Labor leader and Civil Rights activist Asa Philip Randolph met with President Roosevelt in 1940 to urge him to end discrimination in defense jobs. Roosevelt expressed support for Randolph’s goals then issued this challenge, “I agree with you. Now go out there and make me do it.”
Though probably apocryphal, that story offers a helpful insight. Our system of government places serious constraints on the ability of our elected officials to press the public in a new direction.
If we want to have Republican candidates who support sane, responsible public policy, then we have to create conditions on the ground that will support them. Developing that environment may call for collaboration with sitting officials and candidates, but the bulk of the work has to happen in the precincts. Gaining the support of candidates and elected officials is the final step, not the first, in any campaign for party reform.
Successful politicians rarely, if ever, truly lead on policy questions. Only a decade ago, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Mike Huckabee held substantially the same public position on same-sex marriage. The change we experienced did not originate with our elected officials. It emerged from the public at large. When it comes to policy, the voting public leads and our candidates follow.
There are rare instances in which a politician endorses a position unpopular with their base and ‘takes one for the team.’ President Johnson’s decision to press for meaningful Civil Rights legislation and the first President Bush’s tax hike stand out as prominent examples. Neither of them served a second term. These are exceptions that prove the rule.
In thinking about the role of candidates in rebuilding the GOP, It might be helpful to start by resolving a few persistent myths about life as a politician. Foremost among these is the strange notion that people run for office to get rich. Let’s be absolutely clear about this for it will be critical when recruiting candidates – there is no money in politics.
Once again, just for emphasis – there is no money in politics.
Yes, there are a handful of exceptions. The Clintons stand out as a popular counter-example, but once again they prove the rule. Politics bankrupted them. The real money started flowing when Bill Clinton left Washington. The Clintons would almost certainly be wealthier today if they had never entered public service.
The claim that politicians make lots of money resembles claims about people earning six-figure incomes selling Mary Kay or Amway. A handful of people manage to do it, but anyone who can make a living doing that would probably earn ten times more if they’d pursued a real job.
It is true that your Congressman earns over $170K a year. So does your accountant at the peak of her career, and she doesn’t have to balance the demands of three quarters of a million people. For the kind of people with the talent, resources, connections, and education that are generally required for the job, Congress is almost always a pay cut. That pay cut becomes seriously taxing for State Legislators and local officials.
If that weren’t enough, being in politics costs a fortune. Your Congressman must, on that low-six-figure salary, maintain at least two households while traveling constantly. Many of them live in dorm-like settings with other officials in Washington while their families stay behind in their home districts. At the state level this means practically living in your car as you log mile after mile back and forth to the capital and covering every corner of your district.
And it gets worse, because the work itself is pretty miserable.
Your job may frustrate you with its TPS reports and multiple, overlapping bosses, but elected officials face far worse. A relatively benign paperwork mistake can expose a politician to a whole range of exposures up to and including potential criminal penalties. They are barraged with incoherent demands from the kinds of people who leave you tapping your foot in the grocery store check-out line while they search for the right coupon. Their chosen career leaves them at beck-and-call all day and all year with no real escape or respite. All that before you factor in the constant drumbeat of character assassination, partisan hostility, and random death threats from tinfoil-hat-wearing wingnuts.
Why do people agree to perform this grueling job? First of all, hardly anyone does. Most of the best qualified people refuse to even consider the possibility of public service. That’s a concern about the shape of our system that was expressed from the very outset by men like Alexander Hamilton and George Washington.
Those who do choose to run for office generally either have a pressing desire to serve others, a powerful drive to feel loved by lots of people they don’t know, or a touch of the crazy. Most politicians possess all three characteristics in some blend. As political conditions have grown worse, the overall contribution of “crazy” to the mix has grown.
It is rare to find a politician who possesses a deep interest in public policy. In fact, for most politician an interest in policy is a liability. Running for Congress is not substantially different from running for student council. Think back to your senior year of high school. What were the most pressing policy questions driving the election for class President? You probably don’t remember because there weren’t any.
The winner was the person that possessed the broadest network of relationships that were the most generally positive in sentiment. That is also, in almost every case, how you win a race for state legislature or Congress. And the farther down the ballot you go, the less influence policy positions have on outcomes. While they may feel deeply about one or two policy questions, most elected officials absorb the bulk of their political platform from the network on which they depend.
Good politicians focus their energy not on policy ambitions, but on elections. Politicians do not keep their job in politics by writing the finest laws. They keep their job by winning the most votes. There are examples of elected officials who have used their office as a platform to promote policy templates beyond the mainstream. Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul are prominent examples. That model is rare because it can only be sustained under unique circumstances with the benefit of a niche electorate. It also tends to compromise one’s ability to actually participate in shaping legislation. Neither Sanders nor Paul has experienced any success whatsoever in seeing their policy interests become law.
When do we get politicians who lead? When someone opens up new ground on which to build a base of support, and a smart candidate recognizes the existence of that new space and exploits it. Reagan is the textbook example.
He recognized an emerging, unserved opening around law and order issues at home and the Soviet threat abroad. Reagan spent twenty years working at various levels to further develop and expand that base before riding it to the White House.
By contrast, John McCain failed in 2000 because the ground on which he wished to build a campaign had not yet been prepared. His campaign attracted a lot of enthusiastic support from voters, far more than Bush was receiving, but like some of Reagan’s earlier efforts, there was no institutional base to support his run. He was not attracting enough of the grassroots activists likely to vote in a primary, donate money, and promote his campaign on the ground.
McCain failed again in 2008 because, unlike Reagan, in the years after 2000 he did not work with grassroots activists to build institutional support around the voter base he had begun to attract. Instead, he tried to inherit and pander to the existing Republican base. That was not enough to carry him in a general election.
Republicans badly need another version of McCain’s 2000 campaign, but we aren’t going to get it until we’ve worked through several of the other steps described in prior posts. First, we need to build a simple statement of beliefs that can form the core of a hyphenated-Republican appeal. Then we need to assemble donors and think tanks that can support the policy and campaign sides of an effort to activate new voters. Once that is in place, we can expect to have success in recruiting candidates and passing legislation.
There is some good news. It is not necessary to build new candidates from the ground up. Existing candidates will do. In the early stages this may include outreach to existing or former Republican officials, especially in the north and near urban areas, who are frustrated by the dilemmas they face. They can be extremely helpful in knitting together the organizational structure we need.
What we cannot ask of them, at least in the early stages, is for them to take the lead in building a new structure for the party. That quote from Roosevelt should echo in our minds. It is up to us to prepare the ground on which rational, competitive candidates can begin to build their campaigns.
At the highest levels of the ballot, by 2024, our best shot at victory may be someone who got trounced in primaries 2016 or 2020 (Marco Rubio, I’m looking at you). Take a reasonably competent figure who struggled to gain traction in an environment that required humiliating, miserable pandering. Give them a chance to run on a platform they can respect, with just enough of the institutional support they need, and watch McCain’s 2000 campaign play out in way that matches the results from Obama’s 2008 campaign.
That’s what this blueprint is meant to achieve. While recruiting great candidates is part of that blueprint, it probably happens last. There are Republicans out there in prominent positions who would embrace a reality-based template for governing. It’s our job to make them do it.
[…] Candidates – All across the country’s north and west there are young Republicans in mayor’s offices and state legislatures growing increasingly frustrated with the party’s direction. Stepping up in open dissent looks like a career-limiting move, but they are weary of pretending to care about same-sex marriage and abortion. Too many of them are just quitting rather than launching seemingly impossible internal fights. […]
The Pope got right to it – right to it. Son of an immigrant visiting a country built by immigrants; lauding Pres. Obama on his stance of climate change; invoking the name of MLK and American’s promise on civil rights; and the need for inclusion at home and support abroad.
