated states (high school test rankings).

    The internet is slowly changing that, and the truth would have a much quicker effect if it weren’t for the “echo chamber” effect.

    These liars have been using the Lunts, Rove, Norquist tactic of endlessly repeating untruths to give them weight in the public mind, as studies have shown that people remember what they hear repeated, whether it’s true or not, and the mind gives the inculcated “fact” favorable weight.

    … but now the internet serves as a quick reference tool to which almost everyone has access, and that has a tempering effect on faulty and easily manipulated memory.

    That is why, each election cycle since the proliferation of the internet, Republicans lose more and more ground.

    The new Supreme Court ruling will slow the change as Corporate money flows to favor Republican talking points, but even that will not staunch the change, as lies are lies and can still be researched by those who have ever increasing access to information.

  • peter nelson

    if I’m wrong but I think you’re saying debating is waste of time.
    Well if this is so then does this not mean that our democracy is dieing?

    I’m saying trying to win on points is a waste of time. It is no good having the highest IQ or the most watertight fact-based arguments if the other side wins the election.

    I don’t know how old you are or how much time you’ve spent in politics or on the political fringe. But I’m in my 50′s and I’ve spent years on the political fringe. When I was young I dallied with the LP before deciding that to them “libertarian” translated to “I’ve got mine Jack (bleep) you.” Since then I’ve also supported the Greens and MassPRG. And one thing I’ve noticed about all the fringies is that they’re perfectly satisfied to simply be right. If they can win the argument intellectually that’s good enough for them. Elections schmelections.

    There is a TON of research data from sociology, political science, and economics of how humans make choices and it all points to the fact that logical analysis does not play a big role – especially in political choice.

    – As an aside, there was an article in Science recently about a study where Swiss schoolchildren were shown faces of candidates for a French parliamentary election . They knew nothing about this or who the faces were, but they were asked to pick the one they would like to be the captain of their ship across a stormy sea voyage. With great statistical significance they picked the election winners. -

    This has nothing to do with our democracy dying – in a democracy the government should reflect the people. If we have leaders who are ignorant, petty, emotional, undisciplined, and can’t argue their way out of a paper bag on policy topics, do you deny this represents the population? I say democracy is working great and the US is getting EXACTLY the government it deserves.

  • JP

    Peter,

    Facts certainly ARE pesky things that take their toll on liars,

    BUT

    I agree with you 100% that

    “This has nothing to do with our democracy dying – in a democracy the government should reflect the people. If we have leaders who are ignorant, petty, emotional, undisciplined, and can’t argue their way out of a paper bag on policy topics, do you deny this represents the population? I say democracy is working great and the US is getting EXACTLY the government it deserves.”

    You say this again and again, and you are
    SOOOOOOOO RIGHT!

  • Gary

    In a Society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter of behavior is public opinion. But public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law. -George Orwell

  • Hotmom46

    5 Homes?!! Did the voters of Massachusetts know this at the time of the election? If they did how is that could have thought they were voting for the common, everyday, live paycheck to paycheck, can’t afford college for my kids kind of a man? Why are voters so convinced that someone who lives like the Browns can relate to me? Is it desperation? My disappointed in said “teabag” party is not the ideas behind them it’s their unwillingness to see through the phony front all politicians toss in front of us while they are out peddling their agenda. In the Huffington Post there are several pictures of the Brown’s at various Tropical Ports while vacationing, their daughters live better than most middle class hard, working American “Teabaggers.” Where’s the outrage about this? Any Mill Workers in their house or anyone else in Washington? No. Poor people have to rise up and take their share, open their eyes to the lies before them. Perhaps not going to the polls to vote this November is a better way to show how disgusted we are than constantly voting, R,D or I.

  • Becky from Ohio

    I’m curious if the folks like caller Chris have a family, and if so do they always believe lock step in everything she does. Does she ever see it necessary to make adjustments something she really believes in to make progress in what needs to be done?

    When I travel with my family, my husband wants to drive drive drive with no stopping to get to our destination. My kids want to stop at every McDonald’s playland we pass. If we couldn’t come to some reasonable compromise, we’d never get anywhere (or, the trip would be pure hell all the way).

    I will resist the temptation to make comparisons as to which political players are the grownups and which are the children. Rather, I submit that it takes mature people on both sides of the isle to realize that you can’t always get everything you want, and that slow progress together is better than “fast” progress hell or no progress at all.

    Excellent show, by the way! Thank you!

  • JP

    … of course, that DOES mean that the rest of us are also stuck with the deserved consequences earned by the easily duped, but as you say, that’s little “d” democracy.

  • peter nelson

    Republicans have longed banked on the ease with which they’ve been able to dupe just enough of the population to win elections, which is why they really only reign in the poorest and most uneducated states (high school test rankings).

    How does this explain Scott Brown? Or the fact that in total (R+M+W) 2009 SAT scores Massachusetts is #27, NH, which leans more GOP is #26, and #’s 10-20 are Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas Colorado, Wyoming, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Utah ?

    You prefer high school tests? Here’s a link to grade 8 math – http://www.statemaster.com/graph/edu_ass_sca_sco_gra_8_mat-scale-score-grade-8-math
    … what’s the pattern? California, which sends liberals to Congress is near the bottom. Massachusetts, which just sent a conservative, is at the top. Conservative western states are also in the top half. Anyway. if poorly-educated people are such easy pickin’s why aren’t the Dem’s harvesting them?

    I complained about this before and you didn’t address it: <b<WHY do people on both sides of the political spectrum insist that anyone who disagrees with them must be duped or brainwashed? Remember, the conservatives are saying the same thing about YOU.

    The reason why the liberals are lost in la-la land is that they just can’t come to grips with the reality that the rest of the country doesn’t think like them and doesn’t share their priorities and values. And I don’t just mean about healthcare or gay marriage. I’m talking more basic stuff like whether to follow current events, read a newspaper, where to get information, who to trust, etc. Why can’t you accept the fact that just because someone is different from you that doesn’t make him duped?

  • JP

    Being “duped” is being fooled into buying that lies are acceptable.

    For a very plausible explanation of Scott Brown’s win, see my post @ 11:57 on the 3rd… it has nothing to do with anything other than centuries of common sense about waging a political campaign.

