Small Government or Smallish-Sort-of-Mediumish-Nicer-Better Government

By James Kwak

The conventional wisdom about Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate is that it sets the stage for a debate about the role of government in society, between Romney and Ryan as champions of small government and Obama and Biden as supporters of big government. Indeed, that’s the thrust of the lead story in the Wall Street Journal this morning. And it’s pretty clear why Mitt Romney wants to have this debate.

First, the politics: The choice of Ryan should be slightly encouraging to Democrats for one reason—it confirms what the polls and Nate Silver have been saying for months: President Obama is winning, though not by much. One of Romney’s options was to simply run against the incumbent, pointing to the bad economy and making a bland case for himself as some kind of business guru. Apparently that wasn’t working, so he decided to double down on the Tea Party and the idea of radically reforming government—something that he’s been distinctly bad at throughout the election so far.

In the longer term, Democrats should be worried, because Romney and Ryan have the better debating position. Their position is simple and superficially compelling: Government is bad. (Cf. the DMV—it’s state, not federal, and the one in Massachusetts works very well, but whatever; BATF; EPA; IRS; whatever agency your audience happens to dislike. Compare to Apple as if all private sector businesses were like Apple.) Government infringes on individual liberty. Cut down the government and we will have (a) more liberty, (b) more economic growth, and (c) lower taxes.

What do the Democrats say in response? Government is good at some things and bad at some things, and needs to be leaner and more efficient. Or people need government services to succeed. (Doesn’t that sound offensive as soon as you say it, even if it’s true?) Or there’s a moral obligation to redistribute income through the tax-and-transfer system. Or government isn’t really that big when you compare it to history. So taxes should go down for some people and up for some other people.

It’s all confused, half-hearted, and unconvincing. It reminds me of George Lakoff’s book Moral Politics. Lakoff does a brilliant job identifying the core of the conservative worldview (the Strict Father ethos) and explaining why it’s so compelling. Then he tries to explain how liberals could and should base their positions on a Nurturing Mother worldview. The problem is, I came away from the book thinking that the conservatives had won, because the Nurturing Mother ethos was so unconvincing.

Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that Obama will lose the election. Although commentators like to think we’ll have a real debate about the role of government, more likely this election will be just like every other one: it will turn on a handful of independent voters’ inchoate, irrational perceptions of which candidate better fits their inchoate, irrational notion of what the president should look like. (If you haven’t made up your mind already, you’re unlikely to base your decision on a considered reflection on the proper size of government.) And while Mitt Romney is pretty terrible on this dimension, Ryan adds a long list of other flaws to the ticket.*

But it couldn’t hurt for the Democrats to have a decent response to the small-government attack line, and that starts with having some kind of understanding of what the federal government actually is and does. As David Moss has written and as Simon and I discussed in White House Burning (mainly chapters 4 and 6),  the primary role of today’s federal government is protect ordinary people from risks that are beyond their control, be they poor health in old age or toxic chemicals in children’s toys. I don’t think ordinary people want to face all of life’s risks alone, and the private sector isn’t going to help them. (The insurance markets that work halfway decently, like auto, home, and workers’ comp, are all characterized by near-mandatory participation, one way or another.)

But you can’t make that case by just pointing to one program after another. First, most people don’t see themselves as beneficiaries of most programs (many people think that only the current elderly benefit from Social Security and Medicare, even though we all benefit over a lifetime perspective), so focusing on the program level just makes people think their money is paying for someone else’s benefits. (This is in part because many people think they are paying more in taxes than they actually are.) Second, it isn’t a rhetorical match for the Romney-Ryan small government message. Instead, President Obama needs to come up with a vision of what the government is for—one that he hasn’t already compromised away. Isn’t he supposed to be good at that sort of thing?

* What does it say that the Republicans’ poster boy for free markets likes betting on individual bank stocks in the middle of a financial crisis? Does he really think he’s smarter than the market?

74 thoughts on “Small Government or Smallish-Sort-of-Mediumish-Nicer-Better Government

  1. If only we had an absolute totalitarian state run by angelic geniuses, we could protect everybody from everything. Why let ordinary people make any decisions for themselves, when smart people know what is best for everybody?

    Those evil conservatives are always trying to destroy people by letting them make their own decisions. I hate them so much.

    You are right about one thing: This should be a fun debate to watch.

  2. Somalia, land of no burdensome regulation or big government, free enterprise, and religious law….

  3. I was thinking that Mexico is a good example of a libertarian state. Working well lately, no?

  4. Nemo is really pinning the definition of “neocon” onto conservative where is rightfully belongs.

  5. Personally, I am looking forward to the new Ryan two step healthcare program.
    Step One: Don’t get sick.
    Step Two: If you do get sick, learn to pray.

  6. James Kwak (above): “Many people think that only the current elderly benefit from Social Security and Medicare, even though we all benefit over a lifetime perspective”.

    So, we should all be grateful that our government has wisely planned for our futures, arranging things like Social Security which benefits us all in ways that we the people could not arrange for ourselves.

    But, Democrats have dramatically overpromised benefits to win votes. Republicans say “me too” to stay in the game. The money (resources) is going to run out. Then what? What level of taxes is going to fill the unfunded promises that have been made? Things are going to get ugly. People have been misled into personally saving too little for their retirements.

    Under Standard Accounting Rules
    05/24/2012 – USA Today

    === ===
    [edited] The deficit was $5 trillion last year under standard accounting rules. The official number was $1.3 trillion. Liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other retirement programs rose by $3.7 trillion in 2011, but the amount was not registered on the government’s books.

    • The government would need $22.2 trillion today, set aside and earning interest, to cover benefits promised to current workers and retirees beyond what taxes will cover. That’s $9.5 trillion more than was needed in 2004.

    • Deficits from 2004 to 2011 would be six times the official total of $5.6 trillion reported, under a standard accounting. [$33.6 trillion]

    • Federal debt and retiree commitments equal $561,254 per household. By contrast, an average household owes a combined $116,057 for mortgages, car loans and other.
    === ===

  7. “President Obama is winning, though not by much.”

    Nonsense. This election is not close and it’s not going to be close.
    Bookies and bettors everywhere have made Obama the heavy favorite.

    Mr. Kwak (and Mr. Silver): Stop listening to the lying media, which for obvious reasons keeps telling people that this election is close, and start paying attention to people who back their opinions with something real—money.

  8. The primary job of government is to institute, defend, and protect the ruleoflaw – and to prosecute and punish any breach of theruleoflaw. Government is essential to protect themany from the rank abuses of thefew. Without government criminal cartels, syndicates, oligarchs, corporations, and gangs would rampage through societies and either eliminate or enslave themany, – the masses.

    Fascists and nazi’s would exterminate or enslave the population as any cursory examination of history proves without government instituted to defend, protect, and advance the rights, freedoms, and best interests of the people.

    The nazi’s and fascists in the gop seek exactly this evil end. Totalitarian control of the population, unfettered lawlessness and dominance of corporations, cliques, klans, oligarchs, oligarchs, cartels, and fascist gangs, and complete dominance of thefew over themany.

    The gop in it’s current panjandrum is the 4th reich, an evil fascist gang of ruthless tyrants seeking the extermination or enslavement of the 99%. The gop is an arch enemy of the people and a dire threat to our and our children’s future, and should be treated accordingly. Unfortunately the democratic party is no longer a defender of the people’s rights, freedoms, and best interests and has shapeshifted into a goplike gang.

    There is no balm in Gilead. The entire system is a putrid rotten cancer of predatorclass ruthlessness, pathological greed, avarice, systemic criminality, and rank evil.

    The monstrous horrorshow and horrible wrong that is Amerika today cannot be fixed or repaired. It is a cancer that must be excoriated.

    Burn it all down, reset.

    It’s our only hope!

  9. Here’s a slightly different view of one of Romney’s most charismatic speeches ever. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, then you’ll think of 2013 with this man negotiating international trade and human rights with Xi Jinping and you’ll cry some more.

    See folks, the problem you have with Mitt is a similar problem you had with “W” Bush. Before taking on heavy issues with foreign leaders, it’s often a handicap if you haven’t mastered your own native language yet.

  10. Read it and weep fascists!
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

  11. This documentary is called “When Mitt Romney Came To Town”. Send it to your friends, tell your friends to search the title “When Mitt Romney Came To Town” on Youtube. Let people know what this man really does to (steals from) the middle class, for his own benefit. Before November, when it may be too late to hold what little we have left in this country.

  12. I might point out that in the year 2000 presidential elections we had a man who had presided over multiple oil company bankruptcies who was marketing himself as a “businessman”. Does this tune sound familiar or has our civics memory become sooooo A.D.D.??
    This man Mitt talks about “big government”, but when he guts companies into bankruptcy and fires middle class workers, Romney doesn’t seem to mind putting his hand out for subsidies or socializing the losses:

    And how about this classic little gem of data from an article originally done by Reuters news service:
    “Later, as Massachusetts governor from January 2003 to January 2007, Romney presided over one of the puniest rates of employment growth among the 50 U.S. states, at a time the nation’s economy was booming. Labor Department figures showed Massachusetts ranked 47th among the states in the rate of jobs growth in those four years — ahead of only Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana.
    See here:

  13. The Paul Ryan Health Care Plan in detail: Grab a voucher with your left hand, reach behind and take a huge crap in your right hand, then “wait and see” which one helps you FIRST.