He didn’t equivocate. Maybe he can make a miracle and open some minds and hearts.
On to the UN and then to Congress – which will be interesting.
70 million Americans are Roman Catholic. That’s a significant demographic.
His message will only be heard by those that already have an open mind and heart. From what I have been reading the cons are sticking their fingers in their ears while mumbling communist socialist .
I’m not expecting any of our eminent Congress members to embrace his remarks – they are not only smarter than the Pope, they are in direct contact with God. They know better, right? There is more hope that he will reach the 70 million Catholics in our country. Still, I liked his forthrightness.
Wonder if one of the Republicans will shout “You Lie” at him when he addresses congress tomorrow.
I like the pope … but I can’t help wonder … how open are your “hearts and minds” to his stances on same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion? Would your tolerance extend to his views on those issues?
I’m going to have significant disagreement on those three issues. The Church can set its rules for its flock, and it can preach on those rules. But it’s all non-binding on non-members like me, unless you can come up with valid secular reasons for basing laws on them.
My tolerance and different viewpoints on abortion, contraception, etc would never keep me from attending his address if I had the opportunity. Respect for someone like this who is the world leader of Roman Catholics would over ride any personal specific disagreements I might have. Not that it should need stating, but I respect others beliefs on important personal choices. My problem is when my choices are disrespected.
Mime, would you respect the personal religious beliefs of the Hasidic Jew or the Muslim flight attendant or would or would your own secular belief that you should be entitled to a specific seat or be served an alcoholic beverage take precedent?
The Muslim woman who became a flight attendant knew that the duties of the job “SHE applied for and got” required serving alcoholic beverages. What she does in her own home is her business, but when she knowingly takes a job requiring this service, she should comply. So, I would expect a drink if I ordered one and the airline is free to accommodate her if they choose by having another attendant serve my drink. If she were the only attendant, I would expect her to serve it to me. If she has a problem with this, she should work in a different situation that complies with her beliefs.
As to the Hasidic Jew – I would not give up my seat. I have expressed this at least 3 other times on this blog. I make no apologies for not doing so. This is not an isolated event; it has become their expectation and if they want to control their seatmates, they should go by private vehicle or rent a van with other similarly thinking/believing people or live in the real world. I don’t always enjoy the people I have to sit with. I can move if a seat is available or accept the situation.
Don’t ask me this again. I am on record numerous times on these issues on this blog.
Mime, I was not asking if you would attend the pope’s speech. I wanted to know how open your heart and mind was to some of Pope Francis’ other stances such as abortion and same-sex marriage. I referenced the Muslim woman and Hasidic Jew, because it seemed that you had already made up your mind on issues of religious accommodation.
Why expect others to keep on open mind when yours is already shut on many of the issues of the church the pope holds most dear to his heart?
You may not want to discuss issues regarding religious accommodation, but the problem is not going away. Catholic organizations continue to fight in court against paying for contraceptive coverage. Providing funding for Planned Parenthood may cause a government shutdown.
In his speech, Pope Francis also said this:
“With countless other people of good will, they (American Catholics) are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
Why didn’t you post the entire paragraph objv?
“Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
Feel free to post counter-examples, but from what I’m seeing/hearing, it’s the righties who are having the biggest issues with Pope Francis.
He is a Roman Catholic, you know.
Good to see you alive and kicking, Big! Yes, I know he’s Roman Catholic. 🙂
ROR, Yes, I could have posted the entire paragraph. Heck, I could have posted the entire speech. I was trying to highlight the pope’s concern about religious liberty being preserved.
Honestly, do you really think that when the pope meant unjust discrimination, he meant that same-sex couples could marry? Or that Catholic organizations should pay for contraceptives or abortions through medical plans? I think not.
Fly, the guy writing the article, was referencing two people who didn’t agree with him and sent him emails. I’m sorry but extrapolating the views of two people to mean that all “righties” think the same way is ludicrous.
There’s far more than those e-mails, objv. You seem to be forgetting the views expressed by certain members of Congress and contenders for the GOP nomination, for starters.
Nor did I ever write “all righties”. Go back and read it again, please.
No, you cut and pasted a section of his speech that you thought would distort the true specifics of his speech. What part of “American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination” are you having a problem with? I suppose you have a secret decoded ring you use as an insight into what the Pope “really means”. Fox should hire you.
OK, fly, I’ll admit I’m too lazy to google this, but I must have missed all the anti-pope sentiment expressed by “certain members of Congress and contenders for the GOP nomination.” Aren’t Bush, Rubio, Santorum and Christie Catholic? They may disagree with the pope on some issues, but it certainly hasn’t caused them to leave the church or be disrespectful.
ROR, the beginning of the paragraph about discrimination led to its conclusion at the end that the right to religious liberty should be preserved and defended.
Since Pope Francis is the leader of the Roman Catholic church, religious liberty is his primary concern. It is true that he does not want discrimination, but I’m guessing that his definition of groups being discriminated against might be slightly different than yours.
B.S. objv, what you say is just so much drivel and speculation as to what you WANT the Pope to mean. Taking the man at his word is something that you just can’t tolerate. Typical and not a bit surprising.
ROR, I am taking the pope at his word. Are you? Please read the whole paragraph again. While the pope is against discrimination, this obviously does not include behavior that he considers sinful like right to same-sex marriage or an abortion. Religious liberty is the main right he is speaking about here.
“Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their RIGHT to RELIGIOUS LIBERTY. THAT freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend THAT freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.” (Emphasis mine.)
Seriously objv, you missed things like that House rep saying he’s boycotting the speech? You missed Santorum’s superbly ironic statement about the Pope not being a scientist and we need to listen to scientists instead??? Google is your friend (or maybe your enemy). One of many hits:
Now if you were assuming that a couple of nasty ignorant e-mails are representative of righties overall looking like they have more problem with a Pope Francis than lefties, I refer you to an old adage about the dangers if assuming.
Santorum really said “the Pope not being a scientist and we need to listen to scientists instead???” That climate change denier? NOW he wants to listen to scientists? Oh, we only do that when the scientists agree with our position? Wooo.
Fly, I don’t have to assume much. Don’t you remember the dust up regarding Ms.Sandra Fluke and her push to get a catholic university to pay for contraceptive coverage? I would say that the anti-religious left had far more of a problem with the Catholic Church than the mostly respectful disagreement those on the right have with the pope on climate change.
Objv, you’re blurring the issue. The controversy with Ms Fluke happened in early 2012. The Pope was elected a little more than a year later. The subject here is how people across the political spectrum are dealing with the current Pope not agreeing with them on various issues. Show us some examples of lefties being as condescending or rude to Pope Francis as the righties we’re referenced.
Chris, it’s interesting how you describe politicians almost as puppets or marionettes. It’s up to us in the audience to write the script, find the best actor for the role, and then let him go on stage and run with it, taking all the pies in the face, while we sit as spectators in the seats, and the pies come from us. Or we are the director off stage, constantly making the politicians/actors turn this way and that, until we are satisfied, if that’s even possible.
Tut – You have it right. Have you ever noticed that in every neighborhood or business group, there will be a core set of people, maybe 3 in 30 that will always take the lead in every project? Either they will be the ones that volunteer or get nominated as officers. They then have to attend to the work of the organization. Then the rest of us will disappear until it is time to nominate someone else in the subset. Unless something goes wrong! Then everyone in the group attends and overflows the meeting hall.
So it is important that good information gets to all parts of the electorate. And how do we do that when groups listen only to their own?
