Democrats & Liberals Archives

We Right-of-Center Liberals

As reality has finally descended onto mainstream political discourse in America, the occasional continued chirpings of staunch Bush apologists has taken on more of an other-worldly, cornered-animal, delusional gloss than they had when mainstream attention gave them undeserved legitimacy. Surely it’s only a matter of time until national policy will catch up with that reality. In the meantime, I will chuckle every time I see Democratic politicians referred to as “far-left liberals” or socialists.

There are many measures of conservatism and liberalism, but none of them have much relation to whether one acknowledges that our decision to occupy Iraq was the colossal error that most now realize it to have been. Pro-war Lieberman and newly anti-war Brownback should serve as testament to that.

But of all the measures used to measure ideology, the one most often employed is the extent to which one adheres to a market economy model vs. a centrally planned economy model. Some think capitalist vs. socialist, others command economy vs free enterprise, communist vs laissez-faire, but each is an expression of the same dichotomy, though there are many different flavors at each end and in the middle.

Most reasonable people today would acknowledge the problems associated with strict adherence to either extreme along this continuum, and in fact all western democracies have some form of mixed economy which combines elements from each. In these United States we have Social Security, Medicare, a nationalized Postal Service & defense, highly regulated utilities, a Federal Reserve, anti-trust laws, a minimum wage, and many other elements which distance us from a pure market economy, but market forces still remain the driving force for our economy as a whole. We have chosen a market economy with an overlay of some planned elements to keep in check some of the excesses associated with unreined free market capitalism, exposed in an earlier age by writers such as Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair.

The really remarkable thing in America is the extent of agreement across more than 90% of the political spectrum with our choice of a market based mixed economy. From Dennis Kucinich to Orrin Hatch we are agreed on this. It is not surprising that even very conservative Americans who may think of themselves as pure free marketeers will concede that some aspects of central planning currently in place are desirable. It is somewhat more surprising given the excesses of corporatism evident today, that there aren't more who advocate moving to a planned model with market driven elements. But most of us recognize the dangers associated with ceding too much planning power to a central agency, and have witnessed from afar the far graver excesses of such central power when Stalin ruthlessly purged and punished dissent, or when Mao megalomaniacally exerted his power in the now defamed Cultural Revolution. Some democratically elected governments in Europe have enjoyed some measure of success with a more planned economy, but still I agree with most of my fellow Democrats that we are best served retaining a market based system, even as we advocate for more reasonable controls to counter corporate excess.

By definition, along this economic measure of left and right, a belief that we should retain a market based mixed economy, makes the vast majority of Democrats and liberals in America right of center. At the very least charges that we are far-left, fringe, or socialist are simply laughable. A democratic socialist perspective, far more common in Europe, ought to be a perfectly respectable one, and I think it sad that such views are routinely mocked or worse considered traitorous, in spite of my belief that America is better off retaining a market based model. The more purist views trotted out by the Heritage Foundation, Richard Viguerie, or Grover Norquist surely strike this observer as more extreme than those of a European style democratic socialist.

Ah well, I can live with that as long as America can continue the process of refinding her center, and begin to marginalize the divisive policies foisted upon us by the boardroom bought Republican leadership which at least no longer controls the agenda in Congress. Perhaps she can also find greater civility in political discourse as politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle respond to the disgust of the voters with the status quo and find language that can unite us, in spite of retained differences.

Posted by Walker Willingham at January 27, 2007 1:44 PM
Comments
Comment #205352

Sorry, Walker, but the reason that democrats are considered far-left is not their approach to market forces but their acquiescence to the ideals of the progressive movement that has taken over the party. Those ideals speak to the overriding of some individual liberty for the enforcement of new rights that they have decided need to be in place.

Classic liberals, like myself, despise the direction that these progressives have taken the democratic party.

There is much more to the ‘left/right’ political sphere than how our market is managed by the government through force.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 27, 2007 4:28 PM
Comment #205357

Rhinehold,

It may well be that many using the “far-left” label to denigrate modern Democrats are thinking of one of the other many axes of ideological measurement which I conceded exist at the beginning of my post. Even so the label is usually hyperbole and often utterly inaccurate - merely an attempt to paint the other as extreme.

Sure many on the left do the same thing, refusing to acknowledge the shades of difference among the many conservatives in America. I’ve never thought of Bush as a particular extremist in ideology, though he is extreme in his devotion to the rights of the super wealthy to retain their wealth, and his belief that such wealth is deserved.

It would be interesting to read your catalog of the ideals of the progressive movement which have “taken over” the party, and which you find so despicable.

I consider myself to hold many ideals that I would term progressive, but hardly see those ideals as being consistently held to by the mainstream of the Democratic party. Yes there has been too slavish a devotion in the last three decades to TWO particular tenets sometimes termed progressive, gun control & pro-choice, but that has now thawed in the last election as Democrats have widened their tent to include disenfranchised Republicans whose party has abandoned their central principles.

All political parties ought to welcome diversities, as there are far more combinations of views than there can be numbers of parties to represent them. Holding members to too many orthodoxies is a losing strategy.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at January 27, 2007 4:58 PM
Comment #205358


Although our democratic republic is more than 200 years old, it is still a grand experiment. Some things we try work well, some don’t. Sooner or later we get around to replacing or altering those things that don’t work.

What is most irksome to me is the rights lie that liberal Democrats or far left liberals want everyone to be financially equal when we say that we want a more equitable society.

Posted by: jlw at January 27, 2007 5:40 PM
Comment #205371

I would love to see those too, Rhinehold.

Posted by: gergle at January 27, 2007 8:12 PM
Comment #205375

Let’s engage in a game of make believe now. Shall we?

Let’s pretend that George Bush is somebody who fights tooth and nail against any attempt to institute centrally planned economies. Let’s forget his massive expansion of government programs—that must have all been an illusion. On one side we have Bush and the current crop of Republicans, who are all about pure markets. On the other, we have Democrats, who favor a judicious blend that we should call a “mixed economy,” something George Bush will try to stop with every bone in his body.

