Posts tagged ‘compromise’

Today’s Reality

Do you feel like you are getting bombarded? I do. Let’s start with the Russian thing. At the heart of maybe all the scandals, whether we are talking about Facebook, Russian hacking and manipulation of the election, or Russian collusion with the Trump boys, it all has two things in common, technology and greed. First let’s start with Trump, the great business man. There is no evidence of that. My guess is that he is living on a giant credit card funded by the laundering of Russian money. That is what the DFF is really afraid of, that we will find that out. He is a walking Ponzi scheme. So the Russians have leverage and the DFF was trying to build a Trump Tower in Russia so he certainly was willing to deal. The deal the Russians wanted was a repeal of the Magnitsky act which bars certain Russians from this country and our banking system. See my last blog. After that it was sanctions removed to expand their oil business, their only real source of income.

Enter technology. It should have made us smart and more productive. If you can Google a fact and find stuff out you should be more informed, right? It did not work out that way. First, unless you are really a critical thinker, it allowed unfiltered and unchecked information from anyone on equal terms. The stupid could magnify their stupidity by connecting with more stupids, their junk facts reinforced in their incestual thinking. Then there is email and how easy it is to be hacked and you have the perfect storm. Oh wait, along comes Facebook and Twitter and those uncritical thinkers are bombarded with fake news they drink down like drunken sailors, all in the search of profits for stockholders.

Now we are in a period where we have investigations into all of this, but come on people, it is kind of obvious. The DFF’s love of Russia, the announcements about Hillary’s emails during the campaign, the many, many, connections of his campaign to the Russians, you have to be blind. Then we are bombarded with the crass and depraved lying by Republicans afraid their house of cards is finally going to collapse and trying to pretend all this isn’t just too obvious. What happens if the base finds out the DFF is a fraud, will we be next? And what is the underlying connection that ties all this together, money, the greed that comes with it, and the power it confers.

Money confers power and the more they can accumulate and protect, the safer they feel. It is actually for all of us our security blanket. As we lose community, gated communities suffice as their replacement. Except they don’t and things like the floods in Houston, the fires in Sonoma, or the disaster in Puerto Rico wake us up to our fragility. There is another lesson here about corporations and the bullshit of self-regulation. See Facebook and Twitter and their need for profits that allows their product to be used to undermine democracy in the guise of free speech. See how we trick ourselves? Maybe all speech isn’t equal. Maybe all facts are not equal. Maybe all opinions are not equal.  Maybe the corporate model stifles our humanness.

To see our self-delusion in action just pay attention to General Kelly, an “honorable man”. We suffered through his lies and defamation of a Congresswoman, and by default a Gold Star widow .When pointed out with irrefutable video, silence. Then we got his what is sacred speech, followed by the White House telling us we can not question a 4-star general. But now we have the Civil War just should have been settled by negotiations, it was just a difference of opinion, showing a clear failure to understand history and a total lack of morals. The Civil War was the price we paid for our moral failure when we compromised with the South to make Blacks three-fifths a person. Oh, and General Lee was a traitor to the nation and an abominable slave holder. Oh those pesky facts.

Finally the news was hijacked once again, but this time by a nut job in a rented Home Depot truck. Not much to learn here except that radical religion is evil. Might want to make you think about Alabama’s Republican nomination for Senator, Joe Moore. One of his Republican cohorts in the Senate defending a question about how Judge Roy does not believe in religious freedom based upon his statements, said “Religious freedom comes from God”. Yeah that’s the problem. Whose God?

Well that is where we are these days. I think it will be a long cold winter even with global warming.

MTP or Why Pundits Should Never Discuss Complicated Policy

I only caught the panel discussion of healthcare and I wanted to beat my head into a wall.  It was the usual drivel about why the Republicans can’t agree on a plan, and how the solution is going to take a bipartisan approach.  They got them both wrong.  They played a clip of Senator Pat Toomey of PA telling us that Republicans got caught by surprise winning the election and they had no plan.  Now I want to stop you and the babbling fools on MTP and ask you to define fix.  That after all is the issue.  And then you have to understand how healthcare insurance works so you are not designing things destined for failure.  And on none of those do you have an agreement, and the babbling fools never seem to understand that is the real issue.

Okay let’s start out with the dream that everyone can agree on.  We want to maximize coverage (ideally everyone) with plans that meet everyone’s needs, at reasonable costs.  Okay, already we have some problems.  One side of the Republican Party does not want to cover everybody.  They simply want government out of health insurance and nirvana and the magic of the market place will result.  I wonder how they explain Medicare where the market place had no solution for older people who by definition have pre-existing conditions?  Now let’s look at what they want to get rid of:  First the taxes on the wealthy to subsidize the poor; second, the mandate for everyone to have healthcare insurance; third, the basic defined benefits (no hollow plans kind of like car insurance).  All that stuff is interfering with a free people’s choice according to them.

