When You REALLY Want Change...

The people made their choice: CHANGE. Now, voila, we have the second Clinton administration. It remains to be seen whether this will be something vaguely different or one of a variety of possible redux scenarios (Wilson, F.D.R. term 1, Carter, or Clinton). Regardless, it will not get us significant change, because we have not addressed our most important structural problem.

That problem is in the nature of Congress. People who are supposed to represent us, whether we are liberal, independent-minded, or conservative, are shipped off to Washington D.C. to be constantly lobbied, jawboned, cajoled, and seduced by both the ministrations of K Street and our employees in the Federal Government. Even good people like my own representative, Kevin Brady, who makes a point of coming home to his district every weekend, spend far more time in the grips of those wishing to influence him than they spend under the thumb of those he represents.

This situation gives rise to two great perversities. First, by this construction of government we make it easier for those wishing to lobby our representatives away from our supervision to concentrate and coordinate their resources economically. A government teacher once told me that our system of government was really a wise substitution of nonviolent warfare for the violent sort. He was right, and as Sam Houston learned from the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (only to fail to convince Travis at the Alamo years later) one should never "fort up" one's resources where they are easily set under siege by a determined enemy. In fact, this is exactly what we have done, placing our representational army in "Fort D.C." where they are under constant assault from all sides for our resources.

The second perversity is a byproduct of the first. By the fact that we have concentrated our representational army in very limited and narrow confines they, rather than we, have become the focus of government power. Like ambassadors sent overseas in the days of sail our communications with our representatives on a fog of subjects are spotty and picayune at best. At worst they sneak things, like the abominable Freedom of Choice Act in under our radar entirely. Those wishing to influence policy do not come to us to get what they want, so that we will influence our representatives, instead they bypass us entirely. This encourages us to be ignorant of the processes of government, and to fail to understand the public's crucial role in good public policy.

Do you want real change? Obama, the second (fill in the blank) clearly will not give it to you. He can't. The real power is in the Congress, and we have forted Congress up in a place under seige by people who want what we have.

The real solution will be to amend the Constitution to bring Congresspersons home to their individual districts, only ALLOW them to go to Washington on special occasions. They will hold meetings and hearings electronically. Lobbyists who wish to influence them can go to Fort Smith, and Reno, etc., etc. to see them personally. Naturally we will be told this is impossible, because our reps don't want to be told they work for us, and because those who have them in their grips don't want to have their access to our pockets routed through Shreveport, Jackson, Tyler, Rapid City, and Provo.

The fact of the matter is this is not a conservative point. It is simply what we must eventually do if we want to have a government that represents and empowers us, conservative, liberal, or whatever, rather than the various lobbies storming the ramparts of our government every day.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at November 25, 2008 9:55 AM
Comment #270919

I thought you were a Constitutionalist…what ever happened to the First Amendment? Lobbyists need love too…right?..right???

Okay, you’re right on about this matter. Congress is our worst nightmare, and lobbyists feed on nightmares, so let’s chuck the whole system. It let us down anyway…how about a parliamentary replacement?

Posted by: Marysdude at November 25, 2008 10:32 AM
Comment #270924


“…and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The fact of the matter is there is nothing in what I said that in any way impedes what the First Amendment calls for. In fact, it places the process and the representatives who would actively engage in the process as close as possible to the very people the authors had in mind- US.

Why should General Dynamics, GreenPeace, or the Department of Commerce have relatively easy access to 535 Representatives of the people when you and I have access only to the second-tier staff members of ONE?

Shoot! Make Archer-Daniels-Midland really have to work for their “redress of grievances”!

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 25, 2008 10:57 AM
Comment #270926


About the parliament idea. The effect of parliamentary systems is to give a greater voice to fringe parties and single issue voters. The general result, because then the tough choices about forming coalitions into governments are left to “the Lords”, is the same as our current sequestering of representation.

I prefer our institutional construction, because it forces the people themselves to make tough choices about overall viability of one’s representation over the whole range of issues we face. That said, I think bringing reps home to their districts, and keepng them there, will give rise to much greater regional diversity in voting patterns and a weakening of party discipline, a sort of de-facto parliamentizing of Congress.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 25, 2008 11:09 AM
Comment #270933

Lee Jamison-
The real solution is greater telepresence of the constituents. People need to maintain awareness of what things are being done, and Congresscritters need to know that we’re keeping tabs on their keisters.

The real solution is not to limit the Congress’s activity, but to bring more sunshine into the proceedings so people don’t start assuming they can go wild, or overindulge the special interests at our expense.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 25, 2008 12:24 PM
Comment #270934


Again, as with Marysdude’s point, nothing I suggest limits the legislative activities of Congress. Instead, it severely curtails the disparity of personal access between lobbyists and the employees gathered at the public teat.

Ask yourself who should have easier access to your representative in person, Exxon or you?

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 25, 2008 12:53 PM
Comment #270935

By the way, it also occurred to me that doing this would be a way of reenergizing regional and local news media. They would have better access to power than the New York/Boston/Washington monolith and would have more varied approaches to reporting it.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 25, 2008 12:58 PM
Comment #270937

The best way to promote Democracy is to give them the referendum vote. Even if it is nonbinding, the voters of each district will have a better understanding of their representative and know if he supports them or other interests.

I am not talking about a referendum on every bill but, on major issues like should we go to war, or what should we do about globalization, etc. this will force our representatives to be more responsive to the desires of their constituents and be more forthcoming in providing information to defend their positions when they go against the wishes of their constituents.

Lee: Before Tom Delay, lobbyists tried to lobby both political parties and the hired both dems and reps. Delay demanded that they hire only republicans if they wanted to be heard by the republican Congress. I wonder if the democrats will demand the same.

Some of Obama’s choices for his transition team and his cabinet shows us just how much influence and even control of our pollitical process that lobbyists, cronies and Washington insiders have. Apparently, our government can’t function without them.

