Posts Tagged ‘Democrats vs. Republicans’

Americans once again chose an outsider

November 18, 2016

donald-trump-stump-640x371In my opinion, Donald Trump got as many votes as he did because he is an outsider.

Why are outsiders popular?  American voters don’t like economic decline or stalemate wars.

The earning power of Americans has been in decline for the past 30 to 40 years, while wealth has become ever-more concentrated in the pockets of 1/10th of 1 percent of the population.

Over the same period of time, the United States has become more and more involved in inconclusive foreign wars.

Americans have turned again and again to outsiders who promise to change the system—Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008.   Donald Trump was the outsider in 2016.

The hunger for outsiders will cease when a President leads the nation on a path to prosperity and peace.  Or when the country has declined to such a state that elections cease to be held or cease to matter.

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Republicans gain even more power in the states

November 14, 2016

Republicans, who already control the majority of state governments, gained complete control last Tuesday in Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and New Hampshire.

These maps show the extent of GOP control.

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The Republican scene – August 13, 2015

August 13, 2015

The War Against Change by John Michael Greer for The Archdruid Report.

Greer argues that the Democratic Party is the party of a failed status quo, except maybe for Bernie Sanders, who wants to restore a few of the New Deal programs of the past.  It is the Republican Party that is the party of change—change for the worse.

Inside the GOP Clown Car by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

RepublicanpartylogoThe Republican candidates in Iowa are trying to out-crazy Donald Trump, and failing.

The 10 Trump Rules by Barry Lefsetz for The Big Picture.  [Added 8/14/2015]

Donald Trump understands how American politics has changed, and the other candidates don’t.

Jeb Bush and Carlos Slim by Steve Sailer for The Unz Review.

The foreign policies of George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush are all shaped by the Bush family’s business ties with Mexican business and political dynasties.

Election 2016: Jeb Bush Leveraged Political Connections for Clients and Allies After Leaving Florida Governorship, Emails Show by Andrew Perez, David Sirota and Matthew Cunningham-Cook for International Business Times.  [Added 8/15/2015]

Scott Walker Gets Schooled by His Neighbor by Eleanor Clift for The Daily Beast.  [Added 8/14/2015]

Democratic Minnesota outperforms Republican Wisconsin.

Scott Walker wants to fire academics with whom he disagrees politically by Michael Mann and Randi Weingarten for The Guardian.

Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul by Andrew Napolitano for The Unz Review.

Chris Christie doesn’t care about the Fourth Amendment or the rest of the Bill of Rights.

How Bobby Jindal Broke the Lousiana Economy by Stephanie Grace for Newsweek. [Added 8/14/2015]

Ted Cruz Wants to Subject Supreme Court Justices to Political Elections by A.J. Vicens for Mother Jones.

Rick Perry Is on the Payroll of His Super-PAC’s Biggest Sugar Daddy by Patrick Caldwell for Mother Jones.

Sam Brownback guts Kansas even more: This is life under America’s worst Republican governor by Paul Rosenberg for Salon.  [Added 8/14/2015]

 

GOP wants to raise Social Security benefits age

July 20, 2015

Almost all the Republican candidates—including Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie and Rand Paul, but not Mike Huckabee or Donald Trump—want an increase in the age for receiving full Social Security benefits.  This is a bad idea.

They are using Social Security as a wedge issue to divide the old from the young.  But in fact, the longer us old-timers are forced to work, the fewer jobs there are for young workers and the less opportunity for young workers to rise.

berniesandersAs Bernie Sanders has pointed out, the Social Security trust fund, which is invested in interest-bearing Treasury bonds, is sufficient to ensure that full benefits will be paid for many years to come, and full benefits can be continued indefinitely by raising the income ceiling on Social Security taxes.

Until recently, there was a bipartisan consensus on reducing Social Security benefits.  Benefits are already being cut by means of a law now in effect that gradually raises the age for full benefits from 65 to 67 (it’s now 66).

President Obama’s budgets called for calculating Social Security cost-of-living increases by means of something called the Chained CPI, which discounts actual price increases when meaning inflation.

He dropped the idea when he proposed the current 2015 budget after opposition from liberal Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren.

Hillary Clinton said she is opposed to plans to privatize or “undermine” Social Security.   So far as I know, she hasn’t said anything more specific.  Two other Democratic candidates—Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley—think Social Security benefits should be increased.  I agree with Sanders and O’Malley.

