The Real Issues 2: Real Wealth

If you don’t have a Wall Street Journal Weekend edition from this weekend (Sept. 29-30) get one or find one. At the bottom of page A9 Reason Magazine science correspondant Ronald Bailey has written a jewel. Read it and you will understand why no matter how much money you take out of America it will not be poor, and why, no matter how much money you give to Nigeria, it will not be rich.

Unfortunately the website managers at the WSJ didn't post the article on Opinion Journal. A few quotes from the article will have to suffice. Bailey starts out noting that a migrant worker from Mexico is five times more productive here in the U.S. than the same worker is in Mexico. That is not, says he, because of more machinery, better farms, or bigger companies. It is because of nearly half a million dollars worth of "intangible Wealth" the average American has at hand, compared with Mexico's intangible wealth of just $34,000 per person. What is this economic philosopher's stone?

Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century" (a 200+ page .pdf ), a study by the World Bank's Environmental Economics Department begun about two years ago, set out to answer that question. According to Bailey the study-

"began by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal and mineral resources), cropland, .... Produced, or built, capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital: the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land."
This, in Bailey's words, was insufficient to account for...
"the vast majority of world’s wealth! If one simply adds up the current value of a country’s natural resources and produced, or built, capital, there’s no way that can account for that country’s level of income."

The rest of the wealth of nations is the value of intangible capital. According to the study text itself-

"Intangible assets include the skills and know-how embodied in the labor force. The category also includes social capital, that is, the trust among people in a society and their ability to work together for a common purpose. The residual also accounts for all those governance elements that boost the productivity of labor. For example, if an economy has a very efficient judicial system, clear property rights, and an effective government, the effects will result in a higher total wealth and thus a higher intangible capital residual. The regression analysis in this chapter (chapter 7) shows that human capital and rule of law account for the majority of the variation in the residual. Investments in education, the functioning of the justice system, and policies aimed at attracting remittances are the most important means of increasing the intangible components of total wealth."

Here, drawn from a welter of sources, is a study that explains the real reason why the rich get richer. In rich nations there is a greater measure of trust among people. This allows greater cooperation and a capacity to work toward common goals. A respect for property and governmental recognition of property rights means property can be turned to the production of tangible capital even when many disagree with the manner in which that property is used. That trust means also that people need not fear the acquisition of wealth making them into the targets of their neighbors. People are freer to gather and freer to use capital so they have a reason to utilize the labor and skills of others. The effect of this is like a market snowball rolling downhill.

Bailey notes-

"The natural wealth in rich countries like the U.S. is a tiny proportion of their overall wealth—typically 1% to 3%—yet they derive more value from what they have. Cropland, pastures and forests are more valuable in rich countries because they can be combined with other capital like machinery and strong property rights to produce more value."

The obverse of this intangible coin is found in countries like Nigeria, Somalia, and the Republic of the Congo. These nations are run so badly they have what Bailey describes as "negative intangible capital". Bailey writes- " Through rampant corruption and failing school systems, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are destroying their intangible capital and ensuring that their people will be poorer in the future."

Bailey closes his article with a nod to the great development economist Peter Bauer, who described in his 1972 book, Dissent on Development the mechanisms of the predominant economic theories of the day that perpetuated poverty in developing nations.

A couple of points in this article are worthy of note. First, the United States is not the richest country (per capita) on the World Bank's list. We come in fourth behind Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden. (table 2.1, p. 20, Where is the Wealth of Nations) Second, though neither Bailey, nor even the authors of the World Bank study note this, these same factors apply in dealing with poverty within nations as well as in dealing with the poverty of nations.

Had the study been designed simply to aggrandize American notions of good governance it seems likely we would not have been so far behind Switzerland in terms of total capital per person (U.S. $513,000 vs. Switz. $648,000). Furthermore, according to Bailey, America's "rule of law index", at 91.8% falls substantially behind that of the Swiss, who come in at an astonishing 99.5%. Table 7.2 on page 93 of the World Bank study reveals strong correlations between this rule of law ranking and other significant economic factors such as political stability and control of corruption.

Anyone reading this study with an objective eye toward domestic policy could immediately recognize a one-to-one relationship between these findings for nations and the function of these same indices for states, cities, and even neighborhoods in the United States. Through most of the 20th century the most corruptly run American state was Mississippi, with Louisiana close at hand. With the rule of law compromised in these places their economic performance was abysmal in spite of substantial natural capital. The same thing can be said today of neighborhoods within individual cities. Those neighborhoods with the least internal trust and cooperation, hence the most indifferent attachment to concepts of rule of law, are the most difficult to lift out of poverty.

The World Bank study makes a direct correlation between the social institutions and skills associated with the rule of law and effective governance, noting especially the importance of a population's internalization of trust and cooperation. In places where these skill sets predominate the population is well educated and their economic effort is well supported and well rewarded. Where these skill sets are lacking no amount of economic assistance can suffice to defeat poverty. Whether in Burundi, Bagdad, or Baltimore, permitting local or national economies to be dominated by what Bailey describes as "kleptocrats" is a guarantee of continuing economic decline.

Anyone really caring to promote prosperity anywhere in the world should take note of the kind of wealth that really counts to accomplish that goal.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at October 1, 2007 11:02 AM
Comments
Comment #234953

Correct link

Posted by: womanmarine at October 1, 2007 12:34 PM
Comment #234956

womanmarine, Thanks for the heads up. It should be fixed now.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 1, 2007 12:44 PM
Comment #234975

This is a great posting. You point to the simple but usually overlooked fact that all wealth is created by human effort. That mountain of gold or sea of oil is only potential wealth before somebody does something with it.

Wealth is also connected honesty. Your studies talk about trust levels. We can simply call it the correlation between what someone says and what they do and how much everybody can rely on that. Poverty and dishonesty go together. It is very hard to discern cause and effect, perhaps because they are so closely intertwined. But it is clearly as true to say that dishonesty causes poverty as to say that poverty causes dishonesty.

This has vast and sometimes unwelcome (for some) implications for social policy. It is one of the limiting factors in government intervention. No matter what sort of resources we pile on, they cannot have the desired results w/o the right behaviors among the recipients. This can mean that a little government intervention may be good by removing barriers that are holding good people back, but a lot may have the negative feedback of allowing the continuation and even expansion of bad behavior.

Poor, smart, honest & hardworking are three traits that do not go together very much anymore outside communities in transition. We make the mistake of thinking that a person, community or country is poor because they do not have money or resources, when the problem is more likely to be what they do rather than what they have (or not).

We see that resources do not create wealth, but we just do not understand. Switzerland is rich. Saudi Arabia just has money. The difference is the culture that creates prosperity. In the medium and long run, the capacity to create wealth is much more important than the possession of wealth. It is earned and cannot be given.

Posted by: Jack at October 1, 2007 9:02 PM
Comment #234994

Jack,

Truth is, I am stunned at the silence that has met this article. It has been popular in recent years for the left to claim that they somehow had a monopoly on cooperation and respect for the public commons. Here they are even given the chance to point to three relatively high-tax (though our overall tax burden is, in fact, higher) countries that excell us in per capita wealth, but no one has made a peep.

The difficult points for the left in the World Bank study are: 1. Property rights, and, 2. Rule of law.

Respect for private property, especially personal private property, is a direct assault on a key “progressive” ideal- that society at large (in the form of their empowered elite) can better decide how to use the resources of society than can the individual.

Rule of law is simply a recognition of the respect and cooperation in a civil society. The vast majority of the time a civil people will know how to respect each other and work toward common goals. The law is there as our pact-in-common, a set of plainly written agreements which should be clear to any properly educated person. Our shame is that we foster an unneccesarily contentious legal system by seeing a proliferation of laws and a vagueness in legal interpretation (especially in Constitutional law) as a kind of lottery many of us think we need because we believe we can’t make good by the sweat of our brow and the work of our hand.

When a society allows, or worse, encourages that misconception among its citizens it has engendered a powerfully corrosive form of corruption in its midst.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 2, 2007 9:34 AM
Comment #235010

Lee Jamison-
The trouble is, you’re coming off of years of people being told to trust the market to take care of their needs, during which they’ve essentially seen those needs unfulfilled.

Economics is not about property or wealth, it’s about the flow of resources. When people see their ability to maintain a stable standard of living degrade, while others become incredibly rich, it doesn’t take a lot of letters after your name to figure out something’s not right.

Moreover, the trust you’re talking about has taken a massive beating. Everything people have been told to invest in has had some kind of problem, and the Real Estate Market, once proof that the economy was still vibrant has just cratered; worse yet, that craps not even over.

It’s not that people don’t necessarily make profitable decisions for themselves. The trouble is, profitability for the individual or special interest doesn’t necessarily scale up to something that’s good for the public at large.

There has to be a balance between the common good and the individual good, and for thirty years, it’s been nothing but hyperindividualism, deregulation, endless tax cutting, endless shifting of the risk onto the consumer.

The unfortunate fact is, some individuals are more powerful than others, and when the system becomes hyperfocused on letting individuals do whatever they want, many individuals get the short end of the stick.

The problem isn’t necessarily that America is losing money, but rather than our economic resources aren’t flowing in the most efficient matter. People get rich all the time, it’s unavoidable. Even in the most ostensibly egalitarian society, like Soviet Russia and Maoist China, some people end up being more equal than others. The problem comes when you ask people to continue to support economic growth, without keeping the resources you give them up to the costs of living. While executive pay has skyrocketed, the average person’s pay has remained stagnant.

People no longer trust that if you work hard and keep your nose clean, you’ll be able to earn a decent living. Americans may be wealthy compared to the rest of the world, but they don’t feel wealthy.

What’s more, folks like you in Congress have spent the last few decades making it considerably more difficult for people to look after their own interests.

I don’t think the deafening silence comes from folks being shocked at how foolish they’ve been. No, I think they’re puzzled by how little you recognize how badly these economic principles have been compromised by your own party.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 2, 2007 12:43 PM
Comment #235016

Good Lord, Stephen, how old are you?

Needs unfulfilled? Is there any place outside of the western world where one of the chief dangers to the health of the poor is obesity and the diabetes attendant to it? Most of the poor have cars. Most of the poor have cell phones. Most of the poor have air conditioners, for heaven’s sakes!

In the “roaring, halcyon days” of the late fifties, when I was born, my father struggled mightily to find a job. In that first year of my life he and my mama scraped out an existence on $2000.00 on jobs like door to door sales. That is the experience of a man so smart he has since taught himself how to be a certified petroleum geophysicist. We didn’t have an air conditioner, except in one room, till I was five. We were on a party line phone part of the time. We went months at a time without a TV. We had one car till I was ten. We often went without meat the last week of the month.