As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
If we continue with the stage analogy, the rest of us, those of us who don’t have star power, should at least be a strong supporting cast, playing our part, even it is a minor role, or try to make more than just the occasional cameo appearance, instead of just being a Greek chorus.
Yeah, if only to try to make informed decisions, and VOTE!!!!
Yes, ma’am, VOTE. So important and so simple but so neglected.
Didn’t know if you saw this announcement yesterday.
“Once again, just for emphasis – there is no money in politics.”
I see what you’re saying but I’d quibble slightly with this. Do they get personally enriched while serving in public office? Usually not. However they are obsessed with winning re-election and because many of them are not wealthy enough to pay for their own campaigns they are definietly vulnerable to special interest groups and wealthy donors, especially on issues they don’t have a personal interest in so they just take whichever position might help them.
I suppose you could argue that they shouldn’t be so concerned because incumbents usually win re-election anyways but I don’t think they understand that, I think they feel insecure if they don’t have a large enough war chest and are paranoid their opponenets could get funded instead. Basically I think money has so much control because they don’t understand how little of a difference it actually makes. For instance everyone is terrified of the NRA even though they actually have a terrible record of getting people elected. The perception of the power of money is more relevant than the reality of it.
There’s also the revolving door problem, where politicians get wealthy after they work in politics and move on to private businesses, and I’m sure a few of them have an eye on that (albeit not a majority).
I would like to see more discussion of entry level positions at local and state levels, particularly as a training ground for potential talent. This may offer the most honest starting point for aspiring politicians and the greatest opportunity for the parties to identify and cultivate promising candidates for higher office. At this level, nascent politicians best connect to issues that matter to their supporters and have their greatest opportunity for making a difference. It teaches success and failure, and affirms, encourages, and generates the support for their retention. I think the parties should invest more effort and resources at this level.
Lifer states that successful politicians rarely lead on policy questions. If this is true, then one of the objectives of the parties they represent is to support them and teach them how to select and attain their objectives. We shouldn’t give up on something so important. I believe most people initially seek office to accomplish something tangible, and in the process make their communities and state better. If they have enough commitment and support, they will be encouraged to lead on policy questions as they move through the various levels of elected office.
So few people understand the personal and professional sacrifices politicians make – time from their families and their careers. Instead, the focus is on the public bickering, gridlock, and grandstanding, which only reinforces the disdain and distrust people have for politics. It’s a vicious cycle. Thus we do need to go back to the beginning, to the grassroots, and find good people who want to serve and then help them survive and thrive in the process.
The very last thing we need is a “class” of politicians. We don’t need professional “rulers”. Get into government, do something you believe in, and get the hell out. Don’t train for it as if we’re some kind of goddam career.
Sorry – meant to say “office” instead of “government”. Obviously, we require government employees. I was referring to elected office…
Fifty – you put too much sugar in your bread today? Man, you are firing on all fronts.
Lifer’s post is on candidates. I never stated I want classes of candidates, only guidance of those who are interested and talented. Wouldn’t you rather have people of ability run for office? It’s not an easy process and a lot of good people get lost in the process. There is a lot that party leadership can do to help these people without brainwashing them (well, not so sure about that statement with the GOP). How to run an organization, legalities of raising campaign donations, setting up phone banks, and precinct level organizations, effective ways of advertising, and much much more. This doesn’t obligate a candidate but it certainly assists the beginner.
The blog invites input and commentary. I offered mine and now you’ve offered yours. What are your suggestions? Leaving things the hell alone is obviously not working in America as Lifer has stated. How do we get good people to run and be effective in office? What are your ideas, Fifty? I’ve put mine out there.
None of the things you have suggested would “solve” anything, and if fact, not a single nation with which I am aware spends money to train “nascent” politicians. It’s the last thing we need. (And that was *my* comment! 😉
You have missed the whole point, Fifty. I never suggested that government finance training of candidates. There are lots of leadership programs – the Chamber has them, clubs and organizations have them, and, yes, local interested parties get involved. It’s not a bad thing, it’s healthy and obviously, we need better people to run. “Good” people aren’t seeking office and that is hurting our country. That needs to change and that was one of Lifer’s concerns in his post.
And, BTW, I did just that. Got into government, served with all I had for my four year term and got out. People wanted me to serve so I did. I learned a great deal from the experience and feel that I contributed, however, I had no further interest in a political career. I remain interested in politics and try to contribute to the discussion not only through criticism but from my limited experience. America’s political process is broken and I believe it needs all the help it can get.
You BOTH make good points. (I felt it necessary to start off by saying that.) I think the important thing is to start off on a small scale, on the local level perhaps, learn the ropes of the process, but to do your best to maintain independence of thought and personal integrity throughout, so you don’t get sucked into the system and just end up as another complacent member of a bloated political bureaucracy.
I’m glad you understood my point. The political process isn’t structured to encourage free-lance candidates. They need help and support. There is greater opportunity for the novice at the local level because politics is more community-based, which evens the playing field somewhat. To move beyond that point requires organization. Simply stated, I want the cream to rise to the top. (Our millennial population probably can’t relate to this analogy (-: )
mime – Here’s where I got my (apparently mistaken) notion: “I would like to see more discussion of entry level positions at local and state levels, particularly as a training ground for potential talent.”. I didn’t know you meant unpaid positions.
And as to your career in politics, I applaud you for it, BTW. You were a “citizen politician”. Now *that’s* what we need more of, and not “professional politicians”.
Let me just say this, Fifty. Most people who have any interest in or talent for politics have experience earlier in their lives. As Lifer pointed out, it could have started in high school through class presidencies, student council, etc, moved on up in college via similar positions, maybe throwing in frat/sorority leadership (disclaimer – I was never in a sorority – not my cup of tea), or Blue Key or whatever. Point is – the desire to seek office as an adult frequently has earlier roots. These people can make good candidates for higher office, and, yes, I agree that serving shouldn’t be a career. Then, why not eliminate benefits that encourage that? Why not recruit talented people who also have demonstrated personal and professional success in their lives? As long as our country functions through the existing political process, we need good people to want to run and to get out. THAT is not happening and that is what Lifer is talking about.
Strange, Fifty, that you assume local elected positions are “unpaid”. I did receive a salary, which I earned, believe me, but I always felt it was wrong that positions such as mine should be eligible for state benefits if one stayed in office for a prescribed period of years. It encouraged political service as a career. Of course, this was LA and politics is very interesting there. If one works hard in office, the amount of time that must be contributed makes it almost impossible to have a functioning professional career simultaneously (or much of a personal life, for that matter). You pretty well have to give this up….hence, Lifer’s explanation of the cost of being in office being a deterrent to attract successful professional people – the very kind of individual we need to guide our nation.
I don’t think you and I can agree on this issue but I am still interested in what your suggestions would be to attract and retain well qualified people.
I never said “elected offices were unpaid”. You know netter than that.
As to your last question, we call them ‘elections’.
Tutt – You describe a very typical path to election to higher office. And a good one, I think.
‘And as to your career in politics, I applaud you for it, BTW. You were a “citizen politician”. Now *that’s* what we need more of, and not “professional politicians”.’
That’s why I have mixed feelings about term limits. OOH I totally get the notion that the voters have the right to decide who represents them. OTOH our system has evolved to encourage career politicians, because it rewards seniority so much.
Mime, I’m also entitled to my opinion, and in my opinion, you are to be commended for your years of service in politics. We don’t always see eye-to-eye on issues, but you’ve done more than I could ever hope to do. I don’t have the energy, the knowledge, nor the social graces necessary for that, and frankly, nor do I have the desire. 🙂
Tutta, I am certain that whatever you do in public or private life, you do well with a good heart. I can assure you, four years was enough for me!