I say—hooray for partisanship.  It is better than bipartisan agreement on bad ideas.

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Why I vote for candidates who “can’t win”

July 17, 2015

Why vote at all?

I get no material benefit out of it.  I do not determine the results of any election.  I have never voted in an election for public office that was decided by one vote, or even 100 votes.

By voting, I do two things.  I do my duty as a citizen of a democratic country.  I express my belief in the direction of my community by my choice of candidate.

Vote-Chop-LegThat being so, why should I limit my choice in the general election to just the two largest parties?  And why should I limit my choice in the primary election to the candidate most likely to win the general election?

People who limit their choice in this way are basing their vote on how they think other people will vote.  To the extent they do this, they allow these other people to determine their choice.

By voting my conviction, I make myself one of these other people.  I am one of the people whose views they have to take into account when they make their decision.

I of course do not criticize anybody who votes for a front-runner or a major-party nominee based on a sincere belief that this person is the best choice, and that the nation is basically on the right path.  I used to think that way myself.

I’ve become disenchanted with the two major political parties because it seems to me they are now more alike than they are different.

That is not to say that they are entirely alike, especially on questions that do not affect the structure of economic and political power.

But there is a bipartisan consensus among candidates for both parties of acceptance of perpetual war, persecution of dissidents, economic decline and immunity from prosecution by high-level criminals that, to me, is more significant than any differences.

I refuse to support militarism, authoritarianism and financial oligarchy by voting for candidates who accept them as normal.

Politics as a spectator sport

July 15, 2015

Some people seem to enjoy national politics as a kind of spectator sport with audience participation.

DCdivided-300x253They root for Team Blue or Team Red, and they do your bit to help their team win.

They vote in the general election for the team they support.  They vote in the primary election for the candidate who will best help their team win in the general election.

They reject the option of voting for a superior candidate on the other team, or for a candidate not on either team, because this might tip the balance for the other team.

When I point to the bipartisan acceptance of the USA’s drift into financial oligarchy, economic stagnation, authoritarianism and perpetual war, the answer I get is that one party is worse than the other, and that is the only relevant consideration.

As committed political sports fans, they made an initial decision as to which team to support, and any subsequent decision is based on its implications for their team’s victory or defeat.

The trap of Red vs. Blue thinking

February 5, 2014

The fundamental fallacy which is committed by almost everyone is this: “A and B hate each other, therefore one is good and the other is bad.”
==Bertrand Russell, in 1956 letter

One of the big obstacles to rational discussion of politics is the notion that you’ve got to sign up for Team Red or Team Blue, and that on any given question, the criterion is which answer helps your team and which helps the other team.

Let me give a couple of examples.

I once argued with a Republican acquaintance about the need for filibuster reform in the Senate, so that bills and appointments could be approved by a 51-vote majority rather than a 60-vote super-majority.   His rebuttal was that Democrats benefit from the filibuster as much as Republicans, and would favor the filibuster when they were no longer in the majority.   This probably was true,  but the question was not what is in the interests of  the Democrat or Republicans, but in the interests of the USA.

Obama.TeaPartyA Democratic friend once said that it was a mistake to “fetishize” the Constitution, because that is what Tea Party Republicans do.  As I see it,  support for the Constitution is the basic social contract that binds the United States together as a nation.  Without it, Americans are no more than a collection of contending ethnic groups or the world’s biggest mass market for advertisers.  Maybe my thinking is wrong, but, if so, what Tea Party members do or don’t think has nothing to do with the case.

I disagree with Rep. Justin Amash, a Tea Party Republican from Michigan, on many issues, such as his role in the irresponsible government shutdown,  but I think he is worthy of praise for co-sponsoring legislation to curb abuses of the National Security Agency.

I have been enrolled as a Democrat since I first registered to vote.  I once thought there was an intrinsic difference between the two political parties.  I agreed with the historian, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who wrote in The Age of Jackson that the Republican Party and its predecessors, the Whig Party and the Federal Party, represented the interests of Wall Street and big business, while the Democratic Party, going back to Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson, was a coalition of everyone who might be harmed by the abuse of business power.  Schlesinger thus rationalized the fact that the Democratic coalition in the 1940s and 1950s included Southern white supremacists.  The interests of the Southern planters were not the interests of Wall Street.