    Alan Grayson explains the Republican Health Care Plan:

    Mr. Grayson, America’s hardworking people love you, even if some idiots in Florida’s 8th district don’t. We miss your speaking out for the working class, please run for office again.

  14. Actually the big fat grey elephant in the room is the Military spending and the Homeland Security budget, plus any other spending in “security”. Now, there is BIG GOVERNMENT for you redistributing income taxes from all to around 120 BIG FAT corporations. Of course, there is also the BIG FAT media industry dedicated to “educate” all to believe we need such a military and security apparatus. James, how much money would we liberate if we cut such spending of public funds in such things?

  15. This is a watered down version of rinse and repete, a Jr. Reagan/Bush ticket without bullets, a Bush/Cheney ticket, chock full of mistakes at a time when America can not afford the consequences of additional poor choices. A team with moot debates that are older than time itself, a proven track record of failure where the women wear the pants at night, and send their kids to work during the day. Each election year I see the dumbing down of our citizens, as they gear up for a speedy election day and dreams of easy money at night.

  16. Brilliant way to frame the debate in a small space. I can’t wait until Ryan starts to cite Rand, Mies and the Von’s as his mentors. All this from a guy who has spent his entire life in government. Doesn’t that mean that his time in government has been a failure because he didn’t any of the things he now says are critical?

  17. The government enables business to do great things by creating infrastructure(e.g. highways, airports, schools, etc). Clint Eastwood Super Bowl half time commercial was inspiring. The Democrats had a response…The sound bite “You didn’t build it” doesn’t quite work the same way…like “We built it and business prospered” would have worked better.

    I haven’t heard anybody from Tea Party or GOP describe what they mean by small government besides a wish list to turn the clock back to pre-1917. This fantasy takes epic portions to swat any thought that any other reality is acceptable besides that much so..that when in charge..they do everything in their power to make sure government fails in a big way. George W, thank you for lack government oversight both on budget, war and regulations that push the economics to the brink. Boehmer, Cantor and Ryan for creating a Congress memorable for doing very little if anything besides bicker who is at fault.

    Who believes in doing what is best for everyone in this county? I would welcome that revelation as a great big step in the right direction.

  18. Your last paragraph where you mention that Obama needs a dialog on the purpose of government is correct. But I would also have to say the Republicans need to do this also. Currently, it feels as if they are only following the wind on tax issues. If they really believed that government needs to be small with less regulation then they should also believe government should not regulate the home life either.

    If the Republicans and Democrats would actually become one party for more government intervention and the other less government and would then meet in the middle through compromise, we would all be better off. Bi-partisan committies would actually mean something when they bring suggestions to the floor. But the Republicans must let go of three issues religion, marriage, and woman’s reproduction. You cannot be for government staying out of Board Rooms and then say we can tell you what to do at home. It doesn’t work that way.

    The parties, and many businesses and institutions for that matter, need to recognize they cannot be Burger King, not everyone can have things their way or provide things that do not fit their defining roll.

  19. With friends like Robert Reich, Obama doesn’t need enemies;

    Stumping in Florida today, Mitt Romney charged President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will “cut more than $700 billion” out of Medicare.

    What Romney didn’t say was that his running-mate’s budget — approved by House Republicans and by Romney himself — would cut Medicare by the same amount.

    The big difference, though, is the Affordable Care Act achieves these savings by reducing Medicare payments to drug companies, hospitals, and other providers rather than cutting payments to Medicare beneficiaries.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…

    A survey of Colorado primary care doctors found most are reluctant to take a new patient on basic Medicare, the government health insurance for people 65 and over.

    Colorado Public News called family, general practice and internal medicine physicians across the state, using the nation’s official website that lists thousands of doctors the site claims treats patients on Medicare. Of 100 contacted, only 34 said they would readily accept a new patient.

    Of the remainder, 40 said they would not add a new patient on traditional Medicare. Another 26 limit new clients, making decisions on a case-by-case basis, or placing patients on waiting lists of up to six months. That adds up to 66 – or two-thirds – refusing or limiting new patients.

    The questions focused on traditional Medicare, which is used by most recipients.

    Several doctors said they hesitate to take Medicare patients because Medicare doesn’t pay enough, pays late, and can require a nightmare of paperwork and repeated telephone calls.

  20. There is a crystal clear narrative for social insurance (and all other programs that redistribute wealth), why not use it?

    In a perfectly functioning market economy, everybody would fully insure themselves as soon as they were born (or before if it were really perfect), and thus everyone would have more or less the same income. Such insurances do not exist, and can never exist, due to e.g. moral hazard and adverse selection. Inequality is a market failure.

    The government can fix the adverse selection problem but have to use a bunch of different programs in order to not make the moral hazard problem to big.

    I do not think this story is that hard to understand for someone just a few standard deviations below average intelligence – so why not use it?

  21. “Your last paragraph where you mention that Obama needs a dialog on the purpose of government is correct. But I would also have to say the Republicans need to do this also…”

    The latter have already made their position quite clear — there are three , and only three, legitimate uses of state power: bombing the crap out of brown people abroad who worship the wrong God, penalizing people at home who do sex wrong, and providing your friends’ getaway cars with nice police escorts en route to the Caymans.

    It’s in Burke. Or Nozick. Or Oakeshott. Or it might be Hayek or von Mises. But it’s in one of the,

  22. We absolutely love your blog and find the majority of your post’s to be just what I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content for you? I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome weblog!

  23. The two tickets frame the issues pretty well if the Dems can articulate the argument. Republicans ran the show pretty much from ’80 to 2010.
    What have we seen is an an effort to control folks’ personal lives, the stagnation of income growth for the vast majority, the substitution of credit for earnings, the elimination of unions and all other means workers have to fight for their fair share (which eventually boosts pay and benefits for middle management, etc.) The Republican ticket, and its financiers, are focused on completing the process, shredding the safety net, neutering workers’ (white and blue collar alike) abilities to fend for their fair share and bring this country back to the position that a average breadwinner can earn enough, safely, to buy a home, build a family, educate his/her kids and look forward to a comfortable retirement if he/she follows the rules and behaves wisely. There is nothing in the Republican lexicon that addresses these issues. The government has no role to play, according to them, in re-achieving (we had it for 20 years or so) these goals. The Dems need to present an argument that the government has an important role to play in achieving these goals; that we achieved them in the past only with government assistance to protect workers, their rights and entitlement to a fair minimum wage, etc. Can Dems articulate this message? If they can’t we’re in for another taste of the 1880s.

  24. Obama is now for all practical purposes running against the Ryan entitlement wet dream or plan as some would call it. If he can’t win on that basis he doesn’t deserve to stay in office. The wealth pay no taxes and the rest get trickle down health care. Romney has essentially taken himself off the ticket as a Big Idea guy. Looks like another Dick Cheney coup d’etat headed our way.

  25. I guess if the conservative arguments sound convincing to you you must be conservative. You say small government brings more liberty, more growth, and lower taxes. That sounds idiotic and simplistic to me. The only one I buy is lower taxes. But I don’t value lower taxes above living in a prosperous well ordered humane society with rule of law and diverse opportunities.

    Take Somalia as an example. Really high on liberty, low on taxes. Not so much on economic growth or rule of law. We already see that smaller is not always better and the conservative argument is blown.

    The question we need to ask are not “should government be big or small?” but rather “how much government is enough, how much is too much?”

    I think the Democratic argument should be based on balance, finding the ideal equilibrium between cooperation and competition, between individualism and collectivism or community. To push for extremes in collectivism or individual liberty and competitions are obvious failures in numerous counter examples. The development and evolution of the Internet is a really good example of what I’m talking about. Building the foundation required collectivism and cooperation. The failures of some early attempts at private competition failed because they lacked open connectivity. But once the common infrastructure is in place, enabled by a massively collective and cooperative effort, new modes of freedom are created and enabled. The platform is a rich field of new opportunities for competitive capitalist creative enterprises to innovate and flourish.

    I think the advantage the conservative arguments have is that they are simple minded and simplistic and thus easier to sell and understand packaged into sound bytes. They definitely dont have the advantage of being right.

  26. Above, Brenda said: “If the Republicans and Democrats would actually become one party” — Surprise, Baseline Scenario readers and writers, this has already happened!

    Let me apologize in advance for taking that phrase out of context, Brenda. It was just too good to pass up.

    However, I must ask, when both of the “legacy” parties are working for and serving the exclusive interests of the same One Percent of the country, what part of the electoral process is not a sham and a fraud? Can it really be true that Simon Johnson and James Kwak are so insulated from reality that they do not “get” this?

    And if they get it, how come they don’t seem to be writing about it?

  27. Carla, what you are saying is true to a large degree. The plutocracy has captured a disproportionate amount not only of wealth but also of political power and control. Both parties are locked into a political struggle in which they try to balance their needs for financial support from the new aristocracy, and their need for votes from the general population.

