Democrats & Liberals Archives

Revisionist Electioneering

Define Irony. A Republican Administration’s Justice Department badly botches a a prosecution of a Republican for corruption, resulting in conviction. The convicted Republican loses the election. The newly elected Democratic President’s Attorney General drops the charges when it sees the prosecutorial misconduct, essentially letting the man off the hook. Now Alaska’s GOP wants him back in office, wants a special election. And they want his Democratic replacement to resign.

Botched prosecution or not, there are still a number of facts that remain true. Stevens was not some shining light of virtue. The fact that a Republican administration known for its politicization of the process went ahead with the prosecution of the longest sitting Republican Senator should tell you how difficult it would have been to justify not going after him. Stevens, through his conduct, left himself vulnerable to this possibility. He may not be guilty in the eyes of the law, but he's corrupt by any reasonable standard.

He lost the election due to his corruption, not due to a politically motivated prosecution.

Now the GOP wants a do-over.

Here's what I'd tell a Democrat if he suggested that for somebody, say, like William Jefferson:

You're a moron. Anh Cao won fair and square, in no small part because people believed you were a crook. They'll probably believe it now, too. Get somebody fresh in there next election. Even if the prosecution was unfair, or poorly done, that's life. We don't bring Gary Condit back because it turns out somebody else killed Chandra Levy. If the person in question feels lucky enough, they can try to run for election again themselves. William Jefferson was lucky the first time, but his luck didn't last, and he wasn't exactly the person the rest of us wanted our picture taken with.

Should the Republicans be pushing to have a member of the so-called Corrupt Bastards Club back? Why doesn't Sarah Palin take her own advice and step down to let Frank Murkowski compete against her in a "fair" special election?

Speaking of "do-overs", that's been one of many strategies suggested by Almost-Former Senator Norm Coleman in the literally record-breaking Minnesota Senate Seat recount. But mostly their strategy has been to stall as long as they can, preventing Democrats from seating their 49th senator, and Minnesota from having a second senator at all.

It's incredibily unlikely, at this point, that Coleman's going to win. Most folks predict that Al Franken will win certification. And Norm Coleman's people will appeal that decisions.

If this were Franken in Coleman's position, I'd say this:

Drop it, you dumb son of a *****, before you obliterate not only any political future you have, but the chances of any political advances for our party for the next generation!

But apparently, the short term gain of keeping a senate seat and Senate obstructability has outweighed any such other concerns.

That's the real reason the GOP is either looking to take back or keep out these two gentlemen. They know that the closer that Democrats get to 60 seats, the less hold the Republicans have on legislation. It's strange, but if you think about it, it didn't use to take 60 votes in the senate to pass everything. It has only been during the 110th Congress, that this became conventional wisdom. This, from a Senate Republican Caucus that once considered the nuclear option (that is, the end of filibustering) when confronted by recalcitrance by the Democrats on a handful of judges. This is what prevented much of the Democrat's legislation from passing. But did that lead American voters to punish the Democrats? No.

The thing to consider with the recent elections is that voters obliged us Democrats, in raising our numbers almost to sixty. The fact that Obama is getting through legislation at all is thanks to those increased numbers. And if Begich stays and Coleman goes? Then Democrats can pick off just one Republican and pass legislation on party lines.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, they seem to be trying to pick off one of their own themselves: Arlen Specter. The Club for Growth apparently wasn't amused about Specter's vote for the stimulus package. But the real question is, if Toomey wins, where does the Senate seat go in this environment?

The Republicans seem intent on handing us a majority that can leave them out of the loop, while doing everything they can to ensure that this not just what we want to do, but what we have to do to push forward any kind of legislation.

If the Republicans keep on pulling the arm on this slot machine, I don't think the chances of hitting the jackpot are going to go up. The Republicans should admit defeat now, if they wish to experience less of it later, and let Americans have the more liberal country it should be obvious by now that they want. You can always go back later and win the next election. The time has come to stop trying to fight the last one.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 3, 2009 11:02 AM
Comments
Comment #279519

Stephen D., no one, not from the founding fathers forward, said democratic elections would be perfect, or lead to perfected government. Rule of law in a constitutional democratic system is no guarantor of optimal government result, nor insurance against flawed beings rising to their level of incompetence in government, (Can you spell Blogojevich, Jefferson, or DeLay?)

Still, in the long run, such forms of government, still in the experimental phase, may yet prove to be the best form of government for civilization, yet devised. If Alaskans want an unconvicted crook for their representative, I say, let them have him. The funny thing about most crooks, especially those who get away with their crimes, is that they can’t help but continue being crooks and committing their crimes yet again, making their ultimate conviction a near certainty.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 3, 2009 1:47 PM
Comment #279522

David R. Remer-
Oh, I’m well aware that people can elect crooks, despite the controversy around them. It’s easy for folks to rationalize the charges and everything as just part of some political conspiracy. That’s why I employ the literary device in my article of essentially reversing the roles, having me give my advice to a Democrat- it’s literally the advice I would give as a Democrat with a healthy degree of self-interest. Right now, I’m cheering for Murtha to go down on the PMA matter, because as helpful as he’s sometimes been politically, as much as I believe he supports the troops, his corruption is a problem for the party, and we’d do best without it. (Yes, I know that Jeff Flake bill went down, but I’d just as soon he goes down on an actual, full fledged ethics investigation so everybody else involved can go down with him.)