So on the Republican side they are divided into two camps, the boys who don’t give a shit about anyone else and hide that under free market blah, blah, blah, and the boys and girls who know that they can’t just cut people off healthcare and let them die, because they would be voted out of office (in states where sanity rules), but still want to get rid of the big three above.  So the fix is not even agreed to within the Republicans.  Okay, so the answer according to the babbling idiots on news shows is that the Democrats just need to get with this second group and hammer something out. We can just all hold hands…

Now we have to figure out what Democrats want in terms of a fix.  Once again we are herding cats in the Democratic Party, but generally except for the Republicans in the Party (who Republicans purged) that pretend they are Democrats (Manchin and others), they want to fix Obamacare and leave it intact.  So, for simplicities sake, remember we are dealing with babbling idiots, we have some form of the “big three” Republican goals (see below), and the Democrats, just fix the issues with the exchanges and rising premiums. Okay where is the possible compromise?  That is where understanding how healthcare insurance actually works and why any compromise solution that would actually fix Obamacare would require Republicans to capitulate and is never going to happen.  Read this to be, if there is a compromise expect less and it will not fix anything.

The solution to our healthcare problems are there to find for anyone who can read a spreadsheet, looking at costs versus income, if we agree we want to increase meaningful coverage and lower premiums (the fix).  Republicans like to tell us that the marketplace will find solutions to lower costs.  So why did we have to have Medicare again? Or said another way, the market place will find a place where they can maximize profits and minimize costs and that is not with sick people or poor people.  I could give you the “build a business plan pretending you are a health insurance company” example, but I have beat that one to death.  What all that means is that healthy people will get really cheap plans and be very happy unless they get sick, and everyone else will be back to the days before Obamacare.  The rich don’t care.

So let’s take the Republican’s “big three” one at a time recognizing that the market place does not have a solution for solving problems involving high risk or poor sick people, but to charge them lots and lots which most can’t afford.  Number 1 is to get rid of taxes on the wealthy to subsidize the poor.  Well, if you are going to subsidize the poor (in the Republican plans so far they just throw them off healthcare so they can cut these taxes or send it to the states as someone elses problem for the same reason) where does the money come from and who can afford it the best?  So you have to solve that one and remember, the market place is not going to rush to insure people who can’t afford premiums.

Okay, number 2 is the hated insurance mandate!  In the perfect world of libertarians and Republicans, government can’t force you to do anything!  Hmm, do you drive a car?  Did not the big mean state make you have car insurance (and on number 3 did they not specify minimum coverage?).  If they didn’t make you have car insurance, those of us who could afford it would, the rest would blow it off, and insurance would have a very small pool to cover everyone’s cracked windshield, or dented fender, not to mention totalled car. Can you now connect the dots?  The more you have in, the lower the rates can be across the board.  If you remove the mandate, rates will soar.  Even the Republican led CBO figured that one out as they forecast soaring premiums from the Republican plans.  So where do you compromise on this one?  How do you provide lower premiums unless you offer plans which basically cover colds and nothing else, and this gets us to Republican desire Number 3.

Number 3 says get rid of all the stuff people don’t need, then the market place can offer plans more suited to what you need at lower costs.  The Republican favorite example of this is the young person, strong and healthy, not planning on having a family and have to pay for maternity care in his plan.  If you want to take this to an extreme, why not separate men and women’s plans recognizing that men don’t need pap smears or gynecologist visits?  The reason is simple.  You can certainly reduce the cost of plans for some, but the cost for those other things people need then skyrocket because they can’t spread the costs over more plans.  This is not hard.  It doesn’t work.  Basically you are just raising the cost of health care for those who really need it so that those who don’t pay less.

Okay smart people, where is the compromise?  The stuff Republicans want doesn’t work to lower the costs, and to do that, you have to cover fewer people who are healthy and don’t really need it. How do Democrats compromise with that?  We need a stronger healthcare system with universal coverage, with plans in place to reduce the actual costs of healthcare.  Republicans have fought both.  The market place prior to Obamacare did not in any way control costs and created hollow plans. Obamacare came about without any Republican votes.  So Democrats should compromise to go back to that?  Of course there is a way forward, but Republicans are not going to get on that train ever.  There is no compromise solution and talking about it is nonsense.

So why are pundits keeping focusing on compromise as the solution?  The things that Republicans want won’t strengthen healthcare coverage or reduce costs.  They weaken them. Why are they talking about a fix when there is no agreement on what that fix looks like?  Where, instead of a bunch of political talking heads, is someone who understands how insurance (any kind) works and what would and would not work in the world of facts and spreadsheets?  Single payer is one approach to universal care.  There are others, all out there working in the rest of the world and we close our eyes to them and argue failed Republican ideas. Then Pundits tell Democrats they need to come work with Republicans for a solution.  Any wonder I want to pound my head against the wall?  Just another Sunday where reason and logic no longer matter.

