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Hard Times And Polarized Politics

Economist Benjamin Friedman on how hard times feed polarized politics.

Fog obscures the Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Fog obscures the Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Why are American politics and American policy so stuck?  So stuck that what should be a dynamic economy is now seen as maybe the biggest threat to the world economy… because of Washington.

Economist Benjamin Friedman says we’re in a trap.  A bad economy is prompting bad policy from Washington, he says.  Good times, good policy.  Bad times, bad policy.  And we’re in a world of bad right now.

We need to break the cycle.  But how?  Up next On Point:  economist Benjamin Friedman on how hard times feed bad politics.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Benjamin Friedman, economist and professor of political economy at Harvard University. Author of “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth.” You can read an excerpt here.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of No Labels, a political non-profit made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, dedicated to problem solving. Former state treasurer of Kentucky. (@recoveringpol)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “We typically blame Washington for not doing more to help the economy grow. But what if we have it backward: What if it is the weak economy that is driving the failures in Washington? That is what Benjamin Friedman, a Harvard economist who has studied the way slow growth frays societies and strains politics, thinks.”

Columbia Dispatch “Why was it so difficult to avoid the fiscal cliff? Especially when, in the end, Congress couldn’t salvage a grand bargain a la Simpson-Bowles, but instead settled for a quick fix? In a word, it’s polarization — the complete inability of our elected officials to work together for our general welfare. The deeper question is where does polarization originate and what perpetuates it at a time when constituents want Congress to compromise?”

 

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  • Gregg Smith

    How is compromise possible when the Senate refuses to vote? How many House bills died in the Senate? If “Cut, Cap and Balance”, or any of the other jobs bills passed, was so bad then why not let it go down in flames with a Senate vote? At that point The House must compromise, but no.

    • Don_B1

      The Senate “refuses to vote” because Senator Mitch McConnell (R, KY), the Minority Leader, has convinced all the Republican Senators to vote against all measures that would advance Obama’s agenda, no matter how much it hurts the American people.

      The Republicans use the filibuster to delay every piece of legislation from the committee process to the appearance on the floor of the Senate for final vote. To get to the Senate floor, they are able to add amendments that totally poison the bill, making it unsupportable by anyone.

      But to get their $1.2 trillion in cuts with the agreement to raise the Debt Ceiling in 2011, they passed a bill, called the Budget Control Act of 2011, which effectively replaced the much ballyhooed “lack of a budget” that Gregg just cannot control himself in constantly calling out the lack of a “Senate budget.”

      Pure hooey from Gregg, as usual!

      • Gregg Smith

        I don’t have the awesome respect for McConnell that you do. Reid does not bring the bills to a vote. Why? If it’s unsupportable then vote. Prove it. Move on.

  • Steve_in_Vermont

    This isn’t rocket science. When there was plenty of money to go around everyone got a piece of the pie. Now we’re told the resources are limited and so we’ll all have to accept smaller pieces. Some people are afraid they won’t get “their share”, others are concerned they won’t get any at all. We’ve developed a culture of “entitlement” and are now fighting over diminishing resources. And congress is simply the arena hosting these fights.

    • Kathy

      But the resources aren’t diminishing. Our economy is growing. This is a wealthy country. The only thing that’s changed is how the pie is divided.

      • Don_B1

        Exactly!

        Note that the wealthy are being quite successful in capturing most of the growth in profits for the last 30 years (note how that fits with the beginning of “Reagan — Voodoo — economics”) hopefully peaking with the 1% getting 93% of the growth in profits in the beginning of the recovery from the Great Recession in 2009-2010.

        But this started earlier, as demonstrated by the growth of the financial sector (e.g., investment banking) which grew from around 10% to 12% of the economy to over 30% in the last 30 years or so, and in its search to generate increased profits jumped head over heels into derivatives, particularly Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) which led to pure speculation rather than economic growth. That was exemplified by the speculators at the London group of A.I.G., which, without the TARP bailout (also saving Goldman Sacks investments in A.I.G.) would have taken that company down like Lehman Brothers, and the current problems at J.P. Morgan Chase, which lost some $6 billion from speculation which was initiated at a London group that was supposed to protect it against a $100 million loss.

        The rich, particularly the ultra-rich, are moving into what economists call rent-seeking activities, which simply extract more money from other people, not only in charging rent, like the feudal lords of the Middle Ages, but through monopolies allowed or granted by the government (e.g., cable companies inn general economy or Halliburton in its Defense Department contracts for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, etc.) and just plain low taxes which give them a cost advantage over other enterprises, as in large companies over struggling new companies. That is what led the investment banks to hunt for mortgages to slice and dice into derivatives (Collateralized Debt Obligations — CDOs) which drove the housing bubble and put some 25% to 50% of the rest of Americans in debt or fear of debt, which led to a big decline in aggregate demand for goods and services and thus made the severity of the Great Recession a completely different beast from all the other “recessions” since the two recessions that, with inappropriate response measures, created the Great Depression of the 1930s.

        Thankfully President Obama’s ARRA (Stimulus) prevented another Great Depression, but Republican obstruction of further stimulus actions has left the country in a weak recovery, leaving the country suffering from a Lesser Depression, but a depressed economy nevertheless.

  • MarkVII88

    I have no faith in government anymore at the federal, state, or local levels.  I’m relatively young and in the time I’ve been eligible to vote, there hasn’t really been anything or anyone worth voting for, just worth voting against.  I simply assume that I’m going to get screwed one way or the other, no matter who’s in power or what the policy agenda is.  Too many people want to have their cake and eat it too, including voters.  Until this changes, we’re just going to continue hearing that loud flushing sound as our nation, states, and towns go down the toilet.  Cheers everyone!

    • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

      I can not disagree with how you judge our current crop of politicians.  If you are under thirty you are getting screwed and hard.  But I would suggest that those are the reasons why you need to become more involved in politics.  Do not abdicate on this.  No one else will do it, so it must be you.

      • MarkVII88

         I’ve said this to others before but I don’t think I’m a good candidate to be more involved in politics at any level.  First, I don’t have the ability to tolerate the preponderance of B.S. at any level of politics and that wouldn’t take me far.  Secondly, I’m not approaching this from a truly altruistic point of view.  Maybe I can be somewhat representative of the frustrated masses but I’m really only concerned with how my family and I have gotten screwed.  I’m not someone to hold up as an example.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Hey, neither should Joe the Plumber have been held up as an example, but that didn’t stop him. You’re not a lying fakir like he is. Plenty of people are frustrated, and you don’t seem to be blaming it on “The Other”, so good on ‘ya.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Great comment.

    • Don_B1

      While I can see reasons for your lack of faith in the current government, I deeply urge you to think deeper and consider how your attitude gets things changed.

      And I can also see how those that did not like the conditions of 2008-2009 rose up and protested and only,, at least in my opinion, made things worse. I believe that many of those who joined the Tea Party protests were deeply conservative already (see work by Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institute and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute) and were easily drawn into accepting ideas from wealthy individuals such as the Koch brothers and other oligarchy-supporting billionaires that embrace measures that not only would not make the country more economically robust, but would further weaken the country economically by weakening the middle class and poor.

      So I would encourage you to investigate the current divides in economic theory and climate science and hope you have the wisdom to reject the “elite theories” which economically created the Great Depression and are live today and the anti-science culture that is appealed to by those that have a vested interest in fossil fuel extraction. These two issues are promoted by the Republican Party, which has decided, presumably for monetary reasons, to not give a whit that they will be found to have been severely on the wrong side of history.

      Basically, the Republican Party leadership has decided to put all their marbles on the short term, as so many businesses do that soon afterwards fail and go bankrupt, instead of building for the future.

      I would hope that you could look at the issues that this country is currently facing and decide to get out and, leaning the ins and outs of that issue, work to get the country to face and put in place steps to mitigate and avoid the disaster that will occur if they are not faced and dealt with.

      Be aware that those who tell you that the deficit is the most important of these issues are leading you down a path to future ruin; it is jobs for the currently unemployed that must be the prime issue with mitigation of CO2 emissions a close second.

  • responseTwo

    Income inequality – I heard an historian, not sure if was on NPR, say that it has been shown throughout history income inequality brings political instability.

    Off shoring of jobs and lower wages – like previous post has said,  when there’s less t go around

    Our government is not run by us, it’s run by the people who have acquired all the money by using our ever harder work and cheaper labor.

    An idealistic government that has no idea about what the average citizen’s life is like.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    The hard times didn’t just happen, they’re a direct consequence of the class warfare practiced by the right since 1980. And let’s be careful about saying “weak economy”, it’s never been stronger for the romney types. They have very successfully changed our great middle class society into a plutocracy.

    We don’t need any more simpson-bowles type grand sellouts – we need a new FDR who can reverse our course.

    • nj_v2

      * Ding, ding, ding * We have a winner!

      Glad to see someone else gets it!

      The thing is, there is no new FDR on the horizon. And without significant and sustained organizing and movement building, we’re likely to continue to get corporate puppets, who, at best (like Obama), makes grand speeches about noble populist themes, but still serve the interests of the people he’ll likely go to work for when the door revolves in four years.

  • AC

    because we are at a major cross-roads in history, akin to the industrustrial revolution, technology is forcing so many to re-invent themselves and many are feeling displaced and plain old irrelevant.

    instead of preparing us for the future, politics (& even the ‘displaced’ people) seem to be relying on old methods of governing and believing their own brainwash because it’s easier then defining a path that is ethical and sound to move forward.

    we’ll stumble through and a historian one hundred years from now will lay it all out and say “hmmm, oh, ah-ha!, well”…..etc
    but you all know how i do like to go on about this, but since my communication skills stink, i’ll stop here rather than droning on and on, blithely expounding while you want to rip your hair out. or mine. :)

    • nj_v2

      I’d say a lot of roads are crossing, or soon will be. 

      In addition to technology and robotics taking many jobs from humans, we’ve got peak fossils fuel on the doorstep, global climate change, failures of industrial agriculture, record rates of species extinction, widespread ecosystem degradation, record rates of economic inequality, corporate control of the national political system…

      Bad as it is, though, i don’t think i’d ever get to the point where i’d want to pull your hair out. 

    • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

      Do you read any of Walter Russell Meads writing on the topic? 

      http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/01/16/life-after-blue/

  • Shag_Wevera

    The House isn’t the straw that stirs the drink, dude.  Maybe they should act like the minority that they are.

    • Shag_Wevera

      This was meant as a response to Greggg Smith earlier, but my Disqus gymnastics ended up posting my response here.

    • Gregg Smith

      Actually it is.

    • William

       Maybe the Republicans should consult with Nancy Pelosi about some sort of “Minority Rights” bill for themselves in the Senate. Nancy was pushing that idea back in 2004 for herself/Democrats.

  • Shag_Wevera

    On Point staff.  The next time you make me F*** around with my password and go to this and that site to post a comment, I WON’T BE BACK.  This isn’t a threat, but a mere statement of fact.  I like contributing, but am tired of the bi-monthly reset. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      You have a Disqus account I see. I use another one of the linked-in services, and (only anecdotally speaking for myself) it doesn’t make me change my password.

      • nj_v2

        Does the other “linked-in service” allow for comment editing after posting? Does it record your posting history the way Discrud does?

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          I get to edit my posts. (And given my spelling and carriage returns, I need it!)

          I don’t know if it records my posts.

          (PS I use Yahoo to post here.)

          • nj_v2

            Hmmm…i’ve had less-than-satisfactory experience with various Yahoo “services” over the years. Guess i’ll continue to put up with Discircus.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            I never used Yahoo for anything else, so I don’t depend on them for anything but posting here. I already have enough email addresses from enough domains, like many folks.

            But I do notice when I’m automatically linked to Disqus (which I leave on the PC I use here) and open up a tab for Yahoo, it invites me to sign in. So you may be able to create an entire Yahoo account for nothing but Disqus commenting–no promises, but it may be worth a shot.

          • http://wh.gov/IVp4 Yar

            I can edit with my Disqus account.  It may be a browser setting that is causing your problems.  I use Chrome.  Disqus does tend ignore returns. I sometimes will edit them back in after the default format takes them out.  They appear to stay, at least on my browser.  We never know what our posts look like on a different browser.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Are you on a Windows PC? I’m curious about what hoops I’d need to put it on Linux, and if it’s too knitted in to my Google email to shred whatever bit of privacy I have left.

          • http://wh.gov/IVp4 Yar

            I am currently using a XP OS, I have used Ubuntu with similar results, I am happy with the Chrome browser.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Woohoo, Ubuntu!

  • peterlake

    The delta between Obama’s approval by Democrats and his disapproval by Republicans has reached the record 76% difference, a gap that he promised in 2008 to bridge.

    Instead, his policies have widened it to this high level and nothing he’s likely to do will change the direction.

    Remember the old joke, “Someone said to me ‘Cheer up. Things could get worse.’  So I cheered up and sure enough, things got worse.”

    Well, cheer up about Obama’s dissention gap. It will get worse.
     

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      The right wouldn’t approve of Obama unless McConnell wrote the President’s speeches and Palin delivered them. Obama spent two years trying to work with the most obstructionist Congress ever. Don’t try to paper that over.

      The mainstream media’s polite, non-partisan fiction that “both sides are to blame” for being sooooooo paaaartisan! isn’t gonna fly in this space.