I would love Republicans to try and re-elect more crooks, so we can de-elect them in the process. The difference in these cases is, they’re intent on having the rest of us take folks who already have lost, or seem to have lost, and give them a special second chance just because they happen to be crucial to hanging on to their last bit of power.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 3, 2009 2:54 PM
Comment #279523

Can anyone say: C.Dodd, B. Frank, C. Rangel, Jefferson (90k in the freezer), Geithner (tax fraud), and a gaggle of BHO appointees who bailed out because of tax fraud.

The question is, was Stevens situation used against him by the democratic party?

There you go again, double standards.

Posted by: Oldguy at April 3, 2009 3:00 PM
Comment #279526

Double standards, old ?….. you’d bitch if you were hung with a brand-new rope! You seem to completely ignore the idea that it was at long last honesty in the AG’s office that reversed the results.

Posted by: jane doe at April 3, 2009 3:12 PM
Comment #279530

Oldguy-
It’s interesting that you cite the people who didn’t get into the Obama administration to allege a double standard on those GOP senators who were kicked out by voters, and who now want special elections to redo the results.

And if Dodd, Frank, and Rangel do happen to lose elections because of the allegations of corruption, then I will be the first to advise them, like I advise Jefferson in my piece, to sit their asses down.

Dodd himself might lose his seat due to the AIG bonuses fiasco. Those will be the breaks.

As for Geithner? Good heavens. First, tax fraud is a specific criminal offense, which Geithner has not be charged with or indicted on account of. It’s something you or some talking head on the radio dreamed up to make it sound evil. For all we know, he may indeed be a tax fraud, but for the time being it just looks like he committed a mistake that half the people who work for overseas companies make, a mistake he cooperated in correcting.

Stick to what you can prove. It worked for Democrats because Republicans gave us plenty of evidence to use against them. Maybe we’re doing the same, but the Republicans are too busy making up charges to find the ones that really would stick. If your aim is truly to be a watchdog, the corrupt way to do it is to make stuff up and jazz up every allegation; the correct way to do it is to stick with the facts and good inferencing.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 3, 2009 4:23 PM
Comment #279539

Oh, I’m sorry, it was the turbo tax program? Yea, sure.

“For all we know, he may indeed be a tax fraud, “

I, personally, believe a politician should be above reproach. There shouldn’t even be a question of his or her integrity. If a common person had the same tax problems as Geithner or the other potential nominees, including Dachel, our bank accounts would have been frozen or taken and our wages taken. But, then again, we are not one of the “beautiful” people.

Now, concerning Stevens, it was a disgrace for the justice department to make statements against a sitting senator just days before the election. He only lost by 4000 vote and prior to that enjoyed 70% support by the Alaskan people. The false statements had a profound effect on is election.

“Stick to what you can prove.”

When did this policy start. I thought this site was just a place where anyone could hysterically say anything they want. When one tries to prove something, they are accued of copyright infringment:)

Posted by: Oldguy at April 3, 2009 7:33 PM
Comment #279540

I think most of the problems with our elected officials is the fact that most voters go into elections with “BLIND TRUST” we don’t really get an indepth look at the candidates, and as the old saying goes “IF YOU CAN’T FLATER THEM WITH YOUR INTELLIGENCE, DAZZEL THEM WITH BULL——” and that is basicaly what we get in some of our candidates. As for Stevens, S.D. Don’t worry it aint going to happen but at least I’ll give this A.G one gold star.

Posted by: KAP at April 3, 2009 7:53 PM
Comment #279546

SD
I have to wonder if the Bush regime did engineer the prosecutorial mis-conduct to keep Stevens out of prison. Lets wait and see if Holder later decides to prosecute or would it be double jeopardy at this point?
Old Guy
You do realize that getting cut loose on a technicality does not mean Stevens was not corrupt,don’t you?

Posted by: bills at April 4, 2009 9:13 AM
Comment #279548

Most politicians want to do good. They have a plan to better their country. When they get in office, they find that making effective changes if very difficult. In fact, they learn that a lot of the structures and policies that they railed against are there for good reason. They are never perfect, sometimes they are not even good, but they usually the best that could be obtained given the circumstances.

As I write this, I am watching President Obama at NATO. It is great to have such an articulate president and one that is popular with the Euro-masses. But his approach is very similar to what Bush was doing last year. We will still be in Iraq, with some withdrawals (as Bush was doing), we will surge in Afghanistan and the European allies will talk and make commitments, but they won’t really carry them out. Obama is very different from Bush, but when faced with similar goals, resources and constraints, reasonable people usually make similar choices.

We are never happy with our politicians because they never live up to our aspirations. This is not the fault of the politicians. We ask more from the system than it can legitimately give us. Our system is designed to give us political freedom and it does. It gives us the framework that allows us to prosper as individuals, but it doesn’t make guarantees. We get to pursue happiness; we may not get it.

But politicians are attuned to the desires of their constituents. They promise them things that government cannot provide or can provide only by taking from somebody else.

Government becomes a distribution system with the goods handed out to those who can scream loudest. Some people lobby to get the government to give them more of other people’s stuff; others now have to lobby to protect what is theirs. In the end they all clamor for government favors and this gives great power to the politicians. Not even Solomon could decide these complicated issues; his decisions were a lot fewer and a lot less complicated and very few of our politicians are Solomon-like.

So we get the stupidity and corruption that we have DEMANDED of our politicians. We don’t say that is what we want, but when we consistently demand more than they can give us and reward them for promising these things, that is precisely what we are asking for.

