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Two Key Weaknesses of the American Political System

(About a 6 minute read)

For the most part, the American Founders were politically astute men.  Many had served in their colonial legislatures, or — like Franklin — had considerable experience organizing people in order to get various things accomplished.  They were well aware of the political consequences of what they called “factions” — groups with an agenda.

What they did not foresee, however, was that the presidential system would inevitably lead to the factions coalescing into two parties.

Today, we know that is an inevitable consequence of a presidential system of government because we have seen it happen in every country in which the system has been tried — mainly African and South American nations.

Continue reading “Two Key Weaknesses of the American Political System”

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Some Reactions to the Debt Ceiling Deal

We currently have a deeply depressed economy. We will almost certainly continue to have a depressed economy all through next year. And we will probably have a depressed economy through 2013 as well, if not beyond.

The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.

From “The President Surrenders”, posted in The New York Times, by Paul Krugman.

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How can the leader of the Democratic Party wage an all-out war on the ostensible core beliefs of the Party’s voters in this manner and expect not just to survive, but thrive politically?  Democratic Party functionaries are not shy about saying exactly what they’re thinking in this regard:

Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said polling data showed that at this point in his term, Mr. Obama, compared with past Democratic presidents, was doing as well or better with Democratic voters. “Whatever qualms or questions they may have about this policy or that policy, at the end of the day the one thing they’re absolutely certain of — they’re going to hate these Republican candidates,” Mr. Mellman said. “So I’m not honestly all that worried about a solid or enthusiastic base.”

In other words: it makes no difference to us how much we stomp on liberals’ beliefs or how much they squawk, because we’ll just wave around enough pictures of Michele Bachmann and scare them into unconditional submission. That’s the Democratic Party’s core calculation: from “hope” in 2008 to a rank fear-mongering campaign in 2012.

From “Democratic Politics in a Nutshell”, posted on Salon.com, by Glenn Greenwald.

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Overheard: Thanks for protecting the job creators, you know for creating jobs for chauffeurs, valets, domestic help, and most importantly seamstresses who specialize in crafting $100 bills into luxurious overcoats. ~ Jim Cutler

From “US Debt Highlights ~ The Day After…”, posted on The Bis Key Chronicles, by Gandalfe

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The protracted negotiations over the debt ceiling, as well as the final package agreed to by President Obama and the congressional leadership, show what happens when a small minority is allowed to gain control over national debate. While polls consistently show that the vast majority of the public sees jobs as the main problem facing the economy, there has been a well-funded crusade to ignore public opinion and make cuts to social insurance programs and other spending the top priority for Congress and the President.

From “Statement on the Debt Ceiling Deal“, posted on The Center for Economic and Policy Research Website, by Dean Baker.

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“Shame on you! you who make unjust laws and publish burdensome decrees, depriving the poor of justice, robbing the weakest of my people of their rights, despoiling the widow and plundering the orphan. What will you do when called to account, when ruin from afar confronts you? To whom will you flee for help?”

– Isaiah 10:1-3

From “A Warning to Congress”, posted on Dover Beach, by Θεόφιλος.

 

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Paul Krugman on How the Media is Distorting the Budget Debate

The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats — who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether — have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.

As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media apparently can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this simple reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.

The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.

From “The Centrist Cop-Out”, posted in The New York Times, by Paul Krugman

A lot has changed about America in the past dozen or so years, but I think it’s still safe to say most Americans like to play fair.  And the notion that both sides are to blame, or the notion the truth lies somewhere in the middle,  appeals to our sense of fairness.

Unfortunately, that sense of fairness is no longer of much use in sorting out the facts.  Today, most of the problem is being caused by one side, the Republicans, who have turned into extremists on nearly every issue under the sun.  To portray both sides as equally responsible for the mess we’re in is unfair to those who are opposing the dominance of Republican Extremism.

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Dean Baker on the “Gang of Six” Budget Plan

The budget plan produced by the Senate’s “Gang of Six” offers the promise of huge tax breaks for some of the wealthiest people in the country, while lowering Social Security benefits for retirees and the disabled.

In short, this is a plan that should be expected to please the wealthy since it will mean large reductions in their tax liability in the decades ahead. On the other hand, most of the rest of the country is likely to feel the effects of lower Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, in addition to other cuts that are not yet fully specified.

Dean Baker

It is worth reading the rest of the press release, which is fairly short, but detailed.

 

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Senator Chuck Shumer on Republican Efforts to Undermine the Economy

I want to talk today about the economy and jobs, and the concerns I have that not only has the Republican agenda jeopardized our recovery, but that political gamesmanship is trumping the vital needs of hard working Americans across the country.

It is time to stop beating around the bush and call it as it is. The evidence is clear: the Republican approach of ‘cut, cut, cut’ over the last six months has undermined our economic recovery.

Toward the end of last year, the recovery was gaining momentum – GDP grew 2.6% in the third quarter and 3.1% in the fourth quarter. But in the first half of 2011, as the federal government increasingly withdrew support from the economy and Republicans continually blocked us from doing anything to create jobs, growth has fallen to less than 2%.

The Republicans can say all they want that we can cut our way to prosperity, but is at odds with all the empirical evidence we have. We know from history, as well as from what we are seeing in other parts of the world right now, that cuts on the scale they have proposed in the middle of a recession will lead to lower economic growth and less job creation, not more.

And we need to start asking ourselves an uncomfortable question – are Republicans slowing down the recovery on purpose for political gain in 2012? It’s one thing for them to block programs they have always opposed. But when they start to contradict themselves by opposing programs they have supported—such as pro-business tax cuts—we are left to wonder.

Senator Chuck Shumer