      • Gregg Smith

        You can’t be serious.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Go pretend you’re an intellectual in the cesspool message boards attached to the right-wing or hopelessly feckless mainstream press corpse.

          But here? I’m dead serious about NPR not wasting one more second pretending “the center is the place to be” when Democrats win, and “Elephants are stampeding us all to the Right” when Republicans win. About further denuding its journalistic output because trolls on a message board, which every other media organ in the world is capable of ignoring, have to be “included” and “made part of the conversation” no matter how wingnutty their underlying tenets are. That right wing listeners have to be “appealed to” (NPR’s ombud’s actual words) while schizophrenically its mission of actually providing news coverage should not be debased.

          • Gregg Smith

            Oh no, I’m no intellectual but I know BS when I see it. 

          • keltcrusader

            but not when you spew it apparently

          • Gregg Smith

            Mostly I am told that I spew BS but rarely am told where I am wrong unless I am first told what I think. That’s cool. I’m doing the same thing to TF now but he/she did it first.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            One non-racist, non-misogynistic, athiestic Greggg doesn’t equal a base of 100 million Right-wingers who aren’t racists, gay-haters and misogynists.

            Have you’ve lain down with dogs for so long the flea bites don’t even register? They’re the base driving your side. They’re the ones the right needs to win. And you seem to look over many of their crap ideas while the right’s leaders get more and more wingnut.

            Your purity and truthfulness isn’t my concern. As far as I know, you’re a stand up fellow. But you’re as blind as a bat.

          • Gregg Smith

            Look TF, I disagree and I think the same about you… big time. I just don’t say it. Just because I see the world differently doesn’t mean I’m blind. But whatever.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            You don’t “think the same I do”, as the “radical left” isn’t anything near the seat of power that the wingnuts on the right are.

            Otherwise we’d have, I dunno, a mainstream media which had half its places at the table for people who’d loudly scorn and laugh at the folks who seriously say “Social Security is in financial trouble” or “Medicare needing to be slashed”. To name just two.

    • nj_v2

      Disapproval by the current group of rabid, batshit crazy ideologues in control of the Republican party likely means that whatever being disapproved of has significant merit.

      Public opinion of the Teabaggers and their agenda is degrading. Now is the time to stand up to the forces of regression, “austerity,” and the dismantling of the public commons.
      .

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Do you mean “public approval of the Tea Party is sinking like a stone”?

        I mean, it’s just a guess. Not like The Nightly News or our Sunday Gasbags have changed anything about their coverage to reflect that.

        • MrNutso

          Because of the sinking approval and negative connotations attached to “Tea Party”, Tea Party organizations are rebranding themselves.

      • peterlake

         Good luck with that.
        Check back here in a year when it you find nothing changed.

      • peterlake

        You’ve completely missed the point.
        Again.
        The poll was not taken amongst “rabid, batshit crazy ideologues in control of the Republican part” but among citizens who self-identify with the Republican Party.

    • Mike_Card

      Just offhand, I’d think the gap reflects the growing shortage of angry old white guys.

      • peterlake

        You need a math lesson.

    • jimino

      I’m seeing an increasing number of letters and on-line comments from obvious right-wingers demanding that their Social Security and Medicare benefits be totally off limits in any budget cuts.  They invariably blame Obama and the Democrats for the threat to them and consider the Republicans, and especially the tea partiers among them. as being on their side. They obviously have things completely ass-backwards.

      I conclude that much of the “dissension gap” is fueled by ignorance.

    • hennorama

      peterlake – the saying “It takes two to tango” comes immediately to mind when discussing bipartisanship.

      Then one recalls that Republicans reportedly met on Inauguration Day in 2009 to plan out a strategy of opposition and obstruction to Pres. Obama (a.k.a. “Just say NO!”).  One also recalls Sen. McConnell’s public comments saying “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term” and “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

       The very same Sen. McConnell then recently had the chutzpah/audacity/onions/stones/huevos to say   “I need a dance partner.” when it came to the fiscal conundrum negotiations.

      It’s no surprise that there has been precious little bipartisanship.  Without a second entity involved, bipartisanship reverts to partisanship.

  • http://twitter.com/Astraspider Astraspider

    I hope your hour doesn’t walk right into the false equivalency that both sides are somehow to blame. Rather, the Republican party has unilaterally “polarized” itself. The Democratic party maintains a strong footing in the center, in some cases even center/right (if you put Obama in a time machine and sent him to 1972 he’d run to the *right* of Richard Nixon on many issues).

    Rather, it’s a revanchist streak in the GOP that has lead to it’s lurch to the extremes (redefinitions of rape, gun zealotry, immigrant phobia, muslim baiting, U.N. conspiracy theories, et. al.). The sober middle shouldn’t be blamed for “polarization” just because they have the good reason to routinely reject those positions.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      First, “revanchist”? Cool word, and bonus points for using it correctly.

      Second, if you’re worried about false equivalency, I must warn you that there’s a “No Labels” guy here.

      In its patronizing desire to instruct us on what is wrong with our politics, No Labels ends up being a damning indictment of just how alarmingly out of touch the mainstream political-media elite remains with the grievances that have driven Americans to cynicism and despair in the 21st century’s Gilded Age.

      Frank Rich

      • MrNutso

        I think No Labels and similar organizations are actually exacerbating the problem.  We are focusing to much on the illness rather than the symptoms.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          (Is that reversed wording? “Focusing on the symptoms rather than the illness” sounds like what you meant.)

          Again, so many things boil down to mediascape for me. And our mainstream media is fetishizing non-partisanship to a faretheewell, to the neglect of good policy.

          • MrNutso

            I think I have it right in this case.  Illness: the inability of our government to function (among other things).  Symtpom:  One political party that will do anything to get their way and prevent the other party from getting their way.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Thanks for clearing that up. (Once more, if this was face-to-face I’d have know the meaning right off the bat. Darned pixels.)

          • Kathy

            Well and a Republican party that really represents ideas that are not only fringe, but outright insane.

          • Gregg Smith

            When Obama submitted a budget the Democrat controlled Senate voted it down 99-0. Was that a mainstream budget? Was it sane?

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Cite, please. Somehow I think you’re lying about who submitted whose budget.

          • Gregg Smith
          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Washington Times! You’re know by yourlinks, as the saying goes.

          • 1Brett1

            I thought Gregg has maintained that Obama has never submitted a budget? Sorry, I guess I’ll get an “alrighty then,” a “it’s not about me,” “we’ve already established I’m an idiot who kills kittens,” “don’t tell me what I think” or some such pat reply…

          • Gregg Smith

            Nope, I’ve maintained  he’s never operated under one. But I would say he’s never submitted a realistic budget.And I don’tkill kittens.

          • http://twitter.com/Astraspider Astraspider

            That was a hoax budget proposal. It was the GOP’s recreation of what they thought the Obama budget would look like. Much like the Right’s paranoia about Obama in general, it had little basis in fact and no one voted for it. In retrospect, I bet the Dems wish they voted “present”.

    • Gregg Smith

      It’s much easier to criticize things that are made up. So now the Republican Party has redefined rape? Is sending assault weapons to Mexico to be used to kill Americans gun zealotry? If one opposes a President granting amnesty by EO does that mean they are phobic about immigrants? That’s extreme. Infringing on religious freedoms is extreme. Using force without Congressional approval is extreme. Operating without a budget is extreme. Trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see are extreme. Passing the most sweeping and impactful legislation in a century on a totally partisan basis with bribes, kickbacks, reconciliation and lies about the costs is extreme. 

      • Ray in VT

        Wow, those things would be extreme.  It’s a good thing that this administration isn’t actually doing most of those.  It is much easier to criticize things that are made up, which is probably why the so many use that tactic against the current administration.

        • Gregg Smith

          Sorry, Obama has done them all. Did he get congressional approval for Libya? Did he end deportations of certain illegals by EO or not? At one time he swore he didn’t have the power but he did it anyway. Are Catholics required to pay for insurance that covers contraception or not? How is that not infringing on their religious freedom? Are you saying we are operating under a budget? Has there been or is there projected a deficit under a trillion dollars? Was Obamacare bipartisan? Were the original cost estimates accurate? Did I make up the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase or Stupek’s signing statement?  

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            “Did I make up…”

            Yeah, don’t go asking questions you don’t want answered, especially your tripe about Are Catholics required to pay for insurance that covers contraception or
            not? How is that not infringing on their religious freedom?

            Been asked, been answered. You just don’t like the answer.

          • Gregg Smith

            I suspect that is the one Ray is referring to when he says most. I’m not keen on debating it again but I have not seen a convincing argument to refute it. Mostly I saw gibberish about institutions and distinctions about insurance. As if the Constitution says anything about it. Catholics are being forced to pay for contraception and that is an infringement on religious freedom. So go ahead and tell me how many Catholic women use contraception or some other irrelevant fact that does not change squat.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            At some point, convincing you, mighty needle-threading “pro choice” “athiest” Tea Party member, is not my problem. You don’t statistically exist.

            All I have to do is keep pointing out that you don’t exist in anything like the numbers you pretend you do, no matter how often your types get invited to the media’s table, and have incredibly outsized representation within the mainstream media’s Rolodex.

            You are not a minority whose rights are being trampled by a majority. You are not a majority. Your concerns about the USCCB’s “religious liberty” to trample on non-church employees’ rights for the insurance they paid for is well-documented in this space.

            But pretend to yourself whatever you care to.

          • Gregg Smith

            I know, I know, it’s all about me. If I don’t exist then you don’t have to refute what I wrote… and you didn’t. Not that I want you to.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            You exist. Stop lying about my words.

            But only thanks to wimps in the mainstream media, and your position on  Bullshit Mountain, do you get the fanciful idea that you represent something sorely lacking in our press corpse (no sic), and you’re some persecuted class.

            Would the mainstream media stop bending over forward (no sic) accomodating the Tea Party sorts, you’d blow a gasket, as you’ve been conditioned to think that you’re the oppressed class, no matter what polls or election results  show.

          • Gregg Smith

            Pleasedon’t tell me what I think.

          • 1Brett1

            No, Catholic-run businesses are being forced to conform to the same standards as all other businesses…the Church itself isn’t being forced to do anything that infringes on its religious freedom. This is an important distinction. Should religious organizations be exempt from standards imposed on practices that are non-religious if they engage in the same non-religious activities (and being made to conform ONLY to those activities)?

          • Gregg Smith

            The Constitution  is not about the church, organizations or institutions. It’s about the individual. Free contraception is not a standard.

          • 1Brett1

            That’s a sidestep.I was replying to your charge that Catholics’religious freedomsare being infringed upon; they are not. Catholic-run businesses are being made to conform to the same practicesas other businesses. YOu can argue that you think this is wrong, just not that it infringes upon religious freedom,that’s all.

          • Gregg Smith

            So they can make any law,no  matter what?

          • Gregg Smith

            Government cannot impose whatever law they want without regard to the Constitution. Catholics are being forced to pay for contraception. That is an infringement on their religious freedom. How is it not? 

          • 1Brett1

            Catholics should stop engaging in outside businesses, then. 

            Their business deals are exempt from taxation; their investments are exempt from taxation; they’re lucky to have such status under protection of the Constitution…wait, is that in the Constitution? No, there’s nothing in the Constitution about exempting churches that engage in business from paying taxes. Should Catholics be forced to follow only that which is in the Constitution? Should they then be exempt from implemented the ACA citing it is against their religious beliefs? 

            Since you and I disagree, why not let the Supreme Court settle it, or have they already?

          • Gregg Smith

            Religius freedom is in the Constitution. We can debate the tax code  but the box got me. 
            SCOTUS will eventually decide.

          • Ray in VT

            Did he get approval?  No.  Did he need it?  History says no.  You paint something that has a long history of precedent as being an extreme act, and, given the long history of such a practice, including briefs and statements from both Bush administrations, as well as the fact that Congress never approved the use of force in Korea under Truman, it is not.

            Did he end the deportations of some illegals by executive order?  Yes.  Did he say at one point that he couldn’t?  Yup.  Did he say later that he could?  Yes.  Surely the administration didn’t look at the history of such use and change it’s position.  Oh, the horror.

            States have required religious institutions to pay for such contraceptive coverage for years, and there is quite a long history of religious groups having to follow laws that they don’t like.  Let the courts work it out before working yourself into a froth on this one.

            The House keeps passing spending bills without a budget.  They’re working it out.  If it’s such a big problem, then let them shut it all down.

            As for the stuff in the ACA of the issues with it’s passing, that is the legislative sausage mill.  To present such moves as extreme would be inaccurate, because there have pretty much always been deals and sweeteners given.  Does one need to like it?  No, but it is the way that it’s been done for decades, so one can’t call it extreme, and if the GOP has made up their minds that they won’t deal, then fine.  They’re generally pretty good at keeping all of their ducks in line one way or the other, and there was plenty of deals, via earmarks and such, that they used to do that when they were in charge under Bush.  That’s one way that Delay got votes.  He bought them off.  It’s just too bad that that convicted felon is still walking free a year after conviction.

          • Gregg Smith

            So are you now saying he did do most of those things but it’s okay?

            Edit: When was the last time America used force without Congressional approval? I think it may have been Clinton the day Monica testified. Or was it the Democrat Truman?

          • Ray in VT

            I’m saying that your points have roots of truth, although you’ve distorted the effect, the intent or the history to fit your highly partisan view of the world.  They would be extreme if done as you have presented them, but that isn’t the case.