  • JP

    … and to preempt your rebuttal, people are indeed easily fooled, using such tried and “true” psychologically proven methods such as inculcation of untruth to foster belief (banking on the tricks of memory, as stated above), the use of Orwellian language, playing to people’s prejudices to win on non-cultural points, etc., etc.

  • Anthony R.

    Every election is a contest to determine who’s the better duper. Dems with some and Repubs win some. Put that in your partisan pipe.

  • Ellen Dibble

    So Peter, are you happy with our elected government, it being representative of our ability to be duped and all that? You say:
    “The reason why the liberals are lost in la-la land is that they just can’t come to grips with the reality that the rest of the country doesn’t think like them and doesn’t share their priorities and values. And I don’t just mean about healthcare or gay marriage. I’m talking more basic stuff like whether to follow current events, read a newspaper, where to get information, who to trust, etc. Why can’t you accept the fact that just because someone is different from you that doesn’t make him duped?”
    You lost me there. “basic stuff like whether to follow current events.. who to trust”????
    Do you mean to suggest that a basic value of the Republicans is to keep informed and not trust the media? Or to follow the media and not worry about its veracity? Or do you mean the Democrats hold to that basic value, trust the media, trust the government — oh, I have no clue what you mean.
    I don’t know where it fits that we think people are wrong about this that, versus people are misled or misinformed.
    I thought you were arguing yourself into an exodus to Mexico or Canada. Now I’m thinking you’re sort of treading water, saying to us all to quit bellyaching.

  • zack

    Hearing Tom Mann whine about changing the rules when his team starts losing gets VERY irritating very quickly. Mann is a partisan Dem hack, and Larry Evans used to work for a Dem congressman. Is this OnPoint’s idea of even debate?

    I’d love to see OnPoint bring on someone like Ron Paul or Peter Schiff on for an hour to drop some real truth bombs!

  • jeffe

    etting the LP define libertarian philosophy for you is like letting the Jehovah’s Witnesses define Christianity for you. Snarky and uncalled called for.

    Peter do you get off on insulating people? It seems to me you can’t answer a comment without trying to demean people. There’s a pattern in most of the responses here in which you engage people with this tone of superiority and snarky comments. I know some us, myself included from time to time do this (make nasty comments), people get heated and it’s easy to hide behind to anonymity of the keyboard. However you do it a lot.

    You made some comments about being a libertarian or should I say Libertarian. My interpretation of your post, notice the word interpretation, made me think about the juxtaposition of the two ideologies. Owning a gun and smoking dope have nothing to do with ones political ideology, at least not to me. I know die hard Democrats who own guns, as well as Republicans who smoke pot. This means nothing. When I think of the libertarianism it means small government, free markets minimal government regulation of property, minimal taxation, and rejection of the welfare state.
    you mention Noam Chomsky, who in the context to my comment, is not this kind of libertarian.

    You can keep making these obnoxious comments, you’re not getting anything over on me, not that you care as it seems to me that you’re agenda is not the debating, but proving you’re right all the time.

    If I wanted to be real snarky I could critique you’re photography. I wont go there, it’s not pretty.

  • Derwood

    JP–

    Sorry for having called you “David Axelrod.” Based on your vitriol, you’re clearly Rahm Emanuel.

    Anyone who disagrees with you is deploying “Republican talking points.” Whereas your six-day-old rehash of things every Obamabot says is enlightened and independent, I’m sure.

    OK, so let me get this straight–Democrats failed to pass health care and cap and trade because they have consciences and vote them? OK. But not a good defense for health care and cap and trade. (Frankly, if we’re going to talk about “talking points,” your comment that Republicans do as they’re told is straight from The One’s mouth.)

    So, in sum, your argument is that Obama’s policies were too flawed for all Democrats to support them, but “conscientious” Republicans should’ve supported them, so it’s Republicans’ fault they failed, not Obama’s. Wow…that’s tortured logic!

    As for your explanation for Brown’s victory: I’ll give you that the Democrats likely would’ve retained the seat had Coakley been a half-way decent candidate. However, you should at least admit that, had this same election been held in February 2009 with the same two candidates, Coakley would’ve won. The difference? Obama-Pelosi-Reid have failed miserably, and voters, even in deep-blue Massachusetts, have no interest in perpetuating their near-universal power.

  • JP

    I’ll just repost my previous response, as it says everything that needs to be said in rebuttal:

    Well Derwood,

    Let me dissemble the typical Republican talking points you posted, and which I’ve seen you post before.

    First,
    Republicans were indeed able to obstruct, as they vote 100% what their leadership determines is to their political benefit, as though they have no individual conscience whatever, but are instead mindless automatons who are concerned only with what their leadership tells them is good for the next election cycle.

    Democrats, on the other hand, never vote 100% with their leadership, as they DO have consciences, and when they disagree with their leadership, they have no trouble voting their minds. No group of nearly 60 intelligent people can possibly agree 100%, especially if they are true to their constituents whose interest vary greatly geographically, economically, and even culturally.

    Also, despite the lie from Republicans like yourself, Democrats never had a philibuster-proof majority in congress, as two non-Republican senators are independent… one of those, Joe Lieberman, can almost always be expected NOT to vote with Dems, as it turns out.

    Republicans were, therefore, crucial to getting ANYTHING passed in Congress, and your assertion that “Republican obstructionism was absolutely impossible,” is simply another Republican lie and talking point.

    Secondly,
    Republicans consistently poll lower than Dems in Congress, and anyone can verify this assertion by simply googling “non-partisan polls.”

    Thirdly,
    Another Republican delusion/lie is the reason for Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts.

    Imagine! A candidate wins when he is the only one campaigning for months before the election.

    Imagine! He is able to lay his spiel on the voters, while his opponent never rebuts any of his assertions, nor does his opponent ever campaign to lay doubts about him in the minds of the voters, as he did to his opponent.

    Imagine! His opponent makes a much publicized and unforgivable gaff about the home team in one of the nation’s most fanatical pro sports states.

    Wow!!!!! It must mean it’s a referendum against Democrats and the Obama platform!

    Some big surprise Brown could have possibly won.
    Talk about “lame.”

  • Derwood

    Oh, and keep comforting yourself with those poll numbers about Republicans. Hopefully they’ll keep your party warm next November, when it loses the House (and come close to losing the Senate). You constantly remind us of polls, so just look at those that show:

    1) General Congressional polls leaning more strongly pro-GOP than they did in 1994!