    But the parties are not identical. If that were true, there would never have been an end to DADT, Lilly Ledbetter Act, the ACA, at least an attempt at financial reform in Dodd-Frank, an end to defending the third part of DOMA, a relaxation of deportation on young undocumented immigrants, etc. There are concrete and substantial differences between the parties. One area of overlap happens to be the need to cater to wealth and power to avoid being politically crushed by their opponents.

    I think you identify some truths yet you over emphasize the extent to which the plutocrats dominate, and you under emphasize the still important differences between the parties. There is still something meaningful to salvage if we can enact some kind of campaign finance reform that is effective and can gain traction with voters on both sides of the aisle. Campaign finance ought to be a bi-partisan cause, but politicians won’t go that route unless voters force them to. Otherwise they are a bit too comfortable with the money, and the power and flexibility it brings.

    And you are not the only one to be aware of this. The hard part is not this realization, but how to solve the problem. Just throwing up your hands and voting for a third party or not voting is not necessarily an effective approach, as I see too many frustrated people doing.

  28. No Carla, they most certainly do not get the point you were referring too any significant degree. And of the question of big gvt -vs- small gvt one need look no further than Thomas Jefferson stating that when gvt is big enough to give you everything you want, it’s big enough to take everything you have. There is no doubt we are generationally at that crossing point today.

  29. filbt, nice quote, except you will have a hard time documenting that Jefferson ever said it. The same quote has been attributed to Barry Goldwater, to Ronald Reagan, and to Davy Crockett. Gerald Ford actually did use it in a joint Congressional address in 1974.

    Regardless of who said it, it’s kind of an empty platitude. First of all, the government doesn’t give anybody everything they want (or need). The idea is preposterous and a gross exaggeration of what our government does today.

    One can hardly know what you mean by being generationally at that crossing point. If you mean the crossing point between government giving everything and taking everything away, you really are imagining things. What evidence do you have for such extravagant claims?

  30. “But the parties are not identical. If that were true, there would never have been an end to DADT, Lilly Ledbetter Act, the ACA, at least an attempt at financial reform in Dodd-Frank, an end to defending the third part of DOMA, a relaxation of deportation on young undocumented immigrants, etc.”

    Stupid issues party – what ever happened to Democrats watching out for LABOR? Don’t your little micro-groups work?

  31. “If you mean the crossing point between government giving everything and taking everything away, you really are imagining things. What evidence do you have for such extravagant claims?”

    Well, Jeff, I agree: no chance of government giving everything (at least to the 99% — the 1% does do nicely on that score).

    But as far as the government taking everything away, not that filbt needs my help, but: the Patriot Act, total regulatory capture (i.e., no one of consequence prosecuted for HIGH crimes in finance that have sunk the middle class), and, oh yeah — domestic drones.

  32. Actually it was’ “strong” enough to take’ and it is not really that hard to document. Jefferson is older than the others. And the crossing point reference was to the evolutionary aspect of the phrase. Space was the final frontier, we have reached a pinnacle with technology and the ability of humans to manage it with reason. Greed, avarice, and a host of other parasites has infected the goodwill of the middle class. And in just a few short years the consequences will have to be paid for all (including the wealthy) to see and be a part of. It will be easier for a camel to walk thru the eye of a needle, than a rich person going to heaven.

  33. Carla and filbt,
    I don’t disagree with you on the problems and corruptions in government and finance that you are justly complaining about. But I doubt that sweeping statements that both parties are identical of that the whole problem is big government reflect a real grasp of the complex history and the forces behind how we got here today, nor do they reflect any realistic solutions to the problems we, both voters and politicians, are facing.

    We have not lost “everything”, nor are we about to. We still have elections and courts. A lot of the problems are the failings of citizens not understanding the dangers and not exercising their democratic privileges intelligently. The PATRIOT Act was actually popular when it was enacted because of a fear driven panic reaction to 9/11. I wasn’t one of those who supported it, and I still don’t today. But to sit back and simply blame the politicians is not really grasping the whole story. The question one would need to ask is: “If a group of politicians advocated repealing the PATRIOT act today, could they get the support of the public or would they lose their next election?” I don’t exactly know the answer to this question, but what I do know is that if a well organized effort among a large enough portion of the population demanded repeal of the PATRIOT Act, it would be repealed. The same applies to our problems with financial corruption of politics and the erosion of rule of law and regulation of Wall Street, and the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security that has become a disturbing problem in the wake of 9/11. Our nation has suffered through many crises in the past and survived. I don’t see the situation as so grave that we need lose trust in all institutions and resort to nihilism and destruction.

    Simply saying that big government is the problem solves anything. At least government is subject to democratically forced corrections. But if private industry were enabled to run rampant because of dismantling government, I think we would end up in a situation of being subjected to all manner of affronts at the hands of private enterprise. Are markets going to balance all the forces and produce justice for everyone? I don’t think so, and besides, experience has shown that markets need rules and enforcement to guarantee fair play and prevent manipulations that can distort market efficiency as much or more than ill conceived regulations ever could. I believe that business and enterprise benefits more from good government and a stable society than many are willing to admit.

    Needless to say, I’m no libertarian. I think that private enterprise, driven by personal interest and often greed, is a double edged sword, both productive and capable of grave injustice, and it is held in check and balanced by government in a way not dissimilar to the checks and balances in our separation of powers in government. Individual freedom is a noble cause, but so is collective social harmony, so is the non-zero sum game of well organized and well designed collective action. Individualism and collectivism fit hand in glove in balance, and to try to say one or the other must be abolished is like trying to isolate human character as being caused only by environment, or only by genes. It’s a false dichotomy; reality reflects a dynamic ever changing feedback between the two, just as the society we have built involves an endless dynamic interplay between the individual and the society the individuals live and work in.

    I just can’t believe that the despair and demoralized pessimism about our present state of affairs that seem to be reflected in your posts is really justified. Greed is not new, and it can be just as corrosive in a small government scenario. And I don’t think we’ve reached a pinnacle of technology that limits our ability to manage the complexity of our society. In fact I think the opposite is true. Yes we have outdated forms of selecting representatives and organizing political resources that may be broken because they haven’t changed enough in the last 200 years. But we have unprecedented opportunities to improve the means of gathering, managing, disseminating, and consuming information that could be harnessed to the needs of making democracy, the Republic, and government more effective and efficient, more responsive and more just.

    While I recognize the problems you two are pointing out, I don’t share your pessimism, and I really can’t agree that government is the problem, hence I can’t agree with the quote you, filbt, attribute to Jefferson (but have yet to give a source credibly attributing that quote to him). This quote for me reflects a kind of panicked extreme binary opposition that simply doesn’t reflect reality. Nobody asks government to give everything, and our government is structured such that everything can not be taken away (thanks to the wisdom of men like Jefferson). A major portion of the fault in our current politics and governance can be laid at the feet of the voting public for not working hard enough to be informed and to organize corrective actions.

    And filbt, I don’t know if your intimation that some kind of reckoning is due in a few years represents an apocalyptic vision, but the religious reference to the camel and needle lead me to worry this is what you may mean. I have to say that is really going off the deep end, and is no way to approach constructive problem solving in politics, but I do agree with you that greed, laziness, excessive self-interest and inflated egos are responsible for a lot of our degradation and failure to improve things. This shows up in the vast proportion of the general public coupled with advertisers and the cable “News” industry mutually encouraging one another to allow important public information services to drift into a corrupted ego-gratifying lucrative entertainment business and propaganda medium as opposed to serious informed education.

    I don’t think that our institutions are beyond repair, but they won’t be repaired without large numbers of people making a concerted effort to do so. Nothing will get done by people sitting back and pointing fingers. That just enables the wealthy to continue consolidating their control over the economy and the government.

  34. Jeff, with respect, nothing will get done by people sitting back and voting for the Democratic or Republican candidates for President. We elected a “Democrat” and got a Republican the last time for heaven’s sake. They are working for the SAME people, and those people are not US.

    I am optimistic enough to believe that we can change this system, and that, in fact, we must. To fall back on an old saw, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

    I will not be frightened into voting for a Republicrat, nor will I be shamed into it. Jeff, surely you understand that having elections and having courts is not the same as achieving democracy and securing justice.

  35. Participation is required. One part of that is voting. Not voting can be more harmful than voting for a candidate who is not perfect. You don’t punish the politicians by withholding your vote. You only make it easier for the wrong ones to get reelected. I think that the differences between the two major candidates will have important impacts on the direction the country takes, as does the composition of the Congress. I think 2008 represented a very good step in the right direction, and that 2010 represented a failure to follow through with that step, in fact a slide backwards. I blame voters for failing to turn out in 2010. Those who bothered to turn out made a terrible choice, in my opinion, and we are hurting because of that. That election had real tangible consequences. And that difference was on the order of only 5%.

    Yes, having elections is not the same as having democracy. That’s why I also discussed how voters educate themselves and the effort they apply to their democracy. Change comes slowly and incrementally in our democracy. It is rarely sweeping and dramatic. It’s more like a game of tug-o-war, and even if each individual contribution is small, they all matter to the end result.