I see now that this is an oversimplified view of history.  From the Civil War to the Great Depression, there were as many progressives in the Republican Party as in the Democratic Party.   The Republican Party was not merely the party of William McKinley and Calvin Coolidge; it was the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, George W. Norris and Fiorello LaGuardia.

And as political scientist Thomas Ferguson has pointed out, the Democratic Party is as much beholden to Wall Street and corporate interests as the Republican Party.

I agree with the Democrats more than the Republicans on most, although not all, issues on which the two parties differ.  But I am much more concerned about political continuity and bipartisan agreement on questions such as propping up Wall Street, extrajudicial killing, preventive detention and warrant-less surveillance. , a consensus that seems to endure in Washington regardless of public opinion. And I am pleased when people from either side of the political aisle dissent from this consensus.  If we Americans want a free, peaceful and prosperous country, we’ve got to get beyond limits of Blue vs. Red.

No political party is worthy of loyalty in and of itself.  No political label is worthy of loyalty.  The only things that are worthy of loyalty are certain principles and certain human beings.  A political party, like a corporation or a union, is merely an organizational structure in which individual people can do certain things.  But if the people are replaced, and their principles and purposes are lost, what is there left to be loyal to?

How big money keeps populism at bay

January 24, 2014

The Democratic Party is in deep trouble going into the 2014 elections, and it’s not solely due, or even mainly due, to gerrymandering, voter suppression or other dirty tricks by Republicans.

Thomas Ferguson

Thomas Ferguson

Their main problem is that the Obama administration is five years old, and there has been no economic recovery for the vast majority of Americans.  While Democrats can justly claim that the economic crash is due to the policies of the Bush administration, voters have a right to expect that by now, the Obama administration would have offered an alternative.

Recognizing the problem, President Obama has started talking about income inequality, and trying to re-energize the Democratic base of support — union members, working women, Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans.   The problem for the President and for Democrats generally is how to do this without jeopardizing their support from big-money donors whose contributions they need to win.

This is a tightrope that Obama has been able to walk so far.  The question is how long he can get away with it.

Political scientist Thomas Ferguson, who is known for his “investment theory” of political parties, and fellow academics Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen recently published an analysis which concluded that the 2012 elections were basically a contest between different factions of the upper 1 percent of income earners.

Nearly two-thirds of itemized contributions to the Obama campaign and more than 70 percent of itemized contributions to the Romney campaign came from donors who contributed $10,000 or more.  Roughly the same breakdowns held for the proportions of total contributions in amounts of $500 or more.  Obama received more small donations than Romney, but both got the bulk of their funds from big donors.

That’s not to say nothing was at stake.  Republican candidates tend to get the support of the oil and gas industry; Democrats the telecommunications and computer industry.  Wall Street shifts back and forth between the two parties, but exercises strong influence over both.

The 2014 congressional elections will be the same, only worse, Ferguson, Jorgensen and Chen predicted, since recent court decisions have removed the last vestiges of restrictions on campaign contributions.

Thomas Frank wrote an eloquent article recently in Harper’s magazine, indicting college-educated progressive Democrats for their passivity and their disconnect from the concerns of working people.  He wrote that they are waiting for the Republican Party to be destroyed by the Tea Party movement, just as in earlier eras they waited for the GOP to be destroyed by George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, supply-side economics, Watergate and Barry Goldwater.

The Democrats’ problem is not just the power of money.  It is that, for many Democrats, the power of money is not an issue.

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The Republican Party is not doomed to disappear

October 17, 2013

Some smart people think the Republican Party is doomed because of the government shutdown debacle.  But Republicans have come back from worse than this.

The Republicans came back from the failures of the George W. Bush administration, from the Newt Gingrich-led shutdown in the 1990s, from the Watergate scandals, and from the Goldwater defeat in 1964.  So I think the Republican Party is going to be with us for the foreseeable future.

bs-ed-horsey-gloomy-gop-20130429American laws and customs make it difficult to challenge the two-party system.  It’s hard for third party candidates to get on a ballot.  Even when they do, few if any journalists take them seriously or give them equal treatment.  Both Democrats and Republicans have a solid base of supporters who will vote for them no matter what.  I don’t see this changing any time soon.

Republicans have a problem in that there is a conflict between their core supporters and their core financial contributors.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers don’t want the government to be shut down.  But the Democrats have the same conflict between what their core voters want and what their campaign donors want.  Silicon Valley and Wall Street donors won’t want a higher minimum wage, a better social safety net or higher upper-bracket taxes.