Wasn’t that fun?

Behind every caricature running around here there is one part truth surrounded by nine parts bull.

It’s ironic that Walker attacks this stereotype about Democrats as socialists with stereotypes and mischaracterizations of his own.

Democrats are not socialists, but it’s not hard to make that name stick when their Senate majority is possible because—guess why?—the Senate’s one Socialist party member votes with them.

Now why do you suppose a socialist would vote with the Democrats and give them their majority? Why not vote with the Republicans if there is in fact NO socialist strain in the Democratic agenda whatsoever?

I don’t say that Democrats are “socialists,” however. That term lacks meaning in our politics. Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Herb Kohl and Nancy Pelosi socialists? What a hoot!

Can you imagine those four trying to foment a people’s socialist revolution in some third world country? Hardly. Why bother? With their bank accounts, they could just buy the place and do whatever they wanted with it.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at January 27, 2007 8:53 PM
Comment #205379

I was amused by your make believe scenario, and agree with many of your points, but I’m wondering what stereotyping and mischaracterizations of mine you are referring to. As I noted, I never charged G W Bush with being an ideological extremist in the general sense.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at January 27, 2007 9:42 PM
Comment #205382

Hi Walker.

I think that one thing we all do sometimes is set up arguments which pitch the best interpretation of our own side’s positions with the worst interpretations of the opposition. After all, that way our side looks pretty damned good! I know I do that all the time, so I look for it in others.

The flaw, to my eyes, with what you’re saying lies in the first paragraph, which followed by the rest of your post, insinuates pretty strongly that Bush and his followers are “delusional,” “otherworldy” “cornered animals” who cling to pure ideological models that the rest of us don’t embrace. Perhaps they really are delusional, otherworldy and cornered, (I think many are) but not for the reasons you cite, and not because they’re any different or any worse than their detractors.

Bush himself is a BIG TIME advocate of what you call a “mixed economy,” and anybody who supports him either agrees with what he’s doing or has their eyes closed to his rather huge expansion of centralized government in many, many areas.

I say this as someone who has a distaste for Bush in part because of his addiction to the idea of an activist government as the solution to all of the problems here and abroad.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at January 27, 2007 10:37 PM
Comment #205383

Rhinehold
I am curious also. Do you object to,if you own a business open to the public,having to install a wheelchair ramp,or not being able to racially discriminate? What rights are you talking about?

L.O

Perhaps I can clarify the term socialsit for you. You seem to have it confused with communist. In communism in theory workers own the means of production. In socialism institutions that everybody must use are oened in common.As walker pointed out we have some socialist institutions.Walker pointed out some,post office,military etc. There are also things like fire dept,sewer and water districts,the transportation system,municiple power companies,public education,police dept.s etcetera. Do they all work perfectly? Of course not but we would be much worse off if our country did not have them. Many of these institutions came into being because the free market was unable , unwilling or had failed to offer the services rendered by these institutions. It is just common sense. There are very few Americans that can afford their own fire depts. A place currently where the free market has failed is our medical delivery system. 45 million uninsured,crippling price increases ,high infant mortality rates etc. is de facto evidence of this. There is a problem and the solution will most likely look more socialist than what we have now but not as socialist as one might find in Europe or Canada. I do not want to get sidetracked on this issue. I was just trying to illistrate a point. The notion of a socialist as a bomb throwing anarchist is propaganda.What the real point of important public policy decisions should be is what works and what does not. Agreed?

Posted by: BillS at January 27, 2007 10:56 PM
Comment #205384

BillS, I think you’re right about the distinction between communists and socialists, but I don’t think I was characterizing things any differently. The way you’re describing it—post ofices, fire departments, education, police, military and the rest of it—is nothing George Bush would have any problem with at all. I guess he’s a socialist then.

As for the failure of free markets, two things.

1) Sometimes they fail because they’re not actually in effect. Our medical delivery system is NOT a free market. It’s tied in knots by all kinds of laws, litigation, and special interests each lobbying for political advantage. Would it be better without these influences? I’m not saying it would be, but a true free market has never been tried in this area, and it’s impossible to think it ever would be.

2). Sometimes things just fail because they’re enormously difficult to solve to everybody’s satisfaction under any system. To talk about medicine again, there is not a perfect system anywhere on the planet.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at January 27, 2007 11:18 PM
Comment #205385

BillS,

You said, “What the real point of important public policy decisions should be is what works and what does not. Agreed?”

I actually don’t agree much as I would like to think I would. This should not be the primary question that factors into public policy decisions, at least not at the Federal level.

The first point in public policy decisions, should be, “Is there a consitutional mandate for the Federal Government to solve this problem?” What Bush and Democrats have in common is that they skipped this step. They also skip the next one too.

Assuming yes to the first point, the second point should be, “Is this problem worth solving?” Is it big enough given all the other competing priorities that the government should take it on as another task to be accomplished. There are costs to solving problems if the solution costs more than the problem, it need not be solved. Skipping this step is what we see with “pork spending.”

Assuming the answer is yes to the secon point, the third point, should be, “Can the government do this more effectively than private industry?” This too is a point often skipped especially by those on the blue side that have an inherent distrust of private industry. If industry can solve this problem as or more effectively than the government can (effectiveness for the sake of brevity here implies both efficiency, $$, and outcomes), there is no reason for government to try to solve this problem. This analysis should be conducted in concert with the fourth point.

Assuming yes, to the third point, the Federal Government needs to ask, can this be done more effectively (see above for meaning) at the local level of government? If not local, then regional. If not regional, then State. And finally, if not State then Federal.

Since the shredding of the 10th ammendment and the expansion of the commerce clause by FDR’s packed court in conjunction with the increased Federal tax rates as part of the new deal, the Federal government has grown exponentially.