          • Gregg Smith

            Well, I believe yours is the partisan view to fit your rewrite of history but that’s the way it goes. We made our points, I’m happy to let them stand. 

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Yep. Making whatever horseshite you believe in “one side of the story” on public radio = “happy to let them stand”.

          • Gregg Smith

            Why beat a dead horse?

          • StilllHere

            You know horseshite for it is you.

      • DrewInGeorgia

        I’ve read your comment and all of the resulting responses, I’m not going to get into any of it because it is pointless. Finger-Pointing is what got us here. I would like to say though that it amazes me that some people believe President Obama is The Devil, yet they had no problem with what amounted to suspension of Habeas Corpus, trampling of civil liberties, murder of unarmed civilians…You finish the list, it’s certainly a long one.

        • Gregg Smith

          I appreciate you not wanting to have a pointless debate. I do think it’s not very productive to assume what people didn’t have a problem with though.

          Just keep in mind, mine was a reply. I did not start this thread. I do not like painting generalizations with a broad brush so I chimed in.

      • http://twitter.com/Astraspider Astraspider

        I’ll unpack your misinformation in pieces. (1) The 2012 GOP Vice Presidential pick has sponsored legislation to redefine rape, along with his co-hort, disgraced Rep. Todd Akin. (2) The Fast & Furious debacle was largely attributable to Arizona’s free-for-all gun laws. They leaked across the border because the ATF didn’t have the law — or AZ prosecutors — on their side. (3) The 2012 hispanic vote totals should teach you everything you need to know about the vile sensibilities Republicans exude on immigrant policy. (4) Christianity has always had a privileged place in our society. Giving equal protection to everyone else is only “infringing” on Christianity if you’ve taken those privileges for granted. (5) The last time Congress exercised its authority to declare war was in 1942. (6) No one is “polarized” that there is a deficit. We might be, however, polarized on how to tackle it. (7) And, lastly, your complaints about how the ACA was passed ignores not only how the sausage factory makes sausage, but the fact that the legislation has a market-based Heritage Foundation provenance that the 2012 GOP Presidential pick endorsed.

        • Gregg Smith

          No, #1 is absolutely false. I know the meme but it did not happen. Mother Jones made hay out of it but when you get down to it the charge doesn’t hold up. I’ll try and look it up and post.

          #2) That’s crazy. They walked hundreds of guns across the boarder without tracking them or telling the MExican government. Hundreds were killed because of it. Blaming Arizona is silly. When they tried to tighten immigration laws the government sued them.

          #3) I claimed Obama granted amnesty by EO. He did. It’s not arguable.

          #4) Does everybody else have to pay for contraception for others. The Constitution is clear.

          #5) Bush declared war for Iraq. Congressional approval is a declaration of war. The constitution sets forth no procedure to declare. Obama did not get approval for Libya.

          #6) We are polarized in the notion Bush made Obama quadruple spending and then repeat it every year. We are polarized over the idea we can stimulate the economy by passing around other people’s money…or printing it.

          #7) Name any legislation as sweeping as Obamacare that was passed on a 100% partisan basis. 

          • http://twitter.com/Astraspider Astraspider

            You’re woefully misinformed about Fast & Furious, about the 1st amendment, about the truncated “Dream Act” EO, and about the budget numbers, so it’s no wonder everything else is just unfocused, partisan mis-direction

            So, thanks, Greg, you’ve demonstrated part of the problem with today’s “polarizaton”: some constituents are willfully ignorant of empirical evidence and that state of unbridled angst and paranoia has, unfortunately, bled into the Congress (witness lightweight grandstander Senator Ron Johnson yesterday and today, who’s still chasing a Benghazi cover-up).

            BTW, here’s a Paul Ryan story, since you never circled back with your own.

            http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2012/08/paul-ryan-forcible-rape-todd-akin-/1#.UQGMsYW6Qj4

          • Gregg Smith

            Well, you’re welcome but I would rather you explain how the guns were tracked or when Obama told the Mexicans. Or any other point I got wrong. 

            Here ya’ go:

            http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/new-york-times-falsely-reports-ryan-tried-restrict-definition-rape_650625.html

          • http://twitter.com/Astraspider Astraspider

            Your fixation on Mexican involvement reveals that you don’t really understand what the program was and have instead bought into the copious fallacies that got spun.

            The guns were meant to be interdicted in Arizona. Didn’t work out that way, mostly because of AZ-level stonewalling.

            http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/06/27/fast-and-furious-truth/

          • Gregg Smith

            What have I written that is not true regarding F&F? I’ve studied it, if I’m wrong let me know where. You haven’t said where I’m wrong.

            No, it was the change of the word “forcible” that was a distinction without a difference. Reread it. You are buying into the whole war on women thing. The Republican Party is not redefining rape Todd Akin style as you implied. 

  • nj_v2

    I read through the book excerpt on the Random House site (Paragraph breaks, please!). Interesting that Mr Benjamin seems to be saying that growth in general is problematic in ways that we might not have imagined. 

    We know the ills of disproportionate income growth between the rich and lower income levels, but he seems to be talking about something else. Will be curious to hear this idea in more detail.

  • nj_v2

    Wait, guest Jonathan Miller is a co-founder of a group called No Labels which comprises people who label themselves Democrats and Republicans? What am i missing here?

    • MrNutso

      No Labels purports to be independent, non-partisan, etc. In doing so they generally are blaming Democrats and Republicans for gridlock and the environment in Washington.  They won’t even tilt the blame the Republicans way for fear that they will be labeled partisan.

      What I find most amazing is that those scolding the Republicans the hardest are conservatives put off by the current extremism of the Republican Party.

      • Ray in VT

        Colin Powell has been dishing it out pretty hard these past couple of weeks, and my boss tells me that Joe Scarborough, a part of that freshman class of 1994, has been saying some particularly harsh things about the current state of the party.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Colin Powell’s “soul” can be saved, methinks. He seems to realize the effing whopping lie in his speech a decade ago, and has stepped back from it.

          Joe Scarborough? Nope. He’s just a bellwether of what the Beltway no longer will put up with from the right wing. “When someone’s lost Joe Scarborough…”

    • Kathy

      No Labels is another one of those groups dedicated to “centrist” positions where “centrism” is defined by democrats agreeing to give Republicans 90% of what they want and getting nothing in return.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Exactly. They are one of those “centrist” groups that start every conversation with “Everyone agrees that the deficit is the #1 problem and it has to be solved with “entitlement reform””. IOW, the cure for the bush tax cuts, bush wars, bush medicare D not allowed to negotiate drug costs, and bush economic crash from deregulation of wall st is cutting medicare and SS.

        Funny thing is, I would have thought the fix for the mess caused by all those policies would be to reverse them. 

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    I find this disturbing that an idiot like Rand Paul called Benghazi “the worst tragedy since 9/11″. So what the heck happened in our elective war in Iraq? (Not to mention all of Iraq’s dead…) What the heck does he call the 4,409 dead soldiers and 31,928 wounded soldiers resulting from Dubya’s “preemptive war”. Iraqi Freedom was our single greatest tragedy since 911, built on cleverly crafted lies eaten up readily by these war mongers who eagerly beat the drums of war. Sadly we have idiots like Rand Paul campaigning for 2016 at the expense of having a real dialogue. They are despicable and do our troops a great disservice with this kind of unconscionable ignorant rhetoric.

    • William

       Like Mrs. Clinton said, “What does it matter?” We just move “Forward”…right…forget what happened about the Iraq War, the Clinton Iraq Liberation Act, the Democrats and Republicans that voted for it, the CIA director, George Tenant telling the President it was a “Slam Dunk”….Move Forward!!!!

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        Ignoring the past we are damned to repeat the mistakes made not 80 years ago or 40 years ago… our political ignorance and attention span are so short that our politicians get away with selective memories that go way back to last week or perhaps this last quarter. At best, the last election cycle depending upon which contest they are concerned with.

        • William

          So true…and yet, Mrs. Clinton got away with “What does it matter?” ..move “Forward”…

          • anamaria23

            What do you mean “got away with”?
            What should her punishment have been?  Time out?
            It was the first exchange  sometimes the  only, shown on the media.  Not so nice Ny Post front page today out of all the testimony.  It was an unfortunate ouburst,  but followed with emphasis on preventing, not forgetting about. 
            A few of the Senators were cruel  with accusations; not after answers, but out to humiliate.  This was  a hearing, not  a trial.
            It was a terrible tragedy and I cannot imagine the level of stress Cinton is under with the responsibility on her watch.
            Amb. was her friend, too.

          • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

            Her comment was effectively, get off your hypocritical soap box and make a real effort here to help solve the problem.  She was subjected to a decided effort to allocate blame and embarass rather than have a substantive discussion on where and why ‘the system’ broke and what has been proposed to fix it.

            All I heard in the highlights was diatribe after diatrive ridiculing the heartless incompetant liberal scum that sat before them.

            If you go into a problem-solving meeting with an attitude to allocate blame, you are part of the problem, not the solution. Just another gluteus maximus orrifice.

            I’m sick of this disingenuous B.S. These guys are paid to work on our collective problems. They are NOT paid to engeage in a death by a thousand cuts and slef promote, but they take precious time to selfpromote and demote the opposition. But what opposition? Like Democrats wanted this tragedy to happen? B.S!!! Yes, that’s politics, but this pathetically childish and petty time wasting showmanship does disservice to our nation and shows utter disrespect for the victims of this attack. 

      • AaronNM

        Oh, c’mon! She was talking about the Republican obsession over the “motivation” of the attackers to kill Americans, not the need to learn lessons and close the gaps in security which allowed the attack to be so devastating. And let’s just rewind the tape when those of us on the left were saying after 9/11 that a little more attention and acknowledgement needed to be made about the blowback from long-standing Middle East policies which might have planted the seeds for that attack, and we were resoundingly condemned for being “apologists” for Al Quaida. Now, all of the sudden, conservatives care about motivations, but this time it’s not about truly examining the root causes but scoring political points.

        • William

           She slipped and let her true feelings about the Libya terrorist attack out. She does not care and it’s time to move forward.
           Obsession? No the administration lied to the American people and to the world about this terrorist attack.
           Is it about making political points to ask about this and Fast and Furious too?

          • AaronNM

            Oh, here we go. Let’s conflate EVERYTHING into a massive conspiracy theory. You clearly didn’t watch the entire hearing, as I did. If you had, you would know that the preponderance of questioning from Republicans centered on the single allegation of “cover up” when she was there to discuss in great detail lessons learned, actions taken, and plans moving forward to strike a better balance between the security and accessibility NECESSARY to meaningful diplomatic work. So, yes, it was indicative of an obsession with what essentially is a moot point. Nor has it been proven at any point that the administration “lied” about anything. More likely, as has been reported by reputable sources as well as a comprehensive investigation, it came down to incompetence and weaknesses in communication between government organizations. And some of the attackers who were interviewed said explicitly that the tape was a MAJOR factor in their assault of the consulate. Regarding “Fast and Furious”, so long as you understand that the program was started under the Bush Administration and wish to hold them accountable as well, I’m fine with taking an even deeper look at the matter.

          • William

             Fast and Furious and terrorist attack in Libya. Both happened and the administration lied about both to Congress.

          • AaronNM

            Do you ever actually respond with direct rebuttals to other posters or do you just move on to the next bullet point you read on some blog?

          • anamaria23

            Please gather all the CREDIBLE references you have to prove “lied”.  Perhaps you can manage a look at the classified dicuments. Then, get back to this forum.

          • anamaria23

            My thoughts also.  David Kirkpatrick, NYTIMES Cairo Bureau chief interview on Nov 13th, on All Things Considered, on NPR is very interesting, having gone to Benghazi and interviewed local witnesses.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Oh, she let her true feelings about the attack out.

            Simply not in the way you imagine. (And I mean imagine.)

          • anamaria23

            “She does not care” .   How could you POSSIBLY know that she does not care?  

    • TomK_in_Boston

      And what about the Bush economic crash? That’s done a lot more damage to the USA than Benghazi.

    • hennorama

      Sen. Paul needs some perspective when it comes to tragedy – since Newtown, there have been AT LEAST 1221 firearms deaths in the US.  This is 305 times the number of US deaths in Benghazi, and over 40% of the deaths on 9/11.

      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2012/12/gun_death_tally_every_american_gun_death_since_newtown_sandy_hook_shooting.html

      The number of firearms deaths in the US since 9/11/2011 – about 350,000.  You read that right – THREE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND.

      This total is 117 times larger than the toll of September 11, 2001.  Every year, approximately 30,000 people have been killed by firearms in America, including homicides, suicides, and unintentional shooting deaths.

      For comparison, the US suffered 405,399 military deaths in WW II, and 58,209 in Vietnam.

      New Orleans had a population of about 344,000 people in the 2010 census.  Only 50 US cities have populations greater than 350,000.

      • peterlake

        And nothing proposed by Diane Feinstein will change any of the numbers.

        • hennorama

          peterlake – TY for your response. Do you have any evidence to support your statement? Are you a time traveller with actual knowledge of a future, post-”assault weapons ban” time period? Can you prove a negative?

          • peterlake

            Better yet, why don’t you tell us exactly how her proposals will perform their intended function?

            And then I’ll tell you why you’re wrong on each and every point.