I’m better at my job now than I was 20 years ago. I certainly have less energy, but I hopefully use the energy I have more efficiently and effectively.
I can solve more problems than I could 20 years ago. I can handle clients better than I could 20 years ago. I’m probably no smarter, but I have more knowledge and expertise than I did 20 years go.
Assuming both are on the side of the angels, I would like to think that a 20 year politician could be better, faster, more knowledgeable than a fourth-year politician.
Our elections are our term limits. We might need to do something about campaigns and campaign finance to make unseating an incumbent more feasible, but absolute term limits bother me.
I wish I agreed that more experience made for a more effective elected official. They may be more skilled in working through the legislative process, or in parliamentary procedure (all those lawyers!!!), and certainly they should have more contacts to network with, but more time in grade may not make them more skillful or effective. Just older. In watching some of the multiple term Congressmen/women, I’m not sure if they’re there because they have retained their sense of purpose or if they simply have gotten used to the power structure. It must be intoxicating and most who have long tenures have given up their “day” job a long time ago. So, what’s left? Their identity is bonded with their public persona. What is worrisome is the possibility that they have lost a sense of reality – that they understand how ordinary people live and what their needs are. That is the danger of D.C. All that rarefied air (-:
Congrats on a fulfilling career. It must be satisfying to feel you can accomplish more, more effectively after twenty years and still enjoy your work. That’s wonderful!
I voted against terms limits in the early 90s, since I also felt that elections should be the only way to limit terms, and especially because it was a shame to see a good lawmaker have to leave office too soon. I still feel the same way (sort of), but I am open to the idea of term limits, but with longer and more numerous terms.
I also voted against the lottery back then, because I felt it would lead to the ruin of many a poor boy, and of course I knew what was best for everyone.
Attsa my girl (-:
I may have a major case of laryngitis right now, but I can still type something fierce!
Mime, you’re out of order again. It’s “time” to get your personal blog clock checked. It seems to be in need of repair.
Tutta, the times recorded on the blog appear “in the ballpark” as I they appear on my screen…Sometimes I start a reply, leave it up unfinished and come back to it….minutes or hours later. I don’t know how this all works but possibly this is causing a problem. It doesn’t bother me at all, however but I’m sorry if it’s a distraction for you. I am more interested in my reply posting logically in the thread than about the time notation.
“First, we need to build a simple statement of beliefs that can form the core of a hyphenated-Republican appeal.”
I believe in: 1) limited government, 2) the rule of law, 3) free enterprise capitalism, 4) individual freedom and 5) personal responsibility.
The above is a pretty basic American recipe, at least historically speaking. We haven’t actually tried that particular combination of ingredients in quite some time. If we look at the current crop of GOP candidates –
I.) God only knows where Trump actually stands on any of the above. (But he is more fun to watch than a barrel of monkeys on crack cocaine. So at least he’s got that going for him.)
II.) Fiorina seems reasonable on all of the above at this point, but it’s too early to know for sure.
III.) Carson may be squishy on 4) (see past positions on gun control, for instance).
IV.) Rubio is definitely squishy on 1).
V.) Bush is a mess on 1), 3), 4) and 5).
VI.) Cruz is solid on all of the above. (Too bad he doesn’t play well with other children.)
VII.) Huckabee is a tad bit scary on 4).
VIII.) Paul seems solid on all of the above. (Too bad his daddy’s an isolationist gold bug. How far again does that nut fall from the tree?)
IX.) Christie is a mess on 1)-4).
X.) Kasich’s a mixed bag on all of the above.
Of course, when it comes to my criteria, the current crop of Dems simply need not apply.
Show of hands, but who here does not believe in:
1) limited government,
2) the rule of law,
3) free enterprise capitalism,
4) individual freedom and
5) personal responsibility?
Aside from our few happy resident socialists who might quibble slightly with #4, even us wacky liberals could endorse all of those things.
Sadly, the details are devilish.
Add number six and my hand is up:
6) equality for all regardless of race, gender or religion
Even I, a European, believe in individual freedom; but that’s because the word is so meaninglessly broad and glittering that members of every cause ever can use it as a talking point.
A good rule of thumb is to never use a word to describe yourself unless you feel that an honest person can feel good about saying they oppose it. Otherwise we end up with a lot of meaningless terms like “freedom” and “responsibility” flung around and no real communication done.
“Aside from our few happy resident socialists who might quibble slightly with #4, even us wacky liberals could endorse all of those things.”
I suppose that depends on what the meaning of “could” is.
Houston, a huge devil is that you can’t have all of those things at once in their pure form, because they contradict each other. You just can’t have, for example, complete freedom and responsibility at the same time. Compromises must be made somewhere. That’s why we have politics.
Not to mention that #3 is problematic in its own right. We just learned that Exxon knew years ago that fossil fuel use would cause global environmental problems but buried the information. Again and again we see that free market capitalism is willing to burn the place down to make a profit.
Creigh well said.
I’m not sure how this narrative started that you must either support complete free market capitalism or none at all and you’re a communist.
I’m also not sure how this meme started that says pure free markets is some moral force of good in this world. It isn’t.
I think the best possible solution is a freeISH market that allows the best parts of capitalism (efficient deployment of capital, social mobility, profit incentive, private property rights etc) while minimizing (as best as possible) the exploitive negative effects.
This is already the system in place so its not a huge leap. It’s just that the controls don’t go far enough.
A TRULY free market system would have children working for peanuts, 12 hour days, 6 day work week, no workers comp, no safety regulations, no EI etc.
We long ago decided that regulations and controls to curb the excesses of capitalism is the best way forward, and look what happened when we did: we created the middle class and the richest society to ever exist (thanks in huge part to organized labor).
There CAN BE no middle class under a truly “free market” system. Simply a modern version of Lords and serfs
Don’t forget the eagles-got to have some eagles in it too.
I respectfully submit that there is one component missing from your list Tracy: duty. Both personal responsibility and individual freedom are dangerous concepts when not balanced by civic duty. It is the genesis and not the result of social capital. It keeps our darkest demons at bay.
The General Social Survey has consistently shown the evaporation of trust in every institution of our society precisely because we have dropped duty from our repertoire.
The people who claim that taxes are theft (and yes, I have conversed with them) are exhibit A for the lack of proper emphasis on duty.
Fly those people are scumbags who simply could care less what happens to others as long as they get theirs.
Watch their tune change though when the company downsizes and they need to access EI benefits.
Brent exactly. Duty is what ties all of those things together. Without a sense of duty it all goes to shit.
I would say, we’re in it up to our eyeballs, Rob.
3) free enterprise capitalism,
Screw that , there needs to be limits, case in point.
I do not think I have ever wished somebody dead…. until now, I wish this fucker a slow painful death.
I heard an this topic discussed at great length yesterday on CNBC. The justification (as stated by the company principle) is that the drug was developed by a company they had bought and was losing money, big time at the $13 price. So, they raised the price to a level that would allow them to make a profit. This gets back to the question of should drugs for global health issues that are endemic, such as AIDS, TB, EBOLA, Polio, Malaria, etc. be treated differently than other drugs in pricing and availability. Personally, I think there is a good case for government subsidizing drug cost in order to eradicate spread of the horrendous diseases and reduce human suffering on a large scale. (I will await the poisoned darts from conservatives.) But, then, I also am a proponent of the health care for all concept, so there is that.
The consensus of the panel discussing this particular drug and the pricing change was that it was a very poor decision….and, this was from economists who are very conservative. Occasionally, we agree.
Mime, the scumbag in question has admitted that the drug only costs $1 to produce. His justification for the $750 selling price is, essentially, “because I can.”