This growth has been fueled by both sides taking on projects at the Federal level that were never envisioned by the framers to be there. Many/ most of the enititlement programs should be managed at the State level. This would have the benefit not only of allowing for more hearty experimentation, but it would also allow for the programs to react better and more quickly to changing local conditions.

Similarly, I believe that we should reverse the taxation model where States recieve all of the revenue and pass what is needed on to the Feds for basic constiutional protection programs (defense, court system, regulatory agencies, etc.). This would eliminate the ability for the Federal Government to set local policy through the purse strings.

Posted by: Rob at January 27, 2007 11:37 PM
Comment #205391

Speaking of communists. Three right wing callers called in yesterday morning to C-Span’s Wash. Journal labeling the anti-war demonstrations as being fomented and infiltrated by the Communists.

The inference being that if you oppose this war in Iraq, you are either a communist or you are being led by the nose by the communists. No wonder Republicans lost their ass in the last election. So many of them (25%) have no regard for majority opinion, viewing any opinion which differs from their own as communist, socialist, or aiders and abetters of our enemies.

I say the enemy within is these same 25% who will revere and follow and support GW Bush regardless of what he does. Concentration Camps - Fine with them. Summary executions of dissenters - fine with them. Registration and geoposition tagging for gays, aborters, and Democrats, fine with them. Whatever their lord Bush calls for is A-OK with them. They love our troops, that is why they support sending 10’s of thousands more over there to be killed and maimed.

Tell you what, if that’s love, I am glad they hate my ass.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 28, 2007 2:45 AM
Comment #205392

“Since the shredding of the 10th ammendment and the expansion of the commerce clause by FDR’s packed court in conjunction with the increased Federal tax rates as part of the new deal”

Rob,

Much better that we return to the good old days of the Lochner era, eh?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lochner_era

The Washington Post commented on “lochner” during the Janice Rogers Brown nomination:

“In a nutshell, Brown believes that there is good judicial activism and bad judicial activism, and the Lochner court’s activism was good because it advanced the economic policy preferences of certain Framers. The problem for Brown, and the Lochner court, is that these preferences did not make it into the Constitution’s text. As Justice Antonin Scalia stated for the Supreme Court four years ago, Lochner is discredited because it “sought to impose a particular economic philosophy upon the Constitution.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A32114-2003Sep18¬Found=true

Much of the argument put forward about the consitutionality of nearly all the social reforms we Progressives deem necessary to the survival of the nation depend on whether we view the Constitution as a living document, as I do, or assume that the framers knew what to prepare for in a future they could not in their wildest dreams have imagined, and thus be taken as textually correct for all time.

Posted by: KansasDem at January 28, 2007 3:27 AM
Comment #205393

Walker,
It’s posts like this that give a good name to politics. The truth is that a majority ARE of mixed idealologies. Extremism in the name of Freedom is not always a virtue, as Barry Goldwater said. Extremism is what our founders designed a checks and balance system to counter.

When a post begins with either those nasty liberals or those psycho conservatives, it’s usually downhill from there.

Posted by: gergle at January 28, 2007 4:57 AM
Comment #205395

Several have asked about my view of what makes Classic Liberalism and Progressive Liberalism different from each other. While there are many articles available on the ‘intarweb’ that go over this topic, I’ll try to make this as simple and without long philosophical debates as possible.

The main crux, for me at least, goes to the very heart of civil rights. A Classic Liberal is going to tell you that everyone has a large number of rights that it is the government’s job, in fact one of the 3 things the government should be responsible for (the other two being defense and promoting general welfare) to protect these rights for the individual over the will of the majority.

This is where we get people demanding the protecting of free speech, practice of religion, property rights, privacy, etc. In fact, most of us who are liberal in thought will agree with a large number of rights that are either defined in the constitution (amendments 1-8) or are protected by not necessarily defined (amendments 9-10). The common thread of all of these rights is that they are ‘natural rights’, meaning that they are naturally in place, no one is forced by the government to do or provide anything to ensure that these rights are in place and protected.

The deviation comes from those rights that progressive liberals have decided should be protected as well. However, these rights then require that someone else be forced to do something or at least have one or more of their natural rights violated. A current example is the ‘right to healthcare’. If we go forward in thinking that this right exists then by definition other individual rights must be subjugated by them in at least two fashions.

1) In order for someone to be given this healthcare there must be healthcare workers in place to support it. This means that if there are not enough voluntary workers to provide this right the state must then incent people to move into this field. If there is not enough incentive the state must then force individuals to perform these functions.

2) In order for this to be considered a ‘right’ it must be provided free of charge, so the costs of providing this service must fall back onto other individuals who have the means to provide it. If not through charitable contributions or voluntary taxes then it will have to be taken by force, a violation of an individual’s right to private property.

A classic liberal understands that enacting these as rights require the violation of individual natural rights in order to be provided to an individual. While many classic liberals feel that there is a reasonable expectation of the government to provide some services for which private industry would be unable to do adequately, they feel that the use of the government in any endeavor introduces the possibility of the use of force that only the government has the right to use and the use of politics which can be a tool of political parties to further their own political power, both things being so much a negative and taking away from an individual’s right to choose their own paths in life, make their own deals with other individuals and expect a certain amount of freedom from harm/coercion that it should be limited as much as possible. Only when it is clear that private industry/charity cannot perform that function should the power of the state be permitted into the arena and then it must be closely guarded and limited in scope.

I hope that this explains a bit the difference between classic liberalism and progressive liberalism, I will be glad to go into it further if anyone is still confused or has questions.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 28, 2007 5:53 AM
Comment #205396
Much of the argument put forward about the consitutionality of nearly all the social reforms we Progressives deem necessary to the survival of the nation depend on whether we view the Constitution as a living document, as I do, or assume that the framers knew what to prepare for in a future they could not in their wildest dreams have imagined, and thus be taken as textually correct for all time.

KansasDem,

There are a few problems with the statement you have made here that must be addressed.