Posted by: Christine at April 4, 2009 11:05 AM
Comment #279561

Oldguy-
I should be careful what possibilities I leave open rhetorically, since you’re ready to pounce on the most negative interpretation here. As far as I can tell, the policy of the IRS is to accept payment of Geithner’s kind when folks are willing to pay. It’s only when people refuse to pay at all, or just defraud the hell out of the government that they come on down on them without mercy.

If it wasn’t for the fact that he was working for a Democrat, you’d probably be putting an arm around his shoulder and complaining about how mind-numbingly complex the tax code is. The fact is, Geithner made common mistake for somebody once employed by an international group like the UN, a mistake so common that if we were to define it as tax fraud, there’d be a lot of people going to jail. Only, we don’t hear about it, so I’m not inclined to take your melodramatic, partisan-poison attitude about it.

Meanwhile, you have Stevens, caught red-handed being given a s***load of merchandise by a man whose bills were under his consideration, and because prosecutors screwed up their trying of the case, you behave as if it’s unfair that he lost the election.

In the hands of better prosecutors, he’d still be awaiting jail.

We have to ask the question: were Alaskans more concerned by his corruption, or by his conviction?

As far as sticking to what I can prove? Well, you charge Geitner with tax fraud because he was behind on his taxes. Tax fraud is nearly always paying less than you owe, but it’s not the only reason one can be behind on one’s taxes. The Right hasn’t provided any evidence that Geithner did not simply make what evidence shows to be a common mistake among those employed by foreign companies.

On the other hand, there’s documentary proof that Stevens accepted merchandise and services from a man whose legislation was under his consideration. Several of his associates were convicted of wrongdoing relating to that.

So there’s evidence, good evidence of corruption for Stevens, but no evidence of tax evasion, of a deliberate failure to pay taxes for Geithner. There’s plausible evidence to excuse Geithner, in the form of statistics that say that fully half of people in Geithners situation forgot to pay what they owed in Social Security taxes.

There’s no plausible reason that a Senator dealing with legislation concerning a company should accept gifts and services from that company at all. And Stevens accepted plenty. It doesn’t take a court of law to tell you that’s wrong. It just takes one to send you to jail for it.

The article I wrote was aimed at one particular point: The Republicans are only straining people’s patience by asking people to not only re-elect and elect folks with terrible track record, but even asking for special favors for people who have already strained patience and undermined their own credibility to begin with. It’s time the Republicans to admit the weakness of their positions, so they can confront the large, difficult task of rehabilitating their party.

Christine-
I don’t think the problem is that we’re demanding more of our politicians than they can deliver, so much as this: that we’ve demanded so little of our politicians for so long, that many people have stepped up to the job who are simply not up to the task. There weren’t these huge problems with running this system back when quality policy was the expectation. But during the last few decades, the focus increasingly shifted in politics to image manipulation, which requires considerably less real skills and real understanding to get somebody a job.

If we want people capable of taking on the job, we’ve got to stop electing the guy we’d want to drink a beer with, and start electing the guy we’d want leading a company if that company was in trouble: hard workers, smart guys, people who can do more than just spin and bloviate.

We get what we vote for. Democrats voted for Obama because we saw a hard worker, a smart cookie, a person with the daring to take on the policy battles that Democrats had been afraid to show up to for far too long, and somebody who was looking to expand, not merely bank on our ranks of supporters. Republicans voted for Bush because he said all the right things, pushed all the right buttons, and his people made everybody else look like dirtbags without a care in the world as to the truth or morality of doing that.

Republicans got screwed. Democrats got a hard working president that scares the hell out of his rivals politically, and reassures everybody else with this skill, his determination, and his intelligence.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 4, 2009 5:05 PM
Comment #279564

Christine, aside from the fact that your comments do not extol the virtues of government, leaving your comments a bit jaundiced, the points made in them are pretty irrefutable, and very well expressed.

I can’t argue with the veracity of your points, but, rationality requires the balancing recognition of the national security, domestic stability, absence of insurrection and civil disorder, and more than 90% employment rate among many others. Taken as a whole, our government is functioning in terms of the objectives defined as the rationale for establishing a government at all.

That it functions inefficiently, often, and in a wide range of areas of its influence, is in part a result of the absence of authoritarian rule, being the more efficient. Add the fact that government is a product of human endeavors and thus prone to human frailties and weaknesses, should be no surprise.

I remain an optimist about our government, for one reason alone. And that is, our government is self-critical. The people maintain a very much higher standard for their government than the government routinely delivers. Which creates motive, incentive, and mandatory requirement over the long run, for our elected officials to improve upon the past history of their predecessors, government record, and society as a whole.

Americans remain among the most prosperous on the whole, most free to speak and act critically of their government, and most orderly people in their social and civil conduct, on earth.

I have never read wisdom greater than that contained in the Declaration of Independence, which states:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

The evils within our form and personages of government, as despicable and worthy of condemnation as they are, have not, since the conclusion of the Civil War, proven to be so insufferable, as to warrant a public majority demand for dissolution of this government in favor of another. And that is the ultimate test of the durability, strength, and justification for a government’s existence.

I believe that the creation and maintenance of our middle class majority of our population in such fashion as to insure their general welfare, prosperity, freedom of expression and opportunity to pursue their talents and abilities, constitutes the durability of our form and action of government. And actions or circumstances which threaten either the majority size of the middle class, or their status as extolled in the previous sentence, threatens the viability of our form of government.

This is why the reforms now underway regarding our financial system, and the deficits and debt now accruing, are not only tolerated but, embraced by the middle class. The primary beneficiaries of such reforms and deficit spending are the members of the middle class and their historical status as prosperous and free, even as the middle class is asked to shoulder the lion’s share of the cost of such efforts going forward.