Another rare drug, cycloserine (anti-tuberculosis), was recently acquired by a different small pharma that raised the price 20-fold. After an uproar, the original owner, a foundation associated with Purdue (that had wanted to get out of the drug-making business) took it back. Perhaps the same thing will happen with this anti-toxoplasmosis drug (pyrimethamine), or perhaps all this was motivated by a desire to make a quick buck by reselling the rights to another pharma company. In either case, this guy is an arrogant scumbag of the highest degree.
1mime read up on this scum bag.
I hope you didn’t think I was condoning this action, only sharing the discussion I heard. To a one, they all critized this person. It’s sad that there is no way to disallow someone to “game” the RX market like this.
Today it has been reported that he will reduce the price of the drug. Didn’t say how much but he clearly has gotten the message from everyone that he was wrong. Did you notice how young that dude is? He needs to grow up.
Tracy, just to take #1, limited government, limited to what? The Constitution? Whose interpretation of the Constitution, yours or mine? The Constitution lists (first sentence!) “promoting the General Welfare” as one of the purposes of government. That covers a lot of ground, doesn’t it?
We have a Constitutionally limited government according to the only people that matter: the nine justices of the Supreme Court, whose Constitutional role is to determine what that means. Tracy’s opinion carries the same weight as mine, which is to say not one bit.
“That covers a lot of ground, doesn’t it?”
It covers no ground at all. The Preamble is the “why”, not the “what.” Enumerated powers are a little further down.
Point, Doug. But I don’t think the enumerated powers argument is conclusive either. Some powers are granted, some are prohibited, but many issues are not mentioned and are at least a gray area.
Oh, and Chris, I do believe I’ve found your candidate:
Wow. I guess gun control really is easy! 😉
Getting warmer. I expect we’ll see something along those lines in the next few years.
O’Malley is a complete Dingus if he thinks he’s going to reduce suicides by half. If he means gun-related suicides, so what? People just kill themselves in different ways, the result is the same, and he’s still a Dingus.
(Before taking issue with this, please look at suicide rates in the western world.)
Turns out suicide by gun is very efficient. Like 96% or so. Pills, cutting or other means are sometimes survived and survivors can go on to live long productive lives.
Unarmed – Suicide *rates* are based on “successful* attempts, and not failed ones. Suicide rates seem not to be affected by firearm restrictions much if at all. The Slate piece is complete hogwash.
Fifty – I agree, it is hard to compare suicide rates between countries. Even within countries like Canada. The more remote northern territories have a much higher rate that the lower cities. And consider Korea, again very high suicide rate and few guns. The government spends large amounts of money trying to combat the suicides. They put gates at the train stations to keep people from jumping in front of trains.
In Korea as here, much has to do with shame or sense of loss. Usually whatever the situation is, it passes. Should they take down the train station gates?
And then there is the suicide that comes after taking out some antagonists in your life. You don’t hear about mass pillings much. How many of those gun related suicides that we should ignore are at the end of a murder suicide event?
Why would you not consider unsuccessful suicide attempts in the effort to bring rates down or just to save a few lives? I guess from a pure libertarian point of view, that is, when I feel like offing myself, I want to have the most efficient sure fire method conveniently under my pillow. Ironically, a gun is much better at killing yourself than another person.
Gun regulation to end suicides, no. As a side effect from gun safety education, yes.
And by education I mean telling the wife that when hubby brings home a gun to protect the family, it is much more likely the kids will find him dead behind the garage. Much more likely than using it to protect them from marauders. (Ignoring for this comment all the other likely scenarios).
Included link for the numbers.
Unarmed – Gun safety instruction will have zero affect on suicide rates.
Lott and others have long ago successfully refuted the notion that guns in the house are more dangerous to the residents. (Statistics regarding defensive use of firearms are almost never reported.) Some, (Lott and others), have attempted to do so, and the picture is quite different.
To the broader point, suicide is *usually* the act of a marginally sane person. We cannot reasonably construct a society attempting to prevent all of them. Mental health counseling, and the rest are good starts, but attempting to remove the means is the wrong and useless direction.
Fifty – * Lott and others have long ago successfully refuted the notion that guns in the house are more dangerous to the residents.
Sorry, Lott doesn’t do it.
And BTW, Canada just ditched their long gun registry because it cost billions, and accomplished nothing.
Hey fifty – I read the wikipedia entry on the long gun registry but I’m still confused on the details. What is the definition of a long gun? Semi-automatics are still restricted and I assume registered, correct? Sounds like a lot of the problem was with the web site, like Obamacare.
True. But Canada still has far stricter gun laws then the US and far less gun violence.
Unarmed – Rifles and shotguns. Handguns are so restricted as to be impractical to own. Semiautomatic firearms are not restricted per se. Scary looking guns like the AR series rifles are restricted, and others that are identical in form, fit, and function are prohibited. Air rifles capable of muzzle velocities greater than 500 fps are regulated as firearms.
And the suicide rate is just about the same as the US, for those following the discussion below.
To RobA’s comment, Canada isn’t fighting some stupid “war on drugs”, either.
Fifty – fair enough.
It seems like you’re a pretty committed gun owner and I have no doubt you’re a responsible one.
Your exactly the type of person who should be LEADING the push for sane and reasonable gun control laws. Because if an anti NRA group doesn’t materialize then gun control will eventually be passed, and my guess is it will be far far stricter then any gun owner wants.
Basically, gun control is coming. For those who think the NRA is some impenetrable political fortress, Tamany Hall was once considered even more so. And now its a figment. All walls fall down.
So its coming. And it would behoove gun owners to be the ones leading the process, because if they don’t, when the time comes, if they STILL refuse to budge, gun control will still happen, they’ll just be comoletely shut out of the process.
I have no moral qualms with guns. I think they’re a valuable tool and my preference is to have strong gun control laws that allow anyone who SHOULD have a gun get one (with reasonable restrictions) while making it much tougher for those who shouldn’t.
But if that proves to be impossible due to NRA style politicking, I’d support much more draconian measures. I like guns. But there’s a serious problem and if its not taken care of by the people who own guns, it will be taken care of by everyone else eventually. And gun owners don’t want that.
RobA – First off, I never said I owned a gun. But if I did, I would do so responsibly. Thank you for your comments.
As for some sort of sweeping, national gun control, the constitutional hurdles are immense. Given the recent Supreme Court rulings, we’re pretty much talking of repealing an amendment. I don’t think that’s very likely.
My real beef with it all is the fact that it has not and will not be effective. Smart guys like JG use international comparisons and contrasts to illustrate their point, but I think that misses many, many social complexities unique to the US. Furthermore, if we remove criminal-on-criminal violence and suicide, (as I believe we should), the situation looks far less dire – media hysteria notwithstanding.
I think only a complete idiot would claim there is no gun violence problem in America. The underlaying truth is that there is a *violence* problem in America. The reasons for this are manifold, as I’m certain you appreciate.
The only contemporary experiment in serious gun control, with a country going from lax controls to fairly serious ones, is Australia. And indeed, firearm-related suicides dropped by more than half (65%, actually). While a few of these did the deed by other methods, most did not.
“[Former Aussie PM John] Howard cites a study (pdf) by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University finding that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides.”
We spend a lot of time arguing about how gun control could not possibly work, except that it generally does. To be sure we have a larger problem here than in other Western countries, without a concomitant increase in willingness to think boldly.
JG – The Australian suicide rate is about the same as ours. The majority of gun-related deaths in the US are suicides. The rate of suicides in Oz was not substantially nor lastingly affected by gun control. Dead is dead, and the manner of death is irrelevant. Death rates by suicide are important. Methods of suicide are not, as the availability of these is not related to the rate.