I can go to any Wal Mart store now and buy things like freezers, box fans, and any number of other appliances for fewer deflated present-day dollars than I bought the same things for in 1979 dollars. I can go to Tractor Supply today and buy a lawn mower for $150.00 plus tax. That’s twenty five dollars less than a similar mower I bought twenty years ago. That is the same thing as a raise- and the markets, not the government, did that.

My daughter just rented an apartment in the Woodlands, TX for $425 per month. That’s way less than the inflationary equivalent of the $325 her mom and I paid for a similar apartment twenty five years ago.

Jobs are easier to find, as well. Those migrant workers don’t come here to stand on street corners and starve. Opportunity abounds in America as it never has before. People who have seen places that lack it know that and clamber to be a part of it.

Americans who can’t see this have to be either swamped with rhetorical nonsense or hoplessly historically myopic. There is simply no objective material measure by which we are not better off now than we have been at any significant remove in the past.

You say, for example, that pay has been stagnant for the “average” worker. Really? Try correcting that statistic to remove imported poverty and its attendant depressing effect on wages. You might also want to adjust the statistics on buying power to remove the effects of increased property taxation on rents and hidden corporate taxes on other prices. These are subversions of market forces made possible by violations either of trust (can’t let you see how much you really pay in taxes) or of rule of law.

Stephen, what you seem to be arguing, in the face of the results of this study, is that it doesn’t matter if trust, cooperation, property rights, and the rule of law improve the lot of citizens generally. Then you just sort of, well, stop.

It is always easy to find examples of unfairness, even in places where people do cooperate and trust. I’m sure you can go to Switzerland and find cases of unfairness, bitterness, poverty, and loss. I’ll bet there are rich people there and poor people who are envious of them. I’ll even bet a poll of the Swiss people would find them thinking their justice system rates less than a 99.5% out of a possible 100% on the rule of law index.
BUT, to the extent that they do cooperate with and trust in each other they are all better off. To the extent they need not be coerced into working toward common goals they are better off. To the extent that they do not fear their neighbors or their government they are better off. And, to the extent that their time is not wasted in trying to protect themselves and their tangible, productive, capital from depredations by people, whether governmental, legal, neighbor, stranger, or foreigner, they, and we, are all better off.


That is not a product of one party or another. To tell you the truth I believe that a socialist system can, in theory, function nearly as well as a true market economy. Unfortunately people in leadership cannot resist using people’s perceived pain, bitterness, and jealousy as a lever to empower themselves. Parties committed to more socialist agendas, therefore, cannot resist policies aimed at eroding trust and using the damage that does to communities to enhance envy and a sense that they have been treated unfairly.

Compare the internal social dynamics of black communities in America from fifty years ago to those today then try to tell me they are better off now. You can’t. They have been devastated.

Trust and cooperation are kind of like Winston Churchill’s assessment of capitalism. They are the worst of all possible systems, except for every other system we have tried so far.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 2, 2007 3:32 PM
Comment #235017

The heart of the matter lies in the invisibility of many taxes to the earner, the lack of accountability by politicians for their profligate spending, and the consequent breakdown in trust between citizens and their political representatives. As long as we have a tax code that

• does not enable the earner to keep the fruits of their labor, foreclosing their opportunity to best determine how that fruit is spent;

• taxes income of business (which is a hidden tax to consumers in higher prices - either directly at retail, or indirectly through higher tax requirements for such things as infrastructure, etc.);

• precludes the payment for government as a function of what earners spend, as opposed to what they earn (i.e., a national sales tax on purchases above poverty-level spending, a/k/a “FairTax”), which would place the proper priority on meeting family/community needs first,

the privileged class in Washington DC (politicians and approx. 53% of the lobbyists there that game the tax code for their clients- corporate and special interest) will remain unaccountable in their spending habits.

So far are we down the path of socialism, that it seems almost impossible to imagine such a tax system that was, in fact, the vision of the nation’s founding fathers. Yet, their has been much research to assure us that the “original idea” is the best. Consider the following:

The effective percentages, that different income groups would pay under a FairTax, would be calculated by crediting a monthly “prebate” (advance rebate of projected tax on necessities) against total monthly spending of citizen families (1 member and greater, Dept. of HHS poverty-level data). A single person would receive a prebate of ~$200/mo. A family of four, ~$500/mo. - in addition to working members no longer having tax withholding confiscated from the fruits of their labor every two weeks.) Prof.’s Kotlikoff and Rapson (10/06) concluded,

“…the FairTax imposes much lower average taxes on working-age households than does the current system. The FairTax broadens the tax base from what is now primarily a system of labor income taxation to a system that taxes, albeit indirectly, both labor income and existing wealth. By including existing wealth in the effective tax base, much of which is owned by rich and middle-class elderly households, the FairTax is able to tax labor income at a lower effective rate and, thereby, lower the average lifetime tax rates facing working-age Americans.

“Consider, as an example, a single household age 30 earning $50,000. The household’s average tax rate under the current system is 21.1 percent. It’s 13.5 percent under the FairTax. Since the FairTax would preserve the purchasing power of Social Security benefits and also provide a tax rebate, older low-income workers who will live primarily or exclusively on Social Security would be better off. As an example, the average remaining lifetime tax rate for an age 60 married couple with $20,000 of earnings falls from its current value of 7.2 percent to -11.0 percent under the FairTax. As another example, compare the current 24.0 percent remaining lifetime average tax rate of a married age 45 couple with $100,000 in earnings to the 14.7 percent rate that arises under the FairTax.”

Further, per Jokischa and Kotlikoff (circa 2006?)

“…once one moves to generations postdating the baby boomers there are positive welfare gains for all income groups in each cohort. Under a 23 percent FairTax policy, the poorest members of the generation born in 1990 enjoy a 13.5 percent welfare gain. Their middle-class and rich contemporaries experience 5 and 2 percent welfare gains, respectively. The welfare gains are largest for future generations. Take the cohort born in 2030. The poorest members of this cohort enjoy a huge 26 percent improvement in their well-being. For middle class members of this birth group, there’s a 12 percent welfare gain. And for the richest members of the group, the gain is 5 percent.”

Renown economist Laurence Kotlikoff believes that failure to enact the FairTax - choosing instead to try to “flatten” what he deems to be a non-flattenable income tax system - will eventuate into an irrevocable economic meltdown, because of the hidden aspects of the current system that make political accountability impossible. Tom Frey, of the DiVinci Institute, foresees the coming collapse of the income tax system. Let us hope that this comes sooner, rather than later.

What’s hopeful is that this idea has broken out into the mainstream (e.g., This Week with Geo. Stephanopoulos). Perhaps there is yet hope that the country will not be taken down the drain by its elected.

Posted by: Ian at October 2, 2007 3:45 PM
Comment #235022


Stephen: I am increasingly considering that we should capitulate. We should dismantle the government social programs, unchain capitalism and let it destroy itself.

Posted by: jlw at October 2, 2007 4:25 PM
Comment #235023

The rule of law, trust, and honesty in agreements are huge when it comes to building wealth and it applies to civil institutions as well as individuals. Imagine if a person could not even write a check because there was no faith in the bank or the person you were doing business with as I heard reported a few years ago in the Ukraine. Many were stuck with “barter” of all things. Not very productive and no way to produce wealth.

I would disagree with Lee that the our judicial system is convoluted or too “contentious”. The courts as he pointed out are what help keep people “honest”. Making it harder, for example, for people to pursue recourse would erode the very trust that produces wealth. Many lawsuits may be frivolous and add costs that would not otherwise be there however the alternative would reduce trust and progress for the majority of people in this country.

For example, condo lawsuits spawned a huge industry for lawyers. It is nearly automatic for lawyers approaching a homeowner’s association nearing the statute of limitations to get them to accept a lawsuit. Everyone gets named whether they were guilty or not. The costs of everything go up, not the least of which is housing. Architects have insurers telling them they can’t have more than 15% of their billing be multi-family housing. It’s a shame.

However, why did this become so profitable for lawyers? It’s because builders in California were building a lot of shitty condos. I’m an architect in California and I decry the cost of housing and the incentives not to build multi-family housing. However, people need to know that likely their biggest asset is not defective. HOAs just make it collectively easier to get recourse. You should see how hard it is to get a builder of single-family homes to come out and fix a problem. Competition here hurts the average homebuyer. The only recourse sometimes is the courts.

It’s like Churchill said…

Posted by: chris2x at October 2, 2007 4:29 PM
Comment #235025

Chris2x,

Now, do you think the system that drives obstetricians out of 60% of the counties in this country is superior to the system that has made the meat packing industry safer here than anywhere else in the world— in spite of a substantial supply of foreign-grown meat?

It is possible to regulate without a capricious, for-profit argument industry that benefits directly from outrageous overrepresentation in legislatures necessarily getting filthy rich on the process. It just takes a determination on our part to make it so.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 2, 2007 4:59 PM
Comment #235026

I’m twenty-eight today.

Walmart’s low prices depend on getting suppliers who can make products cheap. Sooner or later, though, the money we feed into those economies makes it impossible for them to charge low prices. Additionally, if product quality becomes a problem, or if the market is glutted with such cheap goods, then Walmart’s approach also suffers.

Not to mention the high dependence of Walmart’s prices on long distance supply chains, which in turn depend on gasoline, which will becomes steadily more expensive in the coming years.

But there’s another element you’re not considering: how much debt financing drives our growth, and how much of a liability that is. Americans didn’t become richer, they became more leverage. Their salaries have only increased about seventy five percent over the years, and imported poverty has nothing to do with that, or anything for that matter; immigrants actually contribute more in tax dollars per capita than the average person does.

To afford to live a middle class lifestyle, people take on debt through credit cards, which is fine until there’s disruption in their income, through lost jobs and the like. Then the card companies pounce like vultures, tacking on fees and penalties, increasing interest rates.

The same goes for homebuying. The recent surge of real-estate speculation, which ended in a crash, drove up property prices meaning people had to take on more debt to live in the same kind of house. You can cite an apartment in the Woodlands, but an apartment in the Woodlands is not at all typical of national rents, much less local property prices.

As for job opportunities? Over my lifetime, We’ve gone from the expectation that you will stay in one job for most of your life, to being lucky if you have a job. Many people are under-employed, working part-time or in jobs far beneath their education. You are expected to work extra hours, expected to subsist with health plans that do everything they can to deny basic coverage. The drugs cost more, and are more likely to kill you now, than when I was born.

What’s happened here in America is that during my lifetime, the risk has been shifted off the corporations, off the insurers, and on to us.