Look, I won’t kid you. However we implement universal healthcare, there will still be lots of problems.  Since our cost are at least twice that of all other countries we have to find solutions to that.  There will be debates about more cost effective ways to provide care, who gets critical things like heart transplants (when money no longer talks at least within the universal system), what does and does not get covered.

Last time we had death panel screams and choice and big government that got us nowhere and were all lies to stop trying new things. But all these issues are solvable if we could try out different solutions, but right now we are having a debate that is going nowhere and nothing will happen until we agree on what we are trying to do, what fixed means, and start talking about solutions that actually could work understanding how insurance works, not ideological talking points.

The beginning is for Democrats to understand this and offer their own bottom line.  I have suggested what this should be.  But shows like MTP which talk about the politics without any basis in workable solutions or defining what fix mean just confuse everyone and gets us nowhere.  I wish they would wake up.  But then I see how they handle the other obvious problem we have (Donald Trump) and I have little hope for that. It took an Australian journalist to say the obvious there (see earlier blog).

All of this is fixable if people learn how to think critically.  Maybe that would be what the news media should do for us.  As it is, they think repeating the talking points of one side or another is critical thinking.  It is constipated thinking and are now a nation who can’t deliver a new idea if we tried.  See Donald Trump and the great trip back into a mythical history.  I am awake, are you? I would shit you.  There is no holding hands solutions.  Until Republicans are a minority and Democrats find a backbone, there is no way forward, just failed ideas to compromise with.  We can be better than that, at least I used to think so.

UPDATE: Might as well completely close the loop by talking about costs.  Many Republicans and some Democrats say we simply can’t afford universal care.  First the rest of the world does it, so why is it we can’t?  Second there is the moral issue, so we just let people die (Republicans answer that by saying sick people are sick because they somehow caused it (no I am not making this up).  But the third argument is simply we pay those cost anyway and don’t see them.  

First of course is our health insurance premiums that includes costs to underwrite hospital emergency rooms where those without health insurance go.  Second, these cost are ballooned by the fact that people without insurance don’t get preventative care so then when they get sick and go to a hospital, they are deathly sick. Third our healthcare expenses are focused on a few unhealthy people. “When it comes to America’s spiraling health care costs, the country’s problems begin with the 5%. In 2008 and 2009, 5% of Americans were responsible for nearly half of the country’s medical spending. Of course, health care has its own 1% crisis. In 2009, the top 1% of patients accounted for 21.8% of expenditures.”  This way out of line with other countries and note  other countries have better outcomes.  Of course we can afford it.  Quite frankly we can’t afford not to afford it.  Otherwise, we will never get control of it.

Some Thoughts on Healthcare and “Moderate Democrats”


You hear it all the time.  Why don’t Democrats work with Republicans to fix Obamacare?  Why can’t Washington just sit down and craft a solution. Lately that is the new narrative on many of the news shows.  Ex-Congressman Harold Ford is the latest example of talk about Democrats and Republicans just sitting down and working it out.  It is how Democrats lose their shorts and whatever it was they stood for.  First, let’s just correct the facts, the Republicans have kept Democrats out of the discussion.  But that has got them nowhere so now they are considering a plan to just repeal Obamacare on a time schedule and force Democrats to the table to try to ameliorate the damage.

Manchin: Dems want to work with Trump on health care”: “Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday said members of his party are willing to work with Republicans and President Donald Trump to find a bipartisan solution on health care. Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has been seen as a potential partner on parts of Trump’s agenda, made the comments in an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday.’” —Connor O’Brien, Politico

Now let’s be clear one more time:  There is no Republican fix for Obamacare if you define fix as enrolling as many people as possible and making it affordable.  Their plan is to reduce benefits, raise premium costs, so they can afford a tax cut for the wealthy using reconciliation so they don’t have to deal with the filibuster. See the current plan and the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) scoring. Some Republicans actually believe their bullshit that more choice will lower premiums and with more choice, more coverage.  The CBO doesn’t think so and I would ask you to put on your thinking cap for a minute.

Old people and the sick are going to cost a lot of money in terms of paying out benefits.  Young people and the healthy are going to cost little or nothing.  How do you think the market place works around those two realities?  Young or healthy people will have tons of choice, little coverage, and lower premiums, while those who really need healthcare will either be offered expensive plans that don’t cover much, or have extremely high deductibles, and both will have very high premiums.  Don’t believe me, read the CBO report.