It is entirely in keeping with human nature that people will sacrifice much for their own preservation and that of their progeny. Preserving gainful employment, freedom to pursue talents and abilities, and freedom to critique their leaders and to assent or dissent their leaders remaining in positions of leadership, are seen as being preserved by the efforts of government today. I believe there is ample room for optimism in this recognition going forward.

Optimism preserved, however, requires tempering with reality checks. And growing national debt, as the polls show, constitute a growing worry and concern for America’s middle class. This means, as Obama so adroitly explained, that as soon as this recession abates and the economy is growing again, the national debt growth will of necessity become a primary priority for government going forward. As long as our leadership adheres to that approach, that leadership will retain the tolerance of the middle class to remain in their leadership capacity.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 4, 2009 5:41 PM
Comment #279567

I failed to pay all my self emplyment taxes once in 1979. The IRS asked me to pay it by a certain date. I could not…they garnsheed part of my wages for several months, and they called the balance sheet clear.

Geitner failed to pay some of the self employment taxes he owed. The IRS asked him to pay up…he had the money and did so. He did not have to have his pay garnished, because he had the cash at hand or could borrow the money, but with his payment of taxes due, the IRS called the balance sheet clear.

Can anyone see any difference between the two as far as the IRS is concerned?

Will the person who thinks Geitner broke the law, tell me that I broke the law?

Posted by: Marysdude at April 4, 2009 7:37 PM
Comment #279570

M’s Dude,

With commercials on TV advertising law firms who saved delinquent tax payers up to a quarter of a million in back taxes, (their latest commercial), one has to ask if failure to pay taxes is a crime at all, anymore, even under IRS rules.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 4, 2009 8:08 PM
Comment #279580

DRR,

That may be the current philosophy, David, but I can assure you that in 1979, 80 and 81, most believed it to be a crime, and most also thought it might be punishable by incarceration. I have no idea if anyone besides scarface ever went to prison for botching their taxes, but in much of our recent history, our populace has thought it was happening.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 4, 2009 10:24 PM
Comment #279581

Stephen
I don’t think we ask too much of our politicians; we ask too much of our system. A sound and stable political system will create conditions that will permit general prosperity to grow over time. The problems come when we ask the political system produce economic & social results directly. When we put politicians in charge of our lives like that, they produce the results we see.

Which of the politicians do you think can plan your life? Is it Bush &r Cheney? Maybe Pelosi & Reid. Even the great Obama has had trouble building a team and is slower even than Bush was. Maybe you could do a better job if government did its real job – i.e. creating conditions to let you prosper.

David

I think we agree Our system is basically good. We live in the most successful country in the history of the world, which over the course of more than 200 years has endured and prospered. In all those years, the intellectuals and theorists all over the world have predicted our imminent demise. The reason is that their theories and systems just cannot understand the dynamism of our decentralized decision making processes.

We have been successful because we have not let the perfect defeat the good and the good enough. The French put in a “rational” system and they got the guillotine and dozens of governments. The Germans created a theoretical wonderful democracy in Weimar and got Hitler. The Russians and the Chinese paid the highest prices in blood for their leaders’ pursuit of utopia. Though all the years we backward Americans have just continued to muddle through and produce a much better result that works in practice, but not in theory.

The American people have understood better than most that they cannot expect their government to give them too much. They have known that politics is a necessary way to reach compromise and disputes that cannot be resolved by other means, but that its ability to make people productive and happy is limited. Government must make rules and set the general direction. That’s the role of government and that role is performed best when it is limited. Asking government in to solve your problems is like inviting a vampire into your house.

The right-left debate about government is silly in many ways and both sides attack caricatures of the other. Government is like a vitamin or medicine. A little makes you healthy and may even save your life. A lot will make you sick and may even kill you.

The right knows we need government and the rule of law. The left knows we need government can get too big and intrusive. We should look for the sweet spot. I am afraid that the hysteria over the economy is pushing us too far toward government management, but time will tell.

I am reasonably certain that we all will be paying much higher taxes and suffering slower economic growth over the next decade because of the big bailouts we are doing. I think the bailouts are necessary, but we should not let them get out of hand. And we should not forget that bailouts are to get the economy up-and-running again. They should not be used as an excuse to expand government and make our great country more like those utopias of the past.

Posted by: Christine at April 4, 2009 10:31 PM
Comment #279588

Christine,

You agree that some bail outs are necessary as long as bailing out does not get out of control…okay…if we leave our progeny with magnified debt to pay off, because we bailed these businesses out, should we not leave them educated enough, healthy enough and unencumbered of fossil fuel problems, so they can concentrate fully on paying that debt? Saddling them with the debt is distasteful enough without leaving them with sorry education, health care they can’t afford, an energy policy that relies on diminishing/polluting oil. Is it so hard to see the marriage between ‘stimulus’ and ‘budget’ needs?

We have wasted away the opportunity to leave our decedents better off then we were. This may be the first time in history that this phenomenon has occurred. Can’t we at least leave them positioned to improve the situation themselves?

Posted by: Marysdude at April 5, 2009 7:48 AM
Comment #279590

Christine-
I’m a big fan of moderation, but I’m also a big fan of looking at the situation and doing something effective about it.