First, the framers did not write a document that wasn’t ‘living’. Of course they knew that changes to the document in the future must be made, that is why they provided a means for doing just that.

However, the progrssive’s view of the document as a ‘living’ document does not take the amendment process into consideration, they feel that it is too cumbersome and requires a supermajority in order to pass these reforms so they simply ‘ignore’ the aspects of the constitution that get in the way of their goals.

How can you then attack President Bush for doing that exact same thing? You both feel that the constitution is ‘just a goddamn piece of paper’ to be ignored when it gets in your way, so how could there be cries and shrieks of indignation coming from the progressive camp when someone else does the exact same thing progressives have been doing for decades?

The reality is that the constitution provides for the limits of government, that was it’s purpose. It was written to define what the ‘will of the majority’ could do and more importantly what it couldn’t do when enacting laws, not just in the late 1700s but in the future as well.

And they understood that IF there was going to be a change to the constitution, that a relaxing of those limits were necessary, that it should be done through the amendment process, not simply by ignoring those parts of the constitution that are ‘inconvenient’.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 28, 2007 5:59 AM
Comment #205400

Btw, KansasDem, the comment you made in another article’s comments asking if I wanted ‘America to revert to the days of servitude’ is so full of fallacies I am not sure where to start.

Nice demagoguery there.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 28, 2007 7:34 AM
Comment #205405

Rhinehold, drafting the Constitution with BOTH an amendment process and People’s Congress makes the Constitution a ‘living’ document. This design along with DELIBERATE vagueness regarding details but, clear principles, denotes the fact that the drafters anticipated that there would be many issues and problems in future generations that would require Constitutional latitude to address.

The People’s Congress may pass any bills they wish of any nature. The President, elected by Electoral College, was given the check and balance authority to veto bills passed by a wayward Congress. Should a president and Congress pass laws which run contrary to the principles of the Constitution, the Courts were granted the power and authority to strike such laws down as invalid and having no force of law.

These checks and balances acknowledge the potential for excesses in all branches including the Supreme Court, providing Amendment as a check and balance upon the Court’s extremes.

Frankly, dictatorships and authoritarian regimes are far more efficient, and often far clearer for all to understand what is and is not tolerated. But, dictatorships and authoritarian regimes haven’t the staying power of Constitutional democratically elected governments, sloppy and inefficient as they are.

I find your analysis of classical vs. progressive liberalism forced. The Constitution in the Bill of Rights for example, did indeed place limits on government. But, in erecting a People’s Congress and popularly elected President, it too, allowed for great flexibility in how the people may choose to govern themselves throughout time and unanticipated futures.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 28, 2007 8:19 AM
Comment #205408
But, in erecting a People’s Congress and popularly elected President, it too, allowed for great flexibility in how the people may choose to govern themselves throughout time and unanticipated futures.

But not beyond the clear limits set by the constitution on the powers of the federal government.

Frankly, the notion that the constitution is a ‘living document’, taken to mean that we can just do what the majority wants, is directly counter to what the framers intended. I’ve seen people on here say that ‘there’s no way to know what the framers intended’ except well, they wrote down exactly what they intended and the reasons behind all aspects of the constitution.

I disagree completely that we have the power to bypass aspects of the constitution that ‘get in the way’ of what the majority wants to do. In fact, there is no need for a listing of rights or protection of rights for the majority, it is the minority that those protections are written for.

But, let’s assume that you are correct in your analysis, why would anyone be upset with Bush for passing the Patriot Act or signing statements giving him broad powers, against what the constitution allows, if indeed the constitution is a ‘living document’ that we can freely ignore when it becomes inconvenient?

As for my definition being ‘forced’, it’s backed by a lot of philosophical discussion on the matter, for example what is written at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism:

Classical liberalism (also known as traditional liberalism[1] and laissez-faire liberalism[2]), is a doctrine stressing the importance of human rationality, individual property rights, natural rights, constitutional limitations of government, the protection of civil liberties, an economic policy with heavy emphasis on free markets, and individual freedom from restraint as exemplified in the writings of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill.[3] As such, it is seen as the fusion of economic liberalism with political liberalism.[4] The qualification classical was applied in retrospect to distinguish early nineteenth-century liberalism from the “new liberalism” associated with Thomas Hill Green, Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse,[5] and Franklin D. Roosevelt.[6], which grants a more interventionist role for the state. The “normative core” of classical liberalism is the idea that in an environment of laissez-faire, a spontaneous order or invisible hand market emerges that benefits the society.[7] Though, it is not necessarily opposed to the provision of a few basic public goods by the state that the market is seen as not being able to provide.[8]

Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman are credited with a revival of classical liberalism in the 20th century after it fell out of favor beginning in the late nineteenth century and much of the twentieth century.[9]

Libertarians of a minarchist persuasion use the term “classical liberalism” almost interchangeably with the term “libertarianism”,[10] while the correctness of this usage is disputed (see “Classical liberalism” and libertarianism, below). Nevertheless, if both philosophies are not the same, classical liberalism does resemble modern libertarianism in many ways.[11]

Further, to be more specific to my point:

For classical liberalism, rights are of a negative nature — rights that require that other individuals (and governments) refrain from interfering with individual liberty, whereas social liberalism (also called modern liberalism) holds that individuals have a right to be provided with certain benefits or services by others.

You may consider it ‘forced’ but it is a clear philosophical point that I have against current progressives who feel that violating one right for another is a function of the government to do. It is one of the reasons I am against a forced Income Tax in favor of duties, fees and a Sales Tax that is voluntary… A forced (instead of voluntary) income tax violates private property rights.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 28, 2007 8:47 AM
Comment #205411

Nasties and psychos are in both parties. I like Rhinehold’s definition of classic liberalism. There are some of those of libs out there. Few in numbers, but not extinct. Classic conservatism, is just that. Tradition and moving slowly on new changes. I, myself, am libertarian. Cons call me liberal and Libs call me conservative.
Truth is, all the classic philosophies make a narrower spectrum. They are all not that dissimilar. These new politics, that spread out the spectrum makes for a better discussion of politics and are good for democracy. The current party system makes it tough to be a third, fourth, fifth party member. More classical politics would work better today, but I think in a hundred years we will have a more diverse system.
Wouldnt it be cool if there were five factions in the Congress. And everyone angry because the Green Party held a majority by one vote. And maybe, a Populist Supreme Court, a Liberal VP and maybe the Prez could be a Whig.