Obamacare covered many more people by paying for it with subsidies, paying for those by taxing the wealthy, and requiring everyone to have insurance (expanding the pool of risk to lower premiums).  It also put into place some cost savings measures that are working (note we pay twice what other countries do for healthcare with poorer outcomes).  Oh, and let’s not forget that it required plans offered to everyone to be comprehensive.  No more hollow plans that either did not cover major things or bankrupt us when shit happened.  All this goes away and the marketplace will decide what we need to maximize their profits.

So having said all this, where do you think real choice and competition is going to take place in this new marketplace?  In the young and healthy.  Old and sick people cost too much money.  There is no profit margin there. That is why I say there is no Republican fix.  You have to expand the risk pools to decrease premiums, and without regulated markets, you get junk plans again, unless of course you are wealthy.  And those who really need health insurance simply can’t afford it which is why there are subsidies paid for by taxes that the Republicans want to end.  As more and more companies pull out of the healthcare benefit world, and many more of us work as contract workers, the old ways don’t work and the marketplace has already shown us (pre-Obamacare) how well they provide healthcare.

So now we are back to Democrats sitting down to work with Republicans to fix Obamacare.  Republicans won’t let you fix it, just help them craft a little less marginalized approach.  Is that what Democrats stand for?  Is that where we want to go, because that is the only outcome possible.  Now Democrats (forget Harold Ford and his ilk who are in La La Land about reality and are still in the 80s) need to get out in front of this.  They do this by crafting the necessary fixes to Obamacare.  Instead of starting at the immoral (yes I said it again and a plan that kills people is immoral and it is a Republican plan) Republican plan, start from something that would work.  This plan has to come from Senator Schummer and Congresswoman Pelosi, a united Democratic approach.  No “reasonable” Manchins ready to agree to another watered down Republican mess we all get blamed for.  Democrats have to provide a united front to let the American people know what they stand for.

So what should that plan be?  Here is what Professor Kwak proposed in his referenced guide to a new Democratic Party of fairness I quoted from liberally yesterday:

Anyone with a conscience would agree that it is unfair for some people to die or endure extreme suffering simply because they are poor. Politicians of every party and ideology agree that decent health care should be universally accessible. But while we all believe that it is unfair to deprive some people of needed health care, as a society we nevertheless insist on distributing it via markets—more or less highly regulated, but markets all the same. The result is a doubly unfair system. Poor people start off with less generous health insurance, have less access to services, and pay more out of pocket when they go to the doctor or buy medications. And then people who develop serious or chronic illnesses, generally through no fault of their own, pay more than healthy people—often thousands or tens of thousands of dollars more each year. The underlying problem is that markets naturally want to allocate health care resources to rich people; contorting those markets to produce morally acceptable results is difficult if not impossible, as demonstrated by the heroic struggles of Obamacare. The most fair solution is to create a basic, universal health insurance plan open to all Americans and largely funded by general tax revenues. The most direct path to getting there is expanding Medicare to cover all people. This is the simplest way to stop punishing the poor for being poor and the sick for being sick.

Of course Republicans are not going there.  But here are my bottom line recommendations for the near term:

  • Keep the subsidies and strengthen them – that means keeping the taxes on the wealthy
  • Keep the requirement for insurance and expand the penalties to provide a larger insurance pool to lower premiums. We all have to have car insurance after all
  • Keep the requirements for full coverage (including things like existing conditions and kids till they are 26, not to mention birth control, drug rehabilitation, etc.)
  • Where the exchanges are losing insurers (primarily due to the threat of not funding subsidies and turning the exchanges into high risk pools by the Republicans), offer a single payer alternative, Medicare for all in effect.  Let the private insurers compete and see what happens
  • Continue and reinforce efforts to reduce medical costs through recommended effective treatments, incentivizing outcomes, and allowing the government to negotiate prices with big Pharma  (maybe making it legal to buy drugs from Canada)

If you can’t get the above, don’t bother.  Don’t get sucked into the false argument that well maybe you can save some people.  When you do, the rabble out there can’t tell the difference between you and the Republicans and we get a Donald Trump.  Does that clear it up?


Ted has offered this:  Why not offer to provide a choice in the exchanges where you can buy the plans with all the required coverage, and the ones without all that stuff young people don’t want to pay for like pregnancy or dialysis, etc.  See then people have a choice.  Okay, once again put on your thinking cap.  The advantage to having plans with mandated coverage is one, it covers everything, and two, it subsidizes the plans where people actually have to use all that stuff.  So what you get when you separate out the plans is cheap plans for young healthy people, and expensive plans for sick people.  But being sick is their fault right?  Either we are all in this together or we are not, and the whole Libertarian/Republican philosophy masked in so much B.S. is I got mine screw you.  But watch them scream for help when bad stuff happens. 