    What constructive solutions are you offering exactly? I only see you giving up in frustration, which I understand, but I don’t agree with your sweeping generalizations: that the two parties are the same, or that everything should be expected to change in one election, which is kind of a corollary of your beating head on wall analogy: it’s framed with the expectation that one iteration should solve the problems. It is too impatient. Is the person who keeps pulling on the rope in a tug-o-war insane, even if it seems not to move? No, the ones who let go of the rope and give up are the ones who lack insight. Instead change is incremental. I saw positive incremental change between 2008 and 2010, and then I saw people give up on that incremental direction in 2010, and enemies of that direction succeeding.

    There is too much domination of money, and both parties need to be in that game to survive, unfortunately, but they don’t work for exactly the same people with exactly the same goals, and both parties still need to be accountable to voters. Voters need to exert consistent prolonged effort over years and decades, not a flash in the pan interest that fades out in a season or a year. Why has the occupy movement gone so quiet? It requires patience. It is not easy to organize movements for change, and that is probably a good thing. But it’s not impossible to organize movements for change, and in fact it is in many ways easier today than ever given our means of global and mobile communication.

    I feel your frustration, really, but I’m also frustrated by how quickly people are willing to give up. I think the narrative that we only have one party is a defeatist one that is only based on incomplete and partial truths. It seems fashionable today, but I think a detailed analysis leads one inescapably to the conclusion that this idea of Republicrats, while it has some basis in reality, and it is appealing as a target for venting frustration, is ultimately a shallow idea that does not accurately describe the reality.

    Politicians really do budge in response to public demands, but it happens slowly and they will never fulfill everything you personally want in a short period of time. There are a lot of other voters out there with different views than yours. That is a reality you seem to be discounting a bit too much. Voters need to be stronger and smarter to overcome the corrupting influences of wealth. Numbers can still beat dollars in our system.

    Given the options of not voting, voting for a third party, or voting for Romney or Obama, I feel like voting for Obama is the most effective option available now. Of course he has failed in many ways and succeeded in others. I think to be fair one has to carefully consider the extremely difficult problems he faced and the very complex mixture of contrary forces he has to contend with. I have to put myself in his position and realistically consider the kinds of opposition and attacks and miserable economic conditions he inherited.

    We can all envision sweeping changes we would like to see implemented, but who can say they would have accomplished those changes if they were put in Obama’s position with the present political realities of parties trying to pull the country in opposite directions, and the power of the Senate minority, and the fact that the President is just one of three co-equal branches? To simply cast blame because everything you would like to see has not occurred, and to fail to distinguish what is good from what is bad, but to lump it all together as a complete failure, is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The temptation to declare that everyone else is blind, because they don’t seem to see what you can see, is a strong one, but it should be resisted. The challenge is to figure out why others see things differently and then try to change that.

  36. By the way, if you really believe that Obama is a Republican, just ask the Republicans if they see it the same way. I think only a little bit of investigation shows that claim is hollow.

    Obama is very centrist and moderate. I see him as Jackie Robinson. He has to use his game to fight back against all the smears and insults and dishonesty and hatred. He covers the bases where they might attack him, so you see a higher rate of deportations, yet you also see support of the Dream act and opportunities for young immigrants via the recent deferment program. You see some aggressive continuation of Bush-like policies in defense, but you see a more intelligent and precise application of force against terror than the foolish wasteful large scale invasions. You see the auto bailout, that Republicans called socialism and which required concessions from both management and labor, but which has succeeded in saving a million jobs and an important industry. You saw stimulus to build demand, yet one third tax cuts as a concession to Republicans. Republicans wanted immediate austerity that would have deepened the recession. You see moderate health care reform, incremental change to our present system, with a nod to Republican ideas such as the individual mandate. From Republicans you see massive cuts to medicaid and gutting medicare with vouchers that shift costs from government to seniors who will not be able to afford it.

    The pattern is moderate compromise, covering his back against the inevitable attacks a black Democrat can expect, and which can be very effective as we saw in 2010, yet incremental movement in a direction I see as positive. This is not a Republican, it is a moderate centrist gently nudging the country to the left. You certainly don’t want to see Romney and Ryan if you don’t like Republicans.

  37. @Jeff – “….But we have unprecedented opportunities to improve the means of gathering, managing, disseminating, and consuming information that could be harnessed to the needs of making democracy, the Republic, and government more effective and efficient, more responsive and more just….”

    Like what after Citizen’s United? People can’t even get a proper ID because they are so forgotten and out of the way to vote. And 2 billion is being paid out to people like you to Jim Jones everyone.

    “….Change comes slowly and incrementally in our democracy. It is rarely sweeping and dramatic. It is too impatient. Is the person who keeps pulling on the rope in a tug-o-war insane, even if it seems not to move? No, the ones who let go of the rope and give up are the ones who lack insight. Instead change is incremental….Why has the occupy movement gone so quiet? Numbers can still beat dollars in our system….”

    You are right about the success of patience and incremental, stealth policies – it took 30 years to set up Middle Class Americans to have their commerce economies be re-tooled via tax unfairness and then emptied out BY THE GOVERNMENT on behalf of the Federal Reserve Board in those magic 2 years from 2008 – 2010. Nothing short of getting out the razor and holding down the sheep. Are you seriously asking why Occupy has gone dark? Same tactics on those “communication” channels that were deployed to make sure there was never a discussion about invading Iraq. That and drones…

    With only 1 out of 10 Americans approving of what Congress is doing – Congress being OUR representative arm in that trinity of power-sharing, I believe we might need to just get up and get out in the street and surround D.C. and say we want their immediate surrender, okay, “resignation”. Justice is perhaps the worst arm of the trinity, in the final analysis. Their “hits’ keep coming – we can smell another anointing of a President, like 2000, in the works – that and algorithms in Diebold machines counting up female votes against RR and deriving it into a vote for the RR team – we are NOT stupid. We have been merciful beyond your ability to comprehend.

    There is no major political party representing Labor. That makes us “feel” like slaves and that will only end in great violence. SO Democrats either get back to their basic roots or STFU and get out of the way of a LABOR party. Right now you make it sound like the differences are because there are some plutocrats who have a soft spot for some micro-group and allow them to get special rights for being micro and will hire a whole bunch of them to work as Patriot Act spies or something equally insulting to, oh, let’s say coal miners, since they will be SO grateful – but those micros are NOT who built this country to the power it WAS before 2000 when there was a MILITARY COUP launched on 911 (if not planned, then certainly opportunistically ready for it).

    The REAL producers were the social make-up of the LEGAL immigrants and the older generations who got to WORK after WWII. And that was all done while civil rights got signed in! Go figure.

    You, sir, will not address the dismantling of the flowering of the American Experience, and indeed Western Civilization, by fractional reserve banking which has had only one goal for USA’s wealth since WWII and that is to support perpetual war in the Middle East to protect those stinkin’ Welfare Queens.

    Names better be brought up at both conventions other than the ones the 2 billion already bought or a Just War needs to be launched to “save” USA. You have made no attempt, Sir, to acknowledge the dire situation of the Middle Class now that we have been slammed down below the financial future and fortunes of Global War/Drug/Slave Lords – NOW in light of the world’s bursting population and the trashed environment.

    God knows there’s that psycho army in USA already armed out there ready to take out “liberals”, or wha’ever, Arizona style, all the various “mob” businessmen taking advantage of our naked condition, thanks to the Patriot Act, so much so that they can call people and shake them down for debt owned as if they are legit (fraudclosure gate), and LUNATIC religious shenanigans – morally and ethically we are so fk by being thrust into poverty in 2 years on the world stage, you are correct in one “perception” – we got nothing left to lose by demanding D.C surrender. We have EVERYTHING to gain.

    Put up other names at the conventions. Otherwise, STFU.

  38. Annie, I hardly disagree with any of your complaints about the creeping assault on the middle class over the last 30 years. I see the plutocracy everywhere. If 9/11 was a coup though, then it succeeded only because voters bent over and took it. Voters have not taken responsibility for their role in this. The reason there was not more discussion on Iraq is because too many voters were either consumed with fear or vengeance after 9/11 that they weren’t thinking straight. Too many were lulled into over-confidence by the apparently easy victory over the Taliban. Too many forgot the lessons of Viet Nam. Too many were willing to believe the Bush administration’s lies. If 9/11 was a planned peal harbor event (and I’m not convinced it was), it had the effect of cowing the public in the way intended. But it was a battle, not the end of the war.

    I doubt Occupy is quiet because they’ve been silenced by malicious force. And if they can be silenced that easily then there isn’t enough political will and determination there to succeed anyway. I think a lot of people got tired of living in parks and being beat up or pepper sprayed by cops. But that is not the only form of expression or organization available. Organizing and building consensus is damn hard, but people were hoping that change would be quicker and easier than it really is. Still, Occupy has had a positive impact on the national consciousness. One of the most constructive actions of Occupy was to submit a list of recommendations on the Volker rule in Dodd-Frank, and to lobby for transaction fees, among some other good reforms. Having eloquent spokesmen on national news shows helped too. I would be happy to see more constructive actions with identifiable policy goals coming out of that movement. I’d like to think it was more than a temporary reprise of the 60s. There are just way too many voters, both liberal and conservative, who have spent too many years struggling to pay their mortgages, raising their kids, showing up at work every day for decades, to be very impressed by a brief show of youthful energy in the form of camping out in parks. The idea of not reaching consensus on specific policy goals, but somehow of organically rebuilding society from the ground up, or whatever the concept was, was too vague and too optimistic and biting off more than a political movement can hope to chew. There needs to be more focus than that.