Using suicides as a reason for gun control advocacy is illogical, and not supported by reality.
Listen, 50, I get that nothing is likely to change. Guns in the U.S. are part of the national mythology and it would take an amendment process to substantially increase what is now little more than token restrictions on obtaining firearms (or a SCOTUS ruling on the meaning of a “well-regulated militia” that breaks with 200 years of precedent). This is not going to happen in my lifetime.
But international comparisons are useful and you are right that we have a violence problem in this country. Our intentional homicide rate is three times that of Canada, four times that of Australia, and almost 5 times that of the UK, countries we share a culture and history with. We are tied in this rate with Latvia and Niger, which I would argue is not the neighborhood to which we should aspire.
Why is this the case? We already incarcerate far more people than any rich-world democracy. Yes, we have drug gangs, but drugs are not sold by boy scouts in these other countries. Our violent media is exported to every country on earth without raising their murder rates. One significant variable is the access to guns and it is perfectly logical to hypothesize that easy access to such killing tools increases the lethality of everything from criminal activity, to arguments, to lovers’ spats. We have apparently decided to accept such collateral damage as an unavoidable consequence of our second amendment rights.
JG – We obviously agree on the salient point. Rather than waste time on politically decisive and ineffective legislation related to guns, I think we should address with dispatch some of the other things you have accurately pointed out. Things like our stupid prison population, for example. And the “war on drugs”. And on and on. These are things on which we doubtless agree, and can have substantial effects on our violence problem *in our lifetimes*.
JG and Fifty – Regarding a Constitutional change for common sense gun regulation. Have a look at Heller II here.
Click to access 14-7071-1573768.pdf
Some gun sites are promoting it as another victory for the shall not infringe side. It does rule that some DC requirements are unconstitutional. But as I read it, the important parts are what was ruled constitutional. Registration, fingerprint of owner, required training, etc. These were all ruled constitutional. I assume we will get a scotus ruling at some point. but very heartening.
That is if I read it right.
I believe you did read it correctly, unarmed.
“The Clintons would almost certainly be wealthier today if they had never entered public service.”
The Clinton’s have been in it for the bucks from the get go. The patterns of abuse that dogged Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State, viz. foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation under very questionable circumstances, are no different in kind from her shenanigans as Arkansas’ first lady 20 years ago. If anything, she’s only become *more* devious and proficient in such matters. To Hillary, political power is a fungible commodity, and one that she’s willing and eager to convert to dollars at every opportunity.
“Our system of government places serious constraints on the ability of our elected officials to press the public in a new direction.”
Lately, not so much.
Didn’t expect that so quickly. The GOP might get back to a single debate stage before too much longer.
Looks like Walker is the next domino to fall. I’ll give him credit for recognizing the total futility of continuing.
Just minutes after the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the Republican Presidential race, the billionaire Koch brothers demanded that he return the nine hundred million dollars they had allocated to his campaign.
Surely, Walker didn’t think they wouldn’t demand their money back!
~Moose and Rocco help the Governor find his checkbook~
Walker was smarter than most of the pack; he was also far more odious, a combination which makes him dangerous. I’m glad he’s gone. Hopefully Wisconsin gets a better governor soon.
I really have to wonder about someone who said no abortion allowed even if the woman would die without one. Either he didn’t think that one through in his eagerness to pander, which is bad, or he really does think it is reasonable for a woman with an ectopic pregnancy to just have to take her chances, which is even worse.
Or, carrying a dead fetus to term….there is no logic – until one of their own tests their litmus test.
I emphatically agree, ladies.
I emphatically disagree about Walker. He is a smart political operative, but would never make my list for intelligent leaders – and, I am using the word “leaders” loosely here.
If you drill down far enough you can get past the national bs and elect some pretty decent Republicans. My Councilor is able, for the most part, to avoid the messy social stuff and focus on just being there and doing the job (the HERO initiative aside).
The Mayoral race here is a cipher. I’ve seen a little bit of activity from Turner, and an even smaller amount from some guy named Costello. Turner wants us to love each other, which seems innocuous enough. Costello wants clean, safe, streets, which is also pretty innocuous.
It’s been low key, almost comatose, but it’s also a good environment for turning out your voters and winning without having to pull out the bull horn and say something barking mad.
The Prez election. We’ll never get more than a front man, and if he ticks off the real power behind the throne he’ll be buried underneath it. That’s why we have decades of what appear to be deliberately incompetent policies no matter who we select in the Fed elect.
It’s called the Hidden Hand.
I think that if I had the power to change one event in recent history, it would be the outcome of the 2000 GOP primary. McCain running against Gore instead of W.
“The Clintons would almost certainly be wealthier today if they had never entered public service.”
Best estimate of the Clinton’s net worth is $55 million. Even with between them, couple of degrees from Yale Law, and toss in a Rhodes scholarship, the chances of building that kind of piggy bank are very, very slim. Not impossible, mind you, but certainly not “almost certainly”.
I would say “almost certainly” that without the exposure of both the governorship, POTUS, Sec State, and all the rest, they would be far less wealthy.
Good one, Doug.
(She only made about $100K doing that, if you all are unsure to what he’s in reference.)
Got to agree with 50 on the Clinton’s. Being an X-Prez is one helluva cushy gig!
But I think Chris’ assertion has validity for the majority of those politicians who won’t ever be an X-Prez.
Good work if you can talk it…….
At least they have something to say and say it well. Their efforts are aimed at improving the world, not striking fear and paranoia in people.
No – their efforts are not altruistic, for god’s sake. They are good speakers, and by virtue of their public personas, command large fees. That’s all.
I guess we’re listening to a different news channel, Fifty. I’ve heard lots of hyperbole and fear tactics from some of the candidates on the right and I have never heard any speech from either Bill or Hillary that depended upon fear tactics to engage their audience. Prove me wrong if you disagree.
You didn’t say exactly that. You said, “their efforts are aimed at improving the world”. It was with that malarkey I took issue. (And BTW, I do not fault them for it in the least.)
You are correct. I phrased it poorly. I should have said: their speeches were positive and constructive in their message….That work for you?
It is probably accurate to say that politicians don’t get rich while in office (at least the moderately clean ones don’t), but there are some pretty lucrative gigs waiting many of them when they leave office. Mike Huckabee couldn’t build a $3 million beachfront house on a Baptist preacher’s salary.
***couple of degrees from Yale Law, and toss in a Rhodes scholarship, the chances of building that kind of piggy bank are very, very slim.***
They are slim everywhere. Takes remarkable talent and luck. What are the odds going in that you are going to make it to the White House? He’d have faced better odds playing basketball or baseball.
The Clintons are by far the most successful political couple financially in our history. They did it by making it all the way to the very pinnacle of the business once and getting close on a second try, then pulling every lever to drain every ounce of oppty from that achievement.
Reach that level of achievement in my business (software) and you’ll be a multi-billionaire. That’s what I mean by the comparison and I stand by it.
OK. I understand now what you meant, and I agree.
I would think conservatives would be all over them “pulling ever lever” …. capitalism at its finest….
Maybe the audience for this musical is a source of the candidates you seek.
When startup founders faced with overwhelming odds continue on, then they need a mentor to put up a mirror and let them realize reality. Trying to repair the GOP is ahead of its time; it needs to fail first. With all this energy spent talking about how to fix it, the return would be higher accepting that Democrats will get a chance to shape our near-term future. It sucks to stay with the losers, so I am done.