All the Way (with LBJ)

HBO presented the Tony winning play from Broadway this weekend with Bryan Cranston leading an ensemble of amazing actors to put life into that time when LBJ did actually transform the nation.  It was an amazing perspective on reality, personal frailty, and what it took to really change America.  It was also a window into everything that is going on today and anyone watching it could not help asking themselves, does history never stop repeating itself?  There was the South fighting any change that might give blacks (negroes in those times) real equal representation.  They are still fighting that change today 50 years later in the form of gay and transgender rights.  They still use the Bible and claims of freedom to spew their discrimination.  State’s rights is still code for hate and disenfranchisement.  I don’t mean to pick on the South, but there it is.

Probably one of the more interesting tug of wars that is so important today is between doing what is right and the reality of politics.  LBJ delayed the Voting Rights Act because he could not get the Civil Rights Act through Congress with the resistance from Southern Democrats.  It in many ways was the lesson of Abe Lincoln on freeing the slaves.  The right thing to do (Emancipation Proclamation) was down the road from the compromises he offered the South until we escalated into civil war.  So fast forward till today and we have the Bernie/Hillary fight where Bernie wants radical change and Hillary wants incremental change. Oh, and the Republicans want no change.  Is the lesson here, like for LBJ, that we must be politically practical and drag the conservatives kicking and screaming into the future?

I would say yes and no.  It has become fairly obvious that the conservatives have just about everything wrong, whether it is LGBT rights, or the economy, much less global warming.  If we had rational politics and we saw some movement then I would agree with incrementalism.  But we simply don’t and most people are in denial about that.  We are actually moving backwards as a conservative loaded judiciary has destroyed the Voting Rights Act, we see religious rights as a tool to discriminate again, and nothing, absolutely nothing that moves the country forward is going to get through a Republican controlled Congress.  There are no levers that we saw LBJ wield.

So the lesson of LBJ using his political skills to move the country forward may not be viable anymore.  That is what Barack was trying to do. The outrage shown by the more radically prone blacks in All the Way was resisted by Martin Luther king seeing (and being helped to see) that winning a battle was not winning the war.  But today?  Global Warming is now irreversible, economic inequality is growing like an aggressive cancer, and conservatives again want to use state’s rights as an excuse to disenfranchise people they don’t agree with.  And they have shown us they won’t compromise unless the compromise is capitulation by the other side.  We have been trying incrementalism and we are back sliding.

So all in all, the lessons of All the Way are that nothing really changes.  The forces of fighting change use the same tired rhetoric and lies to keep us all from advancing.  Sometimes you have to compromise to move forward, and people and politics are complex.  Strength may appear as weakness, and weakness may actually be strength. But the lesson of today is if the other side is unwilling to compromise, and politics of yesterday don’t work, we may have to try something new.

Oh, and I saw All the Way on Broadway and Bryan Cranston and the cast had me riveted in my seat.  Maybe that is why it won the Tony for best Dramatic Play, and best Dramatic Actor.  It was riveting again last night as I watched the film production.  I see another Emmy coming Cranston’s way.

The President’s Commencement Speech

I caught the whole thing, and I listened closely.  There was real wisdom here.  Between that and Bernie Sanders interview on Friday night with Rachel Maddow, there was a real contrast between cartoon America and people trying to solve real problems.  Cartoon America is of course the Republicans.  But in the instance of President Obama’s speech he made a plea for reasonableness.  It was something I listened closely to because in many ways, he was not served well by his reasonableness with the Republican Congress.  Here is some of what he said:

“If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want,” the president said, adding that such an approach leads to “a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair, and that’s never been the source of our progress.”

There is truth in that and he gave examples of where listening to the other side helped forge compromises that recognized the only progress possible was to work within both sides interests.  This part of his speech could have been lifted from the negotiator’s Bible, Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.  It is about interests, not positions.  But one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that we have to know what our bottom line is, and what the interests of the other side are.

Listening to this part of the speech, one could say that he was arguing that negotiating with Republicans whose interest was to see you fail, was still worth it.  But in another part of his speech he indicated that you had to know where to draw the line.  I think that later part came later in his administration.  So yes, when you have two parties like Black Lives Matter and the police, both could learn something from the other.  When you have a Tea Party Congress who has no intention of letting anything you want survive, drawing lines and saying No is the only way you keep yourself whole.  The real wisdom here is learning to recognize which situation you are in.

All the Wrong Moves

I am wondering if the way we think about things is our problem.  Here is the big one:  Compromise may not be a virtue, but our downfall.  Let me connect the dots on two news stories today.  First, Leaders Roll up Sleeves on Climate, but Experts Say Plans Don’t Pack a Wallop:

Unless countries develop more ambitious plans, the experts say, the world could ultimately suffer profound consequences, including debilitating heat waves, food shortages and fast-rising seas.