But you know, like everything else, it’s unsustainable. If you don’t want socialism, you need regulation, and efficient regulation at that. People do have needs outside of hundred and fifty dollar lawnmowers.

They need to know that their medicines are safe, effective, and only given to them when necessary. They need to know that they show up at a doctor’s office when they are ill, and for a reasonable cost become better, if that’s in the cards. The need to know that when they’re buying toys that heavy-metal neurotoxins don’t come with it. They need to know that they’re not going to be cheated out of overtime pay just because some law allows an executive to give them another title with the same duties. They need to know that if they buy a package of beef, they’re not getting a bacterial infection free with it.

More and more these issues are becoming truly hazardous to our nation’s good fortunes, as these undeal with issues compound each other, feeding into even worse disasters.

It is no coincidence that we see such disasters come about within this administration. The laissez faire attitude allows so many things to slide. Ultimately, you cannot let too much slide. If people are constantly cheated, they will not trust. If they are overworked for amount of money they make, their health and their spirits will crater. If pollution and other health hazards are allowed to proliferate unchecked, they will cripple productivity, raise healthcare costs, not to mention make people miserable. If creditors are allowed to become predatory, more of our economy will be turned towards feeding their greed, as people’s ability to sustain their spending becomes hindered.

It goes on and on. If non-economic and economic issues are not properly dealt with, with government, business, and the individual playing their proper roles, then the efficiency of the system and the quality of life for those within it will suffer and diminish.

We cannot remain the wealthiest country in the world indefinitely behaving like this, anymore than we can remain a leading military power with our army being ground into the dust of Iraq. The Republican party is pushing its agenda at the expense of our system as a whole. The time has come for the pendulum to swing the other way.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 2, 2007 5:31 PM
Comment #235027

America might never be poor, but Americans most certainly are and will be…

Posted by: Rachel at October 2, 2007 5:44 PM
Comment #235038

Lee,

I’d be interested in seeing where that 60% figure comes from. If it is indeed frivolous lawsuits I’d be interested in seeing what is proposed to amend it. Also, how many doctors are being driven out by wage and practice pressures from HMOs? Might these HMOs and doctors deserve to be sued?

You might be in favor of expanding Medicare into a single-payer system to cut out those dangerous middlemen screwing doctors and patients in healthcare?

Posted by: chris2x at October 2, 2007 7:05 PM
Comment #235039

Rachel, You are right. It’s a gradual process that has been going on for over 30 years.

Real wealth in the U.S. is in the hands of a few (i.e. 5% of the U.S. population owns 60% of all wealth; 80% of the U.S. population owns 17% of all wealth), and the disparity trend is growing due to so many regressive systems.

And those regressive systems did not all come about by accident. No, the masses are losing to the few that have devised these 10 major systems to exploit others so that they can become wealthier and weatlhier.

NOTE: There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, but there is something wrong with using it to influence government, exploit others, and despicably pit others against each other.

Yes, corruption is a problem. And it is growing in the U.S., because it is rewarded with repeated re-election.

For example, even though Congress has a dismal 11% to 18% approval rating, voters still reward incumbents with re-election. That is because not enough voters have yet drawn the connection between corrupt, bloated, do-nothing government and repeatingly rewarding incumbent politicians with 97.6% re-election rates.

Until voters figure these things out, they have the government they deserve.

That goes for most of the other voting nations. Ignorance is not an excuse. Ignorance is simply an invitation to be used, abused, and exploited.

Posted by: d.a.n at October 2, 2007 7:10 PM
Comment #235053

Stephen,

As always I enjoy your posts but…

Please don’t use that cliche about the pendulum swinging the other way again. I enjoy a good colloquialism or homily but I can’t stand that one. You made an economic reference but it has been used so many times in politics (when it NEVER makes sense) it makes me ill just reading it.

And, I’d rather it beat being poked in the eye with a sharp stick but it doesn’t.

Posted by: chris2x at October 2, 2007 8:49 PM
Comment #235055

“Investments in education, the functioning of the justice system, and policies aimed at attracting remittances are the most important means of increasing the intangible components of total wealth.”

WOW… invest in education, justice for all…which of these do the Republicans advocate??.

Posted by: 037 at October 2, 2007 9:01 PM
Comment #235056

Lee, Why is it that when we are told how good we have it everyone points to televisions, lawnmowers and electronic gadgets made overseas. Why is it they never point to housing, energy, food, insurance, and medicine? Why do we always hear that our parents only had 1 car but never that only 1 of them worked to support the family? Why if the trickle on economic policies of the “free market” types are so great for all Americans do we not include energy and food in the inflation figures anymore?

Posted by: j2t2 at October 2, 2007 9:23 PM
Comment #235057
immigrants actually contribute more in tax dollars per capita than the average person does.
Legal immigrants are about a wash. The benefit is not significant because immigrants are usually impoverished, less educated, and less skilled. It’s not a huge windfall at any rate. On the other hand, illegal aliens cost us, and most profits are not being passed onto the majority of consumers. If everyone truly profitted from illegal imigration, it’s very unlikely it would such a huge issue.
The Republican party is pushing its agenda at the expense of our system as a whole. The time has come for the pendulum to swing the other way.
That’s part of the problem.

Yeah … it’s ALL the Republicans’ fault.
At 28, Stephen, you weren’t around for Vietnam (Kennedy’s and LBJ’s war).
Sure the Republican politicians are corrupt.
But so are the Democrat politicians.
They are BOTH so corrupt, there’s barely any difference.
The IN-PARTY is always more corrupt. That’s what you observed while the Repubs had the majority from 1996 to 2006.
Before that, the Democrats had a very huge majority for 40 years, and they abused it plenty too. That’s why they lost it.
And voters finally booted them out.
Now it looks as though the DEMs may not hold on to their tiny majority.
It could be voters are finally getting fed up with BOTH.

The voters should be fed up with BOTH.
The dismal 11% to 18% approval ratings are well deserved.
Voters should translate that into anti-incumbent voting rather than rewarding incumbents for their corruption, incompetence, and arrogance.

The reason Congress is so arrogant is because they know the voters will re-elect 97.6% of the incumbents (the average since 1996). It’s like tenure. Tenure corrupts.

The blame game is getting us no where.
It merely fans the flames of the partisan warfare.
DEMs blame Repubs.
Repubs blam DEMs.
The politicians fuel the partisan warfare.
The politicians get richer and richer.
Most voters get poorer.
And the disparity trend grows as it has for 30 years.
And the voters reward the politicians for all of it with 97.6% re-election rates.

  • Do you think if all voters realized that Congress enjoyed a 95.4% re-election rate (since 1855) that they might finally draw the connection between corrupt government and 95.4% re-election rates?

    That is what I’ve seen in 50 years.
    Jobs going overseas.
    Incomes falling.
    Massive federal debt.
    Massive personal debt nationwide.
    Bloated government growing ever larger to nightmare proportions taking a bigger and bigger percentage of GDP.
    Wars.
    Government FOR-SALE.
    And a disparity trend that started around 1976 and has now reached a level that has never been worse since the Great Depression.
    I’d like to say things looked rosier.

    But I don’t see politicians in either party doing anything but growing more and more corrupt, and they will continue to do so as long as too many voters reward them for it with 97.6% re-election rates.

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 2, 2007 10:51 PM
    Comment #235064

    Also, note the disparity trend?
    It started in 1976.
    Democrats had the HUGE majority when that trend disparity spiral started 30 years ago.

    Also, you are too young to remember the double digit inflation of the late 1970s and early 1980s. That was during the Democrat’s reign.

    And if you look at the chart, the Democrats has a HUGE majority for 40 years between 1956 and 1996.

    The Republicans had the last 10 years, and they blew it very quickly, but the last 30 years are the result of politicians in BOTH parties, and the voters that reward them with 97.6% re-election rates.

    Democrat and Republican politicians alike did it together.
    They have ignored dozens of major issues for decades.

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 3, 2007 12:15 AM
    Comment #235071

    I haven’t lived long enough to remember the Vietnam War, but I don’t need to remember it to understand its lessons.

    You assume I think my people are infallible, but as both a former Republican and a realist about politics and people, it doesn’t come as a shock to me that Democrats screwed things up. They’re human.

    You talk about what the system rewards. Well, it’s clear that power rewards itself, regardless of the party involved. Even at my most partisan, though, I keep on reminding my party that the errors that the Republicans committed are not only in our power to commit, but that we have already committed them. In fact, I frame the errors of the current administration in terms of the errors of the Johnson administration, the Best and the Brightest. And those people were at least halfway competent, seeing as how they got us through the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    You should watch Errol Morris’ The Fog of War. Brilliant film, and MacNamara makes some great points in it.

    Truth of the matter is, I’m what you could call a deepcore realist. I look at things in terms of underlying truths that are not always understood by those viewing them from the surface of perception. Information can and will be lost. It takes effort to find things out.

    When I look at your proposals, I see somebody who thinks they have it figured out. Truth is, nobody has it figured out. There might not even be a reducible pattern to figure out. The behavior of politics and people is often emergent, only working when the different parts are together; the system won’t necessarily be predictable by parts.

    To take this from the realm of abstraction, consider the consequences of certain facts. First, despite that rather small percentage of change in which majority and who, the change in behavior of Congress has been profound.

    Even Republicans acknowledge much more work, much more legislation, much more oversight hearings are being held. Administration officials are being held to account for actions, and some seriously damaging revelations have come out. The fact of the change of majorities has altered personnel across the board. Committee leaderships have changed.

    In the Senate, though, the slim majority has made even party line votes difficult to get through, on account of filibuster threats, which are occuring at roughly three times the pace they did when the last record was set.

    You’re missing some of the most profound political changes in a generation, even more profound than the 1994 changes that brought the Republicans into power. You’re seeing the death of the modern conservative movement. Republicans have gone, in the space of a few years from dominant fundraisers to literally broke.

    Some things aren’t changing, but with people who spent years in both the corrupt Democrat and Republican congresses, with right wing politics on the rise, the similarities in attitudes towards business and defense are predictable.

    That said, there’s an element missing here from when the Republicans took over. Republicans were a much more close circle kind of party; their regard for the so-called Liberal Media typifies that. The Party controlled media institutions let Republicans basically stifle negative information. It’s part of how they got so bad, and part of why I got cross with you a while back for using those sources. You might as well have handed the Republican Party an IV for their political propaganda and stuck it in your arm.

    I believe that’s a lot of what contributed to the Republican party getting as out of control as that, and the Democrats have no such inclination or institutions feeding them information. They deal in a mainstream media not founded to suit their politics. They also have a rather vocal constituency that keeps a very close eye on what the leaders are doing, and who do get frustrated with some of the things they do…

    … and do in fact look for candidates to challenge those who go far enough. Some on the right might cite Lieberman as an example of intolerance, but it represent the Democrats endangering a candidate in the primaries who they felt served the constituents interests poorly. He had to go outside his party to be re-elected.