Posted by: jlw at November 25, 2008 1:02 PM
Comment #270940

I saw an article just last week, jlw, about Democrats now being very much in demand on K Street.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 25, 2008 1:44 PM
Comment #270944

Lee: Of course, it is called tit for tat, one of the games our politicians love to play. The democrats want their buddies in those jobs before they accept bribes for legislation.

I would dearly like to see a disclosure of all the politicians blind investment trusts. What they are invested in and how well or badly, if that is the case, they have done.

Posted by: jlw at November 25, 2008 3:24 PM
Comment #270949

Lee Jamison-
You don’t think that lobbyists aren’t capable of travel like the rest of us? Or lobbying the people in their backyards? You’ll be saving some people a trip.

Simple fact: set up a court, and the courtier and courtesans will show up.

Republicans like to fantasize like it’s the 1800s. I’m sorry, today’s politicians have phones. They have planes, trains and automobiles. We have the internet, we have a national media.

As for relatively easy access to my representative? That all depends on the size and configuration of your district, no doubt.

Try my district on for size, Gerrymanderus DeLayus Houstonophagi, or as its known in Texas politics, the District that Ate Houston. This damn thing extends all the way from our border with Louisiana, swallows Beaumont and Port Arthur first, eats Cleveland, Then takes Kingwood, Spring, and Baytown in it’s jaws, with it’s fringes encircling half of Houston.

With all seriousness, how do you expect such a wide-ranging districts members to know, much less visit the seat of such a district. Just for your information the residence of the district is Humble (pronounced with a silent “H” for y’all not from around these parts.), which is in the extreme north of Harris county.

The seat of this district is about 20 something miles from my home. It’s a long haul, to be sure, even by car. But what about somebody from Baytown, Port Arthur, or Beaumont? That’s a 75 mile trip, just to physically be in the presence of your Congresscritter. People in Wyoming and Alaska have an even bigger problem.

If we want to be perfectly frank here, the real issue is not physical presence so much as mental presence. We want to have these people know that if they give into certain influences, they’ll be putting their reelection in jeopardy. Call it natural selection for politicians.

If we put the pressure on and keep it on, our politicians will tend to do what we want, and perhaps sneak favors we might not like in on the side. If we don’t put the pressure on, they’ll openly favor the special interests, and we’ll have to beg and plead and hope to have them deliver the goods. The former seems better to me than the latter.

What Republicans need to do is make themselves better aware of what’s going on, and what the consequences of these things really are. They need to seek out and listen to experts, and not just industry insiders with vested interests, and start treating the public good as the priority, rather than ideological goals.

They need to wean themselves off of the talk radio nutballs whose only purpose seems to be to delude and insulate Republicans into supporting what the Washington Politicians want.

And Republicans need to once more realize that half the country isn’t out to get the entire country, that Democrats and Liberals, wrong as they may think they are, are not their enemies. They need to realize that there is a such thing as a friendly rival, and that competition need not always be for blood.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 25, 2008 4:03 PM
Comment #270950

Lee -

After spending a career in the military, I tend to think of things in military terms.

I clearly remember a captain we had on the Ranger back in the early 80’s. For much of the time the captain’s tour, the ship did not perform well. It seemed that no matter what we did, it wasn’t good enough. But then we got a new captain - named Tony Davis - and all of a sudden, everything went perfectly. It was incredible…and that was when I first learned how a different guy in charge can make an incredible turnaround using the SAME crew as his predecessor had.

You’ve seen this before with sports teams that go from worst-to-first, after a simple change in the management.

In other words, Lee, this is not Clinton Redux. This is a guy who’s assembling a skilled and experienced team - and if much of the team happened to work for the Clintons before, that is of NO consequence. All that really matters is the ability of the one in charge to give them the proper direction and hold them accountable for their actions.

Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at November 25, 2008 4:07 PM
Comment #270952

“Ask yourself who should have easier access to your representative in person, Exxon or you?”

That is a no brainer for the constituent, the constituent thinks she should have more access than Exxon.

It is also a no brainer for the politician. The constituent usually arrives with hat in hand or wearing a war bonnet. Exxon comes bearing gifts.

The politician is the one who desides and he knows that his constituents are more than likely going to vote to reelect him despite the fact that Exxon has more access.

Most of his constituents aren’t even going to take the time to find out who has the most access to their politician nor what effect that access has on the votes he casts in Congress.

As long as the politician can provide some pork to his district, as long as he helps uncle Joe get his pension, who cares about the rest.

As long as the voters have that kind of attitude, change is impossible. As a matter of fact, it is virtually impossible to change a politicial system when the only means of change short of rebellion is reliant on the politicians to make those changes.

Posted by: jlw at November 25, 2008 4:14 PM
Comment #270953

As dumb as Americans can be, perhaps, like they have at critical times in the past, they got it right this time. It’s a bit early for predictions of failure, legacy or even evaluation of “change”. Sometimes, I change my socks. It doesn’t mean I have to go out and buy a new $150,000 wardrobe to change them.

Posted by: googlumpugus at November 25, 2008 4:17 PM
Comment #270957


The Parliamentary thing was tongue-in-cheek…we still only need to reduce ‘corporate full citizenship’ to ‘corporate nothingship’ to solve many of the problems you’ve mentioned. ADM has access because they claim the same citizenship you and I do. Then, because they are far-flung, can access all Congressmen, instead of just one like us. They have a legitimacy that we don’t enjoy…talk about a stacked deck…corporations put Vegas dealers to shame.

Not all lobbyists are business related, but most of the ones we have to worry about are. Tro de bums out!

Posted by: Marysdude at November 25, 2008 4:46 PM
Comment #270966

Lee, good premise but 50 years too late to be effective. You only need look at the recent conviction of Ted Stevens to see that distance from DC does not ensure that corporate or special intrests will not trump the voters. A distributive system such as you suggest will only have a net effect of increasing rental value of office space near the new seats of power.