And of course there are competing interests basically short-term pain to long-term catastrophe.  Then you turn to an op-ed that tells us:  An Energy Bill that Needs Fixes.

The bill is a modest attempt at bipartisanship in a Congress that has seen very little of it. Both sides of the aisle put aside their most ambitious energy proposals in an effort to achieve small gains. That is not necessarily a bad thing, given how deeply divided the two parties are on energy and environmental policy.

It contains some good things, “However, it also contains harmful measures that need to be stripped out before it becomes law. Its most problematic provision, a bipartisan amendment advocated by several senators, including Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, requires the government to consider electricity generated by burning trees and other forest biomass as carbon-neutral.”

So what are we playing at here?  Moving chairs around on the deck of the Titanic?  Things will be better for a while until the whole thing goes tits up?  But special interests get a short-term reprieve over the fate of our children?  Compromising with bad ideas is a bad idea.  Climate science is easy.  We know the end result, except of course for the deniers (Republicans), we know what has to be done.  And we don’t do it because…

Okay let’s take a not so direct example.  Ross Douthat, okay judge the source, wrote a column this morning about Bernie, but I thought the language was telling:  leading a left-wing-youth-movement.  What is left-wing?  Is that single payer health care?  Is it taking money out of politics?  Is it free public universities?  Is it paying more taxes so we can afford these things?

Note we call Bernie an idealist while we call Hillary a pragmatist.  All these labels are laden with meaning.  Left wing is out there.  Idealist is ineffective.  A pragmatist gets things done.  But the labels no longer apply.  If you want universal health care, a single payer system is what the world has shown us is the way to get there.  Isn’t that then pragmatic?  If being an idealist is dreaming and proposing the only real changes that will turn us around, is that idealism, or is it being pragmatic.  If what is political realistic does not solve the problem are you really impractical to propose real fixes anyway?

Let me connect the two ideas.  We are into labeling as ways to send emotion laden messages in code about ideas.  But the labeling is no longer accurate.  Compromise and bipartisanship is not a good thing if the compromise does not solve a problem that must be solved, just makes us feel better about ourselves.  Idealistic is not idealistic if the only way to make our political system work is to get money out of politics.  Right wing or left-wing are emotion and meaning laden words that tell us nothing about whether the ideas they are describing work.  Is it left-wing to want free public college education when to compete and to advance our standard of living, that is the only way we are going to make education affordable for everyone?  Oh, and other countries already do it?

We have reached a point where most conservative ideas are no longer functional.  They worked fine in a frontier society where there was lots of opportunity for everyone.  Today we have competing interests, inequality and a rigged system everywhere, and a complex world where everything we do impacts everyone else.  Just being competent and disciplined in a very unlevel playing field no longer works.  Said simply, working hard no longer guarantees anything.  The solutions we require can no longer tolerate half measures that may not work.  In terms of global warming, it simply dooms our children.  In terms of compromise with a system that no longer works, it just makes the final explosion louder and more devastating.  To attack ideas as right-wing or left-wing is nonsense.  It is an excuse to not to examine them in the light of their efficacy.

So my plea here is simple.  Let me hear no more about bipartisan bills as an assumed good idea.  Let me hear no more that an idea is left-wing or right-wing, or politically impractical.  We have real needs to move this country forward and we need to consider the ideas in simple terms of do they solve the problem.  We won’t hear that because one whole political party has no new ideas and they want us to ignore reality.  But the rest of us could get smarter and quit thinking working with them is a good idea when their ideas no longer address reality as we know it.

Beltway B.S.

From the N.Y. Times This Morning:

With both parties increasingly playing to their base constituencies and their sometimes absolutist positions, many lawmakers are apt to oppose legislation that does not meet their all-or-nothing demands, making bipartisan measures like the $1.1 trillion spending bill extraordinarily difficult to achieve.

“You have a real breakdown in the institution, and this is the result of that breakdown,” said Representative Doc Hastings, the retiring Washington State Republican who presided over much of the House session as the funding measure came under attack from two directions before it narrowly passed just hours before the government was to run out of money. It is expected to clear the Senate, but again not without objections from the right and left.

It’s bull shit. It is the argument that both sides have a fringe section, equally fringy, and they are gumming up the works. Again it is bull shit. The argument over the removing of banking regulations was a clear substantive issue. But maybe I should ask you this: Who are moderate Republicans in the middle? There aren’t any or not enough to define a middle.

Think of it this way: Think of a football field. You have two goal posts representing the ideal position of each player and 100 yards between them. The ideal compromise position is on the 50 yard line. You are sitting in the stands and the guys on the right moves their goal posts 20 yards back (to the right). Now the compromise position is on the old 40 yard line of the guys who move their goal line further away (to the right). Do that a few times and the compromise position gets closer and closer to the original goal line of the guys who keep moving their goal line to the right. That is where we are today.