I’m also a big fan of the country not sitting on its butt waiting for other countries to do great things. We’ve been revising our ambitions downwards for so long, and has that really given us a better economy or a nation with more pride in itself?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 5, 2009 8:59 AM
Comment #279594

Marysdude

You are confusing goals with means. If you believe that the Federal government throwing money at them can solve all these societal problems, then you are right to advocate opening the floodgates. I am old enough to remember the war on poverty. Poverty won. The Federal money sloshed into housing complexes that became the breeding ground for despair and violence. It is possible to make things worse by using the wrong methods to try to make them better.

Direct government intervention may produce short term results, but at the expense of creating problems in other parts of the system. Government money tends to create dependency, soon followed by corruption and cronyism.

Society is a massive system best understood with the concept of ecology. You cannot just change one thing and no expect all sorts of other things to change too. Radical changes usually fail because they fail to account for the collateral affects. Sometimes you have to be careful even in a urgent situation, maybe intelligence and prudence is even more important when people are in panic. For example, if you come across an accident where a victim has a piece of metal stuck in his chest, the metal will eventually have to be removed, but yanking it out should not be your first move.
Let me be clear and repeat that I support the bailout. I worry about the details and the size. I want it to be big enough to do the job and not any bigger.
Personally, I still believe my children will have better lives than I did, BTW. I am more than fifty years old and every year of my adult life I remember experts predicting a dark future. Today you and I are communicating instantly over a network that only science fiction would have predicted a generation ago. My HP computer cost around $700. It has greater computing power than the sum of the computers that sent a man to the moon and brought him safely home. My flat screen TV cost a lot less in terms of hours worked than the first little color TV my parents bought. I read in the paper that 35-45% of the homeless population in Washington DC has cellular phones. We forget how much new innovations have given us. I don’t think our ability to create has disappeared.
Stephen

I have great aspirations for the American people. We have done great things and will continue. The American people are not the same as the American government. Our politicians are not managing all the aspects of our lives. We still have a lot of freedom. I am very optimistic about our future, as I wrote to Marysdude. And the older I get and the more I see, the more optimistic I become.

We agree that we should address our problems and do something EFFECTIVE about them. Our goals are the same. We differ about the methods and definition of effectiveness. The government interventions during the 1960s and 1970s left a bad taste for me. I am trying to see how it might be different this time, but I see some of the same things and hear some of the same justifications.

Doing the wrong thing may be worse than going too slow. Ideally we will do mostly do the right things, at the right time and to the right extent. We are more likey to succeed in doing that if we think clearly and avoid getting stampeeded.

Posted by: Christine at April 5, 2009 11:20 AM
Comment #279601

christine - are you applauding bush’s picks for cabinet spaces? mitch daniels stated the iraq war would cost 50 million dollars. that turned out to be just the first few days of the war. just because he picked his cabinet quickly, didn’t mean that he did it wisely.

and as far as a run off in alaska - palin just can’t take what american people want. not her or stevens. (still not buying the fact he had construction done on his home and it didn’t cost a thing. sorry, i’m a homeowner and it has a price) everything has a price, and the price for granite countertops for the senator was his senate seat. no to a run off, take your lumps, and run in 6 years if you so desire.

Posted by: bluebuss at April 5, 2009 1:24 PM
Comment #279602

Christine,

We began your kind of slow, strangling attempts at do-nothing progress in 1982. The process extended with little real relief through 2006. Between 1999 and 2007 saw a steady decline in ANY kind of progress in ANY part of American life…and then the poop hit the air vents…I cannot think of a better time or a better position for America to be in to attempt a turn around. And quite frankly, trying to turn things around by using the same policies and procedures as have been being used for twenty-seven or more years??? Huh ugh! It ain’t gonna work any better this time than before. Give us a break on this…if we make a positive impact, it would mean America wins…big time, considering where we start from…and if we fail, it means youse guys was right…and, as we fade into the sunset, y’all can point your fingers all you want.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 5, 2009 1:47 PM
Comment #279605

Bluebuss

It isn’t about Bush. I just point out that Obama is a bit slow off the mark. This is especially true in Treasury, where we are told we are in an urgent situation, but only have one appointed man on the job.

Marysdude

We had a good economic run from around 1949-1972. Then we had some hard times. We had good economic times from 1982-2007. Now we have some hard times. The good times had recessions and the hard times had some upticks, but they are generally big waves.

I would not want to “turn things around” to 1982, which was the end of a horrible decade, with double digit unemployment, inflation etc. Decision makers at that time responded with policies that gave us a quarter century of prosperity. We need different solutions today, but that doesn’t mean that it was nothing but mistakes before. You build on what you have.

Please recognize that you will never get a perfect system. I have never seen one and never even heard about one. Today’s problems are yesterday’s solutions and we have to assume that today’s solutions will be tomorrow’s problems.

We both lived through the 1982-2007. I am sorry if you didn’t see any progress in your life and that things were worse for you at the end of the period than they were at the beginning. I can understand why you are angry.

But when I compare what average people can have today with what they had in 1982, I must say that your situation must not be the most common one. You have to discount all the technological progress, and I just cannot do that.

I don’t know if you remember the 1970s, but it was not a fun time.

Posted by: Christine at April 5, 2009 2:16 PM
Comment #279611

Christine-
I think the thing to keep in mind is that the strategy in forming and continuing this prosperity to was to balance ever greater burdens on the average America, which would be offset by a free and easy credit market that obviated the need to actually pay people more or keep them consistently employed.

We more or less enjoyed the legacy of the good parts of the years before then, in terms of infrastructure, government spending, and technology, but as that has gone, and the business strategies of folks in charge have gotten more and more hostile to the average person’s interests, the situation’s gotten worse.