Posted by: Ted at November 25, 2008 8:02 PM
Comment #270967

Lee, good premise but 50 years too late to be effective. You only need look at the recent conviction of Ted Stevens to see that distance from DC does not ensure that corporate or special intrests will not trump the voters. A distributive system such as you suggest will only have a net effect of increasing rental value of office space near the new seats of power.

Posted by: Ted at November 25, 2008 8:06 PM
Comment #270969

No, Lee, you’re looking at it the wrong way.

The change people voted for, that put Obama/Biden in the White House as well as giving the Dems substantial majorities in the legislature, was to people who are competent and able to make government work the way it is supposed to.

You’ve got to admit that’s a change from 8 years of incompetent, crony-promoting, “government is not the solution, government is the problem”-spouting, faith-based, Bible-thumping, “Iraq’s going to be a cakewalk that’ll pay for itself”-lying good ol’ boys you might like to have a beer with but who have done such a crappy job running the US government that no one else could do it as badly if they tried.

That’s the change the people voted for. Now maybe if the Reps can admit they got thumped because they did a lousy job of running the government for 8 years, you and Jack might some day see another Rep in the White House. But as long as people think the Reps mean incompetent governance, it won’t likely happen anytime soon.

Posted by: EJN at November 25, 2008 8:11 PM
Comment #270971

Lee, I do think it is too easy sometimes to blame “special interests” and lobbyists for all our woes. It’s kind of like earmarks, government programs, and even individual congressmen. Most people think earmarks are bad, but funds coming into their districts are important investments in creating jobs or rebuilding infrastructure or some such. Most people think government spending should be cut and programs eliminated, except for the ones that benefit them, which are—of course—essential. Most people thing Congress sucks, but their congressman is the lone exception.

Same with lobbyists and special interests. Ultimatley in some crazy way, they do represent the “people” or at least some faction thereof. I think citizens associations that people join to advance a common position are useful, effective, and entirely appropriate, whether it be the NRA, National Right to Life (ones whose positions I support) and even the lefty groups.

I like your overall point, though, that Congress should be in DC less. That way, they can do less mischief and create less unnecessary and redundant laws.

You also touch on a point that is equally important. The enticements of power and prestige for legislators grow with the length of their careers and the more “accomplishments” they can show off. These accomplishments always involve the making of more laws, creating more programs, and finding more “solutions” to problems, real or imagined. In other words, they are in the business of government; so more government is better business.

I used to be opposed to term limits, but I am coming around now.

EJN, you say

The change people voted for, that put Obama/Biden in the White House as well as giving the Dems substantial majorities in the legislature, was to people who are competent and able to make government work the way it is supposed to.

Stephen, you are obviously a bright guy, but much of your commentary in this and in other posts bespeaks of this same kind of post-ideological pragamatic politics, where government should be in the hands of the experts who know how to fix problems, find solutions, get things done for the people, and so forth.

The questions I find fascinating are: how exactly is government “supposed” to work? What “people” is the government supposed to get things done for? and what are those “things” that government is supposed to do? I don’t think there really is a way to get beyond ideology, because when you peel back many of these pragmatic solutions to political dillemmas you find some kind of underlying philosophy, garbled as it might be even to its reluctant proponents.

One man’s principled statesman is another guy’s raving ideologue.

Posted by: Jack Romano at November 25, 2008 9:32 PM
Comment #270974

Off subject;

A lot of you guys hammered me for implying that Tiffani Martin was a plant. Her last article in the liberal column was almost a month ago. Where is Tiffani?

Posted by: Oldguy at November 25, 2008 9:35 PM
Comment #270976

Tiffani didn’t think she should have to take the flack for posting here that some were more than willing to hand out. Since she wasn’t running for office she figured…to hell with this…

Posted by: Marysdude at November 25, 2008 10:43 PM
Comment #270986

A bit pre-mature aren’t we. Of course if your most dire prediction is a return to the Clinton years comes to pass, I think we could live with low unemployment, increasing wages, relative peace,a balanced budget etc.
The Freedom of Choice Act was a poor example to make your point.Most Americans would support it given the chance even if the reps were camped on their front lawns. A better example would have been the “Bridge to No where”by the senior GOP senator and convicted criminal,Ted Stevens
I wonder about your point. All the congresspeople I have ever had dealings with spend as much time as they can in their home districts. They also have staffed offices they contact at least daily to keep in touch with the folks they represent.
You do have a point in that there is something wrong. A trueism is that the wealthy will control the government. Its a class imperative. This does not change with the form of government much. Kings, Pharoahs, high priest,dictaters,assemblies they will find a way. The AFL-CIO realised this long ago. In order to at least get in the room you have to have something of value to offer. I realize this is very cynical,accurate also I am afraid.Its also why public financing of campaighns is not the purported pannacea its supporters claim.
A small step that at least might help the budget some might be to no longer allow lobbying cost as a legitimet business expense. No tax write off. Not much chance of that passing but it would be fun to try.

Posted by: bills at November 26, 2008 4:51 AM
Comment #270987


I believe lobbying expenses are currently not eligible to be deducted as a legitimate business expense. See http://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/taking_business_tax_deductions/small-biz-article.

Posted by: Jack Romano at November 26, 2008 6:05 AM
Comment #270993

Stephen and EJN are both in love with what I call the “expertocracy”- what, in an earlier generation was called “the best and the brightest”, and, in even earlier generations were referred to as the royal court. In any event they are just people who have precious little respect for us and our opinions, faiths, innovations, and abilities.

EJN’s comments about “eight years of corruption”, in the face of the follies of the Clinton Administration (without which Al Gore would have been a shoe-in as president) would be great comedy, if he weren’t serious. It should be recalled that Enron was a Ponzi scheme in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000, but the Clinton Justice Department either didn’t give a rat’s rear end or was too busy trying to cover up for the boss’s indiscretions. The late ’90s were a great time to be a huge corporation’s robber-baron boss and examples like Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom show how devastating a lack of governmentally enforced transparency can be even in relatively strong economies.