    The truth of the matter is, power will corrupt or try to corrupt anybody who takes up the ring of power. Even the most stalwart hobbit of a politician will find some point where they’re not willing to toss the ring into the fires from whence it came. But people can come back. Sometimes loyalty means we support what folks are doing. Sometimes though, if our loyalties are to principles and laws, not merely men, we also try to hold them fast to doing what’s right.

    I’ve already discussed what it will take to make a third party viable challengers. It’s very difficult to sell the absences of something when the presence of something else isn’t there to provide a positive choice.

    While I’m a loyal Democrat, that doesn’t mean I don’t think a substantial third party shouldn’t come about. Nor does it mean that I oppose throwing bums out within our party. I’d rather not wait a decade or two to have disgust build to epic proportions, and occasion a change of majority.

    If you understand that, you’ll understand we’re not necessarily adversaries here. My view is that we need more definite information, formed into compelling arguments to get the bums thrown out. Minus any known offensive behavior, it’s difficult to get people to give up on a politician once elected. If we are to get rid of the miscreants, we need to be able to provide compelling reasons to the voters for that change, beyond a generalist complaint dealing with all politicians.

    Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 3, 2007 1:02 AM
    Comment #235087

    Stephen,

    Happy belated birthday. I was twenty-eight once, and remember how irritating it was to be reminded of how young that was then. Because of my position in the baby-boom I was, at twenty-eight, right at the crest of what was the median age then. For example, when I was twenty-five the median age (in the U.S.) was just under twenty-seven. When I was thirty-five the median age was more than thirty-two. I don’t have time to go into it right this minute, but much of the shloshing in public policy is predicated on that pig passing through the population python.

    You are inheriting an old world. Much of the pain you feel is a product of politicians trying to snow you and all us “old” people on what the consequences of that old world are and are going to be.

    The premise is the same. Trust and cooperation are good. We just have to decide whether we will be “tricked into trusting” or educated into trusting.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 9:00 AM
    Comment #235091

    The real problem here is the meaning of wealth. Some of you hear the word and the only thing you think of is money. the same goes for the definition of being poor. Wealth and poverty involves a lot more than money.

    There are many persons who would say that they consider themselves as being the richest persons alive but have very little money.

    Posted by: The Griper at October 3, 2007 9:43 AM
    Comment #235092

    Griper,

    Read the article above, or better yet, the whole report by the World Bank (linked in the article), and you will see that what is being called “wealth” is those tangible and intangible elements of culture that contribute to people being able to do and produce the things they 1. need and, 2. want.

    What is truly remarkable is the study’s emphasis on the intangible elements of that wealth-building structure. It is these strictly social interactions that, according to the study research, provide the real foundation for economic growth. “Wealth”, then, starts with our capacity to respect, trust, encourage, educate, sometimes rebuke, and unite with each other.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 9:58 AM
    Comment #235101

    Stephen,

    Some of what you say is simply baffling. Take this for example-

    “The Party controlled media institutions let Republicans basically stifle negative information. It’s part of how they got so bad, and part of why I got cross with you a while back for using those sources. You might as well have handed the Republican Party an IV for their political propaganda and stuck it in your arm.”
    I know you’re not talking to me on this issue, but “party controlled?”

    Nowhere does the Republican party get more consistenly bashed on specific issues than in conservative media! There simply is no liberal comparison of which I am aware. Certainly the mainstream media, which will under no circumstances address the conservative complaints on immigration evenhandedly, for example, does not deal with such issues. They will make insinuations about racism, talk about Republican “scandals and corruption” (staying mum on similar issues among current Democrats), and address polling on how the public thinks the country is headed in the “wrong” direction- not telling us what the internals on the same or similar polling would indicate we think is the “right” direction.

    That is the very definition of propaganda. The conservative media, as a source of information born of a given understanding of the world, is under attack. It is under attack by BOTH Democrats and Republicans because it informs people in ways they both find inconvenient. Have no doubt it is fury on the right that killed the Republican majorities in the last election, and that fury was a product of people being informed by a conservative media that even Republican senator Trent Lott has stated “we are going to have to do something about.”

    One of the problems in the Democratic party is that, apart from the blogs, there really is no commercially viable resource for educating people about the meat and potatoes of their issues. I personally believe this is partly because the party has built its electoral strength on a foundation of ignorance. They really don’t benefit from their consitiuencies knowing what they are up to. This can be seen in the internals of polling on issues like education vouchers, which most blacks favor, and unhindered immigration from Latin America, which most blacks and most Hispanic citizens oppose.

    Therein is the founding problem I have with the Democratic Party. When I say above we are choosing whether we will be tricked into trusting or educated into trusting what I am talking about is the fundamental dynamic of two parties driven by different cultures. Leadership in the Democratic Party is clearly in the hands of the leadership. They say whatever they think will get the most votes and then ignore what they campaigned on once it is inconvenient in office. Leadership in the Republican Party is a brawl between the elected egos du jour and the grass roots. Conservative media keep this grassroots movement informed about whether the promises they were given arebeing fulfilled. d.a.n. likes to talk about the 97% reelection rates. I will guarantee the rate in the Republican Party is less than that in the Democratic party. More than that, the rate at which Republican are forced to resign for scandals, and thus not show up on the stats he uses, is astronomically higher. Stephen, you will grow old waiting for William Jefferson, he of $100,000.00 in “cold bribery cash” fame, to resign or be tossed by his constituency.

    How can an intelligent voter trust a party that cannot police itself? If Democrats can’t at least look askance at their bribe-takers, influence peddlers, brothel-housers, pedophiles, etc. and seem embarrassed, on what grounds should we grant them trust to control graft in industry, to provide legal regulation for private companies and property, or to stand up for what is uniquely American when the rest of the world could reward them so well for compromising our values to make life easier for our competitors?

    Stephen, that “propaganda” media that bothers you so is the foundation of our trust in, and influence on, government. We can listen and either agree, as I do on immigration, or disagree, as I do on Global Warming. In the modern world it is never hard to check the facts. That your party can’t sustain their own version of such feedback rich information sources outside the mainstream media should give you no comfort at all.

    Again, the point is trust, cooperation, and the rule of law. We Republican are fighting for a government in which we can trust and with which we can cooperate. Not even we think we were getting that from the current batch of Republicans, but the Democratic alternative does not look better.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 11:17 AM
    Comment #235103
    Now, do you think the system that drives obstetricians out of 60% of the counties in this country is superior….

    Everything I’ve read points to the insurance industry raising malpractice rates NOT on the basis of lawsuits, but because they are recouping their bad investments on the backs of the doctors/patients.

    Posted by: Rachel at October 3, 2007 11:24 AM
    Comment #235116

    Lee Jamison-
    Too often, with your party, It’s the former: people are tricked into trusting. Let me give you an example.

    Bush pushed the Social Security Privatization plan, wherein people could opt to put their money into a private account for investment. His people were all loudly proclaiming that they were trying to save social security.

    Few problems there: First, the conversion would cost a couple trillion dollars, which would be a big negative for any plan meant to save social security. Second, Bush was basing his dire warnings on the most pessimistic of economic forecasts, made seventy something years into the future, a time frame that many experts consider almost meaningless for real predictive value anyway.

    And lastly, Bush basically admitted that his private account system would not save Social Security

    As for talking points?

    It’s a fact that Conservative pundits receive E-Mails from the RNC containing such talking points. This is how similar viewpoints get spread so far, so fast, and (this is the important part) in the same words. Isn’t it strange how all these people come up with virtually the same arguments at the same time?

    It also has a number of websites, publications, and even an entire News Network set up with the express purpose of providing political counter-push. Your party has had a fairly effective propaganda machine in place since the early eighties. You folks call it balance, but the balance oddly seems to favor your side, and involve Republican pundits and conservative reporters keeping eerie synchrony with your party’s politicians.

    Real balance calls it like sees it, left or right. It doesn’t try to be an antidote, because sometimes the Democrats are wrong, sometimes the Republicans are wrong, and sometimes nobody has a fricking clue. Advocacy clouds the issue, skews perceptions.

    The Republicans made things worse for themselves by trying to take the media ball and go home. Essentially, by walling yourself off with your own advocates, you created a conflict of interest for your media that prevents it from being candid about the party’s shortcomings before it becomes blindingly obvious.

    Democrats accept, to a much greater extent, a media that is out of their political control. They want to know what their party is doing warts and all, and will not simply be satisfied with the notion that government doesn’t work.

    The Republicans like to tell themselves that they were kicked out for not being Republican enough. Trouble is, a lot of what was going on was them being as Republican as they could be. Trouble was, not everybody was in agreement as to what that was. The Christian Conservative wing of the party wanted the government as a proxy for God, intervening in people’s lives. Some cared about fiscal responsibility, others didn’t. The NeoCons didn’t necessarily give a hoot about conservative economics or Religious conservativism. They just wanted their defense agenda realized. The Wall Street Republican wanted government doing favors for Corporate America. Many in the Republican party tried to juggle all these balls, including the President.

    And the original Conservatives? It’d be right to say they’re pissed. Read a book recently by Victor Gold called Invasion of the Party Snatchers. You ought to read it. Long story short, though, Republicans, having defeated the communists who were the external glue for their coalition in the beginning, and defeated the liberals who had represented their common enemy within, had no one left to defeat but themselves, and with the extreme positions, the purging of political moderates, and the extent to which the party’s radical agenda has alienated the country, this happened surprisingly quick.

    Republicans, having demanded the same things consistently of others, did not, and ultimately could not demand the same things of themselves. The Party could not admit to itself that it wasn’t one monolithic system, and couldn’t survive that way. Your party’s emphasis on unity is a large part of what destroyed it, and a recommitment to the party platform won’t necessarily help, since it’s part of the syndrome afflicting it in the first place.

    The Democrats, though, did not win based on ignorance. Quite the opposite. Liberals read, made it a point to be informed. We keep track of votes, and rather than wait twelve years to get vocal about our party’s out of touch Washington delegation, we’re making sure they know what we think now. We don’t always agree, but we don’t pretend like we all agree.

    Republicans, in my experience, have generally settled for what’s fed to them by their boutique media.

    Ultimately, the issue with the economy is the system. Democrats are thinking much more systematically than the Republicans, who seem to be content to try quick fixes, instead of dealing with the essential underlying issues. This cost them with Enron, and its going to cost them with the housing market, and credit crunch. Laissez faire economics tends to create more illusory productivity than real, because the rewards are always there for those who can get away with cheaply lying about reality, rather than having to spend money to make money. The focus on numbers, abstracts, and financial finagling is making our current economic system hostile to the average American’s wellbeing and interests.