    2) Senate Democrat incumbents looking destined to lose in NV and AR, and looking pretty terrible in CO and PA.

    3) Dems running even or even way behind in current Dem seats in ND, DE, and IL, and not looking to pickup open GOP seats in NH, OH, MO, KS, KY, or FL.

    4) Current Dem incumbent senators in NY, WA, CA, WI, and IN polling well under 50%, and quite vulnerable to entering the swelling ranks of the unemployed after November, particularly if they get halfway-decent challengers.

    VA, NJ, and MA should’ve been wake-up calls. Many of you, including the president, didn’t answer them. As (the possibly endangered) Evan Bayh said, if you don’t get this call, you’re not going to wake up.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Specifically about 100,000 more voters voted Brown than Coakley in Massachusetts, after a rather contentious Democratic primary before Christmas. And the day Brown won was Wintery Mix, bad for turnout. Slush, sleet, ice, snow.

  • Derwood

    Ellen–

    Now you are blaming SNOW for Obama’s loss in Massachusetts?!

    By all reports, turnout was actually quite high, particularly for a special election.

  • jeffe

    Derwood if the Republicans win in November do you really think they will do anything better in regards to the economy? I suspect what they will do is cut all the essential services that people who are unemployed need.

    Then try to cut taxes. Well if you’re unemployed those tax cuts are meaningless. I’m in the middle of the income bracket and my tax cut from Bush’s tenure was about $500 or less in a year. Quite frankly going back to doing nothing and just keeping the status quo on spending or should I say borrowing for the wars is not going to help with the deficit.

    I’m not saying the Democrat’s are doing so great, but what is happening, at least what you see in the polls you mention is more about the economy and who’s in charge and not any political ideology. I suspect the Republican’s will make worse, and quite possibly bring us to the brink of another Depression.

  • Michael Isfar

    Here’s why America is partisan and paralyzed: Obama is a complete tool of special interest groups and science has no place in his administration. Obama unveiled a series of initiatives to accelerate the country’s shift from foreign oil to domestic ethanol and clean coal.

    You can’t find one reputable scientist who thinks that corn-based ethanol and the myth of clean coal make any sense at all. At the same time he’s raising taxes on domestically produced oil which is only going to benefit foreign producers. This drives me crazy!

  • Jim Strawhorn

    Re your program of 2/3/10, about gridlock and the notion that government action is needed to solve our problems – People have been around for millennia and governments have been around for millennia and societal problems have been around for millennia, so your talk about needing government action to solve problems made me wonder what you’ve been smoking.

    Government creates as many problems as it solves, maybe more. It is useful for protecting people against assault and theft (although that can also be done by private security agencies), but when it starts doing this, that, and the other thing – whatever seems like a good idea – the unintended consequences are often as bad as the problems government set out to solve.

    Take Medicare: In the 1960s, helping the elderly with their medical expenses seemed like a good idea, but Medicare pays for the medical expenses of the rich and the poor alike – a ludicrous idea – and look at where it has gotten us. Often mentioned by the Democrats today is the fact that government’s medical expenses are rising faster than inflation and are heading us toward national bankruptcy – but that is because of the “entitlements” created by Lyndon Johnson and the “Great Society” programs – programs created to solve the country’s problems. If those programs had been designed intelligently or left to the private sector, we would not have one of the problems talked about so much today.

    The last time we had surpluses and were paying down the national debt was precisely when everyone was complaining about gridlock – during the last six years of the Clinton administration. Given that almost no one in Congress or the White House is talking about dismantling the government programs that cause so many problems, that seems to be the best option available to us today.

  • ruralcounsel

    “It’s been so cold recently, a Congressman was seen with his hands in his OWN pockets!”

    Our country is headed toward financial armageddon, and there is plenty of blame for both major parties. I think there are structural impediments in our form of government that will prevent us from successfully addressing the real causes. And that’s a good thing.

    Because the faster this trainwreck happens, the better off us citizens will be, because just about everything the government does makes things worse.

    Those of you who depend upon government safety nets…your life is about to change dramatically.

  • Brett

    “That’s why stupid gaffes…matter and the GOP will milk them for all they’re worth (which is a lot, methinks). The Dems and Obama are going down like the Hindenburg right now.” -peter nelson

    This sounds as if you ARE talking about popularity to me; yet, when polls are cited to indicate the Dems are actually NOT “going down” in popularity RIGHT NOW, you say something about how “polls go up and down–they mean nothing…”

    But, then, your direct response to my objection over “Dems and Obama…going down” being analogous to the Hindenburg disaster, you write, “The Dem’s are on the retreat in every major policy initiative. So what’s going down for them is their ability to actually accomplish anything.” …Ah, so you WEREN’T talking about popularity but their (Dems, Obama) “retreat in every major policy initiative”! I see, I see…so they are lacking any spine in their ability to lead in policy initiatives or in accomplishing anything just like the Hindenburg…OH!

    So…still…must…make…this…Hindenburg analogy work…what to do…let’s see:

    The Dems and Obama are going down like the Hindenburg right now, if the Hindenburg had suddenly and mysteriously lost its skeletal system and began to wobble around in the air like one huge bladder just before hitting the tower and bursting into flames, but not doing so quite yet, but still wobbling and losing structure and the ability to fly properly and perform in a manner for which it was intended before it lost its spine and wobbled around in the sky toward perhaps catastrophe…

    I don’t know, still seems kinda muddled and convoluted…

  • Ellen Dibble

    In my humble opinion, anyone who takes swipes at Peter’s photography (or others’ art etc.) should put links to said target. Even saying, “I could be taking swipes at” should be bolstered by a link. IMHO. I visited Peter’s photography at his site and thought it was very beautiful, but I am not a photographer.
    So I just thought, there is a person who notices beauty and values it; he maybe derives from visual experience what I derive from music. Or I am visually starved and like anything that is not a computer screen. But just for the record.
    And Scott Brown is going to DC this afternoon. Watch out below. Fore!

  • jeffe

    The contribution for Medicare is a regressive tax as is SS. IT seems to me that these contributions should be rated to income and it would help with the rising costs.

    The regressive nature of these contributions is part of the problem.