    I’m pleased that at least you interrupted the list of complaints to offer something intended to be a constructive proposal and a move toward solving problems. But I doubt trying to hijack the convention will succeed. That sounds kind of like an attempt to replay Chicago in 1968, which failed and possibly helped Nixon take the White House instead of Humphrey, which did truly matter in lives lost and progress retarded.

    But just for the sake of argument, I wonder what names you would propose, and how your choice would go about solving all the problems, especially if Republicans are able to maintain a House majority and at least 40 Senators or even gain a Senate majority? At some point you have to acknowledge that these Congressmen are elected, and if the public hates them so much they should be capable of electing others. You may say that people are stupid, but that won’t help much in building consensus. You have to realize, they think differently for a variety of complicated reasons, and you have to come to terms with that.

    I’m with you in a lot of the outrage, but I’ve seen far too many elections to feel like impatient and desperate action is going to dramatically shift things. It often has the opposite of the intended effect. I’m too familiar with how suspicious people struggling to make ends meet are of radical change. We don’t have enough people starving or suffering cold winters without fuel to revolt.

    It could be considered a victory if the last 30 years of class war on the middle class could be reversed by patient consensus building and democracy over the next 10 to 15 years. It feels like we are on the verge of a breakthrough. The 9/11 fog is lifting slowly, and people are realizing how badly they’ve been screwed. But it could take 30 years. These are the time scales you need to think on in a democratic republic as complex as ours. To do that you need to understand what the barriers to understanding are, and overcome them to get enough people on board.

    I don’t think things are so bad we should all put bullets in our heads yet, nor would it pay to start a civil war or a revolution.


    @Jeff Johnson – how dare you not mention the WARS OF CHOICE? And the re-tooling of the USA economy to fund perpetual war in the Middle East and those ridiculous Welfare Queens? How dare you not mention fractional reserve banking as the greatest evil that humanity can ever do TO ITSELF? How dare you say it’s our fault when people like Kucinich in CONGRESS had CONTRACTS put on them to take them out with a bullet? No, my friend, WAY too late to cut and paste all the talking points you’ve collected on the internet that are so smooth, in your opinion, and throw them into one argument to see what sticks. You did not address a single REAL problem.

    LABOR has no representation in CONGRESS. Just how fk “different” do you think the opinions are about what is FAIR? No one single person has said anything in any way shape or form different from what I just said to you.

    And how is that transaction tax on Wall Street going that the OCCUPY WALL STREET movement put forth – scheesh – is OCCUPY WALL STREET not “focused” enough for you? What part don’t you understand?

    Scientists – not paid psychos for oil barons – are on the same page – we do not have the TIME to make the ENERGY changes we need after 30 YEARS OF BEING HELD BACK FROM MAKING THEM!!!! And all we are supposed to help cough up our last egg-laying chicken to invade IRAN because they insulted the Israelis? How about incessantly being called stupid and not deserving of a home 24/7 by plutocrat puppets not INSULTING?

    Wake up, Jeff, there are 7 billion people on this planet. Funny how 7 billion see certain things in the same way: Every HUMAN BEING has the right to make THEIR OWN LIVES less miserable through honest work.

    The stealing part of the program is over – all options are on the table to stop that gravy train. Greed (fractional reserve banking) ALWAYS gives birth to violence. A L W A Y S.

    How SICK is it that you are saying that there are NO other names to put up for nominations at the convention? Take the phone book, and pick one. Any one is better than another billion $$$$ eliza DOO LITTLE.

    You’re out of time because you stole 30 years of it from us.

  40. Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote an article about fascism. Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia­), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifyin­g characteri­stics of fascism.

    Powerful and Continuing Nationalis­m
    Disdain for the Recognitio­n of Human Rights
    Identifica­tion of Enemies/Sc­apegoats as a Unifying Cause
    Supremacy of the Military
    Rampant Sexism
    Controlled Mass Media
    Obsession with National Security
    Religion and Government are Intertwine­d
    Corporate Power is Protected
    Labor Power is Suppressed
    Disdain for Intellectu­als and the Arts
    Obsession with Crime and Punishment
    Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
    Fraudulent Elections

  41. Molto great commentary here, and the divides are clean. There are those holding to the tattered remnants of oldAmerica (an America that no longer exists), and lean to false hopes of false optimism, and there are those that don’t. 911 is the critical threshold. Whatever happened on that dark we’ll never know – but again there are those that believe that evildoers are singularly responsible for the horrors of 911, and those who believe the fascists in the bushgov were DIRECTLY involved in and responsible for that nightmare. Since we’ve never had a real investigation into the horrors of 911 – these two opposing positions can never be resolved. There is and will remain an entrenched irreconcilable divide. The Obama government allowing the fascists in the bushgov to walk free was the greatest betrayal in American history since Ford pardoned that nazi nixon (may he rot in hell).

    One side pretends that we can still fix these horrorshow problems and that the institutions that formally defined America still have significance and relevance. This side admonishes any revolutionary talk or movement as giving aid and comfort to the enemy, unpatriotic, and conspiratorial. Others believe based on years and massive mountains of evidence that the entire system that is Amerika today is a putrid rotten rapidly matasticizing cancer that must be eradicated. For us (and our numbers are greater than predatorclass parrots imagine) are close to engaging in the “alter and abolish it” phase.

    Predatorclasss monsters speak with forked tongues, blaming the people for every wrong majikally ignoring for example that the bushgov prosecuted in concert with the complicit parrots in the socalled MSM a psychos op, disinformation, propaganda, perception management, and information domination campaign on the the dim sheep that is the Amerikan public. Big huge giant gargantuan gop government was and remains singularly responsible, accountable, and culpable for pimping and bruting a festering noxious stream of Office of Special Plans conjured fictions, myths, deceptions, and patent naked LIES repeated relentlessly by the gospel according to fox and all the other parrot networks owned and controlled by, and totally beholden to predatorclass oligarchs and fascists titans and tyrants.

    The many festering and matasticizing evils that frame fascist Amerika today are the result of leadership failure and wanton profiteering – NOT the people.

    There is no balm in Gilead! There is no fixing, repairing, or righting Amerika’s monstrous wrongs. It’s very close to the “altering and abolishing it” phase. There are no laws for the predatorclass, but the people are ruthlessly oppressed and denied all the former rights, freedoms, privileges, and protections that formally defined America.

    We inhabit a fascist state operated and controlled by pathological sociopaths and psychopaths.

    I’m optimistic. Optimistic that this horrorshow and fascist commandeering of Amerika will be “altered and abolished”.

    In a world where there are no laws – there are no laws for anyone predatorclass biiiiaaatches!

    Burn it all down! Reset!!! Sent from my iPhone

  42. Well, Jeff, I wrote this really nice reply to you about how Huey Long and his Share the Wealth clubs with 7.5 million members convinced FDR to push through Social Security, WPA and a bunch of other reforms in 1935, but then I lost my wireless connection and my entire carefully crafted post, so just look it up on Wikipedia, okay?

    Anyway, my point was, it didn’t take FDR 30 f***ing years to get the message.

    Are you a very young man, Jeff? Because personally, I don’t have 30 years to figure this out. And neither does this country.

    Things are changing fast, and things are changing hard. If you want to hang onto the status quo, it might be smart to … hide. World War III ain’t gonna save us this time, honey.

  43. Word Carla. The predatorclass days of marauding and pillaging the middleclass will come to a swift and brutal end!!!

  44. Jeff, at this point I don’t think this generations ideas, solutions, or votes are going to change anything for the average citizen. When you vote for a candidate you approve of his or her behavior in law making. I disapprove of the path(s) taken by today’s politicians and the results are beginning to show why. It’s the job of the Federal Reserve to control price inflation with the help of the congress, they have done just the opposite, their laws and hypocrisy about their approach is as unreal as it is wrong. Rigging things so that any little hiccup has to be absorbed by the middle class while the fat cats get paid either way was made for the upper class by the upper class. Insurance itself is a hugh scam, as are bonds, laws, and big business. None of it favors the consumer, in fact they thrive off of the consumer like a parasite able to control it own destiny. Young as you are, you can not see that a complete reset is the only solution to balance the scales of injustice, an injustice that would feed off itself once their resources ran dry and their human capital was used up. Waiting is the hardest part for you, I know. And Carly, I’ll pick up the back end of your 30 years to see the job through.

  45. @Tony – “Predatorclasss monsters speak with forked tongues, blaming the people for every wrong majikally ignoring for example that the bushgov prosecuted in concert with the complicit parrots in the socalled MSM a psychos op, disinformation, propaganda, perception management, and information domination campaign on the the dim sheep that is the Amerikan public. Big huge giant gargantuan gop government was and remains singularly responsible, accountable, and culpable for pimping and bruting a festering noxious stream of Office of Special Plans conjured fictions, myths, deceptions, and patent naked LIES repeated relentlessly by the gospel according to fox and all the other parrot networks owned and controlled by, and totally beholden to predatorclass oligarchs and fascists titans and tyrants.”