Partly because the two parties are so much alike in their economic and foreign policies, voters tend to divide along ethnic, regional and generational lines.  Demographic trends are running against the Republican Party, but party leaders have an answer to that:  Rig the election against the demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic.  Techniques include gerrymandering, voter ID laws and other restrictions and possibly tampering with hack-able touch-screen voting machines.  This is reprehensible, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work.

Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932 because the American people thought the Herbert Hoover administration was a failure.  But he was re-elected in 1936 and set the stage for decades of Democratic power because of the popularity of the New Deal.

The Democrats have no such positive program today.   The Tea Party Republicans do stand for something, and have the courage of their convictions, as flawed as these may be.   Democrats when in power—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama—govern as if they were the Republican B Team, the replacements for when the Republicans mess up.

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It’s the Democrats who back NSA spying

June 18, 2013
Click to view.

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Back during the Bush administration, many Democrats, including Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden, opposed warrant-less wiretapping.   But now that the Democrats are in power, there has been a change of mind.

It is a great example of how much politics is a matter of group loyalty rather than loyalty to principle.  Obamaphiles are in favor of whatever President Obama favors, and Obamaphobes are opposed, no matter what.

Presidents Ronald Reagan was noted for “dog whistles”—phraseology that the general public didn’t notice, but that reassured conservative Christians that he really was on their side.  President Obama has a genius for liberal dog whistles.  Liberals believe he is on our side at heart in spite of all the things he actually does.

Click on Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-Terror Tactic for the complete results of the Pew Research poll.

Click on Americans Disapprove of Government Surveillance Programs for the complete result of the Gallup poll.

Both Pew and Gallup found that the NSA surveillance program gets more support from Democrats than Republicans.

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Does the Democratic Party have a future?

April 16, 2013

Democrats are gloating over the divisions and self-destructive path of the Republican Party, but their own party’s leaders are equally divisive and self-destructive.   President Obama and the rest of the party’s top leadership are dismantling everything that would give an ordinary working person or middle-class person a reason to vote Democratic.

I have in mind Obama’s attacks on the social safety net, his “too big to fail” and “too big to jail” policies toward lawbreaking Wall Street banks and his support for treaties that would give corporate-friendly international courts the authority to override U.S. laws protecting workers, public health and the environment.

Newsweek - Obama - The Democrats ReaganI voted for Barack Obama in 2008 when he promised to seek a public option for health insurance, to defend Social Security and Medicare, to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement to protect the interests of workers, to support “card check” to protect the rights of workers to form labor unions, to bring the national security apparatus under the rule of law and the Constitution and to keep the United States out of “dumb wars.”

I voted against him in 2012 because he did just the opposite of these things.   He never even considered a public option.  He has repeatedly offered to cut Social Security and Medicare.   He supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, now being negotiated in secret, which is worse than NAFTA.   He did not support card check, nor has he done anything to defend the rights of labor to organize.  His record on civil liberties and warmongering is worse than that of President Bush.

For quite some time progressives have ceased to defend President Obama’s policies on their merits.   They say we should support President Obama because his policies are not as bad as Paul Ryan’s or Darrell Issa’s.  This puts President Obama in a position to offer what the blogger “Digby” called a Sophie’s Choice.

The White House and the Democratic centrists are holding hostages. … [T]hey’re basically telling the progressives that a hostage is going to get shot no matter what:  Head Start and food inspections today or the elderly, the sick and the veterans tomorrow and they have to choose which one.

via Hullabaloo.

As she wrote, sometimes the best choice is to just say “no”.

Back during the Bush administration, I read What’s the Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Frank and Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant, which were about why working people in Kansas and southwest Virginia voted Republican when the Republican Party pursued policies counter to their interests.   Their answers were not so much that these voters gave priority to cultural and moral issues over their economic interests as that neither party championed their economic issues.

turn-rightNow cultural and moral issues are working more to the advantage of the Democrats than the Republicans, but it is still the case that (with a few honorable exceptions) neither party’s leaders defend the interests of working people.  The Democratic leaders hope that people will vote for them because they are the party of abortion rights, gay rights, gun control and affirmative action (I agree with the first two, but not the last two) and forget about jobs, wages and the social safety net.   I think this is wrong and, on purely pragmatic grounds, I don’t think this is sufficient for a winning electoral coalition.