    In regards to the my comments about Peter’s work I was using this as an example of being snarky. He thinks because he has this knowledge about politics and due to his advanced degrees that he can take swipes at people that he thinks do not know as much as he does or who challenge his comments, at least this is my impression.

    People who make art work and post it online should be prepared for people having positive and negative reactions. I don’t use links to my work as I feel I want to keep that part of my life out this forum.
    I also do not think my professional life should be advertised on a forum of this nature, I just feel it’s in bad form. For the record I’m a realist painter and one would hardly call my work controversial. I know a few art history professors who would have a lot to say about Peter’s work and the intent, content and the male gaze.

  • peter nelson

    5 Homes?!! Did the voters of Massachusetts know this at the time of the election?

    Yes, everybody knew it. On the other hand, since everyone calls this “Kennedy’s Seat”, how many homes do you think Kennedy had?

    Playing the “I’m humbler than thou” game is a losing proposition because BOTH parties, especially in the Senate, are comprised of rich guys.

  • Brett

    Ellen,
    I couldn’t quite figure out if what you were saying in your 2:35pm comment was that someone had taken swipes at peter’s photography/their comments were unwarranted or lacked substantiation or something, or if you were just, in an oblique way, giving him some kudos? I looked for some person’s comment directed at peter’s artwork and couldn’t find any, so…?

  • Peter Nelson

    VA, NJ, and MA should’ve been wake-up calls. Many of you, including the president, didn’t answer them. As (the possibly endangered) Evan Bayh said, if you don’t get this call, you’re not going to wake up.

    This morning WBUR ran an interview with Mike Allen, White House correspondent for Politico, and he said that, although it’s still a long shot, leaders in both parties are considering the possibility that the Democrats could lose the Senate, and possibly even the House in 2010.

    Jeffe is right that the Republicans have no concept of a policy except to cut services to the poor and unemployed and cut taxes. But the majority of people HAVE jobs and the majority of people pay taxes, so that’s enough to get elected.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Brett, see jeffe at 11:48. I am learning the meaning of snarky. Now Jeffe answers he does realist art which makes me want to go scavenging through the internet for it. You, Brett, I now imagine you look like Boehner in some way. Once there was a poetry hour on OnPoint where they asked people to read aloud into their computers and post their photos or web links or something. People didn’t do it. They (we, I) just typed in poems. Professionalism aside, I think if I were any more exposed than I am, the creatures of Hades would come after me. So. Retro that I am. Peter had sent a link a week or so back, very elegant in many ways.

  • peter nelson

    When I think of the libertarianism it means small government, free markets minimal government regulation of property, minimal taxation, and rejection of the welfare state.
    you mention Noam Chomsky, who in the context to my comment, is not this kind of libertarian.

    But no one can read your mind and GUESS what you think of as “libertarian”, so why am I (or anyone else) required to match your definition of it? Your understanding of libertarianism is simply too narrow and ahistorical, if what you think it is is defined by the Libertarian Party. That’s why I said what you were doing is like defining Christianity by one sect of it.

    And you are perfectly correct that I do like to be right. What’s wrong with that? The only way we can have an intelligent discussion about anything – economics, electoral policy, the healthcare debate, etc, is to have the FACTS in front of us and use terminology correctly. I don’t know where you get the idea that I have advanced degrees in this stuff – but I DO take college courses, read college textbooks, and listen to lectures by serious experts via podcast. <b<Anybody can do the same.

    If I wanted to be real snarky I could critique you’re photography. I wont go there, it’s not pretty.

    That’s OK, go ahead – art is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve received awards and recognitioon for my work, and sold quite a bit of it, so I know SOME people like it, but I can’t please everybody. My favorite criques are the ones I get from right-wing conservatives who think it’s porn.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    So. Retro that I am. Peter had sent a link a week or so back, very elegant in many ways.

    Yes I always used to, but someone complained that they thought putting a link to my webitse was egotistical or something. I don’t get that because OnPoint has a field for that exact purpose – which I filled in for this comment. (I’ve got nothing to hide and neither do my models! 8-) )

    And jeffe had the nerve to complain that it’s “easy to hide behind to anonymity of the keyboard.” when I’m one of the very few people here who uses his real name and has a link to his real website! Pot. Kettle. Black.

  • jeffe

    Peter I don’t think it’s porn. The argument that art is in the eye of the beholder is a poor excuse for defending ones intent and context of the work they make. If you were my student and you said that in a critique class I would send you home to read up on how to deconstruct ones work and understand how different modern and post-modern critiques come into play.

    Winning awards is all well and good. I’ve won a few and have a few grants as well. Scholarships for college, it means nothing, really. It only means someone liked your work, which is good for ones ego and it validates the work to some extent. Does the work stands up in the context of the masters of the medium, say Edward Weston or Walker Evans.

    As far as you wanting to be right all the time, well that’s about ego and not about debating. My definition of libertarian is not something I made up. If one looks it up these ideas are in the forefront of the ideology of libertarianism. You have stated you have degrees in engineering, I was alluding to that, not economics.
    I should have been clearer. You like to play semantic games here.

  • Brett

    Thanks, Ellen,
    that gives me the biggest laugh of the day! But, please, DO erase the image in your mind about my looking like Boehner! PLEASE! :-)

    Actually, most in my adult life, people have told me I look like John Lennon. If I had his aquiline nose I would probably look exactly like him. I wear those type of wire-rim glasses, have a chin, mouth and jaw line (although gravity is starting to take its toll on the latter!) like his. People often remark something about Lennon during breaks when I do my singer-songwriter type gigs, although my style, musically, has very little resemblance to his. This further leads me to believe I must look something like he did.

    I understand what you are saying about “exposing” oneself on the Internet. I was stalked and harassed by a woman over ten years ago. The ordeal lasted for two years; she escalated into completely disrupting my life (this is an understatement). She committed acts that were violent in nature, although not directly to my person (they were moving toward that in the last months)…anyway, she was arrested four times (serving two separate jail terms, the last one was a year after the final arrest).

    I gave the name of my hometown on a blog the other day and felt a sinking feeling of regret after. I never did the Facebook stuff for that very reason of wanting to prevent trouble from rearing its ugly head all over again.

    My dear friend just had a bad thing happen to her, for which she found out last night. She found that one of her patients from a mental hospital where she worked in North Carolina a while back has recently hacked into her Facebook account. Considering the guy killed a member of his family nearly twenty years ago and could potentially be out now…it’s kind of unnerving.