    Only with sufficient regulation can people get near to the one-to-one correspondence between what they see and what they get that allows them to trust the economy, and trust the folks they are dealing with. Information flow and crediblity will never be 100%, but when our government allows people to get away with indulging the natural inclination to get economic gains without acknowledging the real price of them, it only sets us up to have an economy that is more fictional in its character than real.

    In order for American to make real economic gains, it must recognize economic realities. To recognize those, for the market to truly operate as it’s supposed to, there must be sufficient regulation and cultural inclination within the market to ensure that those perceptions are as close to reality as possible, and that the facts are being related properly to those looking to invest and purchase products. When the system becomes addicted to cheating, and when we settle for abstract measures of market peformance, we end up creating a hollow economy that will ultimately leave us worse off.

    Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 3, 2007 12:44 PM
    Comment #235118

    Rachel,

    How thin a hair can you split? Malpractice rates reflect both the industry’s known losses and their anticipated losses.
    As to what you were reading, well, this was the first thing that popped up on my list when I searched “obstetric malpractice rates south texas”. I chose to search south Texas specifically because it was in response to a crisis in the Rio Grand valley where doctors were leaving in droves that voters instituted caps on non-economic damages.
    A scam had developed there where illegals would come to the Valley to have their babies after having had little or no prenatal care. Lawyers had set up practices to scavenge off the troubled births. The jury pool saw this as a sort of lottery in which they were able to give a windfall to people who they thought deserved a break and take it out of the hide of the impersonal and unfeeling insurance companies.

    It had gotten to the point that even in populated Valley counties no one would deliver a baby. There you have it- For-profit industry regulation at work. Funny that lawyers don’t want to sue dishonest auto mechanics, isn’t it?

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 12:47 PM
    Comment #235119
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: I haven’t lived long enough to remember the Vietnam War, but I don’t need to remember it to understand its lessons.
    You Stephen, I believe, are a huge exception. I don’t know many people your age that give a damn about any of this, have any curiosity about their own government, know who their own senators and representatives are, or are as educated as you are (and I don’t just mean a college degree). And that is why the younger generation is getting abused and having MASSIVE debt piled on them. Because too many are silent. On the other hand, senior citizens know how to work the system. They want their Social Security and Medicare protected, and they get out and vote. However, Medicare can not survive without some serious changes. The money isn’t there and it is currently piling up HUGE debt onto future generations.

    The point is, it was a war started by Kennedy and escalated by LBJ (both Democrats).

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: You assume I think my people are infallible, but as both a former Republican and a realist about politics and people, it doesn’t come as a shock to me that Democrats screwed things up. They’re human.
    my people? A true realist would recognize the difference between politicians in BOTH parties is insignificant since BOTH are so corrupt. I once had that loyalty for party. 50 years of observing politicians in BOTH do the same corrupt things is not all too clear.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: You talk about what the system rewards.
    Too many voters repeatedly reward the politicians with re-election rates of 97.6% (since 1996) because it is the easy thing to do. That is because the party-lever (button) is easy to pull (push). Politicians have cleverly made it easy to be a party-cheerleader, without even knowing who they are voting for. I think all party designations should be removed from ballots so that voters have to know who they are voting for.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: It takes effort to find things out.
    Exactly. And that is why too many votes lazily pull the party-lever. The politicians have learned how to capitalize on the laziness of voters by giving them a party-lever. And human nature is to do what is easy. The easy thing is NOT to “find things out”.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: When I look at your proposals, I see somebody who thinks they have it figured out.
    That’s because on a few things, I have figured it out. On some things, there is a possibility of error.

    One thing is for certain, even if unlikely to change until painful consequences lead to change:

      Rewarding irresponsible incumbent politicians with 97.6% re-election rates will only make them more corrupt and unaccountable.

    And evidence of growing corruption is what this thread is partly about. Notice the wealth disparity trend. It started 30 years ago while Democrats had the HUGE majority. Republicans continued it for a decade. Now, Democrat politicians are still continuing it until they start fixing the 10 REGRESSIVE things on this list.

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: Truth is, nobody has it figured out.
    Not true. Some have figured some things out. Unfortunately, they are usually a small majority.

    Again, one thing is for certain. The corruption in government will eventually (and it may take a long time) become too painful for the majority of Americans. The disparity trend started 30 years ago. It will probably continue for several more decades. Eventually, when it becomes too painful, and enough voters finally realize the impact of the 10 REGRESSIVE systems (by design) over the decades, they may (a)finally come to learn that they have the government they deserve. (b)Or, they may not, in which case the nation as we now know it will cease to exist.

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: There might not even be a reducible pattern to figure out. The behavior of politics and people is often emergent, only working when the different parts are together; the system won’t necessarily be predictable by parts.
    The human factor is the unpredictable factor.

    Humans don’t always do what is logical, despite overwhelming evidence.
    What humans do is what is easiest; the path of least resistance.
    Decisions can be shaped by hard learned lessons, but the same mistakes are often repeated many times before the lesson is finally understood.
    And even then, the lessons can be forgotten.
    What drives learning is often the painful consequences. Pain usually trumps laziness, apathy, and complacency.
    Few things are always 100% this way or that way.

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: To take this from the realm of abstraction, consider the consequences of certain facts. First, despite that rather small percentage of change in which majority and who, the change in behavior of Congress has been profound.
    I don’t see it. I still see 10 very REGRESSIVE systems very much still in existence.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: Even Republicans acknowledge much more work, much more legislation, much more oversight hearings are being held. Administration officials are being held to account for actions, and some seriously damaging revelations have come out. The fact of the change of majorities has altered personnel across the board. Committee leaderships have changed.
    But very little has been accomplished. Those 10 very REGRESSIVE systems still exist.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: In the Senate, though, the slim majority has made even party line votes difficult to get through, on account of filibuster threats, which are occurring at roughly three times the pace they did when the last record was set.
    This is always the excuse. The OTHER party filibusters. The OTHER party is obstructionist.

    My question is this? If NEITHER can get anything done, what good are they?
    Besides, as long as there is so much corruption in Congress, I’m not sure I ever want one party to have control again.

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: You’re missing some of the most profound political changes in a generation, even more profound than the 1994 changes that brought the Republicans into power. You’re seeing the death of the modern conservative movement. Republicans have gone, in the space of a few years from dominant fundraisers to literally broke.
    Where does this strange notion that “Republicans have gone” come from.

    How is that when they have 46.92% of seats in Congress? (equal 49 seats in the Senate, and 202 of 435 seats in the House).
    Many seem to think the Democrats now have a HUGE majority.
    Democrats once had a HUGE majority for 40 years from 1956 to 1996 (40 of the last 50 years; 80% of the last 50 years).
    During the last 30 of those 50 years, things in the U.S. got worse, and it is largely because of the 10 REGRESSIVE systems cleverly designed to soak allow the wealthy to use, abuse, and exploit others for self-gain. Our sell-out politicians are nothing more than puppets for their wealthy puppeteers. They are FOR-SALE. They are bought-and-paid-for. Sure, there may be a very few in Congress with some scruples, but not nearly enough. There is no longer any peer pressure in Congress to do the right thing. Just time-wasting and distracting partisan warfare.

    What there is to see is more of the same.
    When Congress starts addressing the MOST important issues, then we can give them some credit for it.
    I have not seen any of the 15 most important issues facing the nation adequately addressed yet.
    Pretty much, aside from a minimum wage (in which Pelosi tried to omit Guam), I’ve seen Democrats trying to get another amnesty so they can get more votes.
    Democrats vote to continue spying without civil oversight.
    Congress gave itself its 9th raise in 10 years (while troops went without armor, medical care, promised benefits, and endured 2nd, 3rd and 4th tours in Iraq and Afghanistan).

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: Some things aren’t changing, but with people who spent years in both the corrupt Democrat and Republican congresses, with right wing politics on the rise, the similarities in attitudes towards business and defense are predictable.
    I thought you said above that the “Republicans have gone”?

    Any way, I still haven’t seen much change, and fail to see much difference between the politicians in each party.
    The only major difference I see at the moment is a bad one, and that is Democrat politicians trying to get amnesty so they can get several million more votes.

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: That said, there’s an element missing here from when the Republicans took over. Republicans were a much more close circle kind of party; their regard for the so-called Liberal Media typifies that. The Party controlled media institutions let Republicans basically stifle negative information. It’s part of how they got so bad, and part of why I got cross with you a while back for using those sources. You might as well have handed the Republican Party an IV for their political propaganda and stuck it in your arm.
    Yet, they still have 46.92% of seats in Congress?
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: I believe that’s a lot of what contributed to the Republican party getting as out of control as that, and the Democrats have no such inclination or institutions feeding them information.
    Think so?

    They deal in a mainstream media not founded to suit their politics. They also have a rather vocal constituency that keeps a very close eye on what the leaders are doing, and who do get frustrated with some of the things they do…
    Really? I don’t see anything but a new cycle of more of the same. BOTH are ridiculous and incapable of solving problems. Nothing matters to them but winning seats and fueling the partisan warfare.

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: … and do in fact look for candidates to challenge those who go far enough. Some on the right might cite Lieberman as an example of intolerance, but it represent the Democrats endangering a candidate in the primaries who they felt served the constituents interests poorly. He had to go outside his party to be re-elected.
    Lieberman is a Republicrat. Congress is dysfunctional because it carries the water for a few that abuse vast wealth and power. Congress is FOR-SALE. Democrat and Republican politicians alike. And neither will seriously address campaign finance. They like the system just the way they have perverted it. Likewise with a number of things.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: The truth of the matter is, power will corrupt or try to corrupt anybody who takes up the ring of power. Even the most stalwart hobbit of a politician will find some point where they’re not willing to toss the ring into the fires from whence it came. But people can come back.
    Not voluntarily. It rarely works that way. Especially when Congress persons are rewarded with a 97.6% re-election rate.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: Sometimes loyalty means we support what folks are doing. Sometimes though, if our loyalties are to principles and laws, not merely men, we also try to hold them fast to doing what’s right.
    I suppose, but rewarding Congress persons with 97.6% re-election rates is not working is it? That’s the average re-election rate since 1996. It was 95.6% for the last election on 7-Nvo-2006.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: I’ve already discussed what it will take to make a third party viable challengers. It’s very difficult to sell the absences of something when the presence of something else isn’t there to provide a positive choice.
    Don’t need a third party. I could care less about another party. Parties are not the solution to anything. If anything, they are just mechanism to make pulling the party-lever easier to do.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: While I’m a loyal Democrat, that doesn’t mean I don’t think a substantial third party shouldn’t come about. Nor does it mean that I oppose throwing bums out within our party. I’d rather not wait a decade or two to have disgust build to epic proportions, and occasion a change of majority.
    I’ve been watching it for 50 years, and I am already disgusted. Congress is FOR-SALE. But what is insane is the majority of voters that reward them for it with 97.6% re-election rates since 1996 (95.4% since 1855). This is because of too many voters that are apathetic, complacent and disinterested. 40% to 50% don’t even vote. Too many of those that do voter merely pull the party-lever because it is the easy thing to do; much easier than studying candidates and their voting records. It is easier to let THEIR party do their thinking for them. The end result is 97.6% re-election rates. So it is no wonder that Congress is so corrupt when it is rewarded for it with perpetual re-election.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: If you understand that, you’ll understand we’re not necessarily adversaries here.
    We agree on some things. But not on partisan loyalties to any party. I’ve been there and done that. I can’t cheerlead for either one when BOTH are so corrupt, incompetent, and do-nothing.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: My view is that we need more definite information, formed into compelling arguments to get the bums thrown out.
    Yes, we do.