    That’s the new definition of “religion” – Peter Jennings did a documentary on how and where the Evangelical movement was hatched by psycho ops – of course, “chemicals” were involved (extasy).

    In a nutshell, it’s one metastasizing Jim Jones Jonestown story after another. Good people are not stupid, they are just naive to the sheer amount of perfidy around them – they’re child-like, distracted by the Pharisaism heaped on their daily efforts to make their lives less miserable. They built the Jonestown – a sign that they are NOT stupid, but the whole time Jim Jones had another plan. That’s USA psycho ops in one story – know that story, know it all. So how can they accuse a person of violence if the person is in a mano et mano fight to make sure that needle isn’t pushed into you? And how can they call it a THREAT to the county if we pass along the names of those who push those needles and defend ourselves pre-emptively?

    Jesse Jackson and ALL of the other civil rights leaders from the 1960s did not TRUST Obama from the get-go. Which is what I have observed often, if every “race” or strong cultural civilization is left alone to clean up it’s own gene pool, they’ll get it right. USA psycho ops has done the MOST damage not with weapons, but by their financial and resource support of the “strong man” in a ‘hood or a country. Not a fair fight, is it? The ENABLE the worst element to do their pre-emptive dirty work. Not for nothing, but how did jazz, blues, motown sound and many other original musical contributions “evolve” into the “rap” genre…?

    I agree, Tony. They are fk PSYCHO to claim self-defense is a national threat and revolutionary. The mask is off Jim Jones – and all of his clones and drones.

    Need a couple of EXTREME strategists – no collateral damage allowed in the formula. Can be done….HISTORY is replete with “strategy” – how Just Wars are won – “solidarity” :-)

  46. Annie,
    I can’t mention everything in one post. I don’t disagree with your outrage and your complaints (well maybe some of it could be exaggerated, but I’m with you in spirit). But certainly I did mention the mistakes of wars of choice in an earlier post you must not have read. I can’t mention everything I know and think in one post. Try to give me the benefit of the doubt a little, and try to read between the lines. I’m not blind to the horrors of the last twelve years, or to the capitulations of Democrats that led to the repeal of Glass Steagall and the 2000 Commodities and Futures Modernization Act, which left the Wall Street criminals free to gamble with huge piles of ordinary depositors federally insured cash. I’m not blind to the bias of Fed policy in favor of plutocrats, privileging inflationary concerns over unemployment concerns.

    Carla and flbt,
    I’m 53, and went to college in the mid-70s. I’ve been voting in elections since 1977 and 1980 was my first Presidential election. I voted for Carter in the general, but for Kennedy in the primary. I attended California public school and then I attended University of California, Santa Cruz. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my college expenses. My resident tuition ranged from around $700 to $800 per year! And that tuition was covered by a Cal Grant A, something I qualified for with good grades. I finished after 5 years with two degrees and about $5,000 in debt at very low interest rates (around 3%), which I had little trouble paying off after only a few years. That was before the days of Prop. 13 in California. I’m outraged at how much students must pay and borrow for an education today. I want every American to have the kind of access to higher education that I had.

    It is exactly because I’ve got some experience watching politics over time that I feel that change comes gradually. Note my optimistic estimate was 10 or 15 years…it need not be 30. In my college days we protested investments in Apartheidt South Africa, and only after 15 years did victory come. In those days the country hadn’t been Reaganized yet. I may be dead in 30 years, but I’m even willing to work toward changes I may not live to see. I don’t want to see a huge part of America enslaved to a tiny aristocratic plutocracy when I’m on my death bed. I think we need to reverse what primarily Republican policies have done to this country. Privatizing health care is a disaster, and privatizing education will be an even bigger mistake. Somalia has small government. Small government can be disastrous, and more Americans need to understand this. I think government spending anywhere under 50% of GDP is reasonable, provided it focuses on efficiently offering a safety net and opportunities and intelligent investments in research. Nobody wants wasteful government spending.

    I’ve experienced a lot of disappointment over the years, and have observed how Republicans have slowly changed the country. They managed to sell a lot of voters on the small government, low taxes, individualist set of ideas. These are easy to sell (evidently) in sound bytes, but they don’t stand up to scrutiny when it comes considering policies for broad middle class prosperity. Today you can observe that Democrats have not been very effective at countering this trend, but you have to look at the votes. Why couldn’t Al Gore beat George Bush with a landslide, with balanced budgets and a surplus scheduled to pay off the national debt by 2010? Why did Republicans win three straight elections in the 80s and early nineties before Clinton? Sadly Unions earned a bad name for themselves, and people forgot how fundamental they were in building the middle class and fair working conditions. Unions allowed corruption to set in, and many overreached in specifying overly restrictive work rules. In some industries a “not my department” attitude set in and replaced the “can do” spirit that enabled American workers to build productive industries and prosperity. These were public perceptions based on many anecdotes, but this enabled Reagan and Republicans to successfully attack the image of unions. Unions were seen as a bloated over-privileged unproductive drag on the economy. As with any successful lie, there were big grains of truth in the story. There were some good arguments on the Republican side regarding Union excesses and welfare dependency. But they have now way overreached on the side of individualism vs collectivism, to the extent that the inevitable corruption of laissez faire capitalism is revealed (once again). Not enough voters realize this yet. The correction to 30 years of Republican folly has not yet happened.

    And we really need policies and practices to be based on intelligent reliance on reason, data, analysis, and track records of success, not faith in God. That is one of my biggest complaints with Republicans, a danger even Barry Goldwater understood well.

    I tend to discount elaborate conspiracy theories, so for example much of the 9/11 truth movement is not persuasive to me, though I read one of Ray Griffin’s books and examined a lot of web sites. I can clearly recognize who benefited though, and who intentionally took political advantage of the event. The only plausible conspiracy scenario in my view is that the CIA and Bush/Cheney knew that there were terrorists in the US planning an attack, and they allowed it to happen because they did want a Pearl Harbor event to enable their agenda of world domination. If that is true, any real American should simply weep, and then fight back. The much larger theories of a completely engineered set of attacks just don’t seem plausible to me. They assume way too much competence and introduce way too many players into the picture to maintain secrecy.

    After reading Ali Soufan’s book “Black Banners” (recommended) though, there seemed to be indications that CIA knew more than they’ve let on about the 9/11 terrorists presence in the US prior to the attacks, and they withheld information from the FBI intentionally. One can’t help but ask why. Plus I just can’t get past the unnatural reaction of Bush, shown in Fahrenheit 9/11 and other documentaries, upon first being “informed”. That look just seemed to say, “shit, what have we done,” more than “wow, this is a huge surprise and an emergency I must deal with immediately”. But this is highly subjective. That look may have meant “oh no, we were afraid of this, what do I do now?” Again, the man is just a human being, and not necessarily more competent than any above average intelligence human. So a moment of weakness and despair is not necessarily a look of guilt. It’s impossible to know.

    Still, in spite of the worst interpretation of 9/11 events, this country survived the Civil War. That fact should be fully absorbed and appreciated. Think of what that kind of hatred and division and bitter killing was like. Imagine you are in the shoes of people who lived at that time, and compare that to what we are experiencing today. That mental exercise helps me to believe that we can repair and move on, that this is not a moment fatal to the Republic.

    Democrats are obviously not perfect, nor should they be expected to be. I watched the Mike Lofgren interview with Kristal Ball, and I also read Lofgren’s op-ed last year when he first came out rejecting Republican lunacy. I think if you watch carefully, Lofgren lays blame on both parties, but he lays more blame on Republicans than on Democrats.

    For me at least Democrats are making efforts in the right direction. A vote for a Democrat doesn’t say “I approve of everything you are doing”. It says “I like your direction better than the Republican direction, and I want more of it”. If the incremental compromise health reform Obamacare had brought landslide victories to Democrats in 2010, that would put Democratic voters in a position to say “Now we want single payer”. Instead voters failed to come through like that, and it has paralyzed any progress toward the left. Many progressives turned their nose up at the inadequacy of Obamacare. This was a failure of progressives. The way to get what you want in politics is not by staying at home to “punish” your side. That just hands victory to the guys that really suck. The way to get what you want in politics is to be an energized organized reliable voting block that your party can rely on to show up at the polls. Once you demonstrate that in several elections, your voice will carry more weight with the politicians. This is why I say what voters do matters. It really isn’t meaningless to vote Republican or Democrat, and not voting, or voting third party, by progressives and liberals will certainly help Romney and Ryan succeed in further gutting the safety net.

    These things may seem like small potatoes when you have larger visions of how things should be, but these things matter, and they are part of building the kind of momentum Republicans used to screw everything up. That momentum of reliable voters in large numbers is what Democrats need to have in order to move further in a progressive direction, but the votes haven’t been there. There are not enough people who identify themselves as progressive. If all the liberals abandon Democrats because they have appealed to moderates, the governance of this country could really collapse in the direction that Grover Norquist and Mitch McConnel and Paul Ryan want it to go.