    There is a guy on the Internet with my same name who is also a singer-songwriter/musician, and he gets inquiries from people all the time thinking he and I are the same person…It is a strange phenomenon, this Internet thing…

  • jeffe

    I’m using me real name. I already told why I don’t want links. You’re a real piece of work pal. I don’t post my links because I wish to keep my professional life out of this forum, does that work for you? If not, tough.

    You on the other hand use this forum as an extension of you’re ego, hence the link to the “art site”.

    I could do the same, however I don’t need the validation of strangers for my work. Nor do I need to prove how wonderful I am.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I wish the senators and congressmen could get Jeffe’s point and get the ego out. It’s not about the individual; it’s about our grandchildren (and so on). If I make a fool of myself and in the process unleash greater understanding and greater good, then I’ve maybe achieved a lot. If I simply find that someone agrees with me, you know, so what?
    On the other hand, if someone needs confirmation and support, it does not diminish me to give that support (I wouldn’t want unanimous idolization upon anyone, though, which weakens people). To some extent this Comments blog is sometimes a sort of cheering section for whatever wonk or artist, writer or politician might be a guest on the program.
    Sometimes the posters (or politicians, to abstract to the current topic) who seem most professional, most abstracted from their posts (or political positions), most purely ideological, are the most needy. Precisely what the need is, is not so obvious.

  • http://www.pnart.com peter nelson

    The argument that art is in the eye of the beholder is a poor excuse for defending ones intent and context of the work they make.

    But I’m not trying to defend it – I do what I like and if it sells, great. My comment about art being in the eye of the beholder means that evaluating artwork is a subjective process and evaluating the merit of a work of art is heavily based on subjective judgement. This is why people go to MoMA or MassMoCA and say things like “My 8 year old could do better than that”. It’s why Emmanuel Asare, the janitor at London’s Eyetorm gallery accidentally threw out a work by Damien Hirst in 2001 because he thought it was a pile of trash.

    But if someone’s 8 year old could come up with a better healthcare plan than what we have now policy makers should be worried. Because the merit of a policy argument is not subjective. I, and probably several other people here, could argue rings around policy proposals of many prominent politicians. Specifically WRT healthcare, the data on costs, outcomes, differences between nations or between demographic groups is readily available, so it’s easy to shoot down nonsense claims made by (especially right-wing) politicians.

    Why do you say being right is about ego and not debating? An NPR forum should be a discussion between citizen-scholars. If someone truly cares about public policy, their society, or their nation, then doesn’t it follow that they should be diligent in their efforts to be informed on matters economic, historical and civic? Colleges offer evening courses, books – including textbooks – are readily available used or in libraries, and free podcasts by the world’s authorities in various topics abound on the web. Many of these, such as the LSE ones I’ve mentioned, are lectures given at university so content is very good and not just superficial.

    The viewpoints with the most merit should rise to the top, and merit is based on correctness and completeness of facts and clarity of terminology. You can call that “being right” if you want, I don’t mind.

    And I only mention my engineering work when it’s relevant to the discussion, for example when we’re discussing H1B visas or jobs being sent overseas or the competitiveness of US workers. Why do you object to that?

  • peter nelson

    I’m using me real name. I already told why I don’t want links. You’re a real piece of work pal. I don’t post my links because I wish to keep my professional life out of this forum, does that work for you? If not, tough.

    My “real name” remark was because you complained about anonymity. I have a real public identity because I’m active in the arts community. You, on the other hand, are the one hiding behind anonymity, so what was the point of your remark?

    Would you keep your professional life out of it if the topic was related to your profession? I wouldn’t (and don’t) because it can inform the discussion by providing a richer and more informed perspective. If we were discussing a relevant topic then why deny us the benefit of that?

    When we were talking about health care a few weeks ago I discussed it terms of my wife’s cancer, the cost of drugs and insurance. All of us have life experiences that can enrich the discussions here.

  • jeffe

    I don’t object to that. I object to the snarky comments.
    If you ask me you’re not debating, it’s more like a lecture. You do say a lot interesting and valid things and then you ruin it by making a snide remark. Words have a lot of power. For instance instead of critiquing my usage of Libertarian and libertarian you used the moment to put me down. Why? I say it’s ego. You could have simply asked or said do mean small or big L.
    However you did not. then you trashed my definition which is a pretty common one. It’s pretty well known that when people say they are Libertarian’s big or small l they mean that small government. Ron Paul comes to mind. You on the other hand were talking about Libertarian socialism and by mentioning Noam Chomsky in the same context this is how I interrupt the meaning of libertarian as it pertains to you. Is this correct?
    If not explain what you mean.

    I do read and study up on as much as I can given the time I have to do so. My work comes first however.

    As far as the comments on art go well I’m a traditionalist and would rather go the MFA and look at the Sargent’ and the Rembrandt’. For the sake of argument, Damian Hurst’s work which I don’t like, is a comment on art, commercialism and a whole host of other things that hardly any 8 year old children think about.

    By the way I would never insult your profession, so don’t insult mine by saying cliche things like “subjective” or I do what I like. As if making art was easy. It’s not, if you think it is you’re not working hard enough at it.

  • jeffe

    Peter I’m active in the art community as well and I’ve never heard of you. I’m entitled to keep my identity as is as I don’t want spam, or hackers, or uninvited people into my professional life. You don’t have to like it and you should respect my wishes. You don’t seem to get it for some reason.

    This forum has nothing to do with the any art community as far as I can see.

  • Richartd C

    > “Elections have consequences” says Barama, repeatedly. He seems to think that in a republic the “winner” gets to do anything it (he) wants, without regard to the wishes of the other parties. W-r-o-n-g-o! The consequence of winning an election is that the winner has to leave campaign mode and govern, with the acquiescence of all sides.
    > Tom Mann speaks of Barama extending a hand to Republicans. Unfortunately, Barama seems to think that a 5-point victory means he wasn’t just elected president, or king, he was elected god. Thus, when he extends a hand to Republicans, he does so with the middle finger extended.
    > Mr. Mann also said that Econ 101 says that government spending should be counter-cyclical. OK. The problem is that this argument isn’t heard when government is expanding spending during the rising part of the cycle. Government was pushing out money during the “tech” bubble. Government was also pushing out money during the housing bubble.
    > The writers of the Constitution knew that the House would be rather impulsive. They hoped the Senate would be more deliberate in their deliberations. It is to that end that the filibuster was invented. And let us not forget that it was Democrats who famously filibustered against the Civil Rights bill.