The problems Bush has had come at least as much from the fact that he comes from outside governmental culture as they do from the fact that there is any supposed corruption. Governmental culture despises anything that smells even remotely of conservatism (and he is only remotely conservative at best) because conservative ideology would attempt to impose controls that fall outside the political imperatives of the bureaucratic mindset. Would a bureaucrat carve away two layers of administration to make a division (think in terms of the crisis in the auto industry) more efficient? Of course not! What would happen to the workers’ families if he did? The only rational bureaucratic solution is to subsidize the production of whatever service the division provides through non-economic distributions of tax revenues.

This humane aproach to doing things is why bureaucratic solutions to problem-solving fail and one gets disfunctional behemoths like General Motors and the Department of Education.

The expertocracy is the antithesis to an evolutionary approach to problem-solving. It flies in the face of the dynamism of the unexpected innovation. It clamps down on the small, the flexible, the people who don’t know their place. As can be seen in the rush to save companies “too big to fail”, it is all too willing to concentrate enormous power in the hands of the few- regardless of the relative competence of those few.

The rationale for this concentration of power is easy to understand. It is easier to control a small number of powerful people than a large number of independent-minded people.

The Bush Administrration has been an expertocracy, and it appears the Obama Administration will also be an expertocracy. Their problems will be the same problems. Experts are just a much, much more dangerous form of idiot.

So, I go back to my thesis. Empower the people by making their representatives more difficult to roll en-masse from a centralized location. Sure, Stephen, ADM can travel to any rep’s place. My aim is to make usre they can only see one at a time, or as few as possible. As to the “rent” issue, the new “seats of power” would be in a minimum of three cities in every state under the plan I have in mind, because the idea is to give the people maximum access to their representation.

Besides, what rationale is there for keeping the status-quo? Why continue to ‘fort up’ our representatives where the influence groups have better access to them than we have?

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 26, 2008 9:40 AM
Comment #270994


I didn’t know about the Freedom of Choice act before Monday. The vast majority of people polled on the subject didn’t know about it either. If it were so popular, one would think the word would get out from a source other than conservative media.

Most people WOULD NOT support a bill that forbids restrictions of the torture/infanticide procedure called partial-birth abortion. Most people WOULD NOT support a bill that forbids states from protecting the human rights of infants born alive as a result of an abortion. Most people WOULD NOT support a bill that forbids states from placing restrictions of aboriton based on local and regional differences in values. The abject folly of your statement is borne out by the simple fact that state laws exist which attempt to do the very things this bill would forbid.

One of the goals of the Federal bureaucracy is the elimination of the capacity of states to be laboratories of innovation. Our concentration of legislative power in one very small place greatly facilitates that erosion of a basic foundation of American success.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 26, 2008 9:56 AM
Comment #270996


Well said. I am sure Stephen and company will be having a guffaw over your contention that “The Bush Administrration has been an expertocracy . . ” They will say that Bush did not have any experts, or if they thought they were, they turned out to be incompetent. Thus Obama, an intelletual himself, will appoint smarter experts who will know the secret formula of pushing which buttons at which times to bring about the desired results.

They will also accuse you of being an anti-intellectual phillistine. I am sure you are no such thing. We would all agree that it would be preferable that people in government would be smart versus stupid. However, if I had to choose between a totalitarian genius and a person of lesser intellect who had a firm grasp of the principles of individual liberty and limited government (gosh, I can’t seem to write very long without resorting to these worn out, anti-intellectual cliches), I would choose the latter. Mussollini was a bona fide intellectual who had an extraordinary grasp of socialist and statist theory, despised Christianity, and could speak and read several languages with fluency.

What I fear are the smart people who promote themesleves as being moderate, non-ideologues, only seeking the most workable solution to a given problem, when they are anything but non-ideological. Their solutions tend to oddly cluster around pretty standard leftist fare.

Please help me get something straight (perhaps its my limited intelligence). Is Bush an evil genius capable of masterminding 9-11 and covering it up, capable of manipulating the intelligence gathering of the entire world into believing Saddam had WMD, and capable of fooling much smarter people in Congress (like Hillary and Joe Biden) into voting for a war based on that manipulation? Or is he the frat boy idiot who reads only comic books and can’t string an intelligible sentence together in English or any other language? And if he is the evil genius, why didn’t he do the smart thing and plant the WMD in Iraq after the invasion, “discover” it, and prove to the world he was right all along?

Posted by: Jack Romano at November 26, 2008 10:03 AM
Comment #270997

Lee, I never said anything like this, which you attribute to me:

Lee: EJN’s comments about “eight years of corruption”

I never said Bush was corrupt. In fact if you go through my post with your browser’s find pulldown, you’ll see the word corrupt isn’t even in there. I do think his administration was corrupt - no more so than most presidential administrations, but I nevertheless did not say it. So, apology for misquoting me accepted.

As for Jack’s question about “How is government supposed to work?”, it’s pretty simple really. Government should be competent in doing the things it was meant to do, and stay out of things it was not meant to do.

Two great examples of Bush incompetence (which is my primary beef with Bush in particular and GOP governance in general): the Bush administration’s response to Katrina and the Bush administration’s preparation for and execution of the invasion of Iraq.

If you want me to go into detail as to why those were flaming, egregious examples of incompetence, I will. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for being mature enough to not try to argue those were feathers in the cap of the Bush administration. Why do I have the sneaking suspicion I’m being naive for that?

Posted by: EJN at November 26, 2008 10:07 AM
Comment #270999

Jack: Is Bush an evil genius capable of masterminding 9-11 and covering it up?

No, Jack, he’s not. I certainly never accused him of being that smart. I certainly never agreed with anyone who accused him of that.

I have often stated that he and his administration is/was so INCOMPETENT as to be unable to a) take a perfect baton hand-off from the Clinton administration about this looming crisis and b) act quickly enough on the day to mitigate and possibly derail the attack.

