Horse Sense From Indiana Senator Richard Lugar

Who was defeated in his primary last night. It’s on the subject of his primary opponent and the value of bipartisanship. I’m going to quote a big fat chunk of it here. For those of you who want to see the whole thing, it’s here.

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…If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.

This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.

Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don’t succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues.

Legislators should have an ideological grounding and strong beliefs identifiable to their constituents. I believe I have offered that throughout my career. But ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively, and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents. Like Edmund Burke, I believe leaders owe the people they represent their best judgment.

Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times. Certainly this was understood by President Reagan, who worked with Democrats frequently and showed flexibility that would be ridiculed today – from assenting to tax increases in the 1983 Social Security fix, to compromising on landmark tax reform legislation in 1986, to advancing arms control agreements in his second term.

I don’t remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.

I hope that as a nation we aspire to more than that. I hope we will demand judgment from our leaders. I continue to believe that Hoosiers value constructive leadership. I would not have run for office if I did not believe that…

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Thoughts?

98 thoughts on “Horse Sense From Indiana Senator Richard Lugar

  1. Well, certainly not one of my favorite senators but yeah, he hit the nail on the head. Each election season I think that the GOP has finally hit bottom with their purity tests and intractability and then they go and dig deeper. I used to vote for the man and the issue but now days, that’s getting harder and harder to do.

  2. Thoughts as someone who grew up in a Republican household in Indiana: the state and the country are weaker without Richard Luger. He will be missed as a voice of principled reason in the Senate.

  3. Well that’s all well and good but I would have voted against him because of his position on LOST and his more recent positions on the second amendment. So I’m not sorry to see him go.

    Having said that, clearly there needs to be compromise but that works both ways.

  4. Hm. If he’d said this, and said it this directly, during the campaign then he just might have been reelected. I’m not a fan of Sen. Lugar but he’s more sensible than much of the current crop of Senators.

  5. I find that really disappointing because of the fact that all the moderates in the Republican party are either getting defeated or straight up leaving (like Olympia Snowe). My husband is still registered Republican, but there’s no way he could in good conscience vote for a Republican for a major national position right now. I think the point he makes about the fact that you can have strongly held convictions yet be willing to 1) work together and 2) not assume everyone is in bad faith is something we keep forgetting. I’m uber-liberal, but I’d still be willing to work with people who have different methods of getting to the same result of a country where people are more free and equal. Unfortunately, I think the two parties have radically different results in mind these days.

  6. I’d be more impressed with Lugar’s goodbye if he wasn’t just as culpable, because more often than not he’d vote in lockstep with his party. He comes across as a moderate simply because his party has become so extreme.

  7. I saw a lot of voters saying he’d been a senator too long. I couldn’t help but wonder how they would handle their company firing them for being in their job too long.

  8. Most cogent line: “Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives.” While I think that this is true to a certain extent in both the Democratic and Republican parties, I have seen much more evidence on the Republican side. When our elected representatives lose the ability to amicably disagree yet still work together with respect, then how can they govern?

  9. Unfortunately, a rather insightful comment on the state of politics today. In my state we have a congressman who has stated that he was elected to “not vote for any legislation”. Heck of a job to get paid nearly $200K a year to do nothing. And in the interim the problem just get worse or stagnate. I want legislators who understand that the art of governance is compromise. I just don’t know where to find them.

  10. “unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. ”

    True, if the legislator is seeking to build. But if the goal is only to tear down what others have built . . .

    It’s a fascinating experiment you Americans are now embarked upon. But one that’s better watched from a distance than experienced first-hand.

  11. An amazingly solid statement of something I think most of us have noticed a long time ago.

  12. It reminds me of the 1930s, when the far right and far left gained increasing prominence in Europe in the midst of the Great Depression. The Greeks recently elected far right politicians who are associated with neo-Nazi street gangs, while the French elected their first Socialist leader since 1995 at a time when their entitlement spending is out of control.

    In the US, the Tea Party seems to have morphed from a reasonable agenda calling into question runaway entitlement spending to a group that opposes any compromise with the other side. Similarly, the Occupy movement seems to have pseudo anarchist/socialist demands that cannot be similarly solved by any reasonable approach consistent with modern economics.

    Sadly, when times are bad, people increasingly resort to tribalism.

  13. People are leaving out the fundamental issue in WHY republicans and democrats can’t compromise.

    Its because of us.

    I’m not one to defend politicians, but we sensationalize aisle crossing as a “betrayal to the party.” Look at how often the term “moderate” was used derisively in the GOP primaries. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. One only needs to look at Lugar’s case to see that we actively penalize politicians who are willing to compromise. The democrats did the same thing to Lieberman, which essentially forced him to run as an independent. So, we’re sitting here criticizing Mourdock for being too partisan, but we actively reward him for that stance.

    I don’t know if there is a fix for that. People are just a big bag of stupid.

  14. I’m just scratching my head over which democratic legislators have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint.

  15. Luger didn’t lose because he compromised with the other side, he lost because he was a career politician who hadn’t lived in his home state since 1977.

    He didn’t lose because of millions spent by his opposition and outside groups. He outspent all of them put together.

  16. Reminds me of the Republican party I used to proudly belong to. We need a new Moderate party.

  17. Billy, he lost because the Republican base is becoming more extremist and less amenable to compromise. The fact he hasn’t lived there in $YEARS is irrelevant; if it mattered, then why has he had such a long career without it being a serious issue before now?

    You’re not entitled to your own facts.

  18. Lugar came right out and said it, “Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint.” There are as many intransigent Dems as Repubs. You can paint this as a GOP partisan crisis, but Reid and Pelosi are every bit as extreme as McConnell and Boehner.

  19. IMHO the most salient point he made — Parties don’t succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues. — is spot on. My socio-economic niche indicates to most that I should be Staunch Republican; however, I find so litlle about the Repblican Party currently appealing that I am leaning left of center. Evangelicals and Tea Party members too often project this non-comprimising message: YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US! Folks, it isn’t a war. It’s life.

  20. Really have no clue his voting record, so no comment on his loss, but this sentiment coming from a republican former senator is good to see. I hope voters on the extreme right can take the time to internalize this when they’re not busy voting science out of their classrooms, fretting about women getting uppity, etc…

  21. Kevin, relax man. Those aren’t MY facts, those are THE facts. The guy hasn’t lived in his home state for 30 years. He outspent his opponent. Those are facts. You don’t have to make it personal.

  22. @Frank What is LOST and what was Luger’s position on it? Amusingly, if you Google “lugers position on LOST” your comment is the top result and LOST by itself is a frustrating topic to search on. Also, are you saying that you would vote against Luger for his views on these two topics or would you vote for Mourdock because of his superior position on these topics?