Public opinion polls show that the majority of Americans blame the Bush administration and not the Obama administration for the Great Recession.  But the fact is that the Obama administration’s economic policies are continuations of the Bush administration policies.   What has President Obama done or proposed that will help wage-earners and the unemployed, or prevent another and worse Great Recession?  I can’t think of anything except the stimulus package, which did not achieve its object but may have prevented an even worse decline.

For the past 20 or so years, the Democrats and Republicans have alternated in power.  Just 10 years ago, the Democratic future seemed as bleak as the Republican future does now, but they quickly came back.  The Republicans could do the same.  I think the American people are not satisfied with either party.  That is why neither one stays in power for more than a term or two.  Eventually either one or both of the two parties will change direction, or one or both of the two parties will break up.   I have lived long enough to know I can’t predict the future.  The only thing I am sure of is that things can’t go on the way they are now.

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Why don’t politicians care about working people?

March 28, 2013
Mark Thoma

Mark Thoma

Mark Thoma, professor of economics at the University of Oregon and host of the Economist’s View web page, wonders why politicians in general and Democrats in particular are so little concerned about the plight of American working people.

Consider… four facts from a recent speech by Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Raskin.

  • First, around two-thirds of the jobs lost during the recession were in moderate-wage occupations, but more than one-half of subsequent job gains have been in low wage jobs.  As she says, recent job gains have been largely concentrated in lower-wage occupations.
  • Second, since 2010 the average wage for new hires has actually declined.
  • Third, about one-quarter of all workers are “low wage” (just over $23,005 per year in 2011 dollars).
  • Finally, involuntary part-time work is increasing, and more than a quarter of the net employment gains since the end of the recession involve part-time work.

[snip]

I don’t blame Republicans for their efforts.  I wish the working class was more important to Republicans, and I cannot understand their indifference to the struggles of so many people.  But that’s not who Republicans are.  Fundamentally, it’s the party of the rich and this is a chance to lower government spending and reduce the pressure for tax increases on high-income households.

I do, however, blame Democrats for allowing them to be successful.  Even though unemployment is extraordinarily high and job opportunities, when they exist at all, are mostly at reduced wages, and even though the future for the working class looks increasingly bleak, too many Democrats have aided and abetted Republicans in this diversion of attention from jobs to the national debt.

Click on Why Don’t Politicians Care about the Working Class? for Thoma’s entire article.

Click on Focusing on Low- and Moderate-Income Working Americans for Sarah Raskin’s speech.

Hat tip to occasional links & commentary

Obama sells GOP agenda to Democrats

March 20, 2013

The battle now going on in Washington over taxes and entitlements is a fixed fight.  Democratic and Republic leaders now agree that crucial safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare would be cut.  The only question is whether reductions in entitlements will be accompanied by moderate tax increases on the upper-income brackets, as the Democrats propose, or not, as the Republicans insists.

Shared SacrificeI blame President Barack Obama more than I blame right-wing Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan.  It is obvious what Ryan’s objective is—to destroy the social safety net, minimize taxes on rich people and give free rein to corporations.  And his supporters are in full agreement with his objective.

Obama’s actions are the opposite of his rhetoric, and, unlike with Ryan, the opposite of what his core supporters want.   I oppose the whole right-wing corporatist coalition—Ryan, Scott Walker the Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council and all the rest.  But I feel betrayed by Obama.

When it comes to the Bill of Rights, President Obama lacks the courage to do what’s right in the face of public opinion.  But when it comes to going against the economic interests of his core supporters, he does possess the courage, as well as the political skill, to enact unpopular policies that are deeply wrong.

I forget who said that if Barack Obama is a liberal, he is an idiot, but that if he is a conservative, he is a genius.   I think he’s a genius.  Who else could have created a situation in which Democrats regard attacks on Social Security and Medicare as the moderate liberal position?

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A vote for the “idea of Obama”

November 9, 2012

idea of obamaThe cartoonist Tom Tomorrow used to draw cartoons showing the disconnect between the actual Barack Obama and the “idea of Obama” in the minds of his core supporters.   The “idea of Obama” is a cautious progressive who favors peace, civil liberties, full employment and health insurance for all.   Even though, in my opinion, this view does not reflect reality, I’m glad that a majority of voters apparently favor the “idea of Obama,” or at least think it is better than the alternative.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote the other day:

The greatest and most enduring significance of Tuesday night’s election results will likely not be the re-election of Barack Obama, but rather what the outcome reflects about the American electorate.  It was not merely Democrats, but liberalism, which was triumphant.