          • hennorama

            peterlake – if you cannot defend your statement, please simply say so. I made no claim whatsoever as to any proposed change in firearms laws, and have nothing to prove or defend. If you’d like to argue as to the the data I presented, please do so.

            Otherwise, the phrase “put up or shut up” seems most applicable.

        • hennorama

          peterlake – purely as an aside – can we look forward to another cartoon as part of your argument? {fingers crossed}

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Hard Times?
    Record Profits.
    Political Morass?
    Maybe we should get off our ass.

    One thing I think Congress (both parties) fails to realize is that the larger the percentage of the population that is impoverished gets, the more critical and perilous their inaction becomes. We may not be up against the dreaded tipping point that has happened throughout Human History yet but we are certainly skipping gleefully down the path. Or maybe they do realize it and think that their affluence equals security. Either way, they need to wake up. Compromise is not weekness, it is necessary.

  • Scott B

    It’s deeply troubling when one party routinely, and almost with some sense of pride denying fact, science, history and experience, and that’s the Republican party. The leaders of the Republican party seem hell-bent on dismissing the wishes, needs, and rights, of the American public by employing tactics such as “Redmap”, gerrymandering voting districts in what they hope is a permanent way, and now trying to remake the electorial college so those “permanent red districts” will decide the election, regardless that millions of Americans may have voted for the Democrat. This is how they held the House. This is clearly not what the founding fathers, that the Right is so quick to quote, ever intended. 

    • AaronNM

      And this has been a strategy for DECADES, not some recent effort that takes advantage of a poor or anemic economy. We aren’t talking about single-issue discord between political philosophies – this is ACROSS THE BOARD denial of facts, reality, and common sense in defense of an ideology.

      • hennorama

        AaronNM – your post calls to mind the aptly named former House Majority Whip Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, and his unprecented mid-decade gerrymandering efforts in Texas.

        DeLay’s corruption was extensive, involving money laundering (which he was convicted of and currently remains out on bail pending appeal), violating the Voting Rights Act, contributions from Russian oil executives, House Ethics wrist slaps for misuse of Federal investigative agencies, and deep involvement in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

        Oh yeah – he’s also a “birther.”

        For more:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_DeLay
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_Texas_redistricting

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    This Friedman fellow, with his talk about “typical American families”, “median incomes”, and decades-long economic trends, is a bit of what economics coverage on public radio needs.

  • William Lewis

    In 20th Century Europe hard times presaged a big jerk to the Right Wing accompanied by its Propaganda. Today, with the help of Citizens United we have greater numbers of extreme Right Wingers who do everything possible to avoid taxation of their Millionaire Billionaire campaign financiers and to advance their political power  and their Right Wing Propaganda Machine – witness what 35 of these financiers were able to create in the last election. Good governance nor compromise are not on their agenda, aggrandizement of their political power and pocket money at the expense of most us, are.

  • http://wh.gov/IVp4 Yar

    It is the profit in polarization.  Talk about who wins and how we all lose.

  • nj_v2

    Add to Reading List:

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/inequality-is-holding-back-the-recovery/

    Inequality Is Holding Back the Recovery
    By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ

    [[ Politicians typically talk about rising inequality and the sluggish recovery as separate phenomena, when they are in fact intertwined. Inequality stifles, restrains and holds back our growth. When even the free-market-oriented magazine The Economist argues — as it did in a special feature in October — that the magnitude and nature of the country’s inequality represent a serious threat to America, we should know that something has gone horribly wrong. And yet, after four decades of widening inequality and the greatest economic downturn since the Depression, we haven’t done anything about it. ]]

    (excerpt)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZDVJ5O5U6BPBMJ36KEMIGKPLDE Patrick

    anyone who thought that the ascendency of Obama would not cause a harsh and virulent backlash is sorely delusional, the republican party took up proudly the mantle of this racist opposition so please put the blame squarely where it belongs right at the feet of the republicans.

    • Gregg Smith

      That’s sick.

      • sickofthechit

         What’s sick is that it is accurate.

    • StilllHere

      You’re the racist.  It’s pathetic. 

  • http://twitter.com/en_b ian berry

    Question: Why do people have such a hard time realizing that history ALWAYS repeats itself?

    Can anyone give an example of when it has not done so?

    • hennorama

      Yes, but can you wait until tomorrow?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QMDZ3LH5U2B4GAT7J2HS4TCP6E Jim

    Hard Times continue. As long as extreme lobbyists roam the streets of Washington… we will continue to have hard times.

    i don’t think we will resolve it. almost 90% of politicians don’t realize how “bad” it is facing our nation. over 95% are well paid with a sizable pension plan paid by the citizens of this nation. 

    look, playing the game with other nations to keep buying bonds and spitting out tons of new currency out will NOT work. 

    Inflation is here to stay. If you do not believe me go to your supermarket and buy a gallon of milk, cereal, slab of meat, and fruits. the fact we are excluding food and energy out to measure the CPI is totally disingenuous. 

    from the last report from the government the source indicates inflation is subsiding.. .first it is lance armstrong… now it is the government… they are completely delusional.

  • Jonathan Abvie

    Raymond,
    thank you for your call and considered thoughts

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    We have many parties primarily in the form of Corporate Based Special Interest Groups. They ally with certain ideologies and thus gravitate towards one party or the other. Does not this collective moronic political intransigence stem from the pandering to and embrace of these stark raving mad ideological groups by the Republican party?

  • brettearle

    So the question is….

    Will the US get to the point of the Wiemar Republic?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Interesting. A class I took ages ago posited the belief that the Radical Right rose only where the Radical Left (and I mean 1920s-30s radical, not anyone’s nightmare of “socialist Obama”) did, as a response.

      Therefore, weak nation-states without a lot of history being united, like Germany and Italy, about 40 years under their belts in the 1920s, did. While England, with its share of far right-wing folks, didn’t quite have the radical left uprising, because its power was more held in the bureaucracy of governments (at all levels) and the House of Lords, didn’t.

      (Can’t remember the name of the book.)

      • brettearle

        You raise great points.

        The primary implication that I take away from your comments is that the history of political `structure’, and the entrenchment of a political system, go along way in determining a country’s vulnerability to social, cultural, and especially economic crises.

        Had the Soviet Union not been so bureaucratic and so tightly bound in its political structure–which, often, might have been a mixture of regional despotism, dictatorial regulations, and widespread corruption–it might have collapsed much sooner.

        At the same time, our own political system– historically, and by comparison to many other countries–is firmly set and beset with inflexible foundations and principles.

        If this weren’t true, we might collapse MUCH sooner.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          The book also touched on the far right in France and the USA, but in much less detail, because there was less to cover.

          Interesting stuff on the Soviet Union.

          I don’t know about the transition from Tsars to Communists, but I think the power structure changed a lot. However, in the 3/4ths of a century they got their act “perfected” to the point that the last generation of Soviet Union kleptocrats quickly turned into the kleptocrats of the newly free Russia in the early 1990s, didn’t they?

          Yeah, this country has less upheaval (warts and all–not ignoring that), so when I hear things from folks like Ted Nugent lately, it just makes me shake my head sometimes.

  • brettearle

    The question is, how do we get out of this stuckness?

    Answer?

    At this point, the systems seem to be so far gone and dysfunctional that the inevitable answer is Revolution…..eventually.

    I do NOT support Revolution–unless people are killing each other in the streets.

    But I think, some years from now, Revolution could happen and civil unrest could go out of control.

    Has anyone heard any viable options THAT WILL ACTUALLY WORK?

    I haven’t.

  • sickofthechit

    Very few of us seem able to adequately grasp the fact that we live on a limited resource in the middle of nowhere.  It is time that all of us acknowledge that very real fact and begin behaving that way.  That is why sustainable living and renewable energy sources should be receiving the most in terms of our investments both in capital and human effort.  That is why we need to fight for equality and peace for all.  If you don’t feel this to your core, might I suggest that tonight you go outside, lay on the ground and stare up at the sky for a few minutes, think about where you are in relation to the Universe.  Realize that the Planet you are lying on is moving in an endless dance with all the other heavenly bodies you can see and not see.  Then contemplate if we continue screwing up this place as we currently are where are we to go next, and how will we get there?  Charles A. Bowsher

    • brettearle

      Check out ForSpaciousSkies.org.

      You make great sense.

      BUT you are not taking into account how firmly entrenched MOST people are–in terms of acquisition, materialism, and avoiding hardship.

      Our country’s spoiled.

      And it is ESSENTIAL that we realize just how spoiled we are.

      It’s going to take MORE than simply staring at the sky at night, or during the day….

      • sickofthechit

        I only promote staring at the sky so we can gain perspective on how precarious our continued existence is in terms of our current behavior. and circumstances.

        • DrewInGeorgia

          “Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability to lift an eye to heaven conscious of his fleeting time here.”

          Right In Two
          ~Maynard James Keenan

          • sickofthechit

             Brings to mind the word I created for “Republican Politicians”- “Repugnicans” charles a. bowsher

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000504390944 Elizabeth Curtiss

         Spoiled? Clean water, climate-safe homes, useful, affordable schools? The aspirations during what is now called The Great Compression — the end of World War II to the Oil Crisis of 1973 — were pretty modest. That’s why advertisers found it necessary to ratchet up the pressure. Now we’re left with advertising’s aspirations but not the economic supports of those cost-conscience decades.

        • sickofthechit

           I think he wasn’t talking about us.  Just those of us who thought it was possible and desireable to wage two wars without an increase in taxes or a draft.

      • hennorama

        brettearle – our country isn’t spoiled.  We have taken full and complete advantage of our abundance of natural resources, favorable climate, and a geography that separated us from most of the concerns and problems of Europe and Asia.  Combine those with a Protestant work ethic and almost unlimited opportunity over the first 125 years of our existence, and the world got The American 20th Century.

        We not spoiled, we’re lucky, smart, and hard-working.  Now all we have to do is outrun the rest of the world that’s gaining on us – fast.

        • brettearle

          I don’t agree.

          You’re ignoring what teachers see with students as far as schoolwork ethic and attitude is concerned.

          You’re ignoring what managers, in the workplace, see with veteran workers, and new workers, as far as work ethic and attitude is concerned.

          You’re ignoring how Media has made people obsessed with wealth, celebrity, glamor, social status, acquisition, materialism.

          I am by no means someone who supports other political and economic systems–but the downsides of our form of capitalism and our free market enterprise have caught up with us.

          Our country is no longer the role model, for innovation and expertise, that it once was. 
           

          It isn’t simply because the Far East is gaining on us.  That’s certainly part of it.

          But the other part is that we’ve lost OUR COMPETITIVE EDGE.

          And yet we need to see that some of that is to be expected however.

          All great empires decline.

          The Roman Empire became spoiled too.

          My observations, about our country today, is underscored by many, many others.

          Of course, many many other factors go into this decline….economy; foreign threats; environment; global economy, technology.

          But when a country suffers, when a country is threatened, the trend can go in a different direction–other than when the going gets rough, the rough get going.

          Indeed, it looks as if, in some significant places, it’s, “when the going gets rough, the people become soft.

          The expectations and entitlement attitude of the Baby Boom Generation–coming off a WWII Boon–has exacerbated this SPOILED SYNDROME.

          Articles, Books, and PBS films have been created, about this matter.

          It’s not new.

          • hennorama

            brettearle – TY for your response.  You are describing certain aspects of some segments of American society, not “our country” as a whole.

            As in every society, we have our share of lazy people, and our share of people mesmerized by celebrity, and our share of unmotivated students, and our share of unmotivated and distracted workers.  There is also the usual “You young whippersnappers have it so easy.  In my day …” that occurs with every passing generation.

            And certainly there are issues of international competitiveness.  But by no means are we spoiled, and by no means is the US economy or our people or our nation as a whole in decline.

            The vast majority of Americans are productive members of society, who go to work regularly, do their jobs well, and enjoy their leisure time.  They care for their families and their communities, practice their religion,  and participate in society. They are concerned about the future and want to pass a better world on to their kids.

            I agree that your viewpoint about a so-called “SPOILED SYNDROME” is not new.  We tend to hear it predicted and discussed every generation or so, especially after economic declines.  This is not to imply that everything is perfect and American society is problem-free.  Far from it.  But we are not spoiled, and sure as hell aren’t lazy.

            The average annual hours worked by US worker hovers around 1800 and has barely budged since the year 2000.  The range over that time?  From 1767/yr. at the bottom of the Great Recession in 2009 to 1836/yr.  at the end of thelast economic boom, in 2000.

            Source:http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DatasetCode=ANHRS

    • nj_v2

      A couple of devices i use to remind myself of the larger perspective…

      If one has a globe of the earth that’s about the size of a beach ball, the biosphere—the thin sliver of space in which all known life in the universe occurs—is about the thickness of a coat or two of paint on the globe. This encompasses an area from the bottom of the oceans to a few dozen miles up into the atmosphere.

      And our planet, with that sliver of life, exists here:

  • William

    Tom, You have a lot of nerve letting some banker telling anyone to “get their act together” for the sake of the country.

  • D W

    I’d like to hear more discussions about how the very small percentage of citizens hold such HUGE portions of material wealth and how that affects those of us who have had stagnant wages/incomes for so long. Overall economic reporting IGNORES the fact that what ‘we’ spend either individually, corporately or in government (on telecomms, healthcare, education, wars etc.) is cash exchanged for not only the goods and services but frequently for someone’s PROFIT!!!  It seems that there are some ‘industries’ where the margins are making owners and investors very comfortable.  So how about getting an economist to explain where 50% of wealth (in USA) is held. Tell us who has the deep pockets and why.