Posted by: JoeRWC at January 28, 2007 9:37 AM
Comment #205412

Rhinehold, the checks and balances, most especially the Bill of Rights, were there to protect the minority from the majority. That was anticipated.

Outside those bounds, the Constitution affords great flexibility as I outlined.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 28, 2007 9:49 AM
Comment #205413

JoeWRC, though it would add more inefficiency, the people could not complain their voices are not heard. Overall, it would be better, but, human nature being what it is, leaders will divide them, and followers will cling to each other in their respective groups for security even when wrong and blatantly contradictory.

Pretty amazing how little the human mind has evolved since the 9th century B.C. Only our numbers, technology, and threat to ourselves as a species seem to grow with time.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 28, 2007 9:53 AM
Comment #205428

Rhinehold
The concept of slave healthcare workers is a bit farfetched,don’t you think?
Health care is an odd bird. Those of us that have coverage are getting squeezed to cover the uninsured not by the government but by hospitals etc. so they can stay in business. Is that better than getting coerced by the government? It does not seem to be working too well as it is.

LO
I have often wondered what a geniune free market in healthcare would look like. It is now effected by what you mentioned plus the AMA. What if they were stripped of their anti-trust exemption and providers were required to post prices,give estimates and be allowed to advertize. It would certainly look different.”this week only,two transplants for the price of one.”
Its a hard area to accept a free market approach.When your child is on a gurney there is no amount of money you are not willing to spend to save them and therefore no negotiation or choice,the two fundementals that give the free market its advantage over any other service delivery system.
On a personal note I do appreciate the tone of the discussion on this thread. We can all rant with the best of them but we seem to be actually seeking communication here.Good,good. We have important issues to come to grips with.

Posted by: BillS at January 28, 2007 11:36 AM
Comment #205429

Right of Center liberal. I qualify for that on some issues. Notably gun control. I am not alone is calling myself a second amendment Democrat. Theres lots of us.Walker is correct. Economic considerations have often led me to hold my nose and vote for Democrats,Fienstein for instance, that are at odds with me on this issue. My guns do not do much good in the pawnshop and the Dems do a better job, in my opinion ,of helping working people. I like it that some of the new Dems in congress share my views.

Posted by: BillS at January 28, 2007 12:01 PM
Comment #205431
Dems do a better job, in my opinion ,of helping working people.

How do you figure? I’m a working person and I don’t see any help from the federal government. In fact, the best thing that they could do for me is to get out of my paycheck and let me live my life without their interference.

I’d rather give my money (voluntarily) to my local government so that my schools teach my children, my roads are fixed, my police and fire departments are up to snuff, etc. It is beyond the pale, IMO, that the federal government has more say over my life than my county or state government does…

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 28, 2007 12:16 PM
Comment #205433

Rhinehold
Thats an easy one. This includes state,local and federal.A partial list: overtime,minimum wage,workers compensation,prevailing rate,the right to organize,job safety,wage collection,harassment and discrimination protection,unemployment insurance…etc.
Every one of these come under attack to one degree or another under Republican dominence and are conversely strenghtened under Democrats. Do all these work perfectly?Of course not. Do they effect you personally? Probably more than you care to admit. Taken as a whole they have made American wage workers the the foundation of our economy and the envy of most workers in the world.Also the most productive ,I might add.

Posted by: BillS at January 28, 2007 12:55 PM
Comment #205440
the envy of most workers in the world.Also the most productive ,I might add.

Mmm, I would take argument with these statements. The US ranks 7th in hours worked by employees, of the 120 million works, 50 million of them are exempt from most of these rules. European workers get much more time off during a year than US workers do…

The problem is that as new advances in how employers and employees may choose to do business with each other, the slow and politicized federal government rules ensure that they are unable to take advantage of some of these new ways to handle compensation packages.

What I don’t understand is why we have to have these rules at the federal level. Many states have statutes in place that compete with the 1938 laws (which were originally unconstitutional, not sure how they slipped it by the second time, I’m looking into that atm) and should be adequate in dealing with these issues in the future…

OH yeah, we need those wedge issues so that we can label one party as ‘good’ and the other party as ‘evil’, nevermind the details at hand.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 28, 2007 1:45 PM
Comment #205448
I’d rather give my money (voluntarily) to my local government

Exactly how would this work??????

You think financial support of the government, done by taxes now, should be voluntary? And none to the federal government? This boggles my mind.

I suppose you would only “volunteer” your support if you agreed with those in office at the time?

And please explain to me how “A forced (instead of voluntary) income tax violates private property rights”?

Or are you just trying to mess with my head?

Posted by: womanmarine at January 28, 2007 2:07 PM
Comment #205457

Rhinehold,

There is an important distinction to be made between advocacy of a federally funded program to address a common need, and defining that need as a right. One of the several issues on which I agree with many conservatives is that too many people come to view much of what they have or wish they have as entitlements. When I was asked by German exchange students years ago if I was proud to be an American, I responded that I felt very lucky to be an American. Most of us could stand to show more gratitude more frequently. That said, there are common aims which government can address, and there are times when it certainly makes sense for government to do so.

Do we have a right to police protection? I don’t know, but I’m certainly grateful that we often have it, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that delivering police protection equitably, rather than according to ability to pay for it, is a noble goal of government. A poor person demanding more police in their under-patrolled neighborhood may claim the protection as a right, but whether it is or not, it is certainly their right to call attention to the inequity if it exists.