  23. Bipartisanship gave us DOMA
    Bipartisanship gave us the Patriot Act
    It has given us a plethora of other onerous things. (much with support of Sen Lugar)

    Yet somehow it is preached as being “good government”…

    I wont shed a tear for him being able to retire at full salary, plus whatever he can pull in as a lobbyist…

  24. “I saw a lot of voters saying he’d been a senator too long. I couldn’t help but wonder how they would handle their company firing them for being in their job too long.”

    I think two terms for anyone is long enough. From what I’ve come to understand, the founding fathers, etc. didn’t expect life-long terms for these leadership roles.

  25. I’ll say I think Mr. Lugar makes a lot of sense, and is mostly right, except in a few very big and important matters: Insofar as I’m aware, there are no “pledges” or signatory promises or other such litmus tests for Democrats as there are for Republicans, at this time. In fact, unlike the Republican party, I understand the Democratic party to have at least two idealogically separate wings (both a progressive wing and a conservative wing). As I understand the history, the Republican Party used to have at least two wings in this way. But today, it seems to me not to be this way.

    Political parties evolve. Right now, the Republican party is evolving to shift further and further to the right. And the Democratic party, as a body, seems to be evolving to occupy the political space the Republicans have ceded (which means, overall, the Democrats have shifted rightward significantly too).

    I will be interested to see how things continue to evolve. I think Americans see themselves, in the aggregate, as politically in the center, so the continued rightward shift of the Republicans is bad for the long-term survivability of this current iteration of the party. For myself, I’ve come to the point where I personally reject the right vs. left political philosophy in favor of a multi-dimensional political reality, but I don’t see the parties adopting a stance like that any time soon (the right vs. left dichotomy makes for a great team sport that would be too complicated by a multidimensional political spectrum).

  26. Regarding Ken@ 1:29 (and Sen. Lugar, for that matter) the blame for the legislative crisis we face is not shared equally amongst the parties. There was a piece in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago from Norm Ornstein (American Enterprise Insitute) and Thomas Mann (Brookings) that lays it out:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lets-just-say-it-the-republicans-are-the-problem/2012/04/27/gIQAxCVUlT_print.html

    I’m not surprised Senator Lugar makes a “bi-partisan” case, but I think it doesn’t take too much reading between the lines of his statement to come to the conclusion that he agrees with this assesment.

    It is worth noting that in 2006, when his residency and time in office were essentially as salient as they are now, Sen. Lugar had no organized opposition in the primary or the general election. None. He received a staggering 87% of the vote. And today, he was unable to secure the nomination of his party, with no intervening scandal. Something has changed, and not for the better.

  27. saruby writes: “Unfortunately, a rather insightful comment on the state of politics today. In my state we have a congressman who has stated that he was elected to “not vote for any legislation”. Heck of a job to get paid nearly $200K a year to do nothing.”

    Part of the job of a member of the house of representatives is to represent, to help constituents resolve problems with federal agencies. Some representatives take this more seriously than others. In the book, Charlie Wilson’s War, Wilson managed to get an RV declared an office so he could send his staff around, to help constituents and indirectly serve as a rolling campaign ad.

    Aside from that, I reject the notion that the productivity of a legislator is calculated in how many lines of legislation he writes per year. People often agitate that congress “do something” about a particular problem, even when it isn’t clear that congress actually can do anything.

  28. Those aren’t MY facts, those are THE facts. The guy hasn’t lived in his home state for 30 years. He outspent his opponent. Those are facts

    They are facts. That they are the reason that Lugar lost is an opinion.

  29. I’m not from Indiana, but it’s my understanding that, until this election, Lugar hasn’t faced a serious challenger in quite some time. Maybe he lost his political chops? We live in a democracy. It’s up to voters to decide who their representatives are, and we have regular elections to ensure that “seats for life” aren’t inevitable. If Lugar, or any politician (Republican or Democrat), can’t make the case to their constituents that they are the better choice, then, frankly, they deserve to lose.

  30. Kevin, you said to Billie that “You’re not entitled to your own facts.” I’m sorry. I can’t find that phrase anywhere in my doublespeak dictionary. If it means Billie isn’t allow to make up pretend facts well I’d agree with that if it weren’t true that Lugar’s constituents had voiced concerns about his non-residency. If it means that Billie is not allowed to ferret out facts and only entitled to hold *someone else’s* made up facts as true, well that’s an entitlement I am definately against.

  31. Thoughts? Yes. This is precisely what I expected the Rs to do after 2008. It seems to be the nature of parties here to find their positions rejected and then, instead of modifying those, move farther to the partisan side. See the Dems in the 68 and 72 elections. If this plays out similarly, the Rs will see themselves marginalized as did the Dems in 68 and 72 and will start to move back to the center and moderate their positions. If they don’t, they’ll find that they’re a regional party with strongholds in the deep South, some parts of the mountain West and here and there in other states, primarily in the rural areas of those states.

    Ultimately, they will need to decide between ideological purity and real power. The latter brings the ability to enact some version of their policies in some areas. The former isolates them and will give them a few occasional wins.

    As to why Lugar lost… My state (Washington) has seen long time congresspeople lose. It’s typically a combination of the electorate feeling that the person is out of touch, getting too old, etc and a fiery challenger who motivates a high number of voters in a niche (tea partiers in Lugar’s case). This is easier in a primary or especially a caucus since the number of voters is lower, making a relatively small bump in turnout a bigger deal, and they tend to be the partisans within a party.

  32. My intent was to say that Lugar being voted out for his residency was obviously not a fact. I was less than clear there.

  33. Farley: “From what I’ve come to understand, the founding fathers, etc. didn’t expect life-long terms for these leadership roles.”

    Well, they didn’t put in place term limits for Senators in the Constitution. And they had a lot to say about term limits for Presidents. Meaning, they appear to have thought a lot about term limits and governance yet wound up not putting any on members of Congress.

  34. .@ Sean Patrick Hazlett

    In the US, the Tea Party seems to have morphed from a reasonable agenda calling into question runaway entitlement spending to a group that opposes any compromise with the other side.

    As a fiscal realist, it was with profound disgust that I watched the most liberty-trashing extremist strain of bigoted, xenophobic, un-American social conservatives hijack a nascent third party that began as a referendum on the very Big Government social conservatives de facto support in deed (and, hypocritically, never in word) with their support for paternalistic statism and the same sovereignty-trampling global hegemonic chess games the Democratic party perpetuates. Observing the Occupy movement getting simultaneously dismissed and co-opted by the Democratic establishment has been equally infuriating.