Jack: capable of manipulating the intelligence gathering of the entire world into believing
Jack: Saddam had WMD,

Maybe not Bush, but people in his administration, not least of which is/was Cheney, took intelligence that had already been gathered, suppressed that which did not support the Saddam WMDs claim and promoted that which did support it. This has been well-documented.

Jack: Or is he the frat boy idiot who reads only comic books and can’t string an intelligible
Jack: sentence together in English or any other language?

This is closer to correct than evil genius. Bottom line is that his administration never really seemed to want the job for any purpose but to destroy the parts of government that benefit the middle-class and poor and to outsource everything else that might turn a big fat profit for their political supporters.

Jack: why didn’t he do the smart thing and plant the WMD in Iraq after the invasion, “discover”
Jack: it, and prove to the world he was right all along?

I guess I thought you watched Faux news more than that. In fact, every few weeks after “Mission Accomplished” there were breathless reports that the missing WMDs had been found and Bush had been vindicated, only to be eventually debunked. Don’t most Faux viewers not only know Saddam had to do with 9/11/01 but also that the actual WMDs used in the 9/11/01 attack were found in Iraq after the invasion?

Jack: What I fear are the smart people who promote themesleves as being moderate,
Jack: non-ideologues, only seeking the most workable solution to a given problem, when they
Jack: are anything but non-ideological.

Such as whom (from the left of course)? I can name a few from the right such as Bush himself. Scooter Libby. John Roberts. Yes, we fear those too. Who on the left are you talking about?

Jack: Their solutions tend to oddly cluster around pretty standard leftist fare.

Here’s the thing about that: the rightmost position on the subject of government is “everyone for themselves, there is no government” while the leftmost position is “everyone for everyone else, government is everything”. Somewhere in the middle is “government for those things we can’t individually afford but we all collectively need and nothing else”, OK?

The reason most governmental solutions tend to cluster on the left is that the right’s solution is “don’t do it”.

The right’s contribution to the makeup of the government are the proverbial notes not played.

That, to me, is a completely legitimate contribution, but you can’t then come along and uningenuously say “everything the government does is leftist”, at least as far as tarring someone with the “leftist ideologue” label.

In the furthest right scenario, the government would not provide police, fire, refuse, roadway, defense or judicial service. But I think you would have a hard job making the case that the government providing police, fire, refuse, roadway, defense or judicial service is leftist, because it’s not.

Posted by: EJN at November 26, 2008 10:51 AM
Comment #271000

My apologies.

In fact you did not say “corrupt”. What you said was- “…8 years of incompetent, crony-promoting, ‘government is not the solution, government is the problem’-spouting, faith-based, Bible-thumping, ‘Iraq’s going to be a cakewalk that’ll pay for itself’-lying good ol’ boys…” and I made a contraction that was LITERALLY incorrect.

How I construed that into ‘corruption’ will probably always be a mystery. At least to some people.

The essential problem whith your thesis, however, is that you believe the cultural incompatibility of conservatism with the inherently corrupt and ineffective SYSTEM of bureaucratic solutions to everything is, in itself, a sign of incompetence. The fact is that bureaucracy is incompetent. Period. It just elaborates and embellishes incompetence so compellingly that, like a Baroque frame on a mirror, it becomes an end in itself.

Why does Obama make you happy? The expertocracy is brilliant at explaining why the Baroque frame is necessary to the function of the mirror.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 26, 2008 11:06 AM
Comment #271002

Lee: …EJN are both in love with what I call the “expertocracy”

Only someone who knows nothing about love would say this, Lee.

Lee: The Bush Administrration has been an expertocracy

Are you freaking kidding? ROTFLMAO Nothing done by the Bush administration in the last almost 8 years qualifies by any stretch of the imagination for the label “expert”. Nothing. OK, maybe when Ashcroft dropped the anti-trust actions against Microsoft, but that is it.

You know, it makes absolutely no difference to me whether you agree with me or not. In fact, as I posted in response to Jack’s last essay, it warms the cockles of my heart to see you Reps/Cons looking to attack Dems/Libs for your drubbing earlier this month because every second you waste blaming outside entities is one more second you are not figuring out that what the typical US voter wants is not faith-based conservative ideologues but people who can make government work competently. They couldn’t care less whether churches can administer government programs, they just want the programs to be there if they need them.

Heck, Jack doesn’t even comprehend what competent could possibly mean as applied to government. Here’s a hint: competence is opposite of and diametrically opposed to ideology.

Now if the lesson you’ve learned from 11/4 is that you guys are too far left and you need to go farther right, I say enjoy the ride. We’ll see you about 25 years.

Posted by: EJN at November 26, 2008 11:12 AM
Comment #271007

Jack Romano-
I’m a pragmatist at heart. I didn’t actively become a netroots blogger and critic of the Bush Administration until it became apparent that the administration had failed some of its basic obligations.

I wanted a government which hired people to run the country that were not merely generous political donors.

I wanted a government that did not let political partisanship leak into its application of the law.

I wanted a government that negotiated a successful compromise between confronting terrorism and maintaining America’s precious freedoms in more than just a nominal sense.

I wanted a government that would recognize that without proper rules of the road, without proper disclosure, the folks involved in the financial world are hindered in their ability to properly set the value by market methods.

Governors in engineering are devices that keep things turning at the right rate, which moderate extremes, and enable a proper relation of power and speed for the machine in question. That’s something of how I think of Government. It’s not about complete control- it’s not only impossible, but the attempt to assert it can hamstring and break up the system. It’s about moderation, inhibition as much as empowerment, protection of rights, and furtherance of the national interests.

Lee Jamison-
Expertocracy? There’s a proper term for a system where the best and the brightest run things: Meritocracy. And the solution to the problem is not to do away with putting experts in charge, but instead to hire experts who aren’t disrespectful of you.