The question is not how big or small to make government. The question is how do we make it work, and work for us. The question is, what are our interests? How does government fit in? Where do we push it? Where do we not?

We don’t need an ideological answer, but a practical one.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 5, 2009 3:32 PM
Comment #279612

Christine said: “They have known that politics is a necessary way to reach compromise and disputes that cannot be resolved by other means, but that its ability to make people productive and happy is limited. Government must make rules and set the general direction. That’s the role of government and that role is performed best when it is limited. Asking government in to solve your problems is like inviting a vampire into your house.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority and bringing electricity and jobs and education and the 20th century to the Appalachian people’s comes to mind. The Interstate Highway System, the veins and arteries of our vast economic growth in the later half of the 20th century comes to mind. Mandatory K-12 education through the age of 16 comes to mind. The Civil Rights laws backed by a minority of the voting population at the time, comes to mind.

Our government has solved a great many of our problems at the asking of some or many of our society’s people. I simply have to disagree with your very generalized view that “Asking government in to solve your problems is like inviting a vampire into your house.”

One of many secrets to America’s success is its uncanny ability to find the right leaders to address the needed challenges of the day, in ways that the nation as a whole and history can accept in hindsight as just and justified. Whether or not America will continue to find the right leaders or not, is an open question and by no means assured. Still, one cannot discard the record of the past as meaningless, even if it is no guarantor of the future.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 5, 2009 3:41 PM
Comment #279613

Marysdude (2) and others

As I reread some of your comments, I see one of the profound problems with political solutions. Those heavily infected with politics see binarys solutions. I constantly hear things like “you guys did this” “Now it is our turn” etc.

I have endorsed President Obama’s plan in the main, but I worry about details and excess. The same could be said for Bush, Clinton or Reagan. We all build on the past. The choices we make are constrained and enhanced by what went before. That is not partisan, it is just American and it just is the way things are.

In a different thread, I mentioned that President Obama could build on the success in Iraq. The black/white folks couln’t stand that. With partisans, you have to be all in or all out. This is the shame of politics and why we don’t want it to invade too many aspects of our lives. It is just too hateful and pushy.

I don’t want to reject good ideas because of their source, nor accept them for the same reason.

Not everything that happened in the last eight years was bad and most of it wasn’t “Bush’s fault” anyway. President Obama is learning that he faces some of the same constraints Bush did and so the “new” policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan & North Korea is starting to look a lot like the old policy, i.e. the policy of Bush’s second term.

We can hope that he does a better job, but we should not expect revolutionary change because many of the same players are still on the field and they still have similar interests and abilities. In fact, it is the ultimate in arrogance to think that a change in American leadership will change everything. We are the most important country in the world, but our president does not rule the world. Heck, he doesn’t even really rule the United States. THere are many centers of powers, checks and balances.

Some people elevated Bush to the great satan. Now that he is gone, you miss him. When things continue to happen and sometimes go wrong, it will soon be impossible to blame him and maybe you will come to see that the whole blame game is not very productive - except in politics.

Posted by: Christine at April 5, 2009 3:48 PM
Comment #279617

Stephen

Agree. We should make government the right size for the functions it must perform. I think reasonable people may disagree about what this means. Ideology and experience will inevitably influence how you see these things. I have been on different sides of this debate at different stages of my life. I once had greater faith in the efficacy of government. I don’t always have greater faith that the private sector can do what government cannot, but I have come to understand that there are some things we just cannot get.

I am watching 60 Minutes right now. There are some poor people with cancer, who cannot get the care they need to stay alive. One of the patients mentioned that it cost $50,000 for one of the drugs she needs. This is very sad, but we have a medical-ethical problem. The outcome we want is that they get better. What we really get is that they hang on in a diminished state for a couple more months. In Europe, most of these people would be allowed to die peacefully. In America, we fight valiantly to keep people alive for a few months. I would go with the Europeans on this one. But there are many in America who advocate the opposite and they want the government to do it. In this case, what is the practical decision?

David

I think you have hit on the proper role for government. The things you mention are examples of general projects that were beyond the ability of individuals reasonably to do and they were examples were government did not try to manage the process too closely. For example, the government builds the roads and sets rules for all to follow, but it doesn’t mange who has the right to be on the road.

I think it would be great if the government would actually build roads and infrastructure with the stimulus money. But we all know that will be only a small part.

I also return to the medicine-poison analogy. In 1929, we did not have enough government involvement. Federal spending made up a small part of the total GDP. There was a need for roads, infrastructure etc. Government took a wrong turn, IMO, during the Johnson Administration, when it started to regulate, directly manage and try to pick winners and losers.

What I worry about with the current stimulus is the haste and hysteria that is going on with it. I know that it seems to offend Bush opponents, but the hysteria surrounding the economic stimulus is similar to that around the war on terror after 9/11. We are told that we have to act immediately and that we cannot take the time to do the due diligence. Just as we regret some of what we did as a result of that hysteria, I think we will come to regret some of the things we are happily doing now.

Generally, government does the best job when it creates conditions for prosperity, but does not manage the actual projects. That has been the secret of American exceptionalism for more than two centuries.

I agree that we do find the right leaders to make the right changes. I would count among them, Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Both Roosevelts and Ronald Reagan. LBJ’s reform failed, but did change our society. They all did things that helped our country adapt and stored up new problems for others to solve. Maybe Obama will join the club. Time will tell.