    Republicans: The ecosystem is a national and world treasure, not a political football for shortsighted punting. Immigrants built this country and tend to have the work ethic you claim to value. Liberty and justice for all does not equal your right to meddle in citizens’ personal lives by playing mobocracy. Drug prohibition is an endless money hole that has not worked since that lying sack of shit Nixon put it on steroids four decades ago and it will never accomplish anything other than diverting lost tax revenue to the cockroaches willing to perpetrate the violence, graft and intimation required for criminal enterprise. Security theater is expensive and flagrant fear mongering. If you support a Flag Desecration Amendment, then you DO NOT understand the Constitution and you should either have a libertarian explain it to you (any libertarian, right or left, will do for such a matter of civil liberty) or move back to Britain where you worship all the symbols of state you may please. The U.S. Constitutional is not an à la carte buffet.

    Democrats: Priuses and carbon credits will not save the ecosystem from the single biggest polluters on Earth, national governments. Un-naturalized immigrants should be treated as you would a guest in your house, not an immediate member of the family. We don’t need a fence, but we do need a guest worker program that admits and keeps track of as many migrants and there are jobs American citizens won’t take. Gun prohibition disarms law-abiding citizens and not scofflaws. Security theater is expensive and flagrant fear mongering. Buy infrastructure, starting with an updated power grid, not recidivist financial institutions. The U.S. Constitutional is not an à la carte buffet.

    That’s my 2¢…oh, and stop wasting treasury funds minting pennies.

    @ Stephen A. Watkins

    For myself, I’ve come to the point where I personally reject the right vs. left political philosophy in favor of a multi-dimensional political reality, but I don’t see the parties adopting a stance like that any time soon (the right vs. left dichotomy makes for a great team sport that would be too complicated by a multidimensional political spectrum).

    This.

  35. “Thoughts as someone who grew up in a Republican household in Indiana: the state and the country are weaker without Richard Luger. He will be missed as a voice of principled reason in the Senate.”

    I felt that we just lost a respectable senator. What a great comment on what is yet to come as more people like him are voted out of office.

  36. “From what I’ve come to understand, the founding fathers, etc. didn’t expect life-long terms for these leadership roles.”

    The Founding Fathers were just well-meaning men with just as many flaws as any other. They didn’t forsee a lot of things that we take for granted and wouldn’t have necessarily agreed with many of them. Let’s not forget that folks like Washington, Madison and Jefferson all owned slaves for most of their lives. Madison may have called slavery evil, but he kept them until his death. He was magnanimous for his time…he considered slaves to be, in some respects, like actual real people. He treated his slaves well…but he was still a rich plantation owner who owned people as property.

    My point being that the founding fathers were well-intentioned, brave and often moral men…but they didn’t have all the answers and our living documents have moved beyond their initial ideas. Especially given the fact that they were hardly all of one mind on anything.

  37. Very eloquent and right on the money. The fact that someone with these views lost to a “go team go” partisan is emblematic of today’s zeitgeist.

    We’re heading towards parliamentary-system style partisanship, but in the context of a system rigged to ensure nothing becomes law without significant levels of cooperation. Say hello to the new generation of government: unwilling and unable to do anything, even when in the clear interests of the country.

  38. Mythago:
    If what’s going on in US politics today is what you call bickering, I’d sure as hell hate to see what you’d see as a full-out battle. Politics is the art of compromise, not the waging of total war. In a democracy, if legislators cannot compromise, they cannot govern.

  39. my $.02
    Mr. Lugar’s comments are very cogent and call for rational behavior among those who govern, his comments reject dogma and orthodoxy (at least for dogma/orthodoxy’s sake). I wonder – did he sign Grover Norquist’s pledge? I am not a resident of Indiana – so I do not know any of the details of the campaign – but questions about who spent more and what the “facts” are – if Mr. Lugar’s residency wasn’t an issue at the last election- why is it now – could it be that the Tea Party candidate chose that issue as a point of weakness? How much PAC money was spent on attack ads against Mr. Lugar? (that’s the part where you “don’t get to make up your own facts,” you can’t cherry pick data and present it as the whole truth)

  40. He hit the nail on the head. I’ve read people in a number of places implying, or flat-out saying, that this is a bit of sour grapes, but it doesn’t come across that way to me. This seems to come from an honest place – perhaps it’s honesty that he can only afford now that he doesn’t have re-election to consider?

    I can’t in good conscience identify with either party at this point – I agree that both have become too extreme. Tim H. has a nice idea about a new Moderate party, but seeing how both grass-roots movements seem to have been co-opted by the respective parties, I’m not sure how long it would survive in this current political climate.

  41. @otherBill 2:39 And they had a lot to say about term limits for Presidents

    Did they? It’s been a while, but I was under the impression that there was no legal term limit until after FDR, and that the Republicans pushed for the two-term limit then, which was subsequently codified by amendment.

  42. aliablack & otherbill:

    There was no de jure limit on Presidential terms until after FDR, when it became two terms (or up to 10 years, IIRC, if the incumbent began by serving out someone else’s term), but de facto it was a 2-term limit out of respect for George Washington, who began the tradition.

  43. @Other Bill 2:39 Well, they didn’t put in place term limits for Senators in the Constitution. And they had a lot to say about term limits for Presidents. Meaning, they appear to have thought a lot about term limits and governance yet wound up not putting any on members of Congress.

    In point of fact, actually, the Founding Fathers had nothing to say about Term Limits for Presidents. Washington himself served two terms, and declined to seek a third term. This set a traditional precedent for serving only two terms. Some presidents sought a third term, but lost. But it was not codified into law, nor into the Constitution, until after FDR was elected to his third term. FDR was actually elected to his fourth term, but died before he could fulfill that service. The Amendment to the Constitution limiting presidents to 2 terms was proposed shortly thereafter, partly as a reaction against FDR’s three full terms, and was ratified in 1951 – quite a few years after the last of the original Founding Fathers had died, I might add.

    These are historical facts easily cross-referenced with a High School history book, or with Wikipedia or a basic google search.

  44. Wait – people have been equating the Tea Party to the Occupy movement. But there are no Occupy Democrats. There are Tea Party Republicans. So the two groups are not the same.

  45. JPR

    My bad: LOST is the Law of the Sea Treaty which Lugar is for and to which I am very much opposed.

    Yes, that and his recent positions on second amendment issues are enough for me to oppose him. But there are other reasons as well.

  46. @Gulliver
    Yes!
    Everything you said. Just, fuck yes.
    When I first glanced at your post I thought ‘tl;dr’ but as I skimed, then went back and read fully, then read the full post twice more, dude I would vote for YOU.