Under a Republican congress, we’ve seen historic consolidation in nearly every field. And of course, without their support, the legislation that lead to banks becoming too big to fail would have failed itself. They let the big oil companies consolidate, which reduced competition and lead to higher prices and less refining capacity. They allowed different kinds and degrees of commodities trading that are only now coming to light as we see gas prices plummet in value.

General Motors has managed to take years of union rollback and do absolutely nothing with it except repeat the mistakes of the 1970’s, once again ceding the lead to the Japanese. And who let them do this? Who in fact used a tax credit to encourage consumers to get gas guzzlers?

Last but not least, don’t call the Bush administration a meritocracy. It was a crony-ocracy at best. You could get a key post in the administration by contributing the right amount of money to Bush’s campaign.

As for access? Look, you neglect the fact that under the Republican Majority, they spent fewer days in session, more at home. Did that guard them from corruption? No. There’s this little thing called telecommunications, and this other little advancement called jet travel that ensure that the culture can adapt to any obstacles distance may impose, and that capacity will always be greater than that of the average person.

American government should be a full time job. We picked Washington as our capital, a district with no status as a state, to avoid having any one state’s interests raised over the others by virtue of the placement of the Capital.

It’s neutral ground. The question is not whether we can walk up to these people and talk to them. The question is whether they know that what they do and say can ultimately affect their chances of keeping their job. Washington culture is only an excuse for people to become corrupt, not the real reason. Like I said, power draws the courtier and the courtesans. What matters is power, and that the people in Washington know that we have more power over them than the special interests ever can.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 26, 2008 1:03 PM
Comment #271010


You want to get rid of the lobbyist? You want the people to take back power from the government?


Article 5 Constitutional Convention…and repeal the 14th Amendment. Return power back to the states.

Let’s see the lobbyist reach into their back pockets and spend money times 50.

Posted by: Jim T at November 26, 2008 1:52 PM
Comment #271012

Lee, scientists are the best qualified to create constructive or destructive technologies. Whether they create constructive or destructive technologies depends on who they work for. Obama is bringing the best qualified into his cabinet, many from the Clinton Administration. But what their expertise is used for and in what direction is up to Obama, not the expert employees.

I understand your wishing for another Clinton Administration as a means of bringing your Party back to power. But, I have to disappoint you. Obama is not Clinton, and Obama’s pragmatism, intelligence, and focus on the prioritized issues of the day, are going to be a vast improvement over the Bush years. And this despite Bush handing Obama the worst run nation in 3/4 of a century. There is no getting around that fact.

We are about to witness the greatest multi-tasking, holistic problem solving oriented president this country has seen Teddy or Franklin Roosevelt.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 26, 2008 2:12 PM
Comment #271013

I’m sorry David, maybe I’m just old, but I sure don’t see things now as bad as they were in 1981. Every election we are told how ‘this election is the most important election ever’ and ‘this is the worst economy since the great depression’ when neither of them are true.

And I appreciate your need for an overly-optimistic view of Obama as president with almost nothing to back it up with, but you are going to have to deal with the fact that most Americans are going to have a ‘wait and see’ approach to how he does, not declare this Camelot II before it begins.

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 26, 2008 2:20 PM
Comment #271014

“You want to get rid of the lobbyist? You want the people to take back power from the government?
Article 5 Constitutional Convention…and repeal the 14th Amendment. Return power back to the states.”

Wow, talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

“Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”


Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 26, 2008 2:20 PM
Comment #271015

Good post Lee, I have to admit I agree with most of it. The thing I like about the idea is the fact it doesn’t cost the government much of any money. And there’s not much to argue about, may be what time you have to be where.
But I’m afraid, like some have pointed out, the lobbyists will find our congress people where ever they’re at. The one point no one’s brought up is campaign financing. 2008 has once again shown the geometric progression growth of the cost of running for office.
A few years ago, I was in our state capital waiting to talk to our State Senator. (He was in his last year and wasn‘t running for reelection.) There were three business men from Coca-Cola waiting with me. They were perfectly attired. With briefcases in hand, they were polished. I had on my Sunday best on, but I looked pretty scruffy next to them. I’m sure they had their stories down pat, and I only had a vague notion of what I wanted to say. The Senator came out of his office, he shook their hands and said “I hope you guys sell a lot of Coca-Cola.” He then invited me into his office. I tend to think if he had been running for re-election, that would have been different.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 26, 2008 2:21 PM
Comment #271019

Jim T-
It wouldn’t do a damn thing. Most federal regulations are justified under the Interstate Commerce Clause. Plus, Article V constitutional convention? Good heavens. You’d have to get 34 states together willing to gut equal protection of the law.

Most Americans like what they see. At least as far as Obama goes. I think there will be folks who wait and see, but for the most part, they’re remembering what it’s like to watch an administration that has its act together.

These people seem to be as disciplined in their decision making after the election as they were before. He’s made choices that even Republicans are having to admit are good, and he doesn’t seem to be flying off the handle into radicalism as all his detractors during the election were claiming.

It’s not Camelot, it may be better than Camelot.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 26, 2008 3:18 PM
Comment #271023


Keeping congresspeople at home is only a part of the solution, but it is a major part. Stephen’s telecommunications work both ways. (He also didn’t answer the question of how we are BENEFITTED by concentrating our representation within easy reach of the various lobbies and the hierarchies of bureaucracy…)

As to the matter of lobbyists being able to find our reps, sure they can. That’s not the point. The point is who has the EASIER access. There is a tremendous difference between the effect of being pestered by technological contacts from one’s constituents and being personally persuaded by his or her actual presence. I get that from personal experience.

Secondly, the people know they are not able to personally contact their reps as much as they’d like and they cut them more slack than they should when those people don’t do as they wish. We are too prone to say of our guy, in the lion’s den, that he’s under a lot of pressure, etc. I think that if people know their guy is at home, but he’s still doing screwy stuff, they’ll be more likely to put pressure on him or even vote him out if he responds in a manner they do not like.