Posted by: Christine at April 5, 2009 7:40 PM
Comment #279619

Christine,

It is history that convinces me we need to turn around. You say we had it pretty good from ‘82 til ‘06, but in reality we lost several labor unions, we lost major foreign trade issues, and we began to lose much foreign relations credibility with our propensity to lie and cheat on a grand scale. Reagan inherited about a trillion in debt, and handed off double that to BushI. The ‘wall’ came down, but it nearly took us with it.

During BushI, we lost yet more world credibility with our continuing to lie and cheat on an even grander scale, and when the dust settled on our foreign relations snafus, we had lost yet another trillion to the debt.

Clinton gained some ground in foreign relations, and gained some ground on our deficit, but was not a very nice person, so he lost ground in domestic relations. Then there is the matter of GLB which happened on his watch…nuff said…

I cannot numerate the damages caused by your hero Cheney/Bush, because the numbers don’t go that high. Suffice to say he left us so screwed in foreign relations, credibility, and debt that we may never recover our previous standing in the world, but worse yet, he left us drowning in our own deregulated, unsupervised, rip-off financial house spit.

We can legitimately call it the lost thirty years of American History.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 5, 2009 7:53 PM
Comment #279631

Marysdude

I wrote good things about Presidents both Democratic and Republican. I wrote that I hoped Obama could do better than Bush.

I suppose you characterize Bush/Cheney as my heroes because I don’t hate them and I don’t think they are the great satans.

The world economy grew a lot from 1982-2007. The American share of that remains about the same, while that of other developed countries (such as our Euro friends) declined. This was a relative decline, BTW.

The economic statistics tell me that our country is about 1/3 richer than it was and that the median family income has increased by about that amount. Statistics can be deceptive, but my experience is also born that out.

It is hard for me to see the last 30 years as a failure and I suppose our differing perception have to do with our differing experiences. Most people I know did well. My family did much better than I would have predicted in 1982. Maybe my goals were modest. I didn’t expect to get rich and I didn’t, but I am not poor and I am much better off than my parents.

re the time before, unemployment was double digit in 1982. It is lower now. Interest rates were nearly 20% in 1982. Today they are around 5%. In 1982 experts feared an imminent nuclear war. They told us Reagan would start one. Instead we got lower nukes and the end of the Cold War.

The post WWII setup worked until around 1972. Then it stopped working. We needed change then and we went through a decade of troubles. Those troubled times improved in 1982. If you think the time since then was a lost time, you really have a lost time since 1972 and I have to wonder at your point of reference, since by your figuring most working Americans today never experienced good times as adults. But I know I have.

Some things are the same. We were told that American cars couldn’t compete and the auto industry was in trouble. That hasn’t changed. We were told we needed big changes, just like today.

Nothing works forever. Most things don’t last very long. We had good economic times for a quarter century. That is about as long we seem to get. Then we need changes. I understand the need for change. I just don’t have to trash the past to justify it.

I see this attitude a lot. People seem compelled to trash whatever went before. Insecure people trashes their predessors. It is a character flaw, but a common one. When I hear people talk about how bad things were before they took over and how things don’t work anymore, I ask them if they ate lunch yesterday and if they plan to eat again today. Then I ask them if they think they failed at eating yesterday.

Change happens. Circumstances change. You can know that w/o being bitter and hateful. In the long run that makes you a better leader, a better follower, a better friend and a better person. I feel sorry for people who cannot do that; I try not to hire them or have them on my teams because peoples view of the world is a confession of their own characters.

Posted by: Christine at April 6, 2009 12:52 AM
Comment #279632

Christine,

There were a handful of Native Americans who’s tribes allowed (encouraged?), when their elders became dependent upon others for their livelihood or aid for survival, to go off on their own, sit down in as comfortable a place as possible and just starve to death.

I pass no judgement on that as a recourse, when things get tough, or when there are few options available, but to set out to do that as a method of health care, in the modern world, sounds at least a little crass.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 6, 2009 1:01 AM
Comment #279633

Christine,

Eventually we may catch up with each other’s entries, but until then…

During the time period you mention, our country gained on the rest of the world on false values. The more real measurement might be the separation of wealth from rich to poor or the decline in numbers of our middle class in our own country.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 6, 2009 1:05 AM
Comment #279634

PS:

Those false values are what created the meltdown, and guess what…the world felt the hit more fiercely even than we.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 6, 2009 1:08 AM
Comment #279635

We, the United States of America, led the sheep to slaughter. We were the ‘decider’. We convinced the world that we had the economic answers, and found out too late that we didn’t even have the right questions.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 6, 2009 1:11 AM
Comment #279639

Christine, M.Dude alludes to an historical trend that is far too often ignored and not readily admitted into political debates. That is the incredibly diminishing middle class real wage income from the 1970’s to the present.

In the 1950’s and early 60’s, America hit its pinnacle in terms of middle class purchasing power. With the oil embargoes of the 1970’s, to the present day, that purchasing power of middle class wages has been cut virtually in half. Where one blue collar wage earner in the 1950’s could buy a middle class home, car, provide health insurance, and even manage to save for at least one child to attend college, it now takes 2 full time wage earners to maintain a comparable middle class standing today.

People fail to equate the vast wealth gap disparity in favor of America’s growing millionaire and billionaire minority with the shrinking real wages of the middle class over those same decades; but most pronounced it was, if I surmise my economic history correctly as a result of political domestic policy, from the 1980’s through the present. (The 1970’s causes were primarily foreign induced, the oil embargoes and its ripple effects, combined with the dramatic increases in Cold War spending, and most expensive years of the Viet Nam War.)