  47. IMO, most of what Luger says makes sense, with the exception of “disagree[ing] with … your consituents.” A legislator has every right to disagree, but not to vote that way. She/he is elected as a representative, and is obligated to represent, not to do whatever they themselves think is best at the moment; maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I see it.

    Of course, knowing what your consituents want is tricky business too: Too often votes appear to be swayed by an overly vocal minority, and that goes for both parties. Maybe this can improve as younger legislators use social media to poll their electorate…

    What was that old proverb about “living in interesting times”?

  48. Like many have said – not my favorite man, but hit the nail on the head. He’s absolutely right about working across the aisle and we’re poorer for losing anyone who really believes that.

  49. @ Scalzi: I’m definitely not a republican, but I grew up in Indiana and am somewhat sad to see him go in exchange for this clown the GOP has running. I never agreed with Lugar on everything or even most things but I respected his willingness to strike deals and govern rather than preen and posture. One of the reasons he failed to win 1 percent of the delegates in 96 for the GOP nomination

    @anon: I’ll clear it up, you’re wrong. Legislators have no responsibility to represent their constituency’s every wish. They run on what they’ll do, and then they hopefully at least attempt to do it. But if your constituency suddenly decides we should pass a law, that say, makes killing Mexicans for sport a legal activity… you might say the rep would have a moral authority to oppose it.

    Even more so– if our government was truly set up with the ideal of true majority rule… we wouldn’t have representatives. Or a president. We’d vote on referendums every week and an army of unelected bureacrats would implement whatever the voters decided.

  50. While I admire his willingness to speak out after losing the election I am curious as to who he was referring to when he mentioned the extremes of both parties. I’ve seen this meme spread all over the US media as a strawman to defend extremism in the republican party, columnists like David Brooks are a living embodiment of it because no matter what crazy, hateful or dishonest message or action the right does he will always to point to a vague unspecified group of liberals to say both sides do it.

    And they don’t. Compare the Occupy people with the Tea Party movement, the teaparty was advertised on Fox News for days and heavily funded by the conservative millionaires the Koch brothers, they received huge amounts of funding,organisation and attention, campaigns in the US cost huge amounts of money. Occupy on the other hand are a unorganised, unfunded, group of protesters who’ve been attacked by the police and have received very little postitive coverage in the News media. And while they’re seen by many as being on “the left”, they seem to ardently against being co-opted by the Democrats and unlike the Tea Party have no leaders or spokespeople who speak on behalf of them all.

    Please can someone point out to me comparable figures on the left for people like Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich or Grover Norquist? Because I’ve looked and can’t see them.

  51. and stop wasting treasury funds minting pennies.

    Can we also kill the dollar bill too? It was a wrench when they went to pound coins but it really made sense.

  52. @anon:

    “She/he is elected as a representative, and is obligated to represent, not to do whatever they themselves think is best at the moment; maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I see it.”

    You’re wrong. We elect representatives, not mouthpieces. We watch the news, maybe read a few tings on the internet, inbetween getting on with our lives. They do governance as a full-time occupation, studying the issues, reading big fat reports full of charts and graphs, discussing and weighing the implications with others who have studied them. Then they decide, taking into account the views of their constituents — who, by the way, include all the people who didn’t vote for them, which includes all those who didn’t vote at all.

    If you elect people of intelligence, experience and conscience, the process works. If you elect people who have sworn not to think about anything at all, who arrive with their minds made up, god know what you’ll end up with. But it won’t be representative democracy.

  53. @dominnic. Jon Stewart, Dennis Kucinich, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Alan Grayson, etc.

  54. JB: I think you’ll find that among those listed, only Stewart has the sort of pull even approaching the Fox commentariat and pols dominic listed, and he’s 1) a comedian, and 2) not batshit crazy, and 3) equal opportunity.

  55. After spending some time reading between the lines, I’m pretty certain that the “Shorter Richard Lugar” portion of this is “The Republican base can eat my cock.”

    I’m just pissed off that this means that I’m going to have to vote for that blankety-blank Joe Donnelly again. I crossed party lines yesterday to vote for Lugar for no reason. It’s very upsetting.

  56. Hands up all those who watch Olbermann on Current… anybody? anybody? Bueller?

    Thought so. Just look at Maddow’s viewing numbers compared to Hanity, who she’s up against. Last night she pulled in about half his number of viewers.

  57. @Matthew Hughes/anon.

    While it’s true that representatives have no *responsibility” to act in accordance with the wishes of their constituents, they are accountable to them come election time. If a politician can’t justify his record, or convince the electorate he/she is the better person for the job, they are likely to lose. That’s how popular elections work. Lugar’s defeat didn’t come out of thin air. There have been rumblings of a primary challenge against him for quite some time. If he wasn’t able to mount a sufficient defense of his record, that’s on him.

  58. We need more people like Lugar in office. Makes me sad to think there will be one less next year.

  59. @Kevin/Daveon. This is turning into an existential question: if a pundit is on the air and no one watches, do they count as a pundit? The question was whether there were comparable figures on the left to Limbaugh, etc. I pointed out that there are. That their audiences aren’t the same sizes doesn’t reflect a lack of opportunity or presence (both Maddow and Hannity are available to the same audience of cable subscribers, after all).

    WHY more people watch Hannity than Maddow is a different (and perhaps the “real”) question.

  60. JB: the point, I think, is the amount of “pull” that the punditocracy has. There’s some difference between conservatives and liberals, on average, that makes the former enjoy political talk radio/TV more, and thus the reason for the success of Limbaugh et al. I don’t understand why; perhaps they have a subconscious enjoyment of conflict?

  61. @ christy

    I’ve read people in a number of places implying, or flat-out saying, that this is a bit of sour grapes, but it doesn’t come across that way to me. This seems to come from an honest place – perhaps it’s honesty that he can only afford now that he doesn’t have re-election to consider?

    I think people have become so cynical about anything any politician says, that many have given up on truth and opted purely for getting their liar to win. And it’s hard to blame them for their cynicism, if not their reaction. There’s voter apathy on the one hand. And on the other hand there’s the prevailing divide among the minority of eligible voters who exercise our responsibility into partisans voting not for a platform so much as against an enemy, and voters (especially in primaries) who vote for whoever panders to unexamined pride and illusory security by hitting all the right rhetorical notes to confirm their preconceptions. I agree though, in that I think Lugar was being sincere, mainly because he no longer has a seat to loose and what he said is way off message for either party.

    im H. has a nice idea about a new Moderate party, but seeing how both grass-roots movements seem to have been co-opted by the respective parties, I’m not sure how long it would survive in this current political climate.