We can call Bernie extreme or even a socialist. However, what he is talking about is a reality in most of Europe. A continent with a highly functioning and modern infrastructure, a higher average standard of living, real upward mobility, and a civilized political discourse. ‘Socialism’ didn’t kill them – it made them stronger. That is a tough one to swallow in our state of mind. Maybe our problem is that we don’t travel enough and therefore have no clue how life outside ‘the best country on earth’ looks like. In this context ‘going back’ starts to make more sense.
I was down in NYC last week. A cab driver spontaneously asked me about the election. He was with Trump. Bernie is the candidate he fears most. He asked me whether my business would be impacted with Bernie as President. I was wondering why he was so concerned about my business. Why is it that the Have Nots in this country are so generous and kind to always think of us rich people first? How our political system sold ‘trickle down economics’ to the poor is one of the greatest accomplishments ever. We will pay the price for that years to come.
At the root of crazy politics is a misunderstanding of one’s own economic interests, spread broadly across the population and an entire generation. A generation that for the most part has not yet figured out how they can finance their retirement, but is holding on to the idea to one day become a millionaire. What a fraud! I expect more from the ‘best country on earth’.
Eh, I like Bernie, but I don’t agree with all of his policies.
For example, I don’t think income inequality is a big deal. That’s not what needs fixing. What does need fixing is poverty. If, incidentally, that causes a higher tax burden on the rich – well, OK then. I like universal health care (although, not necessarily single payer) and I like having a poverty preventing safety net (as a universal basic income, rather than a zillion programs) and I want college education not limited by affordability (though not necessarily state run, and “limited” being the key word) because those things will give people the confidence and skills to take risks.
Labor is a dead end, as in doing repeatable, simple tasks, will become less lucrative as automation gets better.
Bernie Sanders’ policies will apply a short term bandaid but will do nothing to prepare for tomorrow.
That said, I honestly can’t think of anyone else in the race who’d be better. Honestly, any sensible thing GOP candidates might want to say seems to be drowned out by madness – occasional bits of insight but mostly a LOT of strange things. Sure, they might be very smart people who have a very good ideas and solutions but I can’t trust any of them as it stands today. Besides, if Ben Carson and Donald Trump are the candidates that get a lot of votes, what are the chances that they won’t do what their base responds to? Hillary Clinton? I dunno. She’s possibly the most conservative candidate in the race (as in keeping the status quo with minor changes). She’s also a shapeless blob as far as policy goes.
Thing is PR, Bernie’s so far out there, he makes Obama look like Trump. If the goal is total stagnation, (and I’m not saying here that such a situation is necessarily horrible), then we’d endure 4 years of that with a Sanders administration.
It just ain’t gonna happen. The Democrats are too smart for that, because he’d get slaughtered in a national election. And the GOP is too smart to nominate Trump. That ain’t gonna happen either, for the same reason.
I don’t find Sanders ‘far out there.’
I think he’s speaking truth, even if he isn’t elected to do so.
Randiman, I am trying to decide whether wealth inequality is “a big deal” or not. If we take care of the most basic needs of all our citizens, it could be that inequality is harmless. But, I’m not sure. Imagine a system that does pump wealth to the already wealthy. It doesn’t seem like it could continue forever.
Huge extremes in wealth sometimes cause revolutions. Again, maybe related to the minimum we provide under the lowest in wealth.
Huge wealth causes some strange economic pressures on art, classic cars and any thing that is rare.
Huge differences in wealth causes problems when the upper class wants little to do with the lower classes. (Differences in education, housing etc.) These differences cause real problem for the lower classes. For example, when trying to work in neighborhoods that they cannot afford to live in.
Unlimited money can now by politicians by the bushel. This does not seem to bode well for the lower classes.
So, I don’t think we can be equal. But wealthy getting most of the wealth forever just doesn’t seem possible.
But, I may be wrong.
“For example, I don’t think income inequality is a big deal. That’s not what needs fixing. What does need fixing is poverty.”
The two are hopelessly intertwined. One is cause and the other effect. The direct EFFECT of inequality is poverty.
Don’t see how you can talk about one and not the other. That’s like saying about an addict “you know, the problem isn’t really alcohol. It’s how abusive and angry you become in the evenings”
And yes, while the “proble” IS how the alcoholic behaves when drunk, believing that you can tackle the problem without tackling the act if drinking alcohol is doomed to fail
Pseudo, income inequality ( and rampant corporatism) is a big deal, if you value democracy. Income inequality tends to foster either a police state or revolution, neither of which are good outcomes.
And the decline of labor that you mention, the increasing irrelevance of larger numbers of people to the so-called free market economy, seems to me to be the fundamental economic problem of our time. And I don’t think it can just be papered over by a guaranteed minimum income. Better than starving to death, maybe, but the social corrosion that would result would be very bad. Being irrelevant to the employment market, given our current social arrangement, is tantamount to being socially irrelevant. And having large numbers of socially irrelevant people is just a bomb waiting to go off. I can foresee a point where we would give up the free market, or at least a good part of it to avoid that eventuality.
Papering over with minimum income is exactly the right way to go about things.
Hear me out.
What today’s market wants is either artistic (Example of this is YouTube Let’s Plays) or high skill (Doctors, lawyers etc. which will take longer to go away but researchers will take even longer), or entrepreneurship or some combination of the above.
All three of those require time, investment, luck and possible failures asking the way. It’s trial and error. The age of a simple reliable labor job is fading away. What a person does next is entirely up to that person but a basic income would guarantee that a failure would not mean a poverty trap
Being “poor” is not the same as being in poverty. Poor is a relative term – you’re only poor in comparison with another “rich” person.
Being in poverty means you cannot provide basic necessities for yourself. What these basic necessities are, can be contentious – healthcare and education, for example.
So, yes, wealth inequality is hopelessly intertwined with being poor, but not necessarily with being in poverty.
For me, if you can attain the skills you need (education!) and take the risks you want to (universal basic income), while keeping healthy (healthcare), you should be able to get ahead in a free market society. Everyone wants more money so that they can do more things – nothing wrong in that. But the opportunities to do so are the big question. If you can provide everyone with the basic necessities, things fix themselves. Corporations can get their just-in-time contractors and increase efficiency, people can try many things without worry of complete ruination if they fail.
As far as social ramifications, it’s inevitable. The rapid progress in science, combined with the rapid change in manufacturing efficiencies will spill over. It’s just a matter of how we deal with it now.
” ‘Socialism’ didn’t kill them – it made them stronger.” – Martin
Compared to whom? Capitalism bailed them out after their near self-immolation from the last European war. It currently protects them and global commerce from external threats, pretty much gratis. And it provides a safe haven for their currency while theirs is in the tank, largely due to government overspending by its members.
I figure without the capitalism of the English-speaking world, they’d be Somalia. (Well, maybe that last sentence was a bit of a stretch, but I hope you get me drift…)
We stigmatized the word ‘Socialism’ to the point where we forgot what this even is. There is very little difference between European capitalism and what we do here in the US. The main difference is the European’s willingness to make a consistent investment in the Public Good. We are not. If you equate Socialism with Communism, then that is long gone.
It is our choice to make the investment in defense we are making and you can hardly blame Europe for benefiting from that. You are right though that Europe in a lot of cases is smarter about the choices they make. Could it be that a functioning government actually has its advantages?
I maintain that I think we don’t travel enough. We self-indulge in our conviction that we already know the best place on earth. What if we are wrong? The overall impression of the political base is correct: The US has been going downhill over the last decade or two. A series of bad choices led us to where we are now. We as a nation drifted to the right and lost sight of where the center is. Crazy politics became mainstream. The GOP is dominated by radical outsiders. In most European countries Bernie would be a mainstream center-left politician. A socialist or even a Communist? You got to be joking.
While we may differ on exactly what “the public good”, and ” going down hill” might be, I take no major issue with your last post. Do you think our European brethren have been “going down hill” of late?