So should there be a line in the sand? Well, if the guys on the left do not want to start playing from the other guys original goal line there should be. Said another way, if they want to stand for anything there should be. In real politics the Right has figure out that you just make more and more outrageous demands and the compromise position continues to move in their direction until we have a country with only one position. That is what the stand on the Cromnibus was about, not the loss of compromise, but the loss of standing for anything.

It turned out that in the backroom negotiations, the Republicans piled on a whole bunch of onerous banking give aways and the Democrats thought they had come to a reasonable compromise when they were only left with the FDIC covering their risky bets thing. In actuality the compromise position moved to the goal line of the other guy. Compromise in this environment is losing who you are and becoming them. There should have been no bill passed by the Democrats. A line in the sand is all we have left till we become them, if we haven’t already.

Oh, and I almost forgot to draw the obvious conclusion. The Beltway conventional wisdom implicit in the NYT article above is that the compromise position is the best outcome. But in today’s political climate, the compromise position was a total disaster rolling back one of the most important protections we enacted to protect our economy. It shows we are owned by the banks and the rich. Gee, maybe the both sides do it and some compromise position is best for the country is total bull shit. You think?

Compromise in Washington?

What are you smoking? You have to wonder about this current crop of pundits. No, there won’t be any compromise in Washington unless Democrats just buy into failed Republican ideas and cease to exist. See Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Here is the new conventional wisdom: The Republicans have tamed their radicals and now can once again function as a real political party. Additionally, in order to matter in 2016 they have to actually govern, which means pass some legislation that people want between now and then. So there will be things that Democrats and Republicans can work together on.

Hello? Have you been awake the last eight years. The party was rejuvenated by electing people who hate government. Their only goal was to make sure President Obama did not have any wins. They pandered to xenophobia, bigotry (those others), and fear of government. Their base upon which they depend on for reelection has not changed. So why should they?

Already the talking heads say that immigration reform might get passed. Again, what are you smoking? There is a bill that was a major compromise that passed in the Senate. It had a ton of bad stuff in it to get it by Republicans then. Now the Republicans want “more compromises” before they will agree to vote on it. Have we not seen this movie before. They will keep moving the goal posts and claim the Democrats won’t play. If Democrats want to exist as a party that stands for something they will draw some lines in the sand.

Here is what everyone is missing. One party, the Democrats, believe that to solve our problems, government has to be a big player. The other one, Republicans, see government as the problem, unless of course it can be used to enforce their moral ideology (deny a right to choose, deny gay marriage, deny voting rights). We are facing major issues like global warming and a waning economy for the middle class and one party denies reality and says the solution is less government and lower taxes and the other wants to use government to address these issues. Just where again is the compromise?

Here is what makes your head spin. We know that Republican ideas about immigration, drugs, global warming, healthcare, alternate energy, or the economy in general do not work. Just close the borders and throw out the undocumented workers is impractical and actually hurts our economy. The drug war has been an abysmal failure. Yes, Virginia, global warming exists and even our military see it as the future cause of global conflicts. Just appeal Obamacare and prices will go down. Alternate energy, resisted by Republicans with their drill baby drill chant, is our future. And on the economy, oh, don’t get me started.

Americans, at some level know all the hoopla about the economy getting better is just that, hoopla. The majority of us are not reaping the benefits of the GDP growth or the stock market. Yes, we are creating more jobs, but what kind of jobs? Inequality is growing by leaps and bounds every day. One party, the Republicans see maintaining this status quo as good, and the other, Democrats, want to see more Americans share in the nation’s prosperity. They are two different roads and compromise just takes us down the Republican one.

The Republicans won the last election and they are bereft of ideas except the old failed ones and they hold on to power by obstruction and fear. Where oh where is the compromise in that. No, we will see the Republican Party as it is, still obstructing and demanding too many concessions, and compromise for them is still a dirty word. No it is not going to happen. They just can’t help themselves. And part of the problem is the Beltway Blinders that keep our media from pointing fingers and looking at real policies, not in whether they can get passed, but will they help. No, nothing has changed.

The Stupid Things People Say that Perpetuates the Problem

I was listening to a report about how Congress is about to leave town and they have yet to solve the VA funding problem after all the chest beating about how our veterans deserve better.  A representative of a veteran’s group was pointing out this was not a partisan issue and Congress just needs to provide the required additional funds to solve this problem.  Note how Congress is blamed, not Republicans, who refuse to fund it except by gouging some other needed program.  These guys and gals who represent various good causes are afraid to name names because then they themselves become partisan and the other side won’t talk to them.  Instead they become pawns of the false impression that both sides do it.