    The Tea Party was always mainly disaffected Republicans. But its early support grew out of a rejection of the pork barrel spending that Republican congresscritters routinely use to buy soft campaign contributions and make themselves look like local job creator heroes. A lot of conservatives wanted to make fiscal conservatism the priority because they had the pragmatism to recognize that nonsense like DOMA and the Patriot Act were at best a distraction and at worst the kind of bloated overreach the GOP is always claiming to oppose (while expanding it six ways from Sunday). Then the social conservatives saw an opportunity to radicalize the Tea Party and it devolved into little more than a firebrand version of Republican hypocrisy.

    Daveon

    Can we also kill the dollar bill too? It was a wrench when they went to pound coins but it really made sense.

    Actually, I like that idea. Nix the penny and make the dollar a coin. Counterfeiting anything below a twenty note is almost unheard of for various mechanical and fiscal reasons. My problem with the penny, however, is that, in addition to being more of a hassle than it’s worth, it costs more than its own monetary value to mint! If we can’t get government to cut out a practice as blatantly wasteful as that, it’s hard to see how we’ll ever get it to stop doing things like maintaining billions of dollars in mothballed Federal real estate, or unashamed pork barrel spending such as funding a completely superfluous second engine for the next generation fighter jets instead of providing forward infantry with body armor or disabled troops and their families with veterans support.

    I’m all for government spending. I’m adamantly opposed to government waste. And even though I am a fiscal conservative in the sense that I support a balanced budget, I categorically reject the conventional fiscal conservative wisdom that government cannot promote efficiency by leveraging the power of market competition, or the conventional fiscal progressive wisdom that capitalist competition is inherently wicked. Crony capitalism is the disease and legally enforced 100% transparent bidding for government contracts is a big part of the cure

    @ anon

    What was that old proverb about “living in interesting times”?

    Technically it’s a curse.

  62. JB: Without that kind of mass audience, I think that it does matter. Why doesn’t the left have figures like the Limburghs, Hanittys and others? I can only speculate but I suspect that you wouldn’t like the conclusions that I drew from that.

  63. And even though I am a fiscal conservative in the sense that I support a balanced budget

    I’d need quite a lot of persuasion that a balanced budget is necessarily actually a fiscally conservative position to take myself :)

    Likewise, there’s a lot of free-market positions which are really REALLY not very fiscally conservative positions to take because the free market has shown it doesn’t deliver all that cost effective a solution (healthcare keeps springing to mind).

    But back to balanced budgets, there are lots of times when the correct and fiscally responsible thing to do is imbalance the budget… we’re in one at the moment. The trick is coming up with a way to have that as a policy but enforce fiscal prudence when the economy is buzzing along nicely.

  64. Well, I certainly agree with the content of this message. I don’t much follow politics, and so I can’t voice an opinion on whether Lugar actually embodied what he preaches here, but it is one thing to say all the right things about bipartisanship, and another to actually do it. Still, there’s no doubt in my mind that the degree of partisanship we have now is damaging to America.

  65. Kevin. It’s still a marketplace of ideas: A pundit only has “pull” if people tend to agree/identify with what they are saying in the first place. If there are more conservatives than liberals, then conservative pundits are likely to have more “pull”. But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be (or aren’t) pundits on the left.

    According to Gallup, “conservatives remain the largest ideological group in the US”, with about 40% of people identifying as conservative as opposed to 21% of people identifying as liberal. (This 2:1 difference correlates with Daveon’s observation that Hannity gets twice the audience share as Maddow.)

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/152021/Conservatives-Remain-Largest-Ideological-Group.aspx

  66. His description of how not to do things sounds like our Senator Lee from Utah. He was selected by the tea party fanatics who took over the Republican state convention 2 years ago. He replaced the previous senator (who was not great, but at least reasonable) because said previous senator had dared to talk to democrats on matters of policy. For this sin, he lost his position. Now our new state embarassment has decided that although Republican presidents were right to make appointments when the senate was in Recess, Pres Obama was wrong. Totally, unexcusably, unarguably wrong. So Lee’s whole senate impact since then has been to do everything he can to stall or prevent every appointment Obama makes, no matter what office, no matter what person, no matter the urgency of the appointment. A total partisan, incapable of thinking.

    Don ‘t these people who make a dogma of party purity realize that the constitution they pretend to worship would not even exist without compromise? There is probably not one whole sentence in the document that every delegate liked.

    And yes, I am picking on democrats too. Don’t forget that Senator Lieberman lost his position not because he was a bad senator, but because he was known to vote with republicans a few times. The whole rest of his career didn’t matter anymore, because he was insufficiently hateful of a republican president. Both sides have gotten to where they no longer give a damn about the country, but only about getting their party in power, or if it is in power, keeping it there. Nothing else matters.

    Sad.

  67. @ Daveon

    Likewise, there’s a lot of free-market positions which are really REALLY not very fiscally conservative positions to take because the free market has shown it doesn’t deliver all that cost effective a solution (healthcare keeps springing to mind).

    While I don’t believe the sorry state of modern healthcare (here or, in your own country, in the case of the NIH) is entirely down to the so-called (but not actually) free market, I support social healthcare. Collective purchasing power is one area where I believe government can leverage market forces to great effect. It is my significant hope that the band aid of PPACA has not been the death knell of real healthcare reform in my country for the foreseeable future.

    But back to balanced budgets, there are lots of times when the correct and fiscally responsible thing to do is imbalance the budget… we’re in one at the moment. The trick is coming up with a way to have that as a policy but enforce fiscal prudence when the economy is buzzing along nicely.

    I disagree, though perhaps not for all the reasons you might expect. Without delving into a prolonged discussion of macroeconomics, I support stimulus spending. But I believe it is not merely how much government spends, but where and on what, that determines whether it actually stimulates the economy enough to offset its own expense. This is why I support infrastructure and energy spending, but not bailouts of bankrupt (in more ways than their bottom line) corporations. In long run, I believe bailing out reckless financial institutions the way the Bush and Obama administrations have done will be to our collective detriment. I support sweeping tax reforms including no income tax below a basic cost of living, a flat rate tax above a basic cost of living, the summery elimination of all income tax loopholes, the institution of a national sales tax, and the conversion of an opaque corporate income tax to a transparent corporate consumption tax. I believe that government can and should balance its budget and fund economically effective public works. In short, I oppose government waste, not government spending. At the risk of a cliché, invest in a man’s fishing education and equipment, not his grocery bill and his corrupt lenders.

  68. @Gulliver: well, for better or worse, my own country is currently the US where I often find myself missing the NHS. We had to deal with a bill for $4.98 from somebody our insurance provider was stiffing which turned out to be an insurance mistake. Took me a few hours of my time and theirs to fix that… I’d rant about the insurance rejecting a script from our doctor because he said take 2 pills when they only covered 1 pill of a higher dose, but it did have me being thankful that there wasn’t a faceless beaurocrat between me and my doctor, I must say… There are lots of ways to run healthcare, but they all need single payer systems.