Compared to whom? The U.S.?
Yes, mime – the US. Europe is an economic and demographic mess. And when we finally get some sense and force them to take care of themselves militarily, they’ll be worse. (Well, except for the demographic thing. Maybe the Syrian refugees will help. (And in fact, they will))
You think Europe is doing so well these days? Seen the Euro lately? Looked at the thousands of startups there? Pump your 401K into the European economy baby! What does the market know anyway?
Europe’s issues nowadays are mostly not to do with socialism: they’re to do with the fact that we’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The root problem is that when the banks failed – which can be blamed on many things, but not socialism – the national governments were forced to assume the debts of failed private-sector firms in order to prevent complete economic collapse. This pushed sovereign debt up far into the red. There’s three ways to deal with that: austerity, devaluation or default.
On the one hand, running an austerity programme is deeply bad for our economies, and most people realise that. It makes people poorer, which cuts their spending in turn and so shrinks the aggregate demand. With less demand, businesses fail or downsize, putting more people out of work. It’s a classic example of a macroeconomic paradox of thrift. However, it’s the option least likely to upset the finance industry.
On the other hand, devaluation is extremely unpopular, especially with a populace who have a racial memory of hyperinflation, and even more so with an ageing populace who’ve worked all their lives to build up a nest egg and now can’t bear to see it become worthless. It’s also deeply unpopular with the hyper-wealthy, but that particular issue has been overstated in my opinion.
On the third hand, default is a real option. It’s also the option that the most successful economic recoveries in history – Japan and Germany after the wars – adopted. However, this would be extremely painful to the finance industry and would make people very wary of investing in Europe in years to come. With finance being as vital as it is to London and Frankfurt, not to mention the rest of the Union, it’s highly unlikely that this option would be picked.
The real issue, to my mind, isn’t that socialism failed or that capitalism failed. It’s that during the golden years nobody had the courage and foresight to stick rigidly to the rules; meaning that when the golden years ended, the entire system collapsed because it had become bloated far beyond its ability to support itself.
Would that this were a uniquely European failing.
So EJ – Where did all the money go? Guess it was just private banks failing from financing all those risky startups, huh? It didn’t have anything to do with national debt and taxation I guess. It didn’t have anything to do with the bloated budgets of some members. It was strictly a private phenomenon having nothing to do with public benefits. Nothing we’ve ever read, nothing we’ve ever researched, nothing we’ve ever learned from first hand experience is true. Got it.
And furthermo, EJ, you’re a Brit. Just quit saying “we”. It’s just wrong at so many levels.
And since our friend EJ is likely at the pub quaffing a delicious beer, let me flesh out my last comment with him in absentia:
As a rule, Brits who call themselves “European” are liberals. Their use of the term stems not from recent history, or geopolitical heritage, nor is it rooted in antiquity, (however true that may be). It is an attempt to distance themselves from the Conservatives, and to an extent Americans, given the ‘special relationship’ we have with the UK. The term is, by any and all usage in this context, an expression simply of political affiliation, a deep-seated loathing for the opposition, and an unspoken shame for their country being somewhat of a standout in the region in many areas. It’s sort of a disdainful snobbishness toward the less educated working class, at its worst.
So, the term is a sort of rhetorical device where “no real communication [is] done” other than a kind of secret handshake used to tacitly identify British liberals to each other.
I love the UK. And Europe – though it’s been a year since I’ve been there. Without doubt, EJ will find plenty here with which to take issue. And I’m also certain he’s objective enough to see some truth as well.
@fiftyohm: I identify as a European. I have German citizenship as well as British, and so feel that the problems of the EU are my own. The notion that Britain is a tiny little fortress island, cut off from the problems of the mainland, is one that I feel doesn’t help her solve her issues in the modern day. Money doesn’t stop at borders any more, even at the Channel.
That said, I can confirm that in Britain it’s mostly centrists who call themselves European. On the right a lot of people still have nostalgia for the Empire, or see themselves as closer to America. On the left a lot of people find the EU to be too pro-business and, recently, too pro-austerity to be comfortable with it.
On the other hand, in Germany to declare that you’re not European is to identify yourself with the far right, which is something that I’m deeply uncomfortable with. So perhaps that influences my identification as European too.
As for where the money went: I’m not an economist, but I am an analyst, and I believe the best answer was that “it was never really there to begin with.” The European economy pre-crash was increasingly built upon debt-fuelled consumer spending and the high salaries produced by the finance industry. Unlike manufacturing or agriculture or computer programming, that’s an industry which can disappear in a heartbeat when consumer confidence disappears – which is precisely what happened. It was a mirage.
Look at Spain. Pre-crash, the major driver of their economy was the construction industry; that is, building holiday houses for newly-wealthy Germans, French and British along the gorgeous Spanish coastlines. When people stopped being so wealthy and stopped buying holiday houses in the thousands, then there was a wave of mortgage-lending and land-speculation companies that failed, as well as masses of labourers suddenly out of work. This wasn’t a national debt issue, it was an economy that was running on dreams and then suddenly had to wake up.
Or look at Cyprus. Pre-crash, an incredible one-quarter of the labour force worked in the offshore finance industry, mostly trying to help Russians get their cash out of the country and avoid their tax responsibilities. That’s clearly unsustainable, and yet it happened because the Cypriot government didn’t have the courage to tell their people to stop living in a mirage. When the crash happened all those people lost their jobs, Cyprus went back to being a poor country, and the taxpayers there had to shoulder the debts the country had accumulated during the mirage.
Meanwhile, the largest budgets and highest taxes were in the core European nations or in Scandinavia, all of whom weathered the storm far better. To blame the issue on government overspending is simply to misread the data: Germany’s state spending in 2006 was approximately the same as Greece’s and Italy’s (18.0% of GDP vs 19.1% and 19.4% of GDP, respectively) but both were dwarfed by Sweden (24.6% in 2006). Despite this, Germany and Sweden didn’t collapse. Greece and Italy did.
Martin, the mystery of current American politics is why so many conservative middle class workers are so eager to fight for rich peoples interests over their own.
It’s been a frighteningly effective marketing campaign run over the past few decades, and even now that the policies are an undeniable failure, they still hold such a strong grip.
“pecially in the north and near urban areas”
Challenging orthodoxy is easier where you can fly under the radar – especially important considering that today’s GOP is beginning to attain many characteristics of a religion.
As far as Marco Rubio goes, I have no idea. Unfortunately, he just strikes me as just another cautious follower.
I would not ignore the success of Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders. They aren’t different just because of policy positions that weren’t mainstream (which incidentally is far more true of Ron Paul than Bernie Sanders) but also because they are good orators who stood their ground on issues throughout their careers. They may not have had absolute success, but they did move conversation. Finding such a candidate in the GOP would today who would stand by positions such as “more efficient government, only incidentally smaller”, “free market solves problems – if government wields it properly” and “prepare for tomorrow’s economy, not yearn for yesterday’s” and spoke about them with same kind of unwavering certainty and passion would draw voters.
But again, it needs to start locally. It won’t be too hard to find existing candidates who’ll jump on a winning bandwagon but ones who’ll embrace it early on are much more rare. Heterodox positions are better when they start locally because you have more freedom and less scrutiny.
Rubio is mostly a spineless panderer and his personal focus is essentially a neoconservative outlook on foreign policy. His plan for making college more affordable was Indentured Servitude 2: Electric Boogaloo. That said he’s the Republican’s Party only hope of “winning” (or at least losing by the smallest margin possible) in 2016 because he can project sanity.
The politico who ISN ‘T a spineless panderer is a rare breed. Our system actively selects against such aberrations.