    Voting records. I’ve looked at almost every single Congress persons voting records. And I can’t find any that are not screwed up on at least one major issue. In fact, I’ve run software programs to match philosophies and values, and I can’t find any politician that matches this TOP 15 LIST by more than 27%. That is truly abysmal. Have you tried to do this? I can’t stand Democrats’ positions on illegal immigration and trying to get an amnesty (votes). Republican politicians are pathetic too. They pretend to be serious about illegal immigration now, but they had 8 years to do something about it and did nothing. I can’t stand Republican’s positions on stupid crap like flag burning, forcing religion on others, and support for the 30% Sales Tax (FairTax.org) plan. I can’t stand either for their refusal to address campaign finance, lobbying, getting us into a war in Iraq, and perpetuating the occupation of Iraq. Sorry, but most (if not all) politicians in BOTH parties are FOR-SALE, bought-and-paid-for, corrupt, addicted to pork-barrel, graft, and corporate welfare, and growing government ever larger to nightmare proportions. So I have a major difficulty giving either one any support of any kind. The sooner enough voters figure it out, and notice the worsening disparity trend of the last 30 years because of corrupt, sell-out politicians, and stop rewarding them with 97.6% re-election rates, the sooner Congress will get the message. But I’m a realist. I do not think enough voters will take action in time, despite the last election which saw a 3.6% increase in anti-incumbent voting (against Republicans only; voters should have ousted a bunch more in BOTH parties). Enough voters will not change their voting habits, because pulling the party-lever is so easy to do. Therefore, voters have the government that they deserve, and the majority of Americans will continue to see the disparity trend worsen as it has for 30 years.

    Stephen Daugherty wrote: Minus any known offensive behavior, it’s difficult to get people to give up on a politician once elected.
    Very true. Some politicians can even be as crooked as William Jefferson, get caught red-handed with bribe money, and still get re-elected. It’s almost as if voters value dishonesty. And, even if a politician is convicted of a felony, there’s a good chance they can get a pardon. Too bad for Trafficant that he went to prison during 8 years of a Republican president’s term. He’s still in jail.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: If we are to get rid of the miscreants, we need to be able to provide compelling reasons to the voters for that change,
    The reasons would fill volumes. The problem is most voters aren’t paying close attention. The get their information from Jay Leno and John Stewart.
    Stephen Daugherty wrote: … beyond a generalist complaint dealing with all politicians.
    Perhaps. But most (if not all) are corrupt, and there is little (if any) peer-pressure. Often, politicians in BOTH parties overlook misdeeds for fear of loosing a seat in Congress.

    And still, after two years, no one has yet been able to name 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, or even 268 (of 535) in Congress that are responsible and accountable.
    Provided someone gave me 5 names of politicians in Congress, it is not too hard to show some peculiar and questionable voting records.
    Some will say “you can’t go by their voting records because BILLs are full of earmarks”.
    So? I don’t care, because Congress created that mess of BILLs filled with pork and earmarks, and they don’t deserve any immunity.
    Especially since most in Congress:

    • refuse campaign finance reform, lobbying, big money flowing all throughout the political system

    • refuse to address the fact that government is FOR-SALE and a tiny 0.15% of 200 Million eligible voters make 83% of all federal campaign donations (of $200 or more), making it difficult for the remaining 99.85% of 200 Million voters to compete that way;

    • refuse to eliminate the party-levers (buttons) on voting ballots

    • refuse to deal with the MASSIVE $9 Trillion National Debt

    • refuse to stop plundering surpluses in Social Security; they’ve already borrowed and spent $12.8 Trillion out of it at the worst possible time with a 77 million baby boomer bubble approaching

    • refuse to stop the pork barrel, earmarks, graft, corporate welfare, and waste; refuse to pass a ONE-PURPOSE-PER-BILL amendment

    • refuse to address these incessant inflation; the Fed gets to create excessive money and keep the interest from new loans of money created out of thin air

    • refuse to either obey or change the text of Article V of the Constitution; Congress ignores the supreme law of the land; the Supreme Court should NOT be able to veto any part of the Constitution without amending the Constitution

    • refuse to address election reform; refuse to address Gerrymandering

    • bribing voters with their own tax dollars; making Medicare promises without the funding and running up more debt

    • refusing to deal with illegal immigration; trying to pass another amnesty like the amnesty of 1986 which quadrupled the problem since there was inadequate enforcement of existing laws and border security

    • declining education

    • refuse to fix the REGRESSIVE tax system

    • keep growing government to nightmare proportions

    • refuse to require voter ID because the Democrat politicians don’t want to lose votes (for what ever lame reasons)

    • want to increase the U.S. population because they think we can immigrate our way out of the 77 million baby boomer bubble

    • approved a war based on flawed intelligence, and now support the continued occupation of Iraq since March-2003

    • paved the way for eminent domain abuse, and the Supreme Court supported it

    • tax Americans many hundreds of billions annually for a massive military machine, and intelligence, and it ignored many warnings that could have prevented 911 (Rick Rescorla and Dan Hill predicted terrorists flying planes into the WTC towers, the Pentagon, White House, Empire State building, etc.; Rick Rescorla even tried to get Morgan Stanely to move out of the WTC towers)

    • … then reward themselves every year with a raise (9 times in the last 10 years); all this while our troops risk life and limb, go without armor, medical care, promised benefits, and have to do 2, 3, 4 or more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan; their arrogance and greed of Congress knows no bounds;

    Rachael wrote: Everything I’ve read points to the insurance industry raising malpractice rates NOT on the basis of lawsuits, but because they are recouping their bad investments on the backs of the doctors/patients.
    Definitely. However, there are some attorneys abusing the system too by getting millions of dollars (e.g. 30% or more) of huge settlements. Some people don’t have a problem with that. I don’t think limits on awards for victims is the solution, but there’s something very wrong when every single neurosurgeon in Washington D.C. is being sued for malpractice. Malpractice occurs, but should attorneys be receiving lottery-type awards (many millions of dollars)? Also, do we really need insurance companies? 45 Million Americans don’t have Medical Insurance because it is unaffordable. Insurance companies are unnecessary middlemen that are driving up costs significantly. Doctors and healthcare providers need to get back to dealing directly with patients. Otherwise, the government will probably step in. If the government did step in, it would at least eliminate one of the unnecessary middlemen (i.e. insurance companies). Also, government meddling is a big problem. Since Medicare is can’t possibly fund all the things politicians have promised, some doctors refuse to take Medicare patients. The doctors that do will essentially shift costs to the other patients. And anytime there is a middleman that is the guarantor of payment (e.g. insurance company or the government), there will be massive fraud. Consider Bill Frist’s HCA hospitals. They bilked tax payers out of a Billion dollars (yes, that’s a Billion with a “B”), and had to return $400 million (or more) of it.
    The Griper wrote: The real problem here is the meaning of wealth.
    True. Good health is wealth. Bad health can bankrupt you. Especially when the cost of medical care is absolutely obscene. I had a doctor a few months back that charged me $285 of $750 for a 10 minute office visit. The $285 was for entering a new patient record. That is pure greed. Those fees are outrageous. But then, most of our problems are pure greed and laziness.
  • Posted by: d.a.n at October 3, 2007 12:47 PM
    Comment #235123


    In the meantime, we 5 percent of the worlds population are consuming 25 percent or more of the worlds resources so that we can have the toys that pacify us into supporting the system while we blame our government and the rest of the world for our troubles.

    Oh how wonderful American free trade corporate capitalism is.

    What do you do with a broken DVD playew? Do you send it out for repairs or do you throw it in the trash and buy a new one? The best thing to do with a throw away society is to throw it away. Any attempt to create a sustainable society is considered an act of war by the corporations.

    The United States of America should be using it’s statis as the worlds only super power to lead the world to a global sustainable society. We should be leading the world in an effort to eliminate the spread of arms and a reduction in and an eventual end to wars. Instead, We The People of this greatest nation have voluntarilly allowed ourselves to be enslaved by a corporate/capitalist system That has no intentions whatsoever of doing any of the above unless it is forced to do so or unless we reach a point where their system can no longer be maintained.

    It is starting to become more and more obvious that the world is headed towards some form of world government for survival of our species if nothing else. The truely big questions are, will We The People come to our sences and realize, before it is to late, that our forefathers gave us a form of government which makes us the masters of our government and are we going to do all that we can to insure that our form of government which empowers the people is going to be the rock on which any world government is eswtablished. Shall We The People determine the future or shall we let the free market determine it for us.

    Posted by: jlw at October 3, 2007 1:16 PM
    Comment #235124

    Stephen,

    I’m glad for you that you feel so informed by your “out of control media”. Anaesthesia can be pleasant.

    Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. The three trillion dollars you claim would be lost is a fantasy because it has already been spent by Congresses, Republican and Democrat, over the years who could make laws that said cooking the books was service to the country. Those trillions of dollars are all IOUs. I, at fifty today, will never see them. People your age will be stringing the decaying bodies of politicians who lied to you about the security of these fantasies up on street corners as warnings to future generations.

    I wrote earlier about the baby boom generation issue. This is part of it. It is also part of the illegal immigration issue. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are trying to import more young people and a population that produces more babies in part to blunt the impact of the insolvency that looms only a decade away.

    If you can’t see a crisis here you’re not looking. Not only is a substantial part of the budget of the government funded by borrowing from the various “trust” (LOL) funds like Social Security, then not reflected as deficit spending (‘because we’re the Congress and we can define “deficit” any way we darn well please’), but as the annual surplusses in the trust funds are decreased by increases in the population receiving payments we must fund more real government expenditures with real taxes. First we will feel the inherent burden of having to spend real, not borrowed, money on normal federal budgets, then we will have to really tax people to spend money that was collected and spent fraudulently decades ago.