    I’d generally agree with the rest of your statements, although I’m less convinced that a flat tax is anything but a gift to the well off, unless is was something like 0% to, say, $30K then 25% or something… but I suspect that would get gamed badly.

    I would also, generally, agree on bailouts, except for 2008 being a completely unique and special case. Without TARP I fear we’d have been in a nightmare scenario beyond the worst imaginings of any SF distopia. Likewise, because of the mess the banking sector was in (and still largely is) the car industry couldn’t do the sensible thing because nobody could raise the money to restructure.

    That people are not in jail for their complicity in what happened in the run up to 2008 is beyond me.

  69. @JJS Don’t forget that Senator Lieberman lost his position not because he was a bad senator, but because he was known to vote with republicans a few times.

    I think you’ve a fairly selective memory of Joe Lieberman there… I suspect the fact that a Republican wanted him as a running mate didn’t help him much either.

  70. LIeberman lost his place in the Democratic caucus (he kept his job, remember) because the Democrats were sick of his crap– and said crap was exactly what got so many Republicans to vote for him. In Lugar’s case, Indiana’s Republicans *and* Democrats had been contentedly voting for him for decades. There was no crap to be tired of until the Tea Partiers decided he wasn’t pure enough.

  71. JB says:

    “Kevin. It’s still a marketplace of ideas: A pundit only has “pull” if people tend to agree/identify with what they are saying in the first place.”.

    Especially if the people with money tend to agree/identify with what they are saying. A “marketplace of ideas”, indeed.

  72. @ Daveon

    well, for better or worse, my own country is currently the US where I often find myself missing the NHS.

    My bad, I had thought I recalled you identifying as a UK citizen somewhere.

    I’d generally agree with the rest of your statements, although I’m less convinced that a flat tax is anything but a gift to the well off, unless is was something like 0% to, say, $30K then 25% or something… but I suspect that would get gamed badly.

    In the $25 to $30K range sounds about right for a basic cost of living, and 25% would be quite reasonable. Certainly the current so-called poverty-level is a bad joke. Whatever the rate, my position is that once you’re making more than you need to get by, there is no reason why you should pay less tax on the first dollar above that level than on the last dollar, whether your pulling down $50K or $50 million.

    I’d consider our current setup the gift to the well off, mostly the very well off who can afford to use tax shelters and loopholes to avoid being taxed at the rate they’re nominally supposed to pay. A flat tax sans loopholes would be a better and more reliable source of revenue than a supposedly progressive tax that is in reality regressive above a certain level.

    I would also, generally, agree on bailouts, except for 2008 being a completely unique and special case. Without TARP I fear we’d have been in a nightmare scenario beyond the worst imaginings of any SF distopia.

    We will never know. But handing the investment banks trillions no-strings-attached essentially rescued the architects of 50% of the cause of the Great Recession.

    That people are not in jail for their complicity in what happened in the run up to 2008 is beyond me.

    What they did was wrong, not illegal. I hope that if the supernaturalists turn out to be right, there is a special tenth circle of hell for those executives where they can burn for all eternity wrapped in their golden parachutes. But it’s unconstitutional to pass laws and hold people accountable after the fact of the law’s enactment, and I wouldn’t support it if it were legal because ex post facto laws would set a perilous precedent. To me, the ongoing travesty is that no such laws have been passed to be applied going forward, and you can be damn certain to thank the banking lobby for that. Credit default swaps are fraud and should be treated as such under the law, end of story. Instead we’ve bailed out the architects of our troubles and let them continue with their massive, institutionalized fraud, unscathed by their own reckless trillion-dollar game of hot potato, setting us up for another round in a couple of decades when we’ll be dealing with an even worse state of affairs.

    My only consolation is that the ecosystem of human trade, which has been changing and evolving at a quickening pace for the last thousand years, appears to be approaching a new phase change driven by demographics and technology, such that the next dip on our reckless roller-coaster of crony capitalism and state corporatism may well be the least of our concerns by mid-century, but we may yet get off the roller-coaster.

  73. I’ve got to say that the Founding Fathers didn’t put in a system where Senators were elected. They were appointed by their State (using whatever mechanism the particular State desired.)

    I’m becoming convinced that my grandfathers were correct; never vote for an incumbent, there are enough good honest folk in this country that there’s no reason to have to expose any of them to the temptations of power that come with a second term.

    We had a good man who was elected to the Senate who had as a campaign plank that he would only serve one term, he would not run for re-election. Sadly, when five years had gone by, he decided that just one more term … and then he was running for a third term when he died in an airplane accident.

    Power is the drug we really have to worry about.

  74. Count me as someone who would’ve much rather seen Richard Lugar win his primary, and have a safe Republican seat, than lose to Mourdock, and give my party a potential pickup. Lugar did a lot of good and important work with Nunn-Lugar, which cut down on loose nuclear weapons, and I give him credit for voting for both of Pres. Obama’s supreme court nominees as well.

    @JB: Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich or Grover Norquist–
    To follow up on this, and your claim that Stewart, Maddow et. al. are in any way equivalent:

    Rush Limbaugh libeled a private citizen (Sandra Fluke) when he made several false claims about her: That she wanted “other people” to pay for her birth control (she didn’t. She was speaking in support of the decision for *her insurance company* to cover it, which said company *wanted to do anyway.* He claimed she wanted to “be paid for having sex.” She didn’t. She was speaking in support of a friend who couldn’t afford un-covered birth control medication and got an ovarian cyst.
    He also incited a near-violent attack by falsely accusing Clinton aide Cody Shearer of a crime in 1999. http://www.salon.com/1999/05/20/buchanan/
    Sean Hannity was a friend of Hal Turner’s, and would give him private advice during the commercial breaks of his radio show when he would call in as “Hal from New Jersey.” He repeatedly refers to liberals as “traitors.”

    http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/hannitys-old-buddy-hal-turner-arrest

    Ann Coulter said she wanted the New York Times Building blown up (in 2002, less than a year after 9/11), with reporters and editors inside, in essence calling for the murder of hundreds of her fellow American citizens. So what I’m looking for in terms of equivalence is a man who routinely libels private citizens, incites violence against one in particular; another man who mentored a violent neoNazi and calls those with whom he disagrees traitors, and a woman who called for hundreds of her fellow Americans to be blown up. Got anybody of their prominence and influence like *that* on the left? Jon Stewart isn’t really mentoring too many violent activists these days.