  • Alex

    ““Elections have consequences” says Barama, repeatedly. He seems to think that in a republic the “winner” gets to do anything it (he) wants, without regard to the wishes of the other parties.”

    Where did he get that notion from? A brief google search turns up quotes from the likes of McCain, Limbaugh and others. There is this whole universe of the “Elections have Consequences” links. Thanks McCain. I also liked this one from a Rush’s transcript:

    RUSH: All right, let me be blunt.

    CALLER: (silence)

    RUSH: May I be blunt?

    CALLER: Absolutely.

    RUSH: Elections have consequences.

    CALLER: Yes.

  • http://reinventing-america.blogspot.com/ ulTRAX

    LARRY: “It is time to rethink a 18th century body of government that cannot govern in the 21st century.

    PETER NELSON: “Good grief – get real! Passing healthcare reform is a walk in the park compared to Constitutional changes that you’re talking about.
    There’s nothing wrong with our system that can’t be fixed if voters CHOOSE to take an interest in their government.”

    Before I start: PLEASE no grade school civics lessons from anyone. I know quite well the history and rational for our system. I just don’t buy it anymore.

    Peter, your claim that all we need is a rational electorate to solve all our problems is nonsense. In our system we could have:

    100% voter rationality
    100% vote voter participation
    100% public financing
    100% vote count accuracy

    and a candidate REJECTED by the People can STILL be imposed on the nation by the EC.

    We can have all of the above and a mere 15% of the US population will still get 50% of the seats in the Senate.

    We can have all of the above and states can still be gerrymandered giving the state party in power up to 70% of the seats with 51% of the vote.

    We can have all of the above and 3/4 states smallest states needed to ratify any amendment will STILL be a minority of the population.

    We can have all of the above and a minority president and senators representing a minority of the population can pack the judiciary with right wing Neanderthals and enter the US into unwise international treaties.

    I could go on… but you SHOULD get the idea. The root problem is the ridiculous notion of state suffrage… as if states aren’t really those who live there.

    Our Constitution is really a vote weighting/dilution scheme that gives SOME citizens bigger votes depending on their choice of state residence. Such schemes are ILLEGAL at all other levels of government.

    The US system is fundamentally flawed. It is anti-
    democratic and clearly now it’s dysfunctional.
    But it’s protected by our civic religion that prevents most from thinking clearly about it… and it’s also virtually reform proof.

  • Alex

    I think filibuster certainly has its value. For instance, when you need to block a lunatic or an incompetent from being appointed to a life time position. However, when it’s threatened on most of the bills of any importance, the majority party has to learn how to deal with it. For example, call the bluff every single time, let them actually filibuster, get on all Sunday morning shows and pound it home how obstructionist the minority is and so forth. Frist use to do that a lot. Elections have consequences, so should filibusters.

  • ulTRAX

    Alex wrote: “I think filibuster certainly has its value.”

    The US Senate is probably the most dysfunctional legislative bodies ever conceived. On some level those in the Senate know that simple majorities may represent a mere 17-18% of the population and any decision they made would be considered morally illegitimate by the public.

    So they placed a band aid on the problem with the filibuster giving the illusion that any bill has to have some broad based support for passage. We see how that is working out.

    But the filibuster also makes possible the possibility that Senators representing some small minority of the population can block anything the majority wants.

    The US Senate is irredeemable and no amount of band aids can fix a representative body that is anti-democratic by design.

  • jeffe

    ulTRAX what would you replace US Senate with?
    A parliamentary system? What about the house of Representatives?

  • Mark S.

    How ’bout we replace it with a bordello somewhere in Nevada? Same thing, only more honest.

    I won’t use the “H” word to describe my opinion of that body, so I will use an “L” word. Loathe them…

    I too see Congress as irredeemable. I will not venture to guess what could replace it. In reality, I see this society in terminal decline due to a political slut culture that has metastasized to all levels of our society. What makes me even sadder is the fact that I simply don’t care anymore…

  • Natalie

    Nobody used to complain when Republicans were in control. I guess because they knew how to govern. Now we’ve got amateur hour.

  • ulTRAX

    Ellen wrote: Specifically about 100,000 more voters voted Brown than Coakley in Massachusetts, after a rather contentious Democratic primary before Christmas. And the day Brown won was Wintery Mix, bad for turnout. Slush, sleet, ice, snow.

    I won’t blame the weather. Coakley was an abysmal candidate and the DNC should have realized this and given her a kick in the ass.

    But I wanted to raise a different point.

    We and the media have a blind spot. We never look at any election result as a percentage of the voting age population (VAP). No matter how low the turnout… and midterm elections are always lower, the reported vote always totals 100%. That almost confers some moral legitimacy to any result… or is used as a gage of public opinion.

    Once things are placed in context, we see a different picture. Ronnie Reagan’s so called landslide represented the approval of only about 26% of the VAP. New Gingrich’s 1994 Republican Revolution represented the approval of only about 17-18% of VAP. Scott Brown got the approval of only 22% of the VAP.

    So why is the news never reported that 88% of the VAP either did not vote for Brown, or did care enough to vote? LOL

  • jeffe

    This is outrageous, from TPM: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/02/report-shelby-blocks-all-obama-nominations-in-the-senate-over-al-earmarks.php

    Report: Shelby Blocks All Obama Nominations In The Senate Over AL Earmarks

    Evan McMorris-Santoro, TPM

    Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put an extraordinary “blanket hold” on at least 70 nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, according to multiple reports this evening. The hold means no nominations can move forward unless Senate Democrats can secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold.

    “While holds are frequent,” CongressDaily’s Dan Friedman and Megan Scully report (sub. req.), “Senate aides said a blanket hold represents a far more aggressive use of the power than is normal.”

    The Mobile Press-Register picked up the story early this afternoon. The paper confirmed Reid’s account of the hold, and reported that a Shelby spokesperson “did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking confirmation of the senator’s action or his reason for doing so.”