Another part of the solution is real term limits- Three terms for a House member, two terms for a Senator. I also want to end pensions for members of Congress. Get rid of them completely.

When the rewards of knowing the arcane and insular ways of Washington bureaucracies no longer accrue with the experience one can’t get, the vast egos of those in public office will want to work and express power quickly. All that stuff that now serves to insulate Congress from the public will just be in the way, then, just as it is for us. Congress will know it has, soon, to live in the world it creates, and more people will have the chance to participate in the frustrations of national leadership.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 26, 2008 3:47 PM
Comment #271024


It is worth noting that, after a full term of the “best and the brightes” being in charge, Roosevelt noted in his second inaugural that there was still “a third of a nation ill housed… and ill fed”. In fact the situation was nearly the same as it was when he took office. The situation was not substantially better in 1940, but he based his campaign on maintaining stability in the midst of the world crisis of W.W.II.

At least everybody thought he had his act together.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 26, 2008 3:56 PM
Comment #271025

Jim T

I used to be a big proponent of developing Fusion reactors. You know, unlimited power, clean fuel, etc. That was until I actually had a conversation with a physicist who had an in-depth knowledge of the kind of fusion reactions that were within reach of a reactor made of the materials we have on Earth. After that I had a much greater appreciation for God’s wisdom in placing the local fusion reactor 92 million miles away.

An Article V convention is like that for me.

At least with the conventional amendment process the risk to the country (and there is always a risk) is limited to the scope of a narrow set of changes. Article V (really placed in the current Constitution because what the founding Fathers were doing in having their own convention was treason under the Article of Confederation) places no limits on the convention that rises from a call from Congress.

Yeah, you MIGHT get something better than we have now…

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 26, 2008 4:31 PM
Comment #271028

Pardon me if I am wrong, isn’t it true that Obama’s economic expertologists have been working for some of the same corporations that Bush’s economic expertologists worked for and will soon be working for again.

Many people, especially liberals, consider Robert Rubin to be an economic expertologist. He now runs Citi Corp. He just got a $25 to $45 billion loan from the government with an additional $300+ billions in the works.

Posted by: jlw at November 26, 2008 5:38 PM
Comment #271031


First, by my construction they are “expertocrats”, whereas “expertologists” would be able to explain what they do.

Second, you are explaining (especially with the Rubin example) why the task of the “expertologist” would be a lost cause.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 26, 2008 6:40 PM
Comment #271036

Lee Jamison-
Molly Ivins once recounted an episode where the head of Pilgrim went down to the legislative floor in Texas and just started handing people wads of cash on the floor.

I trust the lobbyists to leave alone Congress the way I trust flies to leave alone turds, if you’ll pardon my French.

Pressure and sunshine are the only way to force up and disinfect government reliably. Politicians tend to know on which side their bread is buttered. The more we know about their activities, and the more we make clear which ones are not tolerable, under threat of losing their jobs, the more they’ll take our wishes into consideration.

The Problem is not in Washington. The problem is in us, and how we just let things slide.

As far as the Great Depression goes, I hear tell that one of the most serious downturn happened after he tried to tighten the belt on things. It helps to consider just what a dropped out botton the great Depression was. It wasn’t solved as an economic problem until the massive public works campaign that was WWII stimulated our economy out of its doldrums.

Please let that inane word die the death it deserves. I think this casting of experts as the villain is just plain stupid. The problem is, we chose the wrong experts to talk to. I don’t think its a bad idea to be skeptical about experts, so long as you practice skepticism on your own conclusions.

I believe having a bit of a meritocracy is a good thing. We want people to compete to be the best, and we want our government run by people who know better than others, and maybe even know best. But we got to practice the intellectual and cognitive efforts necessary to tell the difference between those who pretend to be experts, and those who really are.

You know, you’d be surprised how many liberals share your low opinon of Rubin.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 26, 2008 11:34 PM
Comment #271049

Stephen D.: Some in the banking industry say that AIG is so screwed up that no amount of tax dollars is going to save it. They also say that it is very unlikely that Citi will survive.

Obama has endorced the massive bailout plan. If the government throws 100’s of billions at these companies and they go under anyway, Who should the American people blame? More importantly, who will the liberals like yourself blame?

If Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and the newly named economic adiviory committee have this countries best interests at heart, they will advise Obama to break those corporations up and sell the parts off to resposible parties and stop bailing out the irresponsible people that got us into this mess.

Posted by: jlw at November 27, 2008 12:52 PM
Comment #271083


No one is casting experts as villains. We simply believe no one has, or can process, all the information one must to make the central planning of the modern expertocracy work. The lesson of history is that when central planning does not work perfectly it fails miserably.

What should be frightening to thoughtful people is that the vast experiment being thrust upon the whole world today puts the most money in the hands of the very people who have failed worst so far. It all but literally celebrates institutions “too big to fail” and does nothing whatever to reduce the size either of the institutions or the calamity that would befall us all if their mouldering carcasses could not be reanimated.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 28, 2008 9:24 AM
Comment #271093

> It all but literally celebrates institutions “too big to fail” and does nothing whatever to reduce the size either of the institutions or the calamity that would befall us all if their mouldering carcasses could not be reanimated.
Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 28, 2008 09:24 AM


But, to change that, it would require regulations and oversight. I’m still not sure why all this did not fall under the Sherman Antitrust Act…has it not set up a ‘kingly’ realm of finance? Did Sherman not indicate that if we did not have a monarch, we should not allow business to manufacture one?

Did Reagan pull the teeth of Sherman too? If not, was someone asleep at the switch?

AT&T was broke up because it grew too large to fail, and also its size limited competition. What is different about AIG now and AT&T then?

I wish to hell I knew more about our economy and the way it is financed…I know…’let the buyer beware’ and ‘seize the day’, but the rest is Greek to me.