And this transfer of real wealth from the middle class to a growing but still very small wealthier minority was bi-partisan, pure and simple.

LBJ’s great society designs, never fully implemented due to the rising costs of Viet Nam, cannot be segregated from his Civil Rights efforts, as they were part of the same design, to eradicate poverty from America. To the extent that his Civil Rights efforts resulted, as his legacy in the decades to follow, in a dramatic reduction of poverty amongst African Americans from then to now, it is problematic to argue LBJ’s designs largely a failure. LBJ’s great society efforts resulted in Sisyphus’ Rock of segregation and Black poverty pushed up the mountain by slavery’s legacy, to come rolling back down the mountain with increasing speed into the 21st century in America. LBJ, as a result, cannot be dismissed as a failed president in the pages of history texts, despite his many failures as the CIC of the Viet Nam War.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 6, 2009 2:48 AM
Comment #279641

DR
Along the same lines is the dramatic increase of worker production that occurred during the same period. Much of this occurred from technology advances etc. but 100% increases in employee productivity were not rare. Historically increases in labor productivity results in increased wages. Generally it has not. The wealth was created but not shared with workers. This trend is not sustainable. One reason for the economic blow up is that working people did not share in the gains for a number of concerted reasons. If they had most of the current troubles would not have occurred. For example ,if a family is earning good wages they are less likely to need a sub-prime mortgage or have trouble making the payments.
For those conservative readers out there I would point out that there is a non-governmental solution to wealth disparity available to us. Lets get the government out of it as much as possible and take the handcuffs off organized labor.

Posted by: bills at April 6, 2009 3:54 AM
Comment #279642

bills, labor sowed the seeds of their own demise. When Ford floor sweepers and light bulb changers were getting $27 an hour, labor had far exceeded its mandate. Labor unions are corporations in their own right, and as such, require oversight and regulation like other corporations whose sole reason for existence is to fulfill the greed quotient of its investors.

Greed should never be handcuffed. It is a prime mover of innovation and creativity. Neither should it ever be given unbridled power to do as it pleases without regard for the consequences. This is why the incestuous relationship between government and business is such a potential nation killer, as we have seen amply, now.

Enlightened self-interest is the ability to discern and act responsibly toward the holistic short and long term consequences of one’s decisions and actions. Corporations by virtue of their design differences from owner/operator business, are incapable of enlightened self-interest, and therefore require oversight and regulation.

Education is insufficient to enact enlightened self-interest for a corporation. Education is sufficient to afford enlightened self-interest decisions for a family or owner/operator business. Corporate execs are replaced if they deviate from a hard core greed maximization decision path. That is the structural function of the board of directors and shareholders, to insure corporate execs follow a maximum profit in as short a time as possible decision path, without regard for longer term consequences or wider considerations of community health, labor welfare, environmental concerns, and political or consumer backlash.

Adam Smith discusses enlightened self-interest from the point of view of the owner operator of a business, wherein the owner of the business resides in the community in which his business participates, answers to the concerns of his neighbors and community, and assumes the responsibility for the longevity of his/her business as a legacy to progeny to be proud of, or commodity to be sold with outstanding history affording very high respect and therefore higher price, upon selling of the business upon retirement or other eventuality.

Modern corporate structures were not in the purview of Adam Smith, but, his enlightned self-interest principles are made all the more valid with the advent of modern corporations, requiring only the responsibility for enlightened interest to be relegated to the public’s representatives, or independent third parties beyond the reach of the corporation’s influence. (The latter proving to be a largely failed concept in modern times.)

BTW, very important and fundamental point you make regarding the additional variable of replacing human labor with machine labor to increase productivity without increasing wages to keep pace with inflation. Absolutely, a large factor in the declining real wages of the middle class.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 6, 2009 9:09 AM
Comment #279643

If a worker invents a labor or dollar saving device…most corporations will forego a reward to the worker, but will inevitably give the executive over that department a bonus.

The above example is one tiny speck in the demise of the middle class, but it is a viable example none the less. If you stop for a minute and think of all the ways a working person gets left out of the profit share, no matter how productive or inovative he/she is, it is mind boggling.

The way most businesses determine what pay scale will be used for new hires, is to poll other similar businesses in the region, to find out what the total cost of one worker is to those organizations. The average of that polling data determines how much the hourly wage will be, and what and in what ratios any benefits might be included in the total labor cost package. Witout a union to negotiate the worker is left with no alternative but to take the job, on the basis of what the company says is fair or adequate.

If, on the other hand I make a widget the company needs in its production line. I get to negotiate the price of that widget according to the producer’s needs. In this case we refer to the negotiation as satisfying the laws of supply and demand.

The only product used by a corporation to feather its net, that it deems not negotiable, is labor. That, my friends, is NOT free enterprise, and does not fill the bill of the laws of supply and demand. Nothing in the establishment of the labor/cost averages has anything to do with the expected profitability atributable to the work force.

That is how Wal*Mart made its great headway, and continues to profit while others fail. Wal*Mart has honed the taking advantage of wage non-negotiation to a razor sharp edge.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 6, 2009 9:20 AM
Comment #279652

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/data/PRIME.txt Christine you Should put the Interest rates into context Carter started at 6.25 and ended at 21.50 + 15.25!!! that’s what i call inflation! Reagan Start at 20.50 ended at 10.50 - 10 points….

Posted by: Rodney Brown at April 6, 2009 3:02 PM
Comment #279653

And Jerry Ford did whip Inflation!

Posted by: Rodney Brown at April 6, 2009 3:08 PM
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