    • sickofthechit

       Better than 37% is held by the wealthiest 1%.  I would guess it is something less than 2% who own 50% of the wealth.

  • JennaJennaeight

    Eliza Doolittle’s father negotiates his cut of his daughter’s good fortune in Act II from George Bernard Shaw’s Pymallion:
    HIGGINS [revolted] Do you mean to say, you callous rascal, that you would sell your daughter for 50 pounds?
    DOOLITTLE. Not in a general way I wouldn’t; but to oblige a gentleman like you I’d do a good deal, I do assure you.
    PICKERING. Have you no morals, man?
    DOOLITTLE [unabashed] Can’t afford them, Governor. Neither could you if you was as poor as me. Not that I mean any harm, you know. But if Liza is going to have a bit out of this, why not me too?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000504390944 Elizabeth Curtiss

       What is wrong with families supporting their members?

      • JennaJennaeight

        What indeed!  

  • Markus6

    This discussion forum is a good example of polarization. There are posts I never read now when I see their names because the authors only see one side the argument. Though they’re nearly always left leaning, they’re the same as contributors to those who call in to Limbaugh. They’re either inflexible or young (in which case I’d give them a pass).

    I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, but I’ll bet our leaders love this. They let these people with their limited perspectives demonize the other side … and they stay in power.

    • brettearle

      Be specific.

      Back it up–or else everyone considers your comments as nothing more than thin propaganda.

      • Markus6

        No time I’m afraid. My job only lets me scan this forum once in a while at lunch. Actually, I’m amazed at the time people have to spend on this. 

        But it is funny how you claim to speak for everyone. 

        • AaronNM

          And yet you have time to listen to the radio, write an initial post, and respond to another one. You’re either a great multi-tasker or slightly exaggerating how busy you actually are.

          • brettearle

             Bravo!

    • AaronNM

      I’m sorry, but this is a false equivalency. What you’re seeing from the left is frustration in attempting to deal with an ideology which denies the reality of climate change, the need to aggressively address gun violence, the necessity for serious health care reform, and the requirement for the government to actually invest in the future of the country a la infrastructure, alternative energy, and the social safety net. Republicans won’t even debate these issues – they steadfastly hold to their ideology and are completely rigid in their beliefs. There is no willingness to even come to the table because FACTS DON’T MATTER to them; belief is ALL that matters.

    • nj_v2

      Totally incoherent post. No idea what you’re saying.

    • StilllHere

      Exactly right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/phil.newton.904 Phil Newton

    Prof. Friedman makes interesting points, but what about the Great Depression? There was a hint of this, Fr. Coughlin, and the FDR haters, but I don’t recall much organized or unorganized populist hate groups then, either before or after the coming of the New Deal.  The Twenties, a time of prosperity, were worse for lynchings, anti-immigrant actions, crime,  and general meanness.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000504390944 Elizabeth Curtiss

       Yep. Redistribution was a major issue during the 1920s, and for many segments, those were already hard times. Yes, a lot of people got ahead — witness those adorable bungalow houses that sprang up nationwide, and the spread of automobile ownership — but only because unions fought hard for every scrap they could get and the populist/progressive movement scorched the Midwest like a prairie fire.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anita.paul.5680 Anita Paul

    No Label is a corporate funded organization. They didn’t even make a blip on the radar screen during the elections.  Only MSM takes them serious.

    • JGC

      I disagree.  Only people who have a vested interest in keeping our political system divided into two extreme camps should dismiss No Labels as a shill to “corporate funded organization”/beholden to “MSNBC talking heads”/”stalking horse for a presidential run”.  

  • amyarnsten

    Dr. Friedman’s comments make sense to me as a neuroscientist. We have discovered that even mild uncontrollable stress causes an impairment in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, which is needed for flexible thinking, and at the same time strengthens primitive brain circuits that mediate reflexive responses (see our article in Scientific American, April 2012)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000504390944 Elizabeth Curtiss

       Yes, but the role of the manipulators has to be considered. Who created the stresses? Why? We ARE living like lab rats, forced by forces we cannot control to run through mazes we cannot decipher for rewards that we cannot be sure will do us any good, or might even kill us.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Thank you for your time and reasonable discussion Benjamin Friedman, it is greatly appreciated.

    • nj_v2

      Ditto!

  • http://www.facebook.com/peterboyle.4848 Peter Boyle

    We have known for 0 years or more that rats, once stressed, exhibit anti-social behaviors.  Humans are no different.  It is that in in hard times we tend to withdraw into ourselves…and those who ae most like us.  “Other” is considered dangerous. 

    That it is mostly hard economic times that affect us as a culture now, economics plays an exaggerated part in our collective psyche.  We have lost the cooperativeness of our ancient ancestors, the inner knowledge that we must all work together for the benefit of all, and replaced that with the inner greed that monetary based cultures foster…I’ve got mine screw you. 

    It would be interesting to contrast/compare how we (politically) reacted to the Great Depression and the current situation (nearly a depression for most people).  In the 1930′s our leader expanded our Social engagement – Social Security, WPA, CCC, etc.  This time we are trying to cut every Social expenditure, firuratively putting the poor on the ice flow.  Is it because we have determined that out Economic Life is our ONLY Life.

    Peter Boyle
    Newport News

  • burroak

         Interesting topic. How long has our minimum wage been outdated? Also, hasn’t CEO pay vastly outpaced the average American worker, that is if the company has not outsourced its labor.
         Some societal ills that have littered the American landscape possibly linked to this economic stagnation; high percentages of incarceration, divorce rates, poverty, twenty-somethings with minimal economic opportunity, thirty-somethings moving back in with parents, people living on credit and 401k’s, families more stressed, working longer hours.
         And abandoned American cities and towns that once participated in the economic vitiality of a non-outsourced-nation.  

  • Outsidethinker

    I think that the problems have more to do with income inequality than with stagnation.  Those at the top of the ladder have experienced enormous growth in their standard of living, while the average person’s standard has stagnated or decreased.  That division seems to contribute more to the hatred and mistrust between social groups, though the group that most people tend to blame when there is such disparity is the poor or the immigrant (which are often the same).  And the wealthy don’t want to lose their status, as is also understandably true of the middle class.  I think that to attribute the cause predominantly to economic hard times is an over generalization.

  • Kathy

    There’s no such thing as peak oil? This man needs to be put in a mental institution, not on the radio.

    • nj_v2

      I was kind of liking him until he got to that.

      • DrewInGeorgia

        Read my reply to Kathy.

        • nj_v2

          I’ll try to listen to that part of the broadcast again later.

    • brettearle

      Well, I wouldn’t go that far.

      Subject him, instead, to a Republican deprogramming regimen.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      I understand why you (and others) were taken aback by the use of that phrase. That was my initial reaction until I took it in full context. What he said was true (though poorly phrased in my opinion). What he said was that as oil supply decreases so will consumption. It remains relative. He didn’t say that we’d like it or react well to it. Minus phrasing it “no peak oil”, he was dead on.

      Also, look at the rest of Friedman’s discussion. It was on point. He said that ultimately his primary concern was Climate Change and how we are going to deal with that. If we address and correct for Climate Change adequately the Petroleum Problem will cease to exist. As will the Coal Conundrum. And eventually, Natural Gas Numbskullery.

  • nj_v2

    Again, i say, “What”??!

    Mr. Miller is holding up FDR as an example of how “compromise” is going to help us in the current climate?! Really?!

    How does this sound like “compromise”?

    “For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

    We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

    Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

    I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.”

    —FDR, Oct. 31, 1936

    • brettearle

       I guess you can’t see a sarcastic comment, nor an ironic comment, nor a facetious comment, when hear one.

      • nj_v2

        Re-listen to the show when they put up the podcast later. I don’t think he was being ironic.

        • brettearle

          I was referring to FDR’s comment not Miller’s.

          • nj_v2

            I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • AaronNM

    Denial of peak oil? Wow!!!! Mr. Friedman thinks we live in a Star Trek world where we can simply synthesize material goods using technology and not raw materials. The modern world is built on oil – everything we have is based on it. The notion that we’ll simply switch to something else when it runs low is shockingly naive. Managing that resource will require serious proactive planning and behavior change, not some pie-in-the-sky faith that we’ll just magically move to the next (as yet undiscovered) resource to support a modern and technologically advanced civilization.

    • brettearle

      You are suggesting that because of our dependency, we should completely ignore alternatives?

      If that were true, Pasteur would NEVER have come up with penicillin.

      And Jewish mothers would never have come up with chicken soup–affectionately known as, “Jewish penicillin.”

      • AaronNM

        I think you should re-read my post, because that’s not what I said, remotely, at all. Quite the opposite. We ABSOLUTELY need to plan for a world of reduced oil. My point is that the use of oil is so pervasive and ingrained that it behooves us as a civilization to plan weening ourselves off of it quickly but sensibly as soon as possible.

        • brettearle

          Point taken.

          But if you re-read your comment, you might see that some of your words and phrases could imply entrenchment.
           

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Copy of my reply to Kathy

      “I understand why you (and others) were taken aback by the use of that phrase. That was my initial reaction until I took it in full context. What he said was true (though poorly phrased in my opinion). What he said was that as oil supply decreases so will consumption. It remains relative. He didn’t say that we’d like it or react well to it. Minus phrasing it “no peak oil”, he was dead on.

      Also, look at the rest of Friedman’s discussion. It was on point. He said that ultimately his primary concern was Climate Change and how we are going to deal with that. If we address and correct for Climate Change adequately the Petroleum Problem will cease to exist. As will the Coal Conundrum. And eventually, Natural Gas Numbskullery”

      • VTSolarGuy

         Hey Drew,

        You wrote:  “What he said was that as oil supply decreases so will consumption.”

        Yes, I suppose that by the laws of nature, it must.

        And yet, what will we eat?

        Modern industrialized agriculture is so dependent on oil and natural gas that without huge inputs of cheap oil, the whole she-bang falls apart, and a whole lot of people starve.

        Thankfully, I depend on this awful arrangement for very little of my food (though still some).  We’re very actively trying to grow or raise more and more of our food needs, but rural grow-your-own families with root cellars are not all that common in Dallas,  Detroit, or Phoenix, and it will take a LOT of farming to raise enough food for 7.5 billion people.

        It may be possible to grow enough wholesome food and pump enough water, but it sure would be a lot easier to feed 2 or 3 billion people (should we dare touch that “third rail” of overpopulation).

        • DrewInGeorgia

          Thanks for the response and I agree with everything you say. I was just trying to clarify what I thought the guest’s meaning was when he made the statement that drew condemnation. The statement was also near the end of the show and Friedman was not given any time to expound on Climate Change or his thoughts on how to deal with it.

          There is not currently a ‘cost feasible’ way to make an immediate switch, as you more or less say. To be honest I seriously doubt there ever will be without fundamental societal change. I don’t care what anybody says, doing the right thing is never going to carry short-term financial gain. We’re going to have to figure out a way to make changes and improvements that are required Globally for our continued existence or we’re going to have to face the consequences. I’m hoping for the former.

  • 65noname

    where does this show get people such as Miller?  AARP a leftwing, non-compromising organization?  By the way, his cheap trick of describing as intransiant people who won’t compromise on entitlements” begs the question.  (By the way

    my pension, social security, medicare, etc, are EARNED BENEFITS, earned over a lifetime of work and paid for out of my paycheck). 

    The first question is whether those earned benefits should be, or, need to be, lowered.  To accuse someone who says that people cannot survive if those benefits are lowered is not to not be willing to compromise.  It is to want to survive.

    His argument is similar to those “moderates who argued that afro-americans should have compromised on civil rights.  MLK answered that false argument very well in his “letter from the birmingham jail”.  I would ask miller, exactly which earned benefit working people should be willing to give up and in what

    amount?  The right to medical care?  The right to the miserly amount of SS they receive after a lifetime of work? 

    • TomK_in_Boston

      “No Labels”, “Fix the Debt” etc, supposed “centrist” organizations, are nothing but class warfare wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are evil. They’re all using the scare tactic of telling the citizens that if they don’t give up what we’ve built up since 1929 the big bad debt will get them. The result is more redistribution to the top, which IMO is the real agenda.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000504390944 Elizabeth Curtiss

    Good thing Professor Friedman began by stating he is no political scientist, because that is certainly true. The current problem has two dimensions, with both economic and political causality. The primary political shift came with Reagan, after the Oil Shock of the 1970s, when numerous Americans were persuaded that their “Stagflation” problems could be traced to unions insisting on rigid work descriptions and inflated wages that employers could not afford.

    Poor employers! That image has stayed with us these three decades, and shut down distinctions among employer-types and employer concerns. It’s all emotionalism, with the left refusing to pity ANY employer and the right confused over the fact that Wall Street operates under completely different mechanisms than does Main Street. Centrists and rationalists have no foothold with either side.

    The second major political event occurred when Newt Gingrich — who probably has some form of autism, he is so brilliant, so uncaring, so single-focus (disclaimer, I and some of my family also live on the spectrum) — decided to smooth out the system inefficiencies our founders had deliberately installed in the Constitution. Madison et alia had choices between two forms of loyalty — to one’s branch of governance or one’s political party. Madison and most famously, General/President Washington, feared party loyalty above all. It was the heartlessness of philosophies, and the ultimately huge gap between theory and practice, that they feared above all. So they set up a system in which local accountability slowed down philosophical advocacy.

