Posts tagged ‘compromise’

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.

The Enemy in Our Own Camp

They are called moderate Democrats, but moderate is a relative term considering how far right the country has swung. Moderate Democrats are usually social progressives and economic conservatives, whereas moderate Republicans (a disappearing breed) would kind of like to be moderate Democrats, but in order to keep their jobs have sold their souls to the right wing nut jobs.

Moderate Democrats are purple state Democrats trying to hang on to their jobs by catering to conservative ideas whether they be coal states, or walking a fine line between state’s rights and big government. The conventional wisdom is that moderate anything is good. Hey, compromise is good right? Both sides bring something to the table, right? Not anymore.

Here is what we know. No, this is not an opinion, it is what we know. We face two giant crisises: Global Warming and extreme Economic Inequality. Let’s start with the global warming thing. The conservatives (hereafter referred to as the crazies) deny it exists in the face of overwhelming data.

As Chris Hayes pointed out in a Nation post, in order to stem the worst effects of global warming, we are going to have to leave trillions of dollars worth of carbon in the ground. There is no well we could take half or maybe eventually there will be clean coal. We either leave it in the ground and don’t burn it or we go over the tipping point. In other words, there is no room for negotiation.

So where do we think the moderates stand? Here in California, they are making deals to increase fracking, but getting some safeguards for the water. Seems reasonable until you look at the big picture. In coal states they are trying to save jobs and it seems reasonable till you look at the big picture.

And what is the big picture? That global warming will be the greatest threat to world peace as droughts, floods, rising oceans, displaced people change historic patterns of commerce, haves and have nots. If you look at it in these terms, the moderates are selling us out.

To transfer from carbon based fuels to alternate energy could reinvigorate our economy including jobs to harden our infrastructure to prevent the damage from rising seas and future Sandy’s. But there would be winners and losers and those losers have big bucks to fight change (See Koch brothers in Oklahoma fighting solar energy).

The other great threat to us is growing economic inequality. Our wealth is being focused in a few, while the rest of us loose ground and our economy languishes. But wait! We have been sold that economic inequality is that vital element that gives us the motivation to strive. And it is true within reason, but we have left the starting gate of all reason. And this is not about capitalism, but about the rules and policies we put in place around capitalism. And guess who those mostly benefit?

Economic inequality kills jobs, reduces competition, kills people (that is why there is a higher mortality rate if you are poor), but is great if you are wealthy. See Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality, by David Cay Johnston. The fix is to take some drastic action like raising the minimum wage, giving women equal pay, reducing patent protections, reforming immigration, reforming trade policy, and reforming the tax code. Once again moderate Democrats aren’t going to make the changes necessary because they are economic conservatives. They still believe in flow down which is the ideological basis for making “job creators” wealthy. They are still terrified of the debt instead of unemployment.

One side hasn’t just got it a little wrong and we need to meet in the middle, they have had it completely wrong and moderate Democrats are right in there with them. We are now facing some of the biggest threats to America’s prosperities and halfway measures are not going to move us off the status quo. That is why moderate Democrats right there with the crazies, need to be relegated to the dust bin of bad ideas. We need a Progressive tomorrow, not more compromise that gets us nowhere.


Well my mind is kind of reeling. There are so many things that are not making sense, I don’t know where to start. Probably the first is the Farm Bill which should just be vetoed and tell Congress to get it right. Of course it has lots of good things in it, but it is loaded with bad things. Just to mention one is crop insurance which protects our farmers from Mother Nature, but is really a give away to insurance companies where we the tax payers guarantee a 14% return on their policies (and subsidize them). Why? Or why Congress removed the requirement to disclose who in congress is getting subsidized insurance? Full disclosure anyone?

That brings up a whole topic of compromise, horse trading, and extortion and . When does one become the other? Chris Chistie’s folks are mulling this over right now and clearly in politics the gray predominates. Right here in California we have a project going south (literally and figuratively) because of politics. That would the the high speed rail project. The route it will take was based upon horse trading to get votes and align the route with cities who had their votes for sale. So instead of good policy and projects, we get the suboptimal solution, and one that may ultimately spell its demise.

Let’s look at immigration. Republicans have given us a one page immigration plan, which means they haven’t giving us anything yet. But what is good immigration policy? Or how much of this is weighed down by pandering to the base as opposed to good policy that might work. Democrats are probably thinking we can throw away more money on border security if we can get a bill that actually helps legalized those who are in the shadows. Well that remains to be seen, but is that really a good compromise?

I guess what is really bothering me is that we know how to fix many things. They really are not up for debate since we already have enough data. But it would appear that we elect politicians who game the system for political advantage instead of working for the good of the country. How do we get around that? That is what is rolling around in my mind. We have a systemic problem in our political system that ensures that politicians like Chris Christie succeed instead of more public service oriented people. Sure Chris and most Democrats sell us that they care about us, but what they do is what they are.