    Progressives and liberals need to reenergize the Democratic party the way the Tea Party has done the Republicans. Articulating a coherent message that Democrats can improve government to efficiently provide health, education, investment in clean energy, opportunities for training and other programs to help people to help themselves, would give moderate centrists something positive to listen to rather than the endless nasty Republican accusations that a move in the progressive direction is just about more debt, more spending to give free stuff to lazy people. That is the message Rs have effectively sold a large portion of the older generations on. Democrats haven’t successfully countered it, but given the present failures of Republicanism they could, but they need votes to back them up if they are to move in the direction that Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken, Dick Durban, and others would like to move. There is a real difference between these guys and the Ryans and Cantors and Boehners and McConnells and the unhinged Tea Party wingnuts.

    The biggest failing of liberals and progressives recently was to not continue to back Obama and Democrats substantially at the polls in 2010. It seems a lot of the youth worked hard in 2008, as did I, but too many thought that was enough and gave up in 2010. Or too many behaved like children and threw hissy fits when not every problem was solved in two years. That is an unrealistic view of the true complexity of American politics. Democrats have been paralyzed for two years because of the losses in 2010. Punishing Democrats for not being perfect has only helped the Republicans regain their footing.

    With solid Democratic majorities in 2010 we could have had more stimulus, more investment in clean energy, more progress on immigration, a real chance to see what progressive policies can do for the economy and growth. If the politicians see that moving in the progressive direction keeps winning for them at election time, we can build momentum and movement in that direction. But if the young give up after two years because not all expectations were met, then they will always fail to succeed in politics. Consistency and staying power even in the face of adversity and temporary set backs and dissapointment is required. That is what Republicans and the religious right have successfully done for the last 30 years, and Democrats, including liberals and progressives, have failed to do.

  47. @Jeff – I’m with Sting – “…there is no political solution to our troubled evolution…”

    Making it about corrupt unions – and guess who corrupted them – instead of keeping it on the FACT that one of two major political parties in the USA has to represent LABOR is a ridiculous spin. Are unions to blame for this in South Africa?

    The first attempt to bring down the Twin Towers with the bombs was done with the help of an engineer who was a manager in the purchasing department of Allied Signal in Morristown NJ! A major corporation providing lots of military stuff…so, yeah, who doubts the slam-dunk bs happened, “…let the Chaos theory play out because it’ll all work for our secret plans if it does….” By the third day after 911, the reporters from the NJ-NYC area – the professional regulars on the major channels – were putting events together so well that a couple more days and the REAL story would have been pieced together by the LOCAL police, FBI, Marshalls, and journalists – and guess what happened, some black ops feds arrived, confiscated the documentation generated by the investigation and set up OFFICIAL CENSORSHIP OF THE NEWS – they would not allow any news story to air that was not approved by a black ops person – there’s the origin of all the “your comment is awaiting moderation” that is still going on today? And it is FAR from being “velvet glove” – it’s SAVAGE when coupled with THE PATRIOT ACT. Roughly 100 million objectors to pre-emptive war thrust into poverty thanks to THE PATRIOT ACT. We have the stinki’ PROOF of how they did it…

    I was in Poland as a student when it was still “communist” and there was more freedom of speech and exchange of information and opinions and even political activity than there is in USA to this very day.

    911 was a coup d’etat and THIS IS CLEAR to everyone.

    @Tony F – here’s the one thing we can never forget when we need to replenish our spirits to keep on keeping on….I know and you know and a lot of people know that in our personal lives, we operate as normal-minded human beings guided by superior moral and ethical values than what has been passed as “laws” by the predator class since 911 – especially is this true of The Patriot Act. They absolutely do not have the higher moral ground because when you look at the “laws” they passed, you can see nothing but a Somali War Lord’s cynical abuse of the IDEA of a “law”. Am I being overly-dramatic? Nope. There is no disagreement – everyone agrees that they won’t stop until we stop them. We have the right to protect OUR LIVES from bad laws especially when there is no disagreement that the people passing these “laws” do NOT represent We The People.

    So what is the political argument, Jeff, for allowing ourselves to be crushed by laws PASSED by people who openly admit to not representing us in Congress? They’re not shy about assassinating anyone who runs to be a representative OF THE PEOPLE (LABOR), are they? And that’s NOT a pre-emptive, low key war…??!!

    If I take out the mercenary sent to take me out – what then? Go to jail because the record of that contract got destroyed when some romney-boy left his political apointment job and the LAW says that I have the burden to provide the evidence that there was a contract or I’m guilty of murder…? It’s so “complex”, alright. Basically it was a financial “entrapment” with the Patriot Act getting in on taxation enforcement akin to the what’s-the-way-out? of being first screwed by having a contract on you and then screwed again if you make it out alive of that death trap with it not being your body lying dead.

    Read “Just War” criteria again. That kind of brute force command and control and abuse of a judicial system DOES wreck far more havoc on more people than an actual pitchforks and torches uprising would in our scenario today. The ONLY role of government is to protect the INDIVIDUAL against force and fraud. Wall Street is the OPPOSITE of that – they use ONLY force and fraud, at will, against the INDIVIDUAL with the total approval of the FEDERAL government who OWES interest $$$$ to the FRB – it’s a fk sick situation – completely FOREIGN to USA’s cultural and financial evolution – nothing indicates this situation came about as a natural evolution from the MOON-WALKING days of the 1960s…

    “….There is no political solution to our troubled evolution….”

  48. This is a quote from the Mike Lofgren piece last year in truthout:

    “This constant drizzle of “there the two parties go again!” stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends. The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions – if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters.”

    By opting out of active participation in our political system because of frustrations and setbacks, liberals and progressives cede ground to Republicans.

    You don’t hear the God Party Theocrats saying “I’m not going to vote because the liberals have destroyed the country.” They show up at the polls regularly, and the GOP politicians have responded to them more and more since the conservative evangelical movement first got off the ground in 1980.

  49. @Jeff – with ONLY two parties in the USA, it’s impossible to have representation for We the People in Congress if one of those parties is not laser focused on LABOR – JOBS JOBS JOBS.

    I have no use for either party. Registered INDEPENDENTS are the largest political party in USA – how is it possible that there are no candidates from the largest, registered voter political party?

    Carla is correct – we only have one political party now RULING USA – the paid parrots and poodles of the 400 billionaires and they are VIOLENT sociopaths.

    Jeff, you used this from Lofgren, “This constant drizzle of “there the two parties go again!” stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends.”

    Obvious observation, but the point is that GWB and Romney ALSO fit into the category delineated such, “…hazy confusion of low-information voters…”. So instead of being political geniuses, they’re just birds of a feather – “low-information”.

    Liberals, progressives, libertarians, Randians, etc. etc. etc. talking politically 24/7 will end up in the same place as the madness of WWII where millions died because of an argument a few LOONIES with a lot of power and money kept having about one “ism” or another and fed those LUNATIC arguments to the suffering masses (WWI wasn’t cleaned up) in order to deflect away from the real issue of THEIR day, also – which was the same kind of wide spread damage the banksters had caused in EU, China and Japan.Complete madness to expect a different result this time around.

    Fortunately ,we DON’T care what we say to each other anymore. Republicans MURDERED their way into the White House and murdered their way back in with 911. They are guilty of crimes against humanity. Not hauling their carcasses into court for their crimes means that something else will be done in the way of “justice”. It’s NOT going away – this massive desire for truth and justice and fairness with a liberal and progressive voter turnout. Even I can write the algorithm to launch into the electronic voting machines that would produce the RRR ticket as the “winners” – seriously, no one is that stupid on this site to not KNOW what is going on…

  50. Here are some videos that explain why our system of vote counting encourages a two party system, and why voting third party is counter productive until we reform our election system with the alternative vote (aka instant runoff) or STV (Single Transferable Vote).

    The so called spoiler effect punishes third party voting in our system, but the reformed system would encourage third party voting. We need to make our politics smarter. These changes should be nonpartisan.

  51. You are right Jeff about the need to reform the political system. If you really want to make a difference in politics, start with tax reform in politics. I’ve been advocating this message for a while, and it shuts the politicians mouths up real quick because it brings the subject of taxes to a logical conclusion quickly and in addition they relize just how captured they are by the upper class, and sort of freeze in place until the issue goes away and they can get back to regular business.

    The best method to have your way with a politician is to ask them to reform the tax code so that even POLITICIANS can do their own taxes. Who wants a representative of your State, county, or even town that has another do their taxes. Why not just simplify the code for all or have your tax man be the one who gets elected try to solve the dirty laundry economic number problems. The fact is that they can’t, and won’t reason with their constituents to make the system fairer and simpler. The lobbyists and wealthy provide resistance to not only keep the status quo, but also too introduce silly derivative games that are even insured should a natural hiccup occur to offset their balance sheet which then places the burden on the middle class as the easiest way around the potential losses. If you can get enough rebel congressmen in one room, you might perhaps force a change in this direction by reasoning alone. If not it’s plan B, wait for the timer, and etch a sketch your way to a new future.