    The brilliance of the 2010 GOP putsch is that it happened at the local level, eliminating the institutions through which such local accountability would be rendered. What we have to wonder now is whether average citizens can claw our way back by the next census. Otherwise, I foresee not another Germany, but the next France, a nation which has overreached its vision of perfect government and five times collapsed into violence led by one side or the other, for being pushed out as so much sand in the machinery. Our Constitution is only 226 years old (1787). One has only to look at the ruined cathedrals of Europe to gain perspective on how long that is.

  • J P Fitzsimmons

     We have a problem with SS because so much income now escapes the social security tax. Given 1%of the population taking 20% of income ($3 trillion dollars) most of which income is not subject to the SS tax is it no wonder the projections are so dire.  U.S productivity has doubled in the last 35 years but real income for most wage earners has barely kept up with inflation.

    • jimino

      Here’s what the Congressional Research Service had to say in 2010:

      “Since 1982, the Social Security taxable earnings base has risen at the same rate as average wages
      in the economy. However, because of increasing earnings inequality, the percentage of covered
      earnings that are taxable has decreased from 90% in 1982 to 85% in 2005. The percentage of
      covered earnings that is taxable is projected to decline to about 83% for 2014 and later. Because
      the cap was indexed to the average growth in wages, the share of the population below the cap
      has remained relatively stable at roughly 94%. Of the 9.5 million Americans with earnings above
      the base, roughly 80% are men and only 9% had any earnings from self-employment income.
      New Jersey has the highest share of the population above the maximum (11.6%) and South
      Dakota has the lowest share (2.1%).” 

      More for those interested in facts at:
      http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32896.pdf

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000504390944 Elizabeth Curtiss

    The difference between us here now and the Weimar Republic is that Germany had a significant Communist movement — significant both in numerical terms and refusal to back down. Today’s left (of which I am one) tends to be fractured around tactical issues, with a significant nonviolent contingent that had no parallel holding back the Communists of ‘tween-war Germany. One reason Hitler and the Nazis were able to so quickly round up and imprison, even exterminate, their political enemies is that the Communists had alienated whatever remained of the center. Today’s left still keeps that lesson in our hearts, even as the right lets it go.

    That said, as a New Englander with Midwestern ties, I know many, many moderate Republicans who have no interest in becoming leftists, wishing vehemently for someone or something to shut down the extreme right of their party so they can get back to expressing their own true values. Many of them voted for Obama, many others stayed home. The radical GOP has followed the playbook of successful power-grabbers everywhere and installed themselves in an unshakeable power position — in this case the state legislatures and U.S. House — which completely eliminates any strategic option for these moderates.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000504390944 Elizabeth Curtiss

     So true! Anyone who uses growth rather than access as the measure of overall affluence is talking trash.

  • 1Brett1

  • hennorama

    Our polarized politics might be distilled down to a clash between the 2 Golden Rules:

    1. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you

    2. He who has all the gold makes all the rules

  • klpk74

    Polarization and extremism are always, particularly on NPR, blamed on Republicans. By “compromise” what our President and his worshippers mean is “Republicans, lay down and submit to the inexorable forces of ‘progressivism’.”  We have a president who has enacted the most left-wing agenda in decades and has the audacity to expect no opposition. 

    Friedman, Ashbrook, and the callers and commenters fail to acknowledge the way the economy has incited extremism on the left. It is the left who responds to scarcity by loudly arguing that wealth is a zero-sum game. Then they proceed, counterproductively, to enact policies that continue to INHIBIT economic growth. 

    • jimino

      Yet in the midst of “the most left-wing agenda in decades” 93% of income growth in our country is going to the top 1%?

      Makes one wonder just who should be “worshiping” Obama and his economic policies?

      • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

        Why his plutocrat cronies of course.  Who else has benefited from his policies?

        • jimino

          While I don’t agree plutocrat cronies are the sole beneficiaries of his policies, if “are you better off than you were 4 years ago” was the actual metric, the vast majority of wealthy Republicans would have voted for Obama in 2012.  Obviously that was not the standard those voters used to make their decision.

    • nj_v2

      “…most left-wing agenda in decades”

      Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!

      Whew! Oh, man, that was a good one!

      .

  • 1Brett1

    Yes, Gregg, religious freedom IS in the Constitution! Being of a religion and engaging in business, then using that as a way not to follow laws of businesses…well, that is NOT in the Constitution. 

    • Gregg Smith

      The Constitution does not tell us what we can or can’t do, that’s just weird. It tells government what it cannot do.

      So a Catholic can be a Catholic in name only? And parents can send their kids off to business… er, I mean a college that is Catholic in name only so they can hold true to their beliefs in name only, uninfringed. Gotcha’.

      Georgetown did alright from 1789 to 2012.

      • 1Brett1

        No, Gregg, you haven’t “got” anything. Simply declaring you’re right doesn’t make it so. 

        Catholic colleges, hospitals, health clinics, and charity organizations, are businesses just like any other, and should be subject to the same laws as any nonsectarian business. 

        Aside from that, there isn’t much else I can say to address your flimsy argument, particularly about “parents sending their kids off to college.” 

        No Catholics are being infringed upon. They aren’t being forced to comply with anything with which  any other people don’t have to comply. Catholics have to either live in the real world or sequester themselves in a separate world. 

        Our founders did not have to grapple with issues of contraception (or any women’s rights issues, for that matter, that modern society has to). The Constitution is deliberately composed in general language, and this was wise as our founders were visionary enough to understand the need for it to breath with changing times/an evolving, changing society.

        As I said earlier, you can not like the current laws, that’s your prerogative, but you haven’t made a compelling case that they are unconstitutional. Sorry, you just haven’t. Making your questions to me ridiculous and attempts to reframe what I am saying to be “weird” won’t win you any “gotcha” moments (well, except maybe between Ed or William…maybe even StillHere because she just stands on the sidelines and says, “you tell ‘em, Gregg). Feel free to count those three as potentially agreeing with you, but I don’t. 

        • Gregg Smith

          There are 43 lawsuits and 110 plaintiffs working their way through the appeals process. I’m hardly alone. I have no idea what Ed, William or Stillhere think about it.

          Catholic organizations are being prohibited from practicing their religion as they have for hundreds of years. Most are now dropping insurance altogether. How is forcing Catholics to pay for contraception not infringing on their religious freedom? You won’t answer that. Why? Saying everybody has to do it does not answer the question. Can we mandate Jews pay for pork chops?

          • Gregg Smith

            It occurs to me from your comment that you have no idea of the uproar and ramifications not to mention the status of the debate. I would suggest better news sources but it’s been covered. Especially when the archdiocese of NY joined in. 

          • 1Brett1

            Which comment, in particular, leads you to have the thought that I “have no idea of the uproar and ramifications” ot the “status of the debate”?

          • Gregg Smith

            The one about me William and Ed being the only ones who think your position is weird. Your position is widely panned in the real world.

          • 1Brett1

            I said they would probably agree with your opinion of the issue; I didn’t say they thought my opinion was weird, but this exemplifies how you reframe another’s words (common practice on your part). Besides, we’re not talking about “the world” just the US. As much as we’ve established you are an idiot, it seems you need constant reminders: idiots are like that.

          • Gregg Smith

            I told you I was an idiot, but I’m not a jerk.

          • 1Brett1

            43 lawsuits and 110 plaintiffs!!! Wow, that’s compelling! [Yes, that's sarcasm!] When the Church of Scientology applied for tax-exempt status back in 1993. The IRS wasn’t going to…at first. The Church of Scientology then brought 2,400 lawsuits against the IRS (and even geared up for more!); the IRS relented and granted them status as a church that is recognized by the government. 

            This, in conjunction with the fact that anyone can bring any lawsuit, albeit exceedingly frivolous, against any entity anytime, makes your statement even less impressive.

            I bring up these two facts to counter your point that because there are lawsuits on the docket regarding this issue (presumably brought by either Catholics or those representing Catholics), opinions that fall in your camp are somehow valid. Ostensibly, this statement by you is intended to somehow give validation to your opinion on this issue…it’s a particular absurd way to defend your position, I must say. (My earlier statement about Ed, William and StillHere was only intended to hazard a guess as to who here might find your arguments valid; I’m not really that interested in whether or not you have an opinion about their support of your view while you  desire to cite lawsuits on the docket that ostensibly support your view.

            Your second paragraph is even more  absurd. One absurdity: “Catholic organizations are being prohibited from practicing their religion as they have for hundreds of years.” …um, there wasn’t medical contraception “hundreds of years ago,” for one thing. Also, Catholics are not being prevented from practicing their religion in as much as they are being prevented from forcing all of their employees in their business ventures to comply with their religious expressions. There are lots of examples of government limiting religious expression in public places, whether you agree or not is immaterial. You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t translate into some pseudo-constitutional argument of validity.

            The last part of your second paragraph is even more ridiculous. I have answered you over and over about why I think this is NOT infringing upon Catholics’ religious freedoms; just because my answer doesn’t satisfy you or is an opinion you don’t like, it doesn’t mean I haven’t answered you.

            Finally, your last question: “Can we mandate Jews pay for pork chops?” is the piece de resistance of your absurdity…not much I can say to that. I mean, if you are trying to present that as being just like the issue at hand, then I can’t help you; all I can do is laugh out loud, which I did…well, it was more of a chuckle (with an accompanying shake of my head in disbelief). 

          • Gregg Smith

            You haven’t answered squat, you’ve changed the subject. Georgetown was founded as a Catholic institution in 1789. They have always enjoyed the ability to practice their religion uninfringed until Obamacare. Sorry that point escapes you. I am glad you laughed at the Jew scenario, I see it as a failure to rebut. And you didn’t. We’ll see what the SCOTUS says but you are the one in the minority opinion, not me. Here:

            http://www.becketfund.org/hhsinformationcentral/

          • 1Brett1

            You can stick your fingers in your ears and say you’re not listening if you want, but I have answered you; sorry you don’t like it. But just to go along with your inane desire to raise points that are irrelevant to the issue at hand, Catholics have been persecuted since the first settlers came to this country. The persecution was so widespread, they were pushed around like so many American- Indians toward a reservation (wait, you don’t like hyphenated Americans, sorry!), they were exiled to their own state: Maryland’s early founding was because of a need for a safe haven for Catholics. So, because the history of our country itself predates the history of Georgetown, does that mean you lose? Based on your argument, it sounds like it does. 

          • Gregg Smith

            Persecution? Who said that? Hyphenating is fine if American is the first word. 

            You are going into lala land. All I’m saying is Obamacare means Catholics cannot practice their religion freely if they are forced by law to pay for contraception. It’s demonstrably true. Nothing you have said refutes that. All you have said is that it’s okay to infringe on their religious freedom if they make money… our something.

            Good night.

          • 1Brett1

            I guess if I had said “native-American” you would have said, “sick!”

          • Gregg Smith

            No, “native” is not an ethnicity. You’re losing  it.

          • 1Brett1

            I guess by “good night” you meant (Greggspeak) you will continue commenting

      • 1Brett1

        In reading your reply to my last comment, I’m hard-pressed to make any sense of your first paragraph?! From what I can see, Catholics, themselves, are saying they do not wish to follow laws because it is against their beliefs…I can’t vouch for you (and I wouldn’t want to prompt your pat retort #4: “don’t tell me what to think”), but this seems (to me) like people telling the government what they don’t want to do (then using some flimsy interpretation of the Constitution to justify their political perspective). 

        • Gregg Smith

          The Constitution is clear:

          “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

          That is saying what government cannot do. It does not give us permission or prohibit us from doing anything. 

          Catholics are being prohibited from exercising their freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution. 

          • Ray in VT

            There is a significant history of law restricting religious actions in this country, Gregg.  Just ask the Mormons.  The criminalization of polygamy was found to be Constitutional in Reynolds v. United States (1879), even though that interfered with their religious practice.

            The Supreme Court said in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940) that the First Amendment “embraces two concepts–freedom to believe and freedom to act.  The first is absolute but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be.  Conduct remains subject to regulation of society.” (source:  Encyclopedia of the American Constitution).

            I imagine that we’ll ending up hearing about this case at some point as the lawsuits make their way through the courts, and I would be a bit, although not totally, surprised if the Supreme Court ultimately strikes down the contraceptive mandate.

          • Gregg Smith

            Fair enough and good points but I can at least see a line of reason in the cases you cite. I don’t think they are analogous to what’s happening here. I don’t see a negative societal impact from letting Georgetown offer insurance that doesn’t cover contraception. Polygamy, not so much. And “freedom to act” is not really relevant because there is no action in not offering insurance that covers contraception.

            The SCOTUS will decide and I wouldn’t dare try to predict the outcome other that to say I cannot see how the mandate is Constitutional. We’ll see. 

    • Mike_Card

      I realize I’m leaving myself open to contradiction, but my understanding is that “freedom of religion” is only implied, since the Constitution only prohibits the establishment of a state religion.

      Many shenanigans are pulled by attempts to hide behind the Constitution’s prohibition; and those range from the 1 person “churches” all the way to the Catholic church, with their insistence on hiding pedophiles and claims that the implied religious freedom exempts them from temporal laws.