In case you haven’t noticed, breathing is a partisan issue.  Infrastructure improvements, dealing with the impacts of global warming, the immigration problem, you name it and it all comes down to government action and additional spending and the Republicans hate both.  That is about as partisan as it gets.  I would bet if you took the amount of money needed to fund the VA to get the services required to keep our promise and raise taxes accordingly to fund it, as we should have done to pay for those stupid wars, it would be a popular winner.  But when you can promise to raise no taxes as a right passage to the Halls of Republicanism, it is not going to happen.  Immigration reform and raising the minimum wage are all wildly popular, but they are not going to happen because it flies in the face of Republican theology.

And all of it is not going to happen, not because of partisan bickering, but because Republicans don’t believe in it.  There are no negotiations because what we have learned is that Republicans don’t compromise unless that compromise is the other side totally caving in to the Republican position.  So quit saying stupid things like it is not a partisan issue and that Congress needs to get together and find the money.  That is not the issue.  The issue is that Republicans hate government and would be happy if the VA (a government medical program) fails.  If you don’t get that by now, well, I just give up.  Keep voting for those fools as our government grinds to a halt.

Some Confirmation

Yesterday I listed some reasons why Progressives are not so happy with President Obama. The counter argument is that he is getting what is politically possible. My response to that is simply that the bar is set way too low. The country has lurched so far to the right that what is politically possible is generally toxic. To get something done, anything, in this environment is to water down legislation to the point where you have lost what you stand for.

The voters get this. They see both parties are pretty much the same* and see little reason to get to the polls to vote because what is the point? The Democrats have allowed themselves to be neutralized and Washington is the place where good ideas go to die. I believe there is an alternative to this, which won’t get anything passed, but will start to define a true and distinct difference between the two parties.

That alternative is a united front between the Democrats in Congress and the President on presenting a unified plan which includes immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, investment in infrastructure, global warming legislation, reducing interest on the student loans, equal pay for women, a voting bill of rights (access, ID, easier registration and voting), and a guaranteed access for women’s choice. Almost like a party platform, but in this case a concrete legislative plan.

The big difference here is that in the past, we have let “bipartisan” groups work over the bills (read make them toothless) so that they can pass the Congress. This time, make it the bottom line. Put in those bills what would be most effective optimal solutions to our problems, and then submit and resubmit them to Congress to vote on (or at least in the Senate where Democrats control the agenda. Then it would be obvious what Democrats stand for, and who is the problem. It might also start a conversation in the country that will wake people up to how far right we have lurched.

The biggest problem with this is President Obama himself. I have argued that he lacks leadership skills and the there there that allows him to understand what is not negotiable. So to my title. I read a piece by James Kwak yesterday in his Baseline Blog commenting on Jessie Eisinger’s column about Tim Giethner’s new book on the financial crisis. As James put it:

But it’s also important to remember that he (Giethner) was only an upper manager. The man who called the shots was his boss: Barack Obama.

Eisinger takes this much further in discussing the failure to really reform the financial system and do anything about sinking home values and home mortgage debt which was the real cause of the recession (See House of Debt):

These were Mr. Geithner’s failures, but they were more deeply Mr. Obama’s. The flaws we thought we were seeing during Mr. Geithner’s tenure turn out to have replicated themselves in other Obama departments. And they have persisted after Mr. Geithner left. Why, it’s almost as if the Treasury secretary wasn’t the one making decisions and setting the tone after all.

President Obama’s appointees, Eric H. Holder Jr. at the Department of Justice and Mary L. Schapiro at the Securities and Exchange Commission, oversaw the inadequate enforcement response to the crisis. Mr. Obama reappointed Ben S. Bernanke, who focused on monetary policy and didn’t push for more aggressive regulatory and financial reform. Mr. Geithner didn’t run those shops. …

Favored Obama appointees seem to share certain qualities: They work within the system, they don’t like to ruffle feathers or pick fights, and they keep their profiles low. They are technocrats.

There’s an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” quality to these Obamaites. Mr. Geithner had a saying: “No jerks, no peacocks, no whiners.” That echoes the president’s ethos, encapsulated by “No drama Obama.” The result is a congenital suspicion of vision, ambition, sweeping reform and change.

Or as I have been arguing for years, there is no grand vision, there is no there there, and change will never come from this lot.

*Clearly both parties are not the same, one standing for more tax cuts, less regulation, smaller government, and wait for flow down, while the other actually wants to do something about economic and social inequality. The choice could not be more stark. But that only applies to those of us who track these things. The average voter is discouraged, seeing nothing happen, and the Democrats on the defensive almost all the time. So in their little minds, they voted for change and got none, and it is all so depressing that they just tune out.