  75. @Gulliver:

    - A part of the problem with the current income tax set up is a lot of income isn’t income. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why we’re taxing capital gains on unearned income at less than we tax income… even without root and branch tax reform, as an outsider living here (yes, I’m a British citizen) the mortgage tax relief thing needs to go (that lefty Margaret Thatcher killed it in Britain); tax rates need to return to their 1999 levels… yes, even on the middle class I fear; and capital gains tax needs to go back to the levels under St Ronnie… those 3 things, with another trillion in one off infrastructure spending would get the debt back to mid-2000ish levels inside a decade and probably have the economy back on track all without touching spending. Once that’s done, let’s take a look at spending. Single Payer healthcare ala Switzerland or France (lots of private medicine there for the market lovers); mandatory retirement savings accounts with tight regulation so they don’t get stolen and shave a hundred billion a year or so off defense… It’s not hard… it’s just not politically correct on the whole.

    And yes, I know that we can’t retroactively enforce laws and that much of what went on was technically legal… a man can dream though. That said, what went on inside AIG and Goldman wasn’t technically legal, it was fraud, straight cases there of, do not pass go, go straight to jail.

    And, as a Congressmen said on TV yesterday, if you want to issue Credit Default Swaps, then you’re in the insurance business and we have regulations on the capital requirements for the insurance business which ought to be enforced. The same organisations, Chinese walls or not, should not be in the business of handling deposit accounts, merchant trading accounts and issuing CDOs/CDS on the trading the other parts of their organisation are doing. Not when the sums of money at stake are so enormous.

    We, collectively, got so wrapped up in the idea of easy, near infinite riches, that we actual forgot a lot of stuff we learned in the 1930s. Shame on us all. I wonder how long it will take the next generation to forget this one?

    The world needs a lot of stimulus spending, the US needs a LOT of infrastructure spending and when people are back in work, and not being paid unemployment, there needs to be a round of austerity and cost cutting… but apparently that course of action is far too sensible.

  76. “@JJS Don’t forget that Senator Lieberman lost his position not because he was a bad senator, but because he was known to vote with republicans a few times.”

    Lieberman lost his place in the caucus because he lost the Democratic Primary in CT, created his own party and ran as a “Connecicut for Lieberman” party candidate. He wasn’t a Democrat any more, so why should he be in the Democratic caucus? And yes, not to mention standing as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Republicans.

    He didn’t loose the primary to a batcrazy idealogue. Lamont was more center than Lieberman but not a Left Wing Nut Job.

    Though the parallel to Indian is not utterly without merit.

  77. What I find interesting is this notion that “moderation” is only a virtue when it comes to Republicans going along with Democratic ideas. Anyone recall the Democratic response to Republican ideas about privatizing Social Security? Where was their moderation?

    Or are principles only worth keeping if one is a Democrat. The sauce, she’ll serve on goose or gander quite nicely.

    @Gulliver

    *applause*

    @ Daveon

    I’m certainly open to a variety of tax reform initiatives; including some you listed. However, you’ve got the cart before the horse in suggesting that the tax reforms (probably increases) should come before evaluating spending cuts. That methodology has failed over and over.

    From my perspective, the spending cuts now have to come first. Then we can talk tax hikes.

    Regards,
    Dann

  78. Dann, Lugar’s comments were pretty carefully directed at both sides of the aisle. Has anyone really said it’s OK for Democrats to be partisan but not for Republicans?

    I’m also intrigued by this notion that discussion of fiscal policy is like an iPhone, where we can only really have one thing going at a time. Why is it impossible to discuss both tax-policy reform and spending cuts at the same time? I get that it’s a good way to put off talking about tax increases, but I am doing you the courtesy of assuming good faith here, so there must be another reason.

  79. @Dann:

    That methodology has failed over and over.

    When?

    Seriously. When did we actually try cutting spending in boom times and raising it in busts – at least since the 1930s/40s and 50s when I’m pretty sure that what I’m proposing was, in fact, what we did. Governments spent money on stuff and they taxed people and they paid off debt by doing so… in the case of the US and UK, a LOT of debt, a lot more than we currently are carrying.

    I’ll tell you what has failed, and has failed recently, is cutting spending in a recession to let the recovery fairies come and spend money again. It didn’t happen in the UK, it hasn’t happened in Ireland (remember the fiscally prudent celtic tiger?), in fact it’s not worked anywhere in any country that has tried it.

    The US had a pitiful stimulus (for the size of the cliff it dropped over in 2008) and it pulled the US out of recession and turned around unemployment. The UK has cut, cut and cut more, and is back in a double dip and losing jobs again.

    This monetarist trickle down claptrap has had long enough and it hasn’t worked. Let’s go back to things we know work shall we?

  80. Sorry for the run on post, missed this:

    Anyone recall the Democratic response to Republican ideas about privatizing Social Security? Where was their moderation?

    Good thing too eh? Or would you like to have had to deal with the re-nationalization of Social Security after it lost 50% of it’s value in 2007/8/9 and couldn’t pay bills?

  81. Daveon:
    The Free Market (peace be upon it) would have naturally been able to take care of all those people whose retirement funds got wiped out… Unicorns! Rainbows!

  82. Rep Joe Donnelly is the Democrat running for Lugar’s seat. He has been a member of the house Blue Dog caucus. He is anti-abortion, well received by the NRA. He also voted for the health care act, and worked towards better care for veterans. He makes immigration an issue in a way most other democrats would not. He voted for the balanced budget amendment unlike most democrats.

    To someone like me who is pro-choice, pretty lenient on immigration, and thinks a balanced budget amendment is a horrible way to hamstring government… Rep. Donnelly would look very moderate indeed- and not necessarily in a good way.

    In the case of this particular Senate election, to hem and haw over the lack of moderates seems to be ignoring the one person who is not the elephant in the room. It seems to suggest that the people complaining would never actually be moderate enough to consider the Democrat, let alone vote for them.

  83. mbl76 @ 9:03 pm, ULTRAGOTHA @ 3:27 pm, et. al.:

    Joe Lieberman didn’t actually lose his position in the Senate Democratic Caucus. He’s not a member of the Democratic party anymore, but he still caucuses with the Democrats. (You’ll find his name on their membership list here.) He’s also the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which would not be possible without support from the Democratic caucus.

    The other non-Democrat that caucuses with the Senate Democrats is Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

  84. @ Daveon

    A part of the problem with the current income tax set up is a lot of income isn’t income. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why we’re taxing capital gains on unearned income at less than we tax income…

    The flimsy reasoning behind that is that it encourages investment – flimsy because investing in your own enterprise also invests in the economy. Anyway, among the tax reforms I support, I believe capital gains should be taxed as income. To put it simply, above a basic cost of living I advocate that the Federal government should take an equal percentage of every dollar that anyone earns, irrespective of the income source, no exceptions or deductions. A large chunk of our insane tax code is given over to the byzantine rules governing deductions. When even your nation’s revenue service doesn’t know which was is up, you’ve got a seriously out-of-control bloatware problem.