Along with many other progressives, I believe that our entire society would be well served by a single payer health care system, carefully designed to mitigate as many of the problems associated with such systems as possible, but with universal protection as a goal which not only serves the obvious interests of the currently uninsured, but also serves the public health at large by allowing everyone to take advantage of preventative health care, lessening need for far more expensive medical care later. If the program could be a benefit to everyone and our nation as a whole, then it is worth pursuing at the national level. That has nothing to do with rights or the Constitution, but if it became law would have gone through the necessary steps to become law.

The only Constitutional objection I can see is your objection to ANY federal income tax, not the institution of one more federal program. Constitutional objections to the Bush administration surveillance policies, etc. etc. etc. are quite specific and definable.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at January 28, 2007 3:55 PM
Comment #205462
Exactly how would this work??????

Well, off of the top of my head I can list:

Excise taxes
Luxery taxes
Sales taxes
User Fees
Tolls
etc…

All of these taxes are voluntary ones, if we choose not to pay them we simply do not use or purchase the items in question, use the service, etc.

“A forced (instead of voluntary) income tax violates private property rights”

Well gee, if you take my property, at gunpoint, isn’t that a violation of my right to that property?

What else would you call an forced income tax? Or are you of the opinion that income tax is voluntary since if we don’t want to pay it we can just not work?

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 28, 2007 4:36 PM
Comment #205481

Rhinehold
When I said “most workers” I was not refering to to the many European workers that do get a better deal than us. Most workers,indeed most people,do not live or toil in developed countries.
As to new and improved methods of compensation. Hogwash. It is the same old thing. Employers want want us to work for peanuts and workers want to better themselves. It is like putting lipstick on a pig. It is spin.
I would and have supported pro-labor Republicans but there are damned few of them.A look at average wages will show you that workers do better under Democratic Administrations and congresses.Its just numbers,not spin.
What 1938 unconstitutional laws are you speaking of?
You are not alone about resenting taxes. That is pretty universal although we probably resent them for differnt reasons. I hate paying to service the debt created so Paris Hilton could get a tax break and buying 2.2 billion dollar airplanes to bomb 20$ tents or star wars to stop ICBMs when we are fighting an enemy more likely to bring a warhead in in a canoe.

Posted by: BillS at January 28, 2007 7:12 PM
Comment #205494

Rhinehold, you suffer from the political distance syndrome. Ask Frank Lutz, he is an expert on this topic. The further away politicians are, the more they are distrusted regardless of their performance.

If you can do so honestly, you should research just how much your federal tax dollars benefit you and Americans like you. Ever drive an interstate? Ever take a drug? Got space blanket in your car for winter emergencies? Ever use the phone, internet, watch TV? Ever send snail mail or packages? How about living in a nation relatively free from attack? Have money in stocks or bonds, how about in a bank? Ever get a loan with all the terms disclosed in full? Anyone ever refuse your dollar bills because they were no good? Are you glad we won WWII?

I could go, and you should go on and list hundreds more of the ways in which your life is made freer, more prosperous, and safer by federal tax dollars.

Can the federal government be more responsible and accountable for you tax dollars? Absolutely. But, its up to you to hold them accountable and make them be responsible by voting out incumbents whenever they are not. That is the power the Constitution grants you over your government.

Vote to keep them and their ways in, or vote them out. It is a vast power if used by a sizeable minority of voters. The swing voters potentially have politicians by the jingles.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 28, 2007 7:50 PM
Comment #205497

Rhinehold,
I consider myself a progressive, but not by your definition. I’m beginning to understand why you rant against progressives, but you should know that your label doesn’t always communicate clearly your position.

I use a microwave oven, but don’t consider it my right. I would be bothered if a libertarian licensed microwave dealers in such a way as to insure my safety that they cost $20,000 and left me to the option of only using a wood burning stove.

I am not advocating deregulation of medicine, I think that is equally foolish. I do think some revision of medical malpractice issues would be smart along with real regulation of bad doctors and publication of injuries and death assciated with hospitals,procedures, medications and doctors.

It may well impinge on the rights of others that sanitation laws exclude the use of outhouses in metropolitan areas. That doesn’t make it bad law, in my opinion. Houston recently edged toward banning horses on public streets, a measure that raised a hew and cry among all those cowboys. While I understand the sentiment, I’m not overwhelmed by it.

In 1800 healthcare consisted mostly of not eating rotten food and drinking clean water, or more likely, ale. Universal healthcare may not be a right in your mind or detailed in the Constitution, but when the industrialized world has it, and the economic powerhouse of the world does not, I feel ashamed and somewhat angered at those who rail against it on principal alone. I sense injustice and feel them foolish.


Posted by: gergle at January 28, 2007 7:54 PM
Comment #205505

Kansas,

Thanks for the link. The Lochner era was new to me. However, having read the links, it has not changed my opinion.

David pointed out above regarding the Consitituion, “This design along with DELIBERATE vagueness regarding details but, clear principles, denotes the fact that the drafters anticipated that there would be many issues and problems in future generations that would require Constitutional latitude to address.

I agree with this statement, but not necessarily all of the conclusions he has drawn. One of the very basic principals and well-documented intentions of the Constitution was that we should be a Republic. Power was to flow from the people to the States and then to Washington.

David, in the vein of the Burger Court has decided that the 10th Ammendment places little to no restrictions on the laws that can be passed by Congress. From Wikipedia “In the 1985 case of Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Court announced that it would no longer regard Tenth Amendment questions as justiciable, holding “[t]he political process ensures that laws that unduly burden the States will not be promulgated” by Congress.”

This decision has sent been reined in with a couple of new cases on the fringes recently basically saying that the Federal government can’t make the States pass a law. However, they can “incent” the local States to pass a law by withholding federal funding. This decision coupled with a veiew of the commerce clause that gives Congress authority over any human interaction with economic consequences (nearly all).