    Shelby has been tight-lipped about the holds, offering only an unnamed spokesperson to reporters today to explain them. Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke the news of the blanket hold this afternoon. Reid aides told CongressDaily the hold extends to “all executive nominations on the Senate calendar.”

    According to the report, Shelby is holding Obama’s nominees hostage until a pair of lucrative programs that would send billions in taxpayer dollars to his home state get back on track. The two programs Shelby wants to move forward or else:

    - A $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers. From CongressDaily: “Northrop/EADS team would build the planes in Mobile, Ala., but has threatened to pull out of the competition unless the Air Force makes changes to a draft request for proposals.” Federal Times offers more details on the tanker deal, and also confirms its connection to the hold.

    - An improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI. From CongressDaily: “[Shelby] is frustrated that the Obama administration won’t build” the center, which Shelby earmarked $45 million for in 2008. The center is due to be based “at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal.”

    Though a Shelby spokesperson would not confirm that these programs were behind the blanket hold, the Senator expressed his frustration about the progress on both through a spokesperson to both CongressDaily and the Federal Times.

    A San Diego State University professor and Congressional expert told the Mobile paper “he knew of no previous use of a blanket hold” in recent history.

  • jeffe

    Nobody used to complain when Republicans were in control. I guess because they knew how to govern. Now we’ve got amateur hour.
    Posted by Natalie

    I guess you were asleep for the last 8 years.
    Why bother on posting such misinformed drivel?

  • Mark S.

    Thank you, Sen. Shelby, for confirming every condemnation and loathesome epithet I have ever used to refer to the U.S. Congress. You and the rest of your ilk are total b***ards and in your hands this country is done. If I had the ability to leave right now, I would.

  • ulTRAX

    Jeffe asked: “ulTRAX what would you replace US Senate with? A parliamentary system? What about the house of Representatives?

    I like the idea of checks and balances. The question never asked in the US is just which groups should be represented to provide a counterweight or a check. In our legislative branch the select groups are those in states, represented by their senators, or those in congressional districts represented by their House member.

    I understand why in a federal system those groups were chosen. Perhaps if the Constitutional Convention were not under duress to fix the failing Articles of Confederation, so many desirable democratic principles would not have been discard… principles were so clearly spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. It stated a new standard for morally legitimate government… that government derives its JUST powers from the CONSENT of the governed. We never got that system.

    What we got was a system that permits MINORITY CONTROL.

    The Electoral College can impose a candidate REJECTED by the people on the nation, and a mere 17-18% of the population can get 52 seats in the Senate. A MINORITY of citizens have the power through these institutions to pack the judiciary and enter the US into unwise international treaties. Since 1820 the 3/4 smallest states that can ratify an amendment have contained a minority of the US population! I could go on, but you get the picture.

    This is insane!

    Whatever reforms I could envision for the Constitution it would have to incorporate two key principles. The first is that representation would be democratic… no vote weighting/dilution schemes. Second, that the spectrum of ideas debated in the marketplace of ideas be broad. For reasons I won’t get into here, the spectrum of ideas now represented by the two parties is so narrow that I consider our system to be braindead.

    For the Senate I’d like to see a NATIONAL body… where citizens vote a party not a person. Our system deprives political minorities that widely dispersed of ANY voice. So if the Greens and the Libertarians each got 10% of a national vote, they’d each get 10% of the seats. This would provide an ideological check on the House.

    As for the House, I DO like the idea of regional representation. My concerns are different than someone living in NYC. But we must deal with the defects in our antiquated single member district, first-past-the-post electoral system. It’s just incapable of accurately measuring the Will Of The People. All the citizens NOT voting for the winner, just don’t count. I can vote (and be taxed) forever and because I’m a Progressive I’ll never get any representation (in the Senate as well). Worst, it’s this very system that is behind the creation of the two party system. Any attempt to create a third party splits a majority with the so-called spoiler effect giving the election to the minority. Our system PUNISHES voters for voting their conscience. I believe it’s our very system that is behind the abysmal voting rates in the US.

    We have to move to a system of proportional representation (PR) and with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) when necessary. To preserve the idea of regional representation I like the idea of multi-member districts. So instead of voting for ONE representative per district, they could be combined, then voters could vote for 4 or 5 representatives from a slate. Just what method should be used for picking the slate is another matter. Some ideas are here:

    http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/prlib.htm
    http://www.proportional-representation.org/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_representation

    I just came across a quote that reminded me of a discussion Peter N and I had in another forum. He was claiming that our party platforms proved that we were a more conservative nation than the social democracies of Europe. While I agree, I don’t think our political parties can be used as the gage. I simply don’t believe that in our antiquated and dysfunctional system, they accurately reflect the population any more than our Senators and Representatives do. The quote is:

    “Because of our peculiar electoral law, the American government is divided between two parties. The American people are not.” Michael Lind, Atlantic Monthly, August, 1992

    I could not agree more.

  • Brett

    “When we were talking about health care a few weeks ago I discussed it terms of my wife’s cancer, the cost of drugs and insurance. All of us have life experiences that can enrich the discussions here.” -peter nelson

    I couldn’t agree more, peter. It is important for people on this forum, and in general discussions in their lives, to relate personal stories as they pertain to concerns in our society. We must never forget the fact that these issues we all discuss are very real and directly affect us all. And the more we get to know each commenter here on this forum, the more engaging and enriching the conversations become. We also lose a bit of our anonymity, in a way, over time. This helps people to look at each other as real individuals who have real concerns, and who deserve respect. Of course, this may not apply to Louise :-)

  • jeffe

    ulTRAX it sound to me that you’re advocating for a parliamentary system. While I think it works better in getting things done it can also hurt the country.

    I lived in Great Britain during the Thatcher years and I have to say that woman and her party did a lot damage to the country. She was in power for ten years as well.

    I lived in Scotland, and the majority of the population was labor and voted for that party. Thatcher took it out on them, they suffered a lot under her. They called her the Iron Lady. By the way about 80% of the population voted and people were very political. I remember the coal miner’s strikes and the poll tax protest with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets. In Glasgow when the sheriffs came around to evict people from their homes for failure to pay the poll tax the whole neighborhood would stand firm and force them to retreat. Hell has no fury like a pissed off Scot.

  • ulTRAX

    Jeffe wrote: “ulTRAX it sound to me that you’re advocating for a parliamentary system. While I think it works better in getting things done it can also hurt the country.
    I lived in Great Britain during the Thatcher years and I have to say that woman and her party did a lot damage to the country. She was in power for ten years as well.