  52. @Jeff, I guess I have to be clear. The “liberals” and “progressives” and god-knows-what-other-morphed-name they’ll take on – they’re like Prince of Blackwater, er, no Prince of Xe, er, no, today he’s Prince of the Sacred Cow – changing your name does not make you different if you look like a duck and quack like a duck chances are you ARE a duck – gay or straight – but a duck

    RUINED the Democratic Party. Clear enough for you? Just because the billionaires funding the liberal RADICALS are more touchy-feely about their little micro-groups, they have the same agenda as the billionaires on the right. And they have the bucks to argue – INSANELY – on all “media” propaganda channels about their monkey-brain “isms” as much if not more than that same kind of egoistic delusional crap that led to WWII!!!

    War and fractional reserve banking. It’s NOT complicated!!!

    LABOR needs to have representation in Congress to tame and keep at bay those two issues of FORCE and FRAUD because without LABOR you have no war and no clip board men bashing in the front door of single women’s homes with FRAUDULENT documentation and throwing them out on the street. Both types of LABOR now controlled by Rethugs because CRIMINALS and paid MERCENARIES are what replaced Unions, my friend.

    Good job, Brownie….

    White trash Rethugs are so predictable, they will be EASY to take out – POLITICALLY – once LABOR holds the power-reigns of a major political party. Probably should go after the Rethug “political party” since they CLEARLY use murder all the time to get and keep power…

  53. Talking about free market and no state intervention is economic blasphemy. There is no such thing. Look on Vancouver Housing Market: Developments in 2012 – everything points towards price reduction. But is there any reduction at all? Not yet! How comes? No answer.

    Thinking that ANY new government would bring a substantial change to your lives is blasphemy again.
    Believing in political messiah coming to save you from recession is a blasphemy for the third time.

    We are bleeding out our whole life for a few square meters. We pay taxes that other person steals. The problem is not the tax reduction. The problem is in increasing government efficiency.

  54. Barack Obama pointed out to Wall Street banksters that he did succeed in preventing the pitchforks and torches from getting at them. Which shows how dealing with that nefarious cabal of bona-fide, medically diagnosed Psychotics, is nothing other than a journey of self-immolation traversing ever deeper levels of Wall’s Street’s own “Dante’s Inferno”-like “society”. And the loyalty? The banksters act like that was not good enough of a performance on Obama’s part. Like it ever was going to be enough – NOTHING is ever enough. And now 10 years to recovery for 300 million people while THEIR “recovery” is exceeding any grounding or attachment to any level of GLOBAL productivity for the next 100 years! What kind of “math” is that?

    LABOR in 2012 includes the entrepreneurs, the medical mano et mano workers, engineers, architects, SCIENTISTS designing new energy channels, etc etc etc on down to the trash collectors who do much more now because they are the recycling gatekeepers at point of pick-up! You never talk about what “progressivism” means for LABOR, do you, Jeff?

    So here’s a dictionary definition that is ABOVE the monkey brain made-up political definition – which means that if you freeze the goals of a political party for 10 years in order for banksters to do more recovery for themselves, only, you are doing nothing that fits the definition of progress – go figure, huh?:


    1. Movement, as toward a goal; advance.
    2. Development or growth: students who show progress.
    3. Steady improvement, as of a society or civilization: a believer in human progress. See Synonyms at development.
    4. A ceremonial journey made by a sovereign through his or her realm.
    intr.v. pro·gress (pr-grs) pro·gressed, pro·gress·ing, pro·gress·es
    1. To advance; proceed: Work on the new building progressed at a rapid rate.
    2. To advance toward a higher or better stage; improve steadily: as medical technology progresses.
    3. To increase in scope or severity, as a disease taking an unfavorable course.
    in progress
    Going on; under way: a work in progress.

  55. Annie,
    Actually I have often talked about the importance of Labor, and that breaking up of unions has been one of the plutocratic strategies for more than a century, and that since Reagan, Republicans have been very successful at breaking the backs of unions. Making broad sweeping assumptions puts you in peril of making large errors. The word labor doesn’t make it into every paragraph or post because there are also other topics to discuss that don’t necessarily depend on the issues or importance of labor for their conceptual understanding.

    It seems easier said than done to simply revitalize labor unions, or some other political entity that will stand up for the rights of labor and prevent all the productivity gains from being funneled upward into the pockets of big capital.

    I was very disappointed by the policies of Scott Walker and the failure of his recall, to which I contributed money. Why did this fail? Why are Republicans able to get away with attacking Unions so easily? These are questions about our democracy whose answers you need to take into account if you are to move beyond simply complaining and blaming to proposing real solutions, which I don’t really see you doing. I would like to see solutions arise that address the terrible economic inequality and erosion of the middle class that has become so apparent in recent history.

  56. @Jeff, “…Why did this fail? Why are Republicans able to get away with attacking Unions so easily?….”

    You are going in circles – the reason it failed is because there is no POLITICAL party REPRESENTING LABOR! Scheesh. That, and everyone drinks too much alcohol in Wisconsin :-).

    Everyone who is not “corporate” in this global economy in 2012 – is LABOR. And global corps entrenched in USA already are REPLACING experienced and expert labor in science, medicine and engineering with imports who use the resources of the corp to blow up the Twin Towers, for instance. Just check out what ethnic % DOMINATES as employees in the Homeland Insecurity apparatus erected to – well, to do what – POLITICALLY? Is there an equal # of Dems and Reps in those top-clearance positions? We the People can’t even know OR ASK THE QUESTION. And you think there are different issues other than LABOR? With The Patriot Act, aren’t we all NAKED to god-knows-who – they can eliminate us at will, financially, for no other reason than to keep their high-paying, made-up “job” – the JOB created to keep us naked and completely without protection.

    Which political party is screaming to eliminate the Patriot Act sheep-shearing for ME ME ME and my job?

    “Wall Street got bailed out, we got sold out.”

    I just snort in disgust at the Putin bashing from the increasingly loud LIE that “Russia is our greatest threat”…after Homeland Security so efficiently snuffed out OWS. STFU, already. Putin won, the Russian Mob LOST and USA welcomed them as “businessmen” who will no doubt create their own Bain success story as time goes on…they got a hell of a lot more cash than Salvadorans…

    Jeff, “….The word labor doesn’t make it into every paragraph or post because there are also other topics to discuss that don’t necessarily depend on the issues or importance of labor for their conceptual understanding….”

    Like what? War and fractional reserve banking that SUCKS THE LIFE out of LABOR with punitive taxes? 35% gone to pay interest to the Federal Reserve Board on top of all the other bank interest for loans – what other country in the world has made getting educated in the sciences, applied engineering and medical arts a sure-fire way to serfdom?

  57. @Bond Man – thanks for the link. USA history is always interesting to me as a first generation citizen (born and bred in NJ – Christy steals all his one liners and takes them out of context, of course :-)).

    Now layer over the political gyrations of , er, ahem, “religionists” (one man and his pet “ism”) and the funding of insanity through fiat $$ and fractional reserve banking – the money changers – and there really is only one “institution” of power – the looney bin :-))

    Did Tarpley ever do a show on the “hoax” – the Protocols of Zion?

    Scenes from “Monty Python” flashed in my imagination while listening tot he show – now there was a genius troop of comics, no doubt about it :-))

    Can you imagine if it was someone other than the Queen in England during the delusional “ism” turbulence of the 20th century and onward….?

    We are better human beings than the SELF-PROCLAIMED elite are – on every measurable level. They killed to gain power and will kill to keep it. Should not be as easy now for them as running an algorithm, though, should it?

  58. I think the narrative is simple, the GOP thus far, doesn’t articulate any specific solutions. the generality of less government/bad government is superficially compelling. but each utterance needs to be aggressively tackled with a specific query on their policy or approach. R/R want to increase government spending in their areas of interest at the expense of other areas/interests of the commons, they don’t really want small government. Also we tried this BS during the W years, deregulate the economy into a festering, corrupt oligarchy… I think O has this in the bag, as the selection of Ryan has isolated the undecided, which is the category of voters R/R needed in the first place… Ryan is an ideologue. so democrats need brusk, sharp refutations of all the R/R talking points of their nonsense machine.. what an awful campaign this one is we’ll never get to real debating about real issues..just these kind of superficial idiotic sound bites, that have nothing to do with presidential performance.

  59. Right you are, khw, and I commend you.

    @ Annie, you are entirely welcome, you may be a first generation born and bred USA< but you are entirely an American patriot, and I commend you, too.

    I believe Tarpley has yet to systematically feature his research findings on the subject matter indicated in your prior post.

  60. @Bond Man – Unfortunately, with the passage of The Patriot Act and everything else, being on the genocide list of which Tarpley speaks is when it’s time to become an ex-pat. Recently re-visiting two Main Streets, after being away for a decade, that were a regular part of my life in NJ, confirms the immense level of devastation. It’s almost inconceivable to do so much damage so quickly. They’re scenes of some kind of border-area War Zones, not Main Streets. Photojournalism is being censored on the internet, also, NEVER see this in-your-face proof as “news”!

    The internet is 100% a tool of population control through mental terror and easypeasy economic genocide – the wet dream for in-your-business fulfilled beyond even their expectations….

    Speaking of Pat-s, ex and other, low-information doesn’t begin to describe the mind phenomena of the self-proclaimed moral high grounders:

    Looks like only when one “ism” is left standing exposed will the whole hope and change-y thing happen…

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