      • 1Brett1

        I agree, wholeheartedly, Mike. My comment was from an earlier thread in which Gregg was using the idea that Catholics are being persecuted and having their religious freedoms infringed upon because businesses in which they are involved have to comply with the same regulations as any nonsectarian businesses, basing his argument on Constitutional intent/law.

        And, the Church itself is exempt from having to provide contraception to its employees, so this pertains only to their businesses and not the Church. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the Church itself were not exempt from the contraception issue, but that’s even a separate argument from the one I was making to Gregg.

        My sense about tax-exempt laws regarding organized religion is that the Catholic Church’s businesses being exempt from taxes, for example (as well as investment profits being exempt from taxes), should be revoked. 

        I also feel as though the incidences of sexual abuse (already well documented) should be prosecuted and tried in a court of law. 

        As you have gathered, I find his arguments about the Church’s business practices having to provide contraception in their insurance plans (cloaked in some flimsy attempt to use the Constitution as the basis for his arguments) to be nothing more than grabbing at straws.

        • Gregg Smith

          Maybe a little rewrite is in order. 

          “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” unless you are a business then government can make you do what they please.

          • 1Brett1

            You can reframe my point if you wish, but, yes, governmental regulations of business (no matter how much you find them disdainful) do exist.

          • Gregg Smith

            You’re kidding! Government regulations exist?

      • Gregg Smith

        I’m more concerned with the tax exempt status of Media Matters but that’s me. I do agree about shenanigans but this ain’t it. I don’t even like Catholics, I think some of the positions are wacky but I’ll defend their right to hold them and not be told by the government what they must do against their tenets.

        • 1Brett1

          You are now on record as saying you “don’t like Catholics.” 

          • Gregg Smith

            I’ve been on record. 

          • jefe68

            Yeah, and it’s a broken one.

          • Gregg Smith

            You’re just like Brett last night. Your just going around looking for my comments and taking irrelevant pot shots. Have at it.

  • hennorama

    Apologies in advnace for repetition.  From a post-election post a couple months ago:
     
    “The Great Recession hurt many many people, and the resultant anger emerged in both the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Tea Party.  These are opposite and extreme representations of the anger over both the causes and the outcomes of the Great Recession.  OWS is generally angry about the causes, and TP is generally angry over the outcomes.
     
    There are significant commonalities among these 2 groups, however.
     
    Both are angry at the government.  Both have energy and claim they speak for large segments of American society.  Both have loony members who have acted inappropriately.  Both have garnered significant media attention and have had public figures – entertainers, religious leaders and politicians – express their support.  Both are have populist elements and both have anarchist elements.
     
    Some of the ideas of both movements have been adopted by the two major political parties, but to much different extents.  Democrats have promoted and enacted financial reforms, and Republicans have virtually coopted the entirety of the Tea Party agenda.  The difference is that Democrats have only modified their positions slightly, while the Republican Party as a whole has become much more extreme after absorbing the Tea Party.
     
    I realize both OWS and TP members will protest these statements and will say they aren’t being absorbed and coopted, but it’s difficult to argue this point.  No real third party is going to emerge, and anarchy is not going to rule.  (Pun intended).
     
    The vast majority of Americans are somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum – they lean toward liberalism or conservatism, but aren’t anywhere near the extremes.  Many favor conservative fiscal policies, and liberal social policies.  Or vice versa.  The point is few Americans favor political extremism.
     
    Republicans coopted the Tea Party, and this resulted in the election of many TP candidates in the 2010 midterms.  What happened as a result?  No compromise, no solutions, no bi-partisanship.  Instead we get the “party of No!,” a debt ceiling crisis, and the fiscal cliff.
     
    The 2012 election changed some of this.  Tea Party-endorsed candidates for Senate did not do very well, with 12 of 16 losing.  Several of the most prominent TP House members lost, notably Allen West and Joe Walsh.  Michelle Bachmann barely eked out reelection. The failure of TP Senate candidates Akin and Mourdock effectively cost Republicans a Senate majority.  The Tea Party Caucus in the House lost several members, too, and fewer Republicans were elected to the House overall.
     
    However, the TP remains a significant minority of Congressional Republicans, and they seem in no mood for compromise, even with fellow Republicans.  This internal battle will be interesting to watch, and holds the key to the future of the Republican Party.  The more extreme they become, the more losses they will endure.”
          ——————-
    The next four years will likely be years of economic growth as we finally emerge from the hangover effects of the Great Recession.  I suspect half of this topic – Hard Times – will be largely moot by 2016, but the other half – Polarized Politics – will remain.
     
    The economic pendulum swings, but political divisions endure.  Twas ever thus.

    • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

      Speaking as a Tea Party leader that has organized protests with people from the Occupy movement, I am interested in why you feel that these two distinct groups achieve such varying results.    

      • hennorama

        RWB – as I said, the agendas of these two groups were adopted by the two main political parties to a much different degree, resulting in differing degrees of political/electoral outcomes.

        One might also consider that the OWS groups used civil disobedience to a greater extent, resulting in numerous arrests and police crackdowns, and generating considerable bad press for OWS. There also seemed to be more anarchistic and violent elements in OWS. This likely explains why their agenda was not adopted to the extent.that the TP agenda was.

        In contrast, the TP groups, while generating their share of bad press coverage, were generally angry but non-violent when they demonstrated. Their concerns were also quickly amplified through the huge media outlets of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the Wall Street Journal, etc.

        They also seemed to organize sufficiently to work within the system, even though they espouse independence from government. Due to this organization, they were able to get significant financial backing.

        Finally, they’ve been around much longer than OWS.

        • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

          Interesting, my take is somewhat different. But I need to respond to your assertion that working with in the system is antithetical to independence from government.  Too frequently a straw man choice is presented. Either the a drone in the hive or a Crusoe in the wilderness.  The argument shows a misunderstanding of our core principle: Free people and free markets.

           http://jaltcoh.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-acting-alone-fallacy.html

          • hennorama

            RWB – TY for your response.

            Unless one is an anarchist or a revolutionary, one needs to work within the political system to further one’s ideas. This is a given. But to simutaneously espouse a desire to be independent of government AND to be politically active can be viewed as a contradiction. This is not a judgment or an argument, but merely an observation.

          • Gregg Smith

            I completely get your point that working within the system is not antithetical to independence from government.  But please clarify, are you accepting the premise that the Tea Party espouses independence from government? I don’t, at least as I interpret the phrase. When you tell a liberal you advocate smaller more effective government they hear “no government”. We could cut the size and scope of government in half and still have a huge and bloated bureaucratic nightmare.

          • 1Brett1

            Don’t tell people what liberals think or hear. 

          • Gregg Smith

            Why?

          • jefe68

            Because that’s what you keep saying to others dimwit.

        • Gregg Smith

          There were no sexual assaults at tea party rallies. No rapes. No deaths. There was no destruction of private property. 

  • VTSolarGuy

    Dr. Friedman’s response to the last question about the environmental consequences of economic growth was abysmal.  If it had come up earlier in the show I would have tried to call in.

    This is what happens when we let economists discuss environmental issues, or scientific concepts in general, for that matter — they have not a clue.

    The response was parsed into three parts, which could have been helpful, had he even tried to address each concern, but was instead an attempt to triple the patronizing dismissal of the caller’s question.  First part was polluted water & air (which apparently no longer exist — at least here, anyway), so we no longer need to worry about all that bother (?)  Problem is, India, China and countries like Pakistan and Indonesia failed to get that memo, so while they “develop” like mad, the impact on the environment is enormous, but we can pretend that the per capita environmental impact of Americans is not really part of the problem, since we already have catalytic converters and all the latest technology (yeah — like hydro-fracking, and mining & refining the toxic goo extracted from tar sands and “shale oil”).

    Next up was resource depletion and/or Peak Oil, for which the good Dr. says there is “no evidence at all” (???), which is where I hit the roof, and concluded that economists are the very LAST people on the planet that should be interviewed on matters of science.  Peak Oil is a geologic fact, and as such is non-debatable.  We live on a finite planet with a finite supply of “fossil fuel” in its many forms, and none of which is being formed at an appreciable rate compared to the rate of extraction.  Therefore, there must come a day when we exhaust the supplies, or when we switch to some other energy source for economic or EROEI reasons.  The fact that we seem to have a lot of coal still in the ground, and a brand-new false economy based on the hydro-fracking Ponzi scheme flooding the market with artificially-depressed prices for natural gas does not negate this.  Oil fields all over the globe are in decline, and Peak Oil is upon us.  The debate about Peak Oil is about its impact and timing, but not that it must occur;  is there any other possible outcome?

    Lastly, we move on to Climate Change, which he admitted was “the most difficult”, but did not at all address.  Brushing aside the most daunting challenge ever faced by humankind is insufficient to convince me that we should go ahead and stoke the economic engines and try to grow our way out of this enormous mess. 

    Since economic growth is utterly dependent on the exploitation (and combustion!) of fossil fuels — most notably oil — and since that has a definite impact on the levels of greenhouse gasses that threaten to alter the planet for thousands of years to come, I’d say a much more complete investigation of the environmental consequences of economic growth is called for.

    The latest news from Climate Change researchers around the globe is absolutely terrifying.  New data, more measurements of CO2, ice thickness and extent, methane hydrates, etc… tell us that we are on track for impacts that exceed even the worst-case scenarios predicted in the now-outdated IPCC Assessment Report 4 from 2007.  Not a mere 1 – 2 degree C rise by 2100, but recent models suggest a rise of between 4 and 7 degrees C, perhaps by 2050!  The consequences of methane hydrate/methane clathrate release from the oceans and permafrost in arctic and antarctic regions are devastating for the future of mammalian life on this planet.  In the past few years, ever-larger releases of methane have already been observed…

    Have we passed the tipping point of near term human extinction?  I don’t mean no humans alive in 400,000 years or even 1,000 years;  I mean by or before the end of THIS century.  Those are the risks, folks.  Your move.

    • hennorama

      VTSolarGuy – thank you for your thoughful and passionate comments, and for introducing me to a handy acronym – EROEI.

      Part of what Friedman was saying is that economies tend to degrade the environment quite considerably as they progress economically, then come to a point where they realize this is unwise and/or unprofitable long-term.  Ergo his response about catalytic convertors.

      It is quite difficult to get emerging economies to change their economic and environmental behaviors as they utilize available resources to benefit their members over the near term.  Asking developing economies to give up a chance at prosperity is not quite fair, since we’ve advanced by doing the exact same things they are currently doing, AND we want to keep using remaining resources.  More advanced economies can look askance at these emerging economies, and point out the threats, but the basic conflict between economic progress and resource exploitation remains, quite difficult to decouple.

      The threats you point out are indeed real, but it’s unrealistic to expect instantaneous change.  We can and should change what is under our control, and continue to point out the threats posed by both our behaviors and the behaviors of emerging economies.  We need to continue to cajole, persuade and prod these economies to change their behaviors and reduce these potentially existential threats.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      BTW – I found the 2011 UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) report on “decoupling resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth” quite interesting.  You can access the report here:

      http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/Publications/Decoupling/tabid/56048/Default.aspx

  • VTSolarGuy

     Hey 1Bret1,

    I think your analysis is spot-on, and very well written, too.

    The part I worry most about is the last point, about the economic growth over the next 4 years.  I no longer know if I should even hope that this comes true — even as a small business owner!

    There is a growing school of thought that contends that the only way we can save ourselves — that is, for humans and other warm-blooded animals to survive the next century — is a complete collapse of the world’s economic systems (as gruesome as that may be to contemplate), and a return to a local barter & trade economy and a lot more hands-on-the-earth agriculture, and a return to a world that’s less mechanized, and more built-by-hand.  Some say the sooner the economic collapse, the better for the survival of the human species.  I’m still trying to digest that view, but it has very real merit.

    For a point of reference, please consult the following summary of the most recent Climate Change research from around the globe (which ain’t pretty):

    http://guymcpherson.com/2013/01/climate-change-summary-and-update/

    For actual science, and for non-political, non-partisan, accurate information about the science of Climate Change, folks should look here:  http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/start-here/

    Clear skies,

    BV in VT

    • 1Brett1

      Thanks for the links, VTSG…although, I can’t remember which post of mine you are referring to. I can’t recall making any comments about climate change in the last couple of days (of course, I could just be having a senior moment!).

  • TomK_in_Boston

    “No Labels” is a centrist organization advocating a bipartisan approach to fixing our problems. The #1 problem they want to fix is that the wealth and income of the middle class has not yet been entirely redistributed to the romney types.

    • William

       John Kerry, Bill Clinton, Al Gore have all done pretty well for themselves too huh?

      • pete18

        It’s ok to be rich, as long as you’re a democrat.

    • JGC

      I have read analyses that say “No Labels” is a pseudo-corporate entity, and others that it is a tool of MSNBC. So they must be doing something right, if in fact they are trying to drag politicians and regular folks to the center.   

      • Gregg Smith

        I don’t mean to poo poo the center, really. But I think on some subjects at some point we need to decide which way is best rather than looking for the center. Currently one debate is Keynesian Economics vs. Free market Capitalism. If one side is saying spend more and the other is saying spend less then spending not as much is a compromise that is fruitless to both sides of the argument. I like labels if they are accurate. As a matter of fact I say scream it from the mountaintops.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          Keynesian economics is free market capitalism, it’s just a different version from robber baron capitalism. Gvt has a role in all of the many flavors of capitalism, this is a matter of degree.