To begin with, it is hard to overstate just how crippled America’s right-wing is.  Although it was masked by their aberrational win in 2010, the GOP has now been not merely defeated, but crushed, in three out of the last four elections: in 2006 (when they lost control of the House and Senate), 2008 (when Obama won easily and Democrats expanded their margins of control), and now 2012.  The horrendous political legacy of George Bush and Dick Cheney continues to sink the GOP, and demographic realities – how toxic the American Right is to the very groups that are now becoming America’s majority – makes it difficult to envision how this will change any time soon.

Meanwhile, new laws to legalize both same-sex marriage and marijuana use were enacted in multiple states with little controversy, an unthinkable result even a few years ago, while Obama’s late-term embrace of same-sex marriage seems to have resulted only in political benefit with no political harm.  Democrats were sent to the Senate by deeply red states such as Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, along with genuinely progressive candidates on domestic issues, including Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, who became the first openly gay person elected to the Senate.  As a cherry on the liberal cake, two of the most loathed right-wing House members – Rep Joe Walsh of Illinois and Allen West of Florida – were removed from office.

via Glenn Greenwald

The actual differences between Obama and Mitt Romney were less than their campaign rhetoric indicated.  I think both candidates are aligned with Wall Street and the military-industrial complex, both accept perpetual warfare as a necessity which supersedes the Bill of Rights.  Within that basic framework, Obama will try to appease poor people, minority groups and feminists while Romney would have scapegoated them.

In their campaign speeches, Obama and Romney were very different.  We might have been back in the days of Johnson versus Goldwater.  The election outcome was highly significant as an indicator of what the voters want, although not necessarily of what they’re going to get.

I think that President Obama’s priority is to make a Grand Bargain with the Republicans on balancing the federal budget, which will involve compromising Social Security, Medicare and other historic Democratic social safety net programs.

But maybe I am wrong (which I certainly have been in the past) and the President’s supporters are right.  Either way it is important for Americans to let their elected representatives know what they think about important issues—preserving Social Security, not going to war with Iran, preventing Wall Street banks from gambling with the U.S. economy.

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A time for decision

October 4, 2012

politics democrats vs. republicans

My desired outcome for the Presidential election is that the Green Party, the Libertarian Party or both get a larger number of votes than the margin of victory in the popular vote between the Democratic and Republican candidate.

My ideal (unrealistic, I know) outcome is that the Greens and Libertarians would gradually replace or take over the Democrats and Republicans, so that we Americans would have an actual choice of parties based on genuine differences of principle.

Click on Political Cartoons from Tom Toles for more cartoons.

Who caused the deficit?

September 17, 2012

I’m not a supporter of President Obama, but if I thought that balancing the federal budget was the overriding issue, I would vote for him.  On fiscal matters, he is a better conservative than the present Republican Party leadership.

Remember that the fiscal year begins in October of the previous year.  The 2009 fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2008, and so is the responsibility of the George W. Bush administration, except for the stimulus program enacted after Barack Obama took office.

The main causes of the federal budget deficit were the tax reductions proposed by President George W. Bush, the cost of invading Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Great Recession, which reduced tax revenues while automatically increasing spending for the social safety net.   Recall that when President George W. Bush took office, he and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan thought that federal budget surpluses were a problem, and Bush’s tax reduction program was intended to eliminate those surpluses.

I see little hope of balancing the federal budget until (1) the Clinton era tax rates are restored, (2) military spending is brought under control and (3) the Great Recession comes to an end.  President Obama has proposed restoring Clinton era taxes on upper-bracket taxpayers, and he is reducing the size of the U.S. military (although not cutting back on its mission).  Obama’s embrace of drone warfare is, I think, partly for budget reasons, like the Eisenhower-Dulles “massive retaliation” policy of the 1950s.

The most important step to bring the federal budget under control would be to bring the Great Recession to an end.  Budget problems, like other problems, are relatively easy to solve under conditions of peace and prosperity.  So long as unemployment is high and poverty is increasing, tax revenues will be low and spending on the social safety net should be relatively high.