    That said, what went on inside AIG and Goldman wasn’t technically legal, it was fraud, straight cases there of, do not pass go, go straight to jail.

    Indeed, and those are being investigated. I’ll be as fascinated as anyone to see what our creaking justice system makes of those instances.

    And, as a Congressmen said on TV yesterday, if you want to issue Credit Default Swaps, then you’re in the insurance business and we have regulations on the capital requirements for the insurance business which ought to be enforced.

    The problem is that you’re in the business of taking out insurance on your customers livelihoods, then playing ball-in-cup games and selling the risk through a never-ending series of cutouts until a) no one know who owns what, and b) you’ve essentially reinvested your customers money without their knowledge or consent. The problem with collateralized debt is not that it’s insurance, but that it’s completely opaque. Like insurance companies, however, much could be solved with mandatory public transparency.

    @ Dann

    However, you’ve got the cart before the horse in suggesting that the tax reforms (probably increases) should come before evaluating spending cuts. That methodology has failed over and over.

    That’s a false dichotomy. There’s no question that cuts need to happen (and here I’m disagree with Daveon as well), the debate is where. Energy and healthcare are the two biggest drains on GDP we have. Tax and spending reforms need to happen at the same time. And I do mean reforms, not simply increases and decreases. The tax code needs to be overhauled so it makes sense and isn’t a morass of holes, and spending needs to be redirected to areas where it isn’t being flushed down an unsustainable sewer.

    @ mythago

    I’m also intrigued by this notion that discussion of fiscal policy is like an iPhone, where we can only really have one thing going at a time. Why is it impossible to discuss both tax-policy reform and spending cuts at the same time?

    Thank you!

    @ Kevin Williams

    The Free Market (peace be upon it) would have naturally been able to take care of all those people whose retirement funds got wiped out… Unicorns! Rainbows!

    What free market? The one owned by the Fortune 500? That wasn’t free. They paid a lot of good lobby money for that! :-/

  85. @htom – I still miss Paul Wellstone. I wonder what he would think of all this stuff going on now, although I have a pretty good idea what he would think of most of it. I also wonder if he would still be in Congress. What a contrast for Minnesota – instead of Wellstone we have Bachmann. What a trade-off! That is a microcosm of the changes we have seen, and scary to boot.

  86. @Dann – the Democratic response to the Republican idea of privatizing social security was moderate. They just voted against it. That was a moderate response. A less moderate, and more appropriate response, would have been to get out the straight jackets and have those who proposed it taken to the loony bin. What a great idea! Let’s put social security assets in the hands of Goldman Sachs and AIG. Absolute lunacy! The crash of 2007 is proof of the madness of privatizing social security, and those who voted against the idea were wise to reject it out of hand.

  87. Dann: I think you may have missed a couple of steps here and there. Social Security involves *giving money away* to people. Usually poor people. People who need the money to do silly things like buy food, pay bills, pay rent and so on. There are very few corporations who are able to see any way at all of managing to turn a profit by giving money away. If you find one, do let me know about it.

    What the Republican party most likely meant by “Privatise Social Security” is “give all the money to our corporate buddy-buddies and let them decide how much they’ll give away”[1]. You already have an industry which does that – it’s called the finance industry. Why do you need another?

    Coming from a country where privatisation has been largely carried out on ideological grounds[2], I should point out that one of the chief consequences of privatisation is that the service provided to the ordinary public tends to get worse, rather than better, particularly when the service which has been privatised is one which principally made micro-profits rather than macro-profits or mega-profits[3].

    Actually, never mind Social Security. Why not privatise the US Armed forces? I’m sure there’s at least some savings which could be made by selling the whole damn lot to someone like Blackwater, and letting them do all the work.

    [1] I’m guessing here, but it’s certainly what our conservative party here in Australia (called the Liberal Party) was talking about when they were waving the idea about.
    [2] Australia.
    [3] Don’t believe me? Ask any Australian over the age of thirty whether the Commonwealth bank provides better or worse service since it was sold off, then get them talking about Australia Post and the Post Office Shops, and once you’ve got them good and hot under the collar, mention Telstra. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting damaged when you do, though.

  88. That methodology has failed succeeded over and over

    Most notably in the 1930s and 1940s (when it was partially in place with the New Deal and fully in place during World War II. What, you didn’t think military spending counted?)

  89. @Guliver. I have no issue with the need for cuts… I just think trying to cut in the middle of a massive recession with the lowest tax rates in half a century is daft. Borrow. Spend on stuff needed. Increase the tax base which includes fixing some of the tax code deftness and THEN go after spending. Starting with the Pentagon. How about the US starts by pegging military spending to the spend of the next 20 largest spending countries combined rather than the next 80?

  90. @ daveon

    Starting with the Pentagon. How about the US starts by pegging military spending to the spend of the next 20 largest spending countries combined rather than the next 80?

    A not insignificant amount could be saved by slashing boondoggle DoD projects.

    But deep military cuts would require relieving US forces of the role of global constable – a foreign policy shift I am all for, but which neither major party has shown the least willingness or interest in actually doing. If I had my way, the USM would be drawn down significantly to that which would be needed as a starting stance in the event of a war with another major world power. That would mean a smaller, better trained force built atop more stringent enlistment and commissioning standards with a five year minimum commitment for enlisted personnel and ten years for officers, the kind of force able to provide a stable foundation if we ever have to build up to full mobilization rather than the budget shortfalls and burnt-out mess the War on Terror…excuse me, overseas contingency operations…has left us with.

    I also advocate that the POTUS be required to obtain a Congressional declaration of war to deploy any National Guard units beyond US borders, and that Congress be required to issue a formal Declaration of War for the POTUS to prosecute an armed conflict past the sixty days allowed by the War Powers Resolution. I’ll point out that, had this been the case in 1990, it would have prevented President Bush senior from committing US forces to participate in the UN coalition which prosecuted the Gulf War, which would have in turn left no US-enforced ceasefire for the Iraqi Armed Forces to flaunt, which might in turn have prevented the Iraq War as the run-up and invasion would have required a deceleration of war justified on the pretext of WMDs alone.

  91. The mere fact that Sen. Lugar, of all people, can say stuff that makes sense about bi-partisanship just makes my head spin. Does anyone remember who he beat to get elected for his first term?

  92. “Bipartisanship” – Definition: both parties agree on how they will fleece the electorate.

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