           I agree that I don’t like this worship of the center. From my perspective, when one side moves 100 miles to the right, the center is no longer of interest.

  • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

    FTA:
    The U.S. national debt now exceeds 100 percent of gross domestic product. Given that a significant amount of this debt is the result of governmental efforts to mitigate the effects of the financial crisis, the recession, and the anemic recovery, it is tempting to think that the debt problem is a recent phenomenon. This article shows that the United States was on a collision course with a major debt problem for nearly four decades before the financial crisis. In particular, the debt problem began around 1970 when the government decided to significantly increase spending without a corresponding increase in revenue. The analysis suggests that the debt problem cannot be permanently resolved without creating a mechanism to prevent the government from running persistent deficits in the future. (JEL E62, H62, H63)Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, November/December 2012, 94(6), pp. 441-55.

    http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/12/11/Thornton.pdf

    • jimino

      Interesting study from a reliable source.  Thanks for the link.

      Shows that the rapid increase in government debt tracks precisely with the the drastic cut in tax rates that marked the start of the right’s “starve the beast” strategy (interrupted by the period in which tax rates were increased).

      Who could possibly have predicted such an outcome?

       

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Sure was obvious to me.

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        Republican’s have been screaming ‘Governement is the Problem’, ‘Hate the govenrment’ for decades now, and for decades, they have given us every reason to hate the govenrment – Iran Contra, Graham Leach Bliley Act, 911, Iraq, Afganistan,  suspension of habeous corpus, deregulation and defunding of regulatory agencies, Terry Schivo, welfare for the wealthy and nowthe so called debt crissises which actually slowed the economy, extend the sufferring to the eager to work unemployed and only add to our debt due to our derating and higher interest rates. Yes we hate government, the part some of us call the American Taliban AKA the Tea Party and their prevent-progress-at-all-costs tyranny and defiance and denial of fact in decision making processes.

        • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

          I object to be called the American Taliban.  We are much snappier dressers.  

        • William

           Clinton said the era of big government is over so he hates big government too.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Aren’t you supposed to say we’re gonna turn into Greece? The correct talking point is “Without “entitlement reform” we’ll be just like Greece.” C’mon, “a mechanism to prevent the government from running persistent deficits” = “entitlement reform”, right? We all understand newspeak here. I mean, it couldn’t possibly mean raising taxes at the top, raising corporate and estate taxes, a financial transactions tax, drastic cuts to the War Department, letting medicare negotiate drug prices, etc., could it?

    • hennorama

      While interesting, a discussion of Federal Revenue and Spending, surpluses and deficits only as a percentage of GDP misses some important factors.  It’s important to also consider the actual Revenue, Spending and GDP values.  For example, Real GDP has only recently returned to pre-Great Recession levels.

      During an economic downturn, GDP decreases, Federal Revenue decreases, and Spending increases.  This makes the deficit, as a % of GDP widen considerably, as shown in Figure 3 in Mr. Thorton’s article.  It also makes the resultant added debt look worse as a % of GDP.

      Mr. Thornton, correctly notes “that most of the increase in deficit spending can be attributed to increases in Medicare, and to a lesser extent Medicaid.”  The problems stems from the fact that only Medicare Part A is nearly self-funding, but Parts B and D get over 70% of their funding from general Federal Revenues.

      See:http://www.kff.org/medicare/upload/7305-07.pdf
      For info on the differences between Medicare Parts A, B, C and D:
      http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/167/~/differences-between-medicare-parts-a,-b,-c-and-d

    • JGC

      If the debt problem began around 1970, then…NIXON!!! I knew it all along…

  • William

     Her statement “What does it matter”….if that was her daughter killed over there do you think she would have said the same thing?

    • 1Brett1

      You’ve been really trying all day to make hay out of the “what does it matter” line taken out of context. It’s not working (particularly among those who actually watched the hearing).

      • William

         Actually, it was a response to a lower post..darn it moved up top…I love that “taken out of context”…such a good “get out of jail card”…any bets how the MSM would react if Bush said the same thing about Iraq war

        • Gregg Smith

          I watched the entire hearing and there is no context that excuses her cold cold heart.

        • AaronNM

          Good grief! You’re STILL at it?!!! This has been EXPLAINED to you ad nauseum by now. Please, PLEASE watch the testimony. She was NOT referring to the incident itself but to the Senator’s persistent questioning over the causes of the incident. Hillary, rightly in my view, called this attempt at diversion for what it was – irrelevant. What matters are the deficiencies in security and intelligence which put our people in harm’s way without adequate support. Sec. Clinton has accepted FULL responsibility for those inadequacies and has implemented, without reservation, 19 recommendations from an independent review panel consisting of both Republicans and Democrats to beef up security and establish better communication between DoD and State Department intelligence agencies, in addition to a quadrennial security assessment similar to what the DoD produces for the president and Congress. So you need to stop LYING about this, because it’s clear that you haven’t seen the testimony and you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

          • Gregg Smith

            Why did they lie? It matters. If it was a silly protest gone bad that’s one thing. It was a terrorist attack, that’s something else. Nobody was fired. Hillary still has a job. Accepting responsibility my eye. It wasn’t about deficiencies in security it was a flat out refusal to help an Ambassador that should not have been there in the first place. They beefed up security in Barbados! And not Benghazi? There were assets in the area but our soldiers were killed because help never came. For 7 hours the fight raged and Obama was in bed. 

          • 1Brett1

            Why, Gregg, I’m surprised you didn’t bring up your opinion that Hillary and Barack were just too drunk to competently handle the emergency?! (I guess you don’t wish to appear too wacky to a new person to this forum?) 

          • Gregg Smith

            I was challenging the premise not offering my opinion. I did not say Hillary was too drunk to handle the emergency. But I did posit it might be the reason she fell and bumped her noggin. As for Obama, he was drunk and passed out or the most incompetent President ever. Take your pick.

          • 1Brett1

            There is no context that excuses your idiotic remarks, in fact context makes them even more ridiculous.

          • Gregg Smith

            I already stipulated that smarty pants.

          • 1Brett1

            I wastalkingabout yourremarksbeing idiotic both in and out of context (not Clinton’s) 

          • Gregg Smith

            I am an idiot. Already stipulated.

          • jefe68

            That’s his mo, being ridiculous.

          • jefe68

            Yawn.

          • jefe68

            See above.

          • AaronNM

            You didn’t even read the report, did you? There were no viable “assets in the area”, as you claim. That was part of the problem which Sec. Clinton took responsibility for, even though it’s not her job to manage security at every diplomatic facility around the world – there are other people within the DoS who manage that effort.

            Fighter jets and attack helicopters were NOT an option because the neighborhood itself is very densely populated with narrow streets, meaning an attack from the air would likely have led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. The security staff at the embassy in Tripoli were on lockdown and it was all hands on deck at that facility, so they weren’t an option, either. And you forget (conveniently or out of ignorance, not sure which) that it is the responsibility of the host country to provide support when diplomatic facilities are attacked, which they did. Ten Libyans died trying to defend our four citizens. That there was a lack of adequate support IS the issue, not this distraction over the root causes of the attack.

            Oh, and Sec. Clinton has been contrite and apologetic all along. Amb. Stevens was a friend of her’s, she knew his family. So, without ANY evidence, you’ve drawn an uninformed and frankly despicable assumption about her which, frankly, is undeserving of a response.

          • Gregg Smith

            The fight raged for nearly 8 hours. There were assets an hour away in Sigonella. There were 2 drones filming the whole thing. One SEAL was painting the target with a laser which meant there was an AC130U on station. It was called off.

            An attack from the air could be a precision attack on the painted target. A helicopter could have parachuted troops. 

            The Libyan guards were seen taking pictures of the embassy in the days before. They were in on it. Hillary Clinton has blood on her hands, her apologies mean nothing.

            The issue of lax security is gross incompetence to the point that it must be willful. Then they lied through their teeth. Don’t excuse it.

          • HopeForpeaceNow

            You seem to think you know more about Benghazi than the Pentagon. I wonder why. Could it be you have been convinced by the right that you do?

          • Gregg Smith

            What do you dispute?

      • hennorama

        1Brett1 – Sec. Clinton’s words are not only out of context, there are three words completely omitted from the quote.  Sec. Clinton’s complete sentence was “What difference, AT THIS POINT, does it make?”

        This is unsurprising, coming from the “We Built It” people.

        • Gregg Smith

          As I wrote earlier, those were the 3 most damning words. She waits 4 months and says it doesn’t matter at this point. It’s hideous.

          • jefe68

            Yeah, just like your diatribes.

          • Gregg Smith

            Do you give her a free pass?

    • Mike_Card

      There you go!  Flying pork chops and riding beggars; what wit.

    • jefe68

      Go fly a a kite or something.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      You’re just another Foxfluffer hack who can’t complete a sent—

  • William

     Google does a pretty good job avoiding taxes and bragged about it. They are huge Obama supporters and major donors to the Democratic Party.

    • jefe68

      And your point is what? What Google and Apple do is wrong, period. We need corporate tax reform here so these huge corporations pay their fare share.
      Funny how you make this complaint, which is really about partisan politics.

  • JGC

    I don’t understand why some are so anti-”No Labels” group.  From what I can see, they are trying to drag issues back to the center.  Huntsman (Republican, but also served in the Obama administration) and Manchin (Democrat, but in a very partisan, now-leaning Republican state) are at the head;  my own PA-8 representative  Mike Fitzpatrick (R) has just signed on (a district that is definitely centrist).  I haven’t voted for him in the 2010 and 2012 elections, but I see this helping to pull him toward a more central position. 

    • TomK_in_Boston

      You seem taken in by the “no labels” centrist label. Forget the label and look at what they advocate: standard righty dogma, “entitlement reform” to cut the big bad deficit. IOW, you’ll loose your retirement benefits so their corporate paymasters get to keep their insanely low taxes.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        I’d be much more interested in them if any of today’s “connected centrist” groups wanted to bring us to the centrism of the 1980s, say.

  • TimD

    Dr. Friedman is essentially correct when he says it is observed that societies can become more polarized when times are tough. He is also accurate when he talks about real wages stagnating in the US. At the same time, creating growth isn’t as simple as running a deficit and letting the multiplier take over or just getting businesses to put people back to work by investing in the economy. We are in a very different world today and if there was a reincarnation of Henry Ford, he would build his factory in the third world and contract the design and engineering work to whoever gave him the best offer.

    Not to sound dour or anything, yet at the same time the solutions have to be addressed to the way the world is – not as we would like it to be.

    Friedman said that economic growth in the 2% range was fine. He is very incorrect. Once trend real growth started dipping under 4% in the US, the deficits have swelled, real incomes became more stagnant, savings rates dropped and there has been less opportunity for young people.

    Tim

  • HopeForpeaceNow

    “Low- and middle-income workers and their families would have had far
    better income growth over the past 30 years if economic policies had not
    directed the fruits of economic growth to the highest-income Americans,
    a new Economic Policy Institute book, “The State of Working America, 12th Edition” finds”
    Economic Policy Institute

    100% of US economic growth since the Reagan era has gone to the top 10%.

    The bottom 80% of Americans now own 5% of US financial wealth, down from 9% just 8 years ago.

    Only the ignorant could imagine such an economy would thrive and grow in the long term.

  • Pingback: Tone, Tolerance And The Future Of The Republican Party | Cognoscenti

  • Regular_Listener

    Friedman sounds like a very fine professor and most of his ideas seem very sound to me, but he made a notably ignorant remark toward the end of the show when he said there was “no evidence” of a peak oil phenomenon or any chance that oil supplies were starting to run out.   I have seen a lot of evidence for it – now maybe Friedman does not trust the evidence that is out there, but then that is what he should have said.  And surely, since he is an economist, he could at least be aware of the relationship between supply and demand for a commodity and the impact it has on prices – well, the price of petroleum has been going up steadily for a number of years, hasn’t it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1016400192 Mufassa Longfellow

    22:15timestamp: PREACH. I would add to that however. Intolerance is likely to increase when unemployment is high and GDP is shrinking. The stress from a bad economy makes people more possessive, less tolerant, and ethnocentric.

  • ExcellentNews

    What hard economic times is this professor guy talking about? 

    I am a billionaire industrialist, and I just finished outsourcing 25,000,000 jobs to slave labor in Asia and raiding the retirement fund of my old workers. My profits jumped 250%, my lobbyists gave me a 50% tax cut, and foreign bankers bow to me as my yacht pulls in their harbors….

    I am a billionaire banker, and the sucker taxpayers made me whole for any bad loan I gave to speculators and investors. Congressmen kneeled to kiss my behind when I had to “testify” in Washington in a TV show to appease the populace. Now, I am looking for gifted marble sculptors to decorate my estate.

    I am a billionaire services mogul who busted the unions, and got to pay everyone the most desperate starvation wage…

    I am a foreign oil oligarch who has more say in the affairs of the USA than your “democratically elected representatives…”

    I am a media and hotel mogul…
    I am a downsizing CEO champ…
    I am…

    Clearly times have never been better for the ruling oligarchy. One last push, and we will be back in the good old times, when the peons did not even know what was happening to them. Let’s take BACK America! Bush 2016!

ONPOINT
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Jul 31, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin heads the Cabinet meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.  (AP)

The US and Europe face off against Russia. Are we looking at Cold War II? Something hotter?

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