Newt Gingrich called President Obama the “food stamp” President.  The present food stamp program was created by bipartisan legislation in the 1970s co-sponsored by Senators Robert Dole and George McGovern.  The reason spending on food stamps is high is because the Great Recession is pushing people into unemployment and poverty-wage jobs.  We should not change the law and let children go hungry, but by work toward a high-wage, full employment economy in which hard-working people won’t need food stamps.

Click on Marketwatch: Obama spending binge never happened for background and the source of the first two charts.

Click on The Four Causes of the Huge Deficit for more background and the source of the next to last chart.

Click on Causes of the Trillion Dollar Deficits for more background and the source of the bottom chart.

Click on Greenspan Endorses a Cut in Tax Rate for an article from 2001 about how Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan and President George W. Bush wanted to get rid of budget surpluses.

Click on ‘Reagan Proved Deficits Don’t Matter’ for comment on the Crooks and Liars web log on changing Republican attitudes toward the deficit.

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Democrats vs. Republicans on unemployment

May 13, 2011

Click on Leftycartoons for more like this.

The life cycle of political beliefs

April 8, 2011

Folks on a web site called OK.trends produced some interesting graphs on how political beliefs change over time.  The data comes from 172,853 people who answered questionnaires on a dating site called OK.cupid.  Maybe they’re not a representative cross-section of the population.  Take it for what you think it is worth.

They then took the data and applied it to Democratic and Republican party affiliation.  The results appeared to be good for the Democrats, but the OK.trends folks say that closer analysis gives the advantage to the Republicans.

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Soul brothers: Carter, Clinton, Obama

September 15, 2010

Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were white men who were Governors of Southern states.  President Barack Obama is a black man who was a Senator from a Midwestern state.  Yet in their politics and policies, they are more alike than they are different.

All three ran for office as outsiders.  They had little or no experience on the national scene, but they turned that liability into an asset.  They said they would break with politics as usual in Washington, and bring about a new era.  Once in office, they claimed to transcend partisanship, and to have got beyond traditional liberal vs. conservative thinking.

In fact, none of them represented a break with the past.  They filled their Cabinets from the ranks of the Washington establishment.  They weren’t exactly failures.  They all had certain accomplishments.  But neither Carter nor Clinton was a transformative President in the way that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were, and I expect the same will be true of Obama.

Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama have been outstanding in their intellectual mastery of the details of policy and government – much more so than Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush.  But Reagan and Bush knew something more important.  They knew their own minds.  They had guiding philosophies which informed their judgments and the judgments of their superiors.

Carter and Clinton were pragmatists, as is Obama. They rejected “ideology.”  Their aim, like Obama’s, was to support whatever produced the best results.  But in practice, they seemed to flounder.  In contrast to the Reagan and Bush administrations, their administrations lacked direction.  Pragmatism was un-pragmatic.  It didn’t work.

Reagan and Bush met the “elevator speech” test; you could state their principles to somebody on an elevator before the person got off at the next floor.  Their basic principle was that government was evil and its activities should be minimized, except in regard to national security and preserving order, in which case its powers should be absolute.  I don’t agree with this philosophy, but it is understandable.  I could not give an elevator speech explaining Carter’s philosophy, nor Clinton’s, nor Obama’s.

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U.S. economy under Democrats and Republicans

July 15, 2010

By almost every measure, the U.S. economy has fared better under Democratic Presidents than under Republicans. Some of this may be due to chance.  A President, after all, does not control the timing of the economic cycle.

But I think a lot of it is due to the fact that Democrats historically have been more oriented to wage-owners, and Republicans to holders of financial assets.  When there is a full-employment, high-wage economy, everybody does well.  A policy of “percolate up” beats one of “trickle down.”

Here are links that show what I mean.

Politicians Lie, Numbers Don’t by Michael Kinsley

Presidents and Congress, Democrats and Republicans, Spending, Taxation, Debt and GDP on the Angry Bear web site.

The Laffer Curve in real life by Jay Bookman, a blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution [added 9/20/10]

Here are charts if you don’t want to plow through the links.  I admit I didn’t get sources for all the information in the charts, but you can get confirmation of the basic information in the links.

Also. keep in mind that, as they say on Wall Street, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Chart added 9/26/2015.  Source: Mark Thoma

Jeb Bush’s Claims and Reality by Mark Thoma for Economist’s View.  [added 9/26/2015]

this chart added 2/8/11

this chart added 2/8/11

this chart added 2/8/11

this chart added 2/8/11

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