    I don’t know what the circumstances were in Britain so I don’t know what support the Conservative Party had with the People. And we can have proportional representation in both houses without eliminating the presidency… though I’d argue the EC has to be abolished.

    But I DO know that our system gave us Bush2… who was REJECTED by the people. US and world history changed for the worst WITHOUT the consent of the governed. Election 2000 proved the world’s only superpower was not controlled by its own people.

    I’d rather take my chances in a democratic system that reflected the will of the people, then the US system which clearly can allow minority government and has an artificially narrow spectrum of debate.

  • jeffe

    ulTRAX I’m not advocating for our seemingly failed system.
    Part of the outcome of Thatcher’s tenure was Scottish independence, or at least more autonomy. They now have a Parliament.

    The Conservatives won because they won England by a huge majority and labor really messed up. The population of England is pretty large in comparison to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I think the Conservatives took NI and Wales as well, but it was a long time ago.

    Anyway I do think you make some very good and valid points. The mess we have now however seems to me to be the making of both parties and the democrat’s seem unable to lead. They should play hardball and be done with it.

  • ulTRAX

    jeffe wrote: “The mess we have now however seems to me to be the making of both parties and the democrat’s seem unable to lead. They should play hardball and be done with it.”

    I agree they should play hardball, but I’d argue the greater dysfunctionality of the system is more to blame. For instance a stat posted by C Vigneron, on February 3rd, 2010 at 9:48 am

    “I’ve just finished James Fallows piece in the Atlantic. I especially enjoyed the fact that the (Gang of Six) senators representing 3% of Americans stalled health care reform for the 97% of the rest.”

    And today we learn that Sen. Shelby (R-AL) has put a hold on SEVENTY of Obama’s nominees holding them hostage to get some earmarks for his state:
    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/white-house-blasts-shelby-hold-on-nominees/

    The Senate is inherently anti-democratic and I’d argue dysfunctional… and its rules only make that situation even more ridiculous.

    I believe that federalism has its place… say when diverse groups need to form a central government. As in the Constitutional Convention, small groups will fight to preserve their voice.

    But there are ways to preserve the rights of small groups (or states) without the need to go anti-democratic and risk minority rule. Sadly, the Framers didn’t go that route… and once the concept of state suffrage was set in cement in the Constitution, demographics have been working these past 225 years to make our government more and more anti-democratic. For example the population ratio between California and Wyoming was in 1900 16:1. In 2000 it was about 70:1.

    So aide from the mess in the Senate, these population changes wreck havoc with ALL those provisions of the Constitution that deal with State Suffrage. Now the ¾ of the states needed to ratify any amendment now contain as little as 40% of the population while the 12 smallest states that can block any amendment have a mere 3.8% of the population!

    There’s NO Constitutional protection against this insanity AND NEITHER PARTY EVEN MENTIONS IT!

  • jeffe

    I posted an article on Sen. Shelby above on the same story, that man is one piece of work. There should be rules against this kind of BS. You’re right the Senate is
    anti-democratic and dysfunctional.

  • ulTRAX

    Did a search of OnPoint and there are two shows that deal with the anti-democratic nature of the Constitution…

    http://www.onpointradio.org/2002/08/how-democratic-is-the-american-constitution

    http://www.onpointradio.org/2006/12/correcting-the-constitution

    I have both books. The problem with Robert A. Dahl’s book (first show) is that he’s too differential to the official Civic Religion.

    Dahl mentions, but refuses to embrace, true democratic principles. He is overly apologetic for ANY of his questioning of the Constitution.

    The book would have been more useful if he employed some moral clarity.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think it was Bill Moyers’ Journal Friday night that addressed the constitutional issues, the way our representatives are attacking the problem especially post Citizens United. (Also a good piece on the efforts of single payer being thwarted specifically by the Administration.)
    I have to say I feel a huge let-down by the Supreme Court, as it was my understanding that those justices plus the Bill of Rights stand guardian on “consent of the governed,” working to see that someone isn’t treated unfairly just because they are a minority (of any sort). The majority isn’t supposed to trample on the nonmajority.
    I might add, the easily deluded majority, a “bought” majority, fueled and intoxicated by the careful use of the monies of the rich throughout elections (via publicity of various sorts) and throughout votes (via lobbies).
    There is a big issue if the internet can somehow stand up to the influence of Big Money, which clearly has the interest of maintaining their power and influence, which can certainly collide with the National Self-Interest or the interests of the majority. The idiot majority.
    Under George W. Bush, it wasn’t worth complaining. We go to war, using Chinese money, because of one of “our guys” in Afghanistan having run amok, becoming an international band of bandits, so to speak. And all of a sudden government seemed upside down. Now, with Obama, we get to a point where we have to unravel the mess, and the Supreme Court seems rooted in that unfortunate decade. No, of course he isn’t god.
    But I don’t understand the decision in Citizens, and I have to leave it to someone else with the time and expertise to sort it out, but there is no more time for this monkey-business in Washington.
    The justices are desperately needed to work for the fairness and principles that have been under us from the beginning. I am not at all sure they are, right now.

  • Sam Wilson

    Wow, I cant believe that democracy can be used against democracy.. this is unbelievable.. !!!

    I wish USA very best!!

  • Matt

    This is one of the most absurd On Point broadcasts I’ve ever heard. The United States is a democracy? Checks and balances are a bad thing? Government’s role is to take care of our problems? Sounds like the panel’s public school education has gotten to their heads.

  • Lee

    The broken part of Congress is the Senate and not the House of Representatives. The public is also to blame by re-electing Senators who are bought by lobbyiest.

  • Chris Hearn

    Heather- well put.

    The cry of “we want our country back” is nonsense.

    Obama and the Dems (along with Republicans and others by the way) were elected in free and fair elections. How is being freely elected taking over the country? By whom?Voters who voted in a legal election?

    If you don’t like the policies of the Dems, does that mean that they are trying to “take over?” That’s being pretty immature.

    Maybe the caller is trying to take away the Democrat’s country. : )

  • http://McOwskey.com Eddie McOwskey

    I saw this standup bit from Jeremiah Murphy which I thought was appropo:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYztNaPg0mY

  • Troy From Iowa
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