    Stephen, your three trillion dollars didn’t disappear in Bush’s accounting. It disappeared in Congress’s spending. But, Oh! Look! They’re still taking out of your paycheck! (and spending it behind your back) The conspiracy of pretense in your “uncontrolled media” hasn’t educated you on this? Boy, they’re good!

    Furthermore, you mentioned nothing about Democrats throwing out their bad apples. Funny, Louisiana Democrats knew about Jefferson’s “cold cash” long before their primaries. They had a good liberal opposing him in his district primary, but the PARTY refused to support the DEMOCRATIC Challenger!

    Yeah! Y’all really stand up to your people!

    Again, Why would we trust, with enormous power, a party that can’t, or won’t, even police its own house? If the rule of law, or just plain good sense, does not apply to William Jefferson, or Harry Reid, or Barney Frank, or Alcie Hastings why do I want them deciding how it will apply to me?

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 1:29 PM
    Comment #235126

    jlw,

    You’re caught up in some rhetorical stylings with which I would disagree, but the fact of the matter is that for either of us to get what we want we have to do the same thing: Be the revolutionary government the founding fathers wanted us to be. Throw the scoundrels out!

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 1:36 PM
    Comment #235129

    Stephen, terrific posts. Btw, Happy Birthday.

    Lee:
    “Good Lord, Stephen, how old are you?”

    Obviously Stephen is old enough to continually impress me with his spot-on posts in this blog. I’m forty-four, firmly in the middle class, and I agree with what he wrote completely.

    chris2x:
    “The rule of law, trust, and honesty in agreements are huge when it comes to building wealth and it applies to civil institutions as well as individuals.”

    Yes, and the rule of law, trust and honesty is exactly what has been breaking down in America for a long time now. This is not sustainable for the We the People, or for our economy. We need to reverse this course, and the only way to do so is with regulations that combat the many kinds of corrupt and predatory business practices that we’ve seen growing out of control for many years.

    jlw, you raised many good points in your last post.

    Posted by: Adrienne at October 3, 2007 1:57 PM
    Comment #235131
    Funny that lawyers don’t want to sue dishonest auto mechanics, isn’t it?
    Not much money in that. They don’t have big fat malpractice insurance policies.

    Speaking of crooked mechanics, a few months back I took my wife’s car in because of a corroded battery cable connector. When I parked it in “Driver’s Edge” parking lot, I popped the hood, and accidentally broke off the corroded cable that was barely connected. Now the care wouldn’t start. I went in and told the guy at “Drivers’s Edge” that the car won’t start. I didn’t say why, because I wanted to see what they came up with, since I already knew the only thing wrong was a battery cable connector. A few hours later, I get a call and the guy says, Mr. Summars, you need a new alternator and a battery. I said “No. I don’t think so. Replace the battery cable connector and call me back. He called back a little later and said, Me. Summars, you are correct, it was just the battery cable connector. We are very sorry about that. I said “You tried to scam me. What’s the charge for the battery cable connector?” He said “It’s $26.?? but there will be no charge this time”. I probably should have reported it, but I’m not sure the police would do anything anyway. This was not the first time a mechanic tried to cheat me. Another occurence was only about two years prior to that (at a NISSAN auto dealer). In my 50 years, I have had two auto repair facilities try to cheat me in the space of the last 2 or 3 years. But, perhaps I’ve been cheated before and just didn’t know it; that quite possible.

    I’m not sure it’s my imagination, but crime, dishonesty, and greed seem to be increasing. And some evidence of it is these many REGRESSIVE systems perpetuated by Congress, which we repeatedly reward for all of it with 97.6% re-election rates.

    In the meantime, we 5 percent of the worlds population are consuming 25 percent or more of the worlds resources so that we can have the toys that pacify us into supporting the system while we blame our government and the rest of the world for our troubles.
    And we’re pumping a large percentage of CO2 into the atmosphere too.

    Yes, we blame our government, give it dismal 11% to 18% approval ratings, and then do a very strange thing: Reward them with 97.6% re-election rates. And if you question it, the response is “its the OTHER party’s fault”. They’re filibustering us. It’s always someone else’s fault.

    Oh how wonderful American free trade corporate capitalism is.
    Corpocrisy, corporatism, and other manifestations of unchecked greed.

    This is one of the most blatant examples of corporate greed I have ever seen. Here is a law firm that T_E_A_C_H_E_S how to avoid hiring Americans (see video at: www.youtube.com/programmersguild , or at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCbFEgFajGU ). See the other videos and reports on that page, including this one: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCbFEgFajGU&mode=related&search=

    Any attempt to create a sustainable society is considered an act of war by the corporations.
    Like alternative fuels? You’d think the D.O.E.’s $26 Billion annual budget would have turned up something, eh?
    jlw wrote: The United States of America should be using it’s status as the worlds only super power to lead the world to a global sustainable society. We should be leading the world in an effort to eliminate the spread of arms and a reduction in and an eventual end to wars. Instead, We The People of this greatest nation have voluntarilly allowed ourselves to be enslaved by a corporate/capitalist system that has no intentions whatsoever of doing any of the above unless it is forced to do so or unless we reach a point where their system can no longer be maintained.
    I agree 100%. But it’s like we’re on some sort of strange auto-pilot. All that matters is profit, winning seats in Congress, blaming the OTHER party, and ignoring the nation’s pressing problems decade after decade, until some are truly getting out of control.
    jlw wrote: It is starting to become more and more obvious that the world is headed towards some form of world government for survival of our species if nothing else.
    A world police would probably be a good idea. Wasn’t the U.N. supposed to help play this role? We know what we need to do, but we lack the will.
    jlw wrote: The truely big questions are, will We The People come to our senses and realize, before it is to late, that our forefathers gave us a form of government which makes us the masters of our government and are we going to do all that we can to insure that our form of government which empowers the people is going to be the rock on which any world government is eswtablished. Shall We The People determine the future or shall we let the free market determine it for us.
    That’s the question.

    Will the people do their duty?
    Because (in a voting nation) government will NOT become responsible and accountable until the voters do too.

    So, how is repeatedly rewarding irresponsible, arrogant, corrupt, and incompetent government with 97.6% re-election rates going to make government more responsible and accountable?
    I must have missed class that day.
    Why are we supposed to keep playing the circular blame game where Repubs and Dems keep blaming each other and nothing ever gets accomplished?
    Why are we supposed to pick one party or the other and loyally pull the party-lever?
    Why is the [__CHOOSE_PARTY__] better?
    What is the important difference between the two parties?

    Lee Jamison wrote: You’re caught up in some rhetorical stylings with which I would disagree, but the fact of the matter is that for either of us to get what we want we have to do the same thing: Be the revolutionary government the founding fathers wanted us to be. Throw the scoundrels out!
    I agree.

    Throw out the bad ones and keep the good ones.
    Any one know 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, or even 268 (half of 535) in Congress that are sufficiently responsible and accountable?

    I would think, if there are, they would be screaming “look at this”, “look at that”, “what is this?”, “Voters, wake up!”.
    But we don’t hear that.
    Instead, we hear “It’s the Republicans’ fault”, “It’s the Democrats’ fault”.
    Well, if it’s BOTH their fault, what good are either one of ‘em ?

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 3, 2007 2:07 PM
    Comment #235136

    d.a.n,
    You have got to type faster than anyone I know. The story at the top of your last chapter is a great illustration of the kind of loss of trust that costs opportunity for everyone. A similar cheat I didn’t catch caused the head gasket on one vehicle I had to fail. That left us without a car at a time we were facing bankruptcy from medical expenses. (See, I do live in the real world.)

    Trust is hard for societies to relearn once they have fallen into cynicism. Ask the people of Russia. And crime is just someone’s way of saying they can’t really make it on their own. It is the ultimate failure of trust- the failure to trust one’s self.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 2:21 PM
    Comment #235141

    Adrienne,

    Stephen impresses me as well. The notion that life is “so hard” now, though, is just so remarkably silly. Maybe I just know too much history.

    On the other hand he speaks the positions of his party so well and with such fervor I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that he was on someone’s congressional staff. That is what this venue is for, getting the best, and hopefully the most honest, ideas from all sides and making comparisons for those who care to read what people passionate about politics really think.

    BTW, I haven’t forgotten about uranium.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 2:37 PM
    Comment #235142
    Lee Jamison wrote: d.a.n, You have got to type faster than anyone I know. The story at the top of your last chapter
    Funny! Yes, I do type very fast.
    Lee Jamison wrote: … is a great illustration of the kind of loss of trust that costs opportunity for everyone.
    Yes, I think your article is onto something important. Once trust is lost; once we have slid so far, getting back to where we are is not so easy.
    Lee Jamison wrote: A similar cheat I didn’t catch caused the head gasket on one vehicle I had to fail. That left us without a car at a time we were facing bankruptcy from medical expenses. (See, I do live in the real world.)
    I’m sorry to hear that. Medical expenses are ABSOLUTELY absurd!.

    It’s not just insurance companies.
    It’s not just the declining healthcare system.
    It’s all of us.
    And it is these 10 Regressive Systems that have been destroying the fabric of our society for 30 years.

    Lee Jamison wrote: Trust is hard for societies to relearn once they have fallen into cynicism.
    Yes, it is. I may sound cynical, but to think we can possibly turn this all around (which is why I do volunteer work and contribute to VOIDnow.org, FOAVC.org, NumbersUSA.com, Alipac.us, CAGW.org, and One-Simple-Idea.com) has got to be a sign of optimism. Right?
    Lee Jamison wrote: Ask the people of Russia. And crime is just someone’s way of saying they can’t really make it on their own.
    True, but they all find themselves trapped in a system that none of them (by themselves) can change. That’s still not a good excuse ever for cheating people.
    Lee Jamison wrote: It is the ultimate failure of trust- the failure to trust one’s self.
    Hmmmm … that’s debatable. While we are all responsible for our own nation, I’m not sure I’d say everyone is trustworthy. I think one can trust themself without trusting someone else (provided there is good cause for the distrust).

    But I think I get your general message … the system as a whole will deteriorate unless enough of us are willing to trust and support each other. Otherwise, we have the deterioration we see now (and it has been going on for over 30 years). While there were many problems all along, many things started to go wrong and get much worse after 1976.