This is not what the framers intended. They did want the constition to be a living document; however, they also were clear in the design of the Federal system. Placing more power locally makes sense.

Progressives have been shy about embracing State’s Rights, I’m guessing because of its historical link with slavery and the expanded view of the commerce clause has allowed for greater governmental influence in the labor markets and the expansion of group rights.

However, I think that the progressives would be on more firm footing with it if they realized what they loose without them. It is conceivable that MA or CA universal health initiative could be challenged on interstate commerce claims. The federal government has already cirumvented local laws that are clearly constiutional absent the expanded commerce clause reading like the “right to die” law in Oregon or the medical marijuna law in California.

Btw, Kansas, as far as I’m concerned the Lochner era and its fondness for the “right to contract” provisions were just as antithetical to the 10th Ammendment power of the States to regulate within thier borders as anything I’ve read. It also has little to do with the 10th but rather is an interpretation of the 14th.

Posted by: Rob at January 28, 2007 8:14 PM
Comment #205516

Walker

Those “extremists” at Heritage believe in the free market, the rule of law and reasonable regulation. The difference between extreme left and conservatives is a matter of degrees and motivation.

The big dividing line I have seen between right and left is their differing emphasis on freedom and equality.

Gergle

Re health care, it depends on what you want. Socialized health care has its strong points in that it covers almost everybody. We will probably need to go with some form of national health care. But those who promise every Americans the high level of care and innovation the rich get today are just lying. Think the county hospital.

Posted by: Jack at January 28, 2007 8:38 PM
Comment #205523

Ron said: “They did want the constition to be a living document; however, they also were clear in the design of the Federal system. Placing more power locally makes sense.”

It made sense when their was a growing urban industrial Norhteastern economy and an agricultural slave based Southeastern economy. Again, you cannot grow a nation from 13 states and a few million people to 50 states and 300 million people without growing the federalism that keeps it all united.

That is in part, what the Civil War was all about. For all intents and purposes, our Civil War nailed the coffin closed on states rights usurping the growing nation’s need for a growing federalism. You can debate whether history should have taken that route, but, you can’t debate that we are where we are with federalism precisely because the Constitution both permitted it, and the growing demands of a growing nation insisted upon it.

To argue today that we should not have federalism usurping state’s rights, is like arguing China should not have allowed centralized government to take control of a system of 100’s of thousands of warlords and fiefdoms. It is what it is, and turning back is not an option.

You cannot get Americans to agree to return to allowing states to determine who can drive and drop LSD legally on our interstates or, which states can racially determine housing and employment and which won’t. Those genies are not going back into the bottle. Nor are the myriad of regulations regarding interstate trafficking of goods and services and advertising.

The only question now is, how to make federalism work to our advantage, instead of allowing it to get in the way of progress toward peace, prosperity, and liberty as a divisive issue?

Like women’s suffrage, ethnic rights, and repeal of the Volsted’ Act, federalism is inevitable and necessary no matter how much resistance is thrown against it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 28, 2007 9:04 PM
Comment #205526

Jack, you are fear mongering again. The wealthy will be able to afford the best and cutting edge health care regardless of what system we adopt. It just means juggling whether or not to buy that 3rd summer house on the Islands or that second Mercedes sports car for junior instead of a boob uplift or face stretch, or heart transplant.

The middle class will still get necessary life sustaining care and likely better health mainenance care, and the poor, well, they will get better care regardless, since 47 million are threatened with none at all, currently.

I want my daughter to be a brain surgeon, so she can switch the bottles for brain transplants so the Bill Gate’s end up with the mind of a petty thief, so they can see how the other half lives. Heee, whooooo, haahhhahaaaaaa! Thanks, Mary Shelley.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 28, 2007 9:12 PM
Comment #205542

David

I am not fear mongering, just unpleasantness mongering.

I do not mind the Euro health system. It is inefficient and you have to wait in line for things, but I am not a big consumer of health care. Further, I think Americans are big babies when it comes to health care.

I object to the implied idea that if we just get a national health plan, most people will get the same level of care a well insured guy does today. They will not.

Your characterization is probably right. People will get the basic care. This is good enough, but I know lots of people who get elective surgery, fertility treatments and heroic life saving care paid for by insurance. This will not happen anymore if we get this national health care.

I certainly hope we are also looking at an end to the big malpractice awards. That is a good aspect that they have, you can win economic damages, which usually limits payouts.

Posted by: Jack at January 28, 2007 10:15 PM
Comment #205544

David,

State’s rights didn’t die with the Civil War, the Agrarian Economy did. That was a death worth dieing. Federalism is still an important part of our system of government and embracing it would eliminate many of the problems with centralizing power in Washington that you are so fond of citing.

Posted by: Rob at January 28, 2007 10:41 PM
Comment #205565

Jack,

Further, I think Americans are big babies when it comes to health care.
I know lots of people who get elective surgery, fertility treatments and heroic life saving care paid for by insurance. This will not happen anymore if we get this national health care.

How many of these babies do you know? It is this kind of cynical argument that is completely false and reflects a mind set, rather than reality. Are there hypochondriacs and people whowaste doctors time? Sure. Lots and lots, as compared to those who do not recieve basic healthcare at all? No.

It’s the same game of trotting out welfare queens as an argument against WIC.

Posted by: gergle at January 29, 2007 3:09 AM
Comment #205569

Jack said: “I object to the implied idea that if we just get a national health plan, most people will get the same level of care a well insured guy does today. They will not.”

There are many ways to devise a national health plan, Jack, most far worse than a few others. Is there a free lunch in all this? Of course not. We are afterall, talking about wealth redistribution, and whenever a society redistributes wealth, some with a lot will have a bit less, and many without any, will get more than they had.

But, the wealthy and upper middle classes need not fear losing medical advances and latest technology. There will be a rationed niche of medical providers who will cater to those who can bid on exceptional and leading edge medical care.