Posted by: Marysdude at November 28, 2008 1:20 PM
Comment #271183

Oh for crimney sake
The right wing just cannot break their obsession with “socializm, leftist, whatever” vocabulary.
Now use of experts and people who might actually know what they are doing (rather than knowing WHOM to suck up to) is being accused of “central planning” (hmmm another socialist buzzword)
At some point there needs to be someone at the top of the heap -
Richard Branson heads up a huge empire — very successful, however it is an organization that does NOT rely on “Central Planning” — but no one doubts that at the end of the day, HE is in charge and HE sets the agenda.

Does everything always have to be some form of black or white for you people???
Is there no notion of something other than an extreme one end or the other???
Give it uP!!

Posted by: Russ at November 30, 2008 11:49 AM
Comment #271184

If the bailouts don’t work, whom do we blame? (with your nominations being the Democrats that went along with it) -
Geez, can’t wait to begin pointing fingers (or getting them cocked and ready to fire)
Glad you are not part of the team, — your season would be (and has been, matter of fact) a losing one for years to come.

Posted by: Russ at November 30, 2008 11:51 AM
Comment #271223


Simply limiting the size of organizations in crucial fields to some percentage of the size of the market in that field only makes sense. Yes, it does require “oversight”, but that is not the same thing as direction. When “Ma Bell” was broken up all the regional Bell companies were allowed to compete over the whole country. Interestingly, the weakest of the original regional Bells, Southwestern Bell, developed such a good organization it was able to build a market dominance sufficient to buy the old AT&T, under whose logo it now operates.

Giants like Fannie, Freddie, and AIG need not be all-or-nothing entities. They, too, can be broken up into regional companies which can then compete nationally.

A company that is too big to fail is too dangerous to preserve.


The idea of the article is that the people should be better represented than the “special interests”. From your response it would seem that troubles you.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 1, 2008 8:57 AM
Comment #271235

Lee good article.

We are seeing change, albeit small change just by having the democrats holding more seats in the Congress. The republicans, other than the NRA would only listen to corporate lobbyist. The dems will listen to a wider selection of lobbyist than the republicans IMHO. Of course this doesn’t solve the real problem.

If we want real change we can, evidentally without a first amendment violation, provide free speech zones for all lobbyist much like we have done for those protesting the government in recent years. We could also require the lobbyist to meet congressional members while in committee only. But the reral problem still exists doesn’t it.

If we want real change we will need to take the money the lobbyist use to buy the ear of our elected officials out of politics. I’m pretty sure the founding fathers didn’t envision political bribery as a free speech issue. As long as the cost of election is so high and the money for election comes from these lobbyist we can not have real change.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 1, 2008 10:28 AM
Comment #271242


Thanks. Our current system was designed out of the necessities of communications of the 18th century. Companies in that day presented little or no threat to national govenments. Such is not the case today. However we address the current necessities we should think hard about how one preserves the representation the Founders intended for the People.

The status-quo, very simply, fails us.

I would quibble with your assessment on “Corporate” lobbyists by repeating what I often note- government IS a corporation. Non-profits ARE corporations. Most lawyers ARE incorporated. Democrat representatives merely substitute a preference for some KINDS of corporations for the other kinds Republicans favor. The result is that corporations of one kind or another still have an outsized influence on those who are supposed to represent us.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 1, 2008 11:17 AM
Comment #271309


I did not intend to exonerate non-profits, charitables or any other organization that lobbies. I meant only that corporate lobbyists have created a problem that needs to be addressed sooner, rather than later. Frankly, the power of the NRA scares me as much as does big oil. All the big ones are scary, if for no other reason than the amounts of money involved…as sure as you’re born, piles of money cause corruption on a grand scale. But I believe Gramm was the creation of lobbyists in the high finances…see where THAT got us?

Posted by: Marysdude at December 1, 2008 8:47 PM
Comment #271434

“I would quibble with your assessment on “Corporate” lobbyists by repeating what I often note- government IS a corporation.”

Lee this is exactly why conservatives have such a hard time trying to be successful at governing. The differences between a government and a corporation are numerous. Whilst the conservatives have attempted to run the government as a corporation and have even elected a CEO as president this past 8 years, we have now seen firsthand why this failure to govern was doomed from the start.

Corporations are charted by a government, Lee to conduct business. The sole reason for a corporation to exist is to make a profit for it’s shareholders, unlike a government. The current problems facing this country are largely due to corporate interference in government Lee, not government interference in corporations.

Let me say I am not against small and resonable sized corporations and business entities Lee. In fact I’m not really against large corporations. What I am against is corporate control of our governmental process. I am against corporate personhood Lee as it is nothing more than mob rule.

Corporations work towards their own goals at the expense of all others Lee, it is their sole reason for being, and is as it should be. To allow them influence in governmental affairs has been proven to be detrimental to the good of the nation and other competing companies. It has lead to where we are today. Corporate control of our election process and legislative process is the most overriding cause of our nations problems.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 4, 2008 12:07 PM
Comment #271444

How succinct can you get…way to go j2t2!

Posted by: Marysdude at December 4, 2008 1:19 PM
Comment #273205

Usually I disagree with you, but on this note we actually agree. For years I’ve maintained that members of Congress should live at home, in the districts they represent. Since the advent of computers, I see little to no reason why they need two residences, offices, sets of staff, etc.

All discussion could take place on a net meeting device,with all conversations readily accessed by personal computers, all votes should be emailed, not only to other congressional members, but all to all personal computer owners in the districts. Obviously this feature would have to signed-up for by members of the distracts.

Imagine the money that could be saved. No unnecessary staffing personal; no need to provide additional housing;less need for airfare or gas; no clothing allowances;fewer parties or celebrations at the tax payers expense; and on and on. This would also allow easier access for district members to actually be able to see and talk to their representatives.

It’s amazing what one can come up with if one is willing to “think outside the box” so to speak.

Posted by: Linda H. at January 6, 2009 2:41 PM
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