    By the way, I think you are one of VERY few in the RED or BLUE column that ever said “throw the bums out”.
    That’s very refreshing.
    I agree. Keep the good ones. Vote out the bad ones.
    And I’d like to see all party designations removed from voting ballots.
    We’re supposed to be voting for people.
    Not parties.
    If we’re going to have a party-lever (or button), we should have a NON-INCUMBENTS-lever (or button). : )

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 3, 2007 2:52 PM
    Comment #235147

    d.a.n.
    I’ve often thought about the irony of party politics in America. George Washington held them to be a perhaps unavoidable evil. The problem is with how loyalty to the ideas on which the nation is founded get subverted to loyalty to a party structure. As a person who has spent a lot of time working on theological issues I recognize that as a clear form of idolatry. The bronze elephant or donkey stand in for the ideals crystalized in the Constitution, and can shape our perception of them.

    In what he thought later was the greatest error in his long life my uncle Oliver Emmerich was part of the Mississippi Democratic delegation that walked out of the National Democratic Convention in 1948. He was sure in his heart at the time he was really fighting for states rights, but he would realize over time that he had bought into a corrupted vision of an otherwise noble fight. He made sure those who knew him and read his editorials knew how he regretted the mistake.

    We are social beings. Our sense of reality is shaped by the social environment in which we live. The vision of others clamps in on our own capacity to perceive new ideas, or things beyond our milieu.

    Republican, Democrat, or whatever, a healthy dose of humility will give you a better look at the truth than the “party line”.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 3:30 PM
    Comment #235159
    Republican, Democrat, or whatever, a healthy dose of humility will give you a better look at the truth than the “party line”.
    That is something that is VERY badly needed soon, before the painful consequences of these many long ignored issues becomes more painful.

    That is, some painful lessons may already be unavoidable. A few in the rose-colored glasses crowd keep saying “we will be fine”, but as each year goes by, the debt grows bigger, the wars and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan look like they will last for several more years, $12.8 Trillion borrowed and spent from Social Security has left it a pay-as-you-go system, incessant inflation continues to hammer us while most give it little thought, government continues to grow ever larger (to nightmare proportions), and the disparity trend widens (1% owns 40% of all wealth; up from 20% of all wealth in 1980; never worse since the Great Depression). It doesn’t seem far-fetched that if we stay on the current course, it’s hard to see how we are going to avoid either a gradual decline, or an significant economic meltdown. It’s not just one thing, but it is the combination of many things along with the one most dangerous issue: that we humans fail to learn from history, and fail to have the foresight to avoid learning the hard way (again and again).

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 3, 2007 4:49 PM
    Comment #235186

    OK, d.a.n., Do you have comparitive statistics on what parties have eliminated office holders faster over the same time periods as you list for elective total turnover?

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 3, 2007 7:45 PM
    Comment #235213

    I’m not sure I understand the question.
    “what parties have eliminated office holders faster”?
    Do you mean which party has ever lost the most seats in an election?
    In recent history, Democrats have lost a HUGE majority that they enjoyed for over 40 years (between 1956 and 1996).
    If you look at the graph, there’s something strange going on. Neither party seems to be able to get a HUGE majority like the Democrats used to have for 40 years between 1956 and 1996.
    Why?
    Could it be voters are simply equally divided?
    Or, could it be because voters don’t see much difference between the politicians of either party?
    Or could it be independent voters are trying to keep it even so that one-party rule doesn’t occur again?
    It is strangely unlike any other decade.
    There doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for either party.
    Anti-incumbent voting on 7-Nov-2006 increased by about 3.6%.
    I hope that trend continues, because tenure corrupts and rewarding Do-Nothing Congress with 97.6% re-election rates is only making them more corrupt, irresponsible, and unaccountable.

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 4, 2007 6:42 AM
    Comment #235214
    Most of the poor have cars. Most of the poor have cell phones. Most of the poor have air conditioners, for heaven’s sakes!

    Damned poor american!
    Why they can’t be like african poor, for god sake!

    What? Because US economy rely on middle and poor class buying stuff, always more stuff, nevermind they must sell their next 40 years of income to cover this credit lifestyle.

    When the rich already buy everything they could think of, your nation economy can only continue to grow (stagnation is not an option, right) by convincing other people that they could do the same, nevermind they don’t have enough money, if any. “Just a signature and this car/whatever is your.” !

    Go consumerism!

    Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at October 4, 2007 7:08 AM
    Comment #235218

    d.a.n.,
    My question essentially revolves around turnover among office-holders rather than changes in party affiliation for given offices. My personal bias is that the Republican Party is quicker to eliminate office-holders for cause, even at the risk of the loss of a particular congressional seat, than is the Democratic Party. I do not, however, know this for a fact. This, since it is not necessarily reflected in offices changing party at election time, would not be revealed in your statistics as presented so far.

    Since the theme of this string centers around social trust that would seem a point germane to the issue at hand.

    Neither party’s base has cause to think its office holders are, in general, trustworthy. If the base of one party has more sway over the behavior of their office holders than that of the other, though, ALL voters can use knowledge of that as a lever to gain more sway over ALL office holders. If Republicans can get rid of their bad apples through forced resignations while retaining the party affiliation of the seat so can Democrats.

    From a good government standpoint it is orders of magnitude more important, even for Republicans, that the Democrats who hold given seats are honest, well meaning, people than it is that the seat they hold become Republican.

    Ideally we will develop ways to wean ourselves of parties entirely. For now, though, let us find any means we can to “subvert” the parties into doing the will of the people.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 4, 2007 9:22 AM
    Comment #235221

    Oh, Phiippe,
    It is not that stagnation is not an option. It is just that “modern” man has not devised a way for a stagnant economy to evenly distribute good and services as well as place the resources that make their efficient creation possible in the most capable hands.

    We know far more economically than we did a century ago, but we would be flattering ourselves if we thought we were in anything better than an emergence from the dark ages. That said, it is far, far easier in the U.S. to get what people need to survive than it has ever been in history. That was my point.

    Is there injustice and abuse? Yes. But there are also needlessly arcane mazes of law intentionally designed to trip productive people into the appearance of criminality. That erodes economic trust and cooperation.

    Credit systems need to be greatly simplified and limits placed on the frankly predatory practices of lending, and particularly credit card, institutions. These limitations, however, must be clear so that people with money to lend will still do so. Lending is a key means by which money from the top of the economy makes its way to the foundations of the economy, allowing people throughout society to be productive.

    Also, credit should not be used as a palliative for low wages forced on the economy’s foundations by the artificial influx of cheap, rights compromised laborers. That, too, compromises economic trust and cooperation, not to mention the rule of law.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 4, 2007 9:48 AM
    Comment #235262
    d.a.n., My question essentially revolves around turnover among office-holders rather than changes in party affiliation for given offices. My personal bias is that the Republican Party is quicker to eliminate office-holders for cause, even at the risk of the loss of a particular congressional seat, than is the Democratic Party. I do not, however, know this for a fact. This, since it is not necessarily reflected in offices changing party at election time, would not be revealed in your statistics as presented so far.
    Sorry, I don’t have that data.

    But based on the last few years, I’ve seen more Republicans resigning (not counting Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who isn’t sure yet).
    However, there was the appearance that the the Republican party was more corrupt (being the IN-PARTY for the last 8 years).
    But to be fair, that is mostly a consequence of being the IN-PARTY.
    In general, I do not see one party as being more or less corrupt than the other, and the few real philosophical differences they have are not that important based on what BOTH actually do.
    However, the Demcorats are now the new IN-PARTY and I have no doubt at all that they will become more corrupt as the IN-PARTY always does. Power does that, when there is insufficient Transparency, Education, and Accountability.
    In my opinion, we should be seeing mass resignations from any politicians that:

    • vote irresponsibly on pork-barrel, corporate welfare, waste, and give themselves a raise every year (9 of the last 10 years), while our troops risk life and limb, go without armor, adequate medical care, and have to do 2, 3, 4 or more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan

    • vote themselves cu$hy perks and raises (while they completely mismanage the Social Security, Medicare, and other systems)

    • ignore problems for fear of risking re-election or defying their big-money-donors

    • prevent newcomers from passing badly-needed, common-sense, no-brainer, responsible reforms

    • tempt, pressure, and threaten newcomers with the loss of party support if the newcomers don’t accept the status quo

    • pander and bribe voters with their own tax dollars

    • peddle influence and accept money from big-money-donors

    • fuel the petty partisan warfare that distracts the nation from our many pressing problems

    • spend a great deal of time and tax-payers’ money (via allowances) trolling for money for their campaign war-chests

    • abuse their allowances and other unfair incumbent advantages (provided by tax-payers) to retain their cu$hy, coveted seats of power

    • abuse the Presidential pardon; placing politicians above the law

    • grow government ever larger; to nightmare proportions

    • refuse commonsense reforms (e.g. campaign finance reform, election reform, tax reform, or any reform that will create more transparent, accountable, and responsible government, even if it diminishes their opportunities for self-gain or reduce the security of their incumbency)

    • look the other way I’ve even heard John McCain admit to looking the other way on a NPR radio broadcast.

    • are fiscally irresponsible

    • fuel the petty partisan warfare that distracts the nation from its many pressing problems

    • despicably pit American citizens and illegal aliens against each other

    • ignore the nation’s pressing problems as they grow dangerously in number and severity

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 4, 2007 3:25 PM
    Comment #235290

    However, the most egregious examples of someone that should resign (but won’t) is Representitive William Jefferson(D-LA).

    A person is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but Rep. William Jefferson looks guilty as hell, and never offered any credible explanations for $90K hidden in the fridge wrapped in aluminum foil and separate plastic containers in $10K bundles, which looks extremely suspicious. Also, A technology executive, Vernon Jackson, pled guilty on 03-May-2006 to paying more than $400K in bribes to Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). Vernon Jackson, age 53, a chief executive of the Louisville, Ky.-based telecommunications firm iGate Inc., admitted to bribery of a public official and conspiracy to bribe a public official during a plea hearing in U.S. District Court. Court records make clear that the congressman whom Vernon Jackson admits bribing is Rep. William Jefferson.

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 4, 2007 6:42 PM
    Comment #235346


    Dan: Many Democrats have been asking the same question about Jefferson. Why hasn’t the Justice Dept. indited him? Many of us think that they are saving him for a show trial during the elections next year. It bothers me that no Democrat in his district has stepped forward to challenge him in the primary.

    Posted by: jlw at October 5, 2007 11:30 AM
    Comment #235348

    jlw,
    If you believe, as most so-called “political scientists” do, that politics is simply war by other means you have the answer to both sides of the question. Also, as I noted above, Jefferson DID have a primary opponent in the 2006 election, but the Deomocratic Party refused to support that candidacy.

    The two parties are waging war and you and I are just territory.

    Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 5, 2007 11:57 AM
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