As for big malpractice awards, I will make you a deal. We set up medical courts, and if a care provider is found guilty of unintentional malpractice, their license is suspended for six months. If it is intentional, as in performing surgery at the end of a 36 hour profit period on their feet, they are out and must find another profession. This should be applicable across the entire field from specialists to LVN’s and nurses aides. 3 suspensions of license becomes permanent. Then, and only then, will I feel we have compensated for the absence of big malpractice awards.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 29, 2007 3:43 AM
Comment #205570

Rob, the end of the Civil War marked the beginning of the rapid paced industrial revolution. They were conincident.

Your following sentence doesn’t make sense to me. Was a word accidentally left out somewhere?

“Federalism is still an important part of our system of government and embracing it would eliminate many of the problems with centralizing power in Washington that you are so fond of citing.”

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 29, 2007 3:46 AM
Comment #205591

Gergle

I know lots of them. That is why I mention it. Somebody from my staff is out sick every day. They go to the doctor when they have headaches, when they feel “under the weather” or when they feel stiff. I know because they come back with doctor’s excuses. There is nothing wrong with them most of the time that time alone will not cure.

Then there are the fertility treatments. Women who missed the reproductive boat now in later life trying to conceive. This costs a fortune. I am not saying this is not a worthy goal, but you can spend the whole treasury on some people w/o producing the result they want.

Of course there is the simple getting older stuff. There is no cure for it.

How about sports medicine? I go to Gold’s Gym and hear people talking.

All these things above can be valid but also can be abused. National health plans generally do not give you the higher level of service.

Mind you, I think some kind of national health system is on the way. Businesses are going to begin to demand it. But people should not believe that it is just going to get everyone the kind of service the well ensured enjoy today.

David

One of the big problems with medicine is that we do not treat it like the human process that it is. In any system, you have error. The way you improve is to identify systemic error and minimize or eliminate it. You can eliminate some sorts of error, but no all. This is especially true in something like medicine, where the doctor does not control all the variables. What we call malpractice may be part of the normal error distribution. I would sure hate to be the one to die from a bell curve, but somebody will. It is just like somebody will win the lottery 100% of the time. We cannot treat each of these occurrences as an anomaly or a crime. If we do, we cannot study and improve the process.

You are right about malpractice to some degree. There are some doctors that are like undertakers. They commit a disproportionate share of the malpractice. They should be eliminated or assigned other duties. Our current system militates against this by creating the incentive to hide errors. Misguided privacy concerns also play a role.

Posted by: Jack at January 29, 2007 10:10 AM
Comment #205600

Rhinehold and Rob,

I failed to expound on my earlier comments only because tremors made it impossible. My intent was to express the profound differences between the Hamiltonian or Madisonian views of the Constitution, or furthermore the differences of opinion in defining the two simple words; “general welfare”.

These are hardly knew arguments. Hamilton opposed the Bill of Rights for fear that protecting specific rights might imply that any unmentioned rights would not be protected. This is documented in Federalist No. 84:

“I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”

The argument grows even deeper with the interpretation of the “necessary and proper clause” and limits put upon it by any enumerated powers. My point is that these arguments have existed since the drafting of the Constitution and it’s my hope that many future generations will still be debating the intent of the “Framers” long after we’re dead and buried.

***************

Rhinehold, you asked, “How can you then attack President Bush for doing that exact same thing? You both feel that the constitution is ‘just a goddamn piece of paper’ to be ignored when it gets in your way”.

As I’ve pointed out much of it comes down to interpretation of the Constitution, whether or not we consider the “Framers” intent, etc. There is clearly some room for argument regarding Legislative powers.

OTOH can you show me anything in article two of the Constitution to support Bush’s behavior? I’m sure you probably can. More debate, more argument, ain’t it wonderful to live in a democracy.


Posted by: KansasDem at January 29, 2007 10:59 AM
Comment #205603

Jack, I agree with you on this issue. But, I don’t think it is such a leap to discern between malpractice born of planned greed and demand accommodation, like working 36 hour shifts, or getting drunk the night before surgery or medicating patients, and what I don’t consider to be malpractice, like experimental or risky procedures which statistics show will impact a small percentage of people negatively without forewarning.

That’s why I think the Medical Courts are necessary, to make that distinction. Once we have functional and just medical courts in place, we can safely do away with the archaic high malpractice awards for all but the most egregious and hopefully rare conspiracies born of greed, and then only if awards are more likely to curb such malpractice than any other action.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 29, 2007 11:02 AM
Comment #205628

David

Why do they work these long shifts? It is not about profit. It is about an outmoded paradigm of care where one doctor is expected to watch over a patient. The other big thing we could do to make medicine more efficient is make it more of a team process instead of a star system. We could start by computerizing all medical records and making them available on a national data base.

The greed factor is over drawn. Most doctors are not greedy. Each one just believes he is the indispensible man. We are seeing some improvement, but the medical establishment likes it the old way.

Remember what happened to airline pilots after that crash in the Potomac 25 years ago? The pilots got more of a team and less of a star and bit players. Medicine needs to evolve like that too.

Posted by: Jack at January 29, 2007 12:47 PM
Comment #205633

>>There is no such creature as a Left of Center Liberal.This is a Contradiction in itsself.

Posted by: gw at January 29, 2007 12:52 PM

Are you saying all Liberals are Centrists?

Posted by: Marysdude at January 29, 2007 1:34 PM
Comment #205644

Marysdude, you are talking to GW. Its either Bush, or someone with lesser station in life. So, what’s the point, eh?

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 29, 2007 2:08 PM
Comment #205914

Jack,

Interesting. You and I live in much different worlds. The people I know hate to go to the doctor. I recently had a friend who was violently sick for two weeks and only went, after I threatened to drag him there. His liver was out of wack and something akin to gall stones. No wonder your a Republican, you work with weenies. :) Most of us here in the real world aren’t like that.

Posted by: gergle at January 30, 2007 10:44 PM
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