So some horse trading and compromise works. Clearly if I want a new water treatment facility for my citizens I should be able to make a deal to support someone else’s project to get it. It is in the interest of my voters. But when I make deals to benefit special business interests or my political prospects, I am no longer serving the people’s interest (except where I lie to myself that this is good for the people). So how do we figure out who are the good guys and who aren’t. Watch what they do, not what they say. If women would do that, there would not be one female who is a Republican. I can dream.



NYT: “Senate Democrats are on the verge of moving to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees, aides and senior party leaders said Wednesday, a move that would deprive Republicans of their ability to block President Obama’s picks for cabinet posts and the federal judiciary and further erode what little bipartisanship still exists in the Senate.”

Now I think this sentence reflects an implicit assumption on the conventional wisdom on bipartisanship. Let’s define the word and think about it: Does it mean, which I think is generally accepted, that politicians work across the isle to find solutions to our problems? That is what Americans want to see, right? “I wish they would quick arguing and get to work.” I like the Wikipedia definition better:

Bipartisanship is a political situation, usually in the context of a two-party system, in which opposing political parties find common ground[disambiguation needed] through compromise, in theory. Realistically, each party advances their own political agenda at the expense of the other party because of the conflicting ideologies.

The important thing to note here is that because the Republicans are in the minority and their political agenda is so at odds with Democrats, compromise is mostly impossible so they just block all action. The history of the Republicans since Obama came into office is obstructionism which tells you there is no common ground.

So let’s deconstruct. In both definitions there is an assumption of common ground. Seen any lately? Oh, wait there was that immigration bill in the Senate where there was compromise. Democrats got a path, albeit long and arduous, to citizenship, while the Republicans got a militarized border that makes the Berlin Wall look quaint. But the real interest of the two parties were not aligned. Democrats wanted to try to solve the problem of undocumented workers and their children in our country and Republicans wanted a token bill so they could maybe get some Hispanic votes. The bill is going no-where because there will be no compromise from Republicans in the House.

Meanwhile back at the bipartisan ranch, lets look at common interests that are required for it to operate. Do Republicans care about insuring Americans or fixing healthcare? Of course not. They have tried to defund Obamacare 43 times, run ads attempting to sabotage the system, and have tried to block implementation at every step. If they had any common ground, they would have a plan of their own that addresses these problems.

Democrats want to create jobs by cutting austerity and investing in infrastructure. Think that is going anywhere. Democrats and Republicans see the economy in two very different ways. One party wants to maintain the status quo, cut taxes, and believes in flowdown, and the other one is looking to make the tax system more equitable, and have government invest in tomorrow. If we had any common ground there would have been some weak bill a long time ago.

So my point is simply this: There is no common ground anymore, one party representing the status quo and a failed economic system, and the other, looking for answers. To want bipartisanship is to want policy that is filled with failed ideas. One party wants to address real problems, the other lives in fantasyland unfazed by reality or data. And you want bipartisanship?

Now the latest blowup is about the DC Circuit of Appeals’ three vacancies which the Republicans have decided does not need to be filled until they get control of the Senate again. And as the NYT noted, “Democrats got a reminder of how conservatively the court tends to lean when Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a Bush appointee, wrote an opinion last month declaring that the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers provide free coverage for contraception was an infringement of individual religious liberty. “ Extending that logic, employers can make any decision they want about your healthcare. This is a result of the court being packed by right wing nuts. Well it is our turn to try to balance it and there is no middle ground.

As one woman from Texas put it (and I am paraphrasing), she was made as hell at Harry Reid and the Democrats for not taking action sooner. She did not want another generation of daughters at the mercy of right wing judges who would see them barefoot and pregnant. So let’s hope this time the Democrats don’t find another compromise that won’t work just like all the others. There is no common ground as the right has gone way to far right, bipartisanship is a trap, and we need to restore majority rule, not tyranny of the minority. Gut up Harry and clueless Democrats. That would be Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein from California and I have let them know my displeasure, have you?

The Myth of the Moderate Republican

Yesterday, the day after the off-year election, the pundit pablum about what it means was ubiquitous, and pablum and nonsense it was. As I and many others have commented, 2014 is a long way away and Americans memories are very short. But there was one reaction by mostly moderate Republicans, what is left of them, moderate Democrats, Democrats who would have been Republicans back in the 80s holding the beliefs they do, the media, which is worth examining. That reaction was looking at the Chris Christie win as the great (no pun intended) white hope for moderates in the Republican Party. The lesson they took from his win was that he is the model for the future successful Republicans and the Republican Party. After all, he won in a blue state. I beg to differ.

What is underlying this belief is the idea that if the two sides would just work together, we could move forward. The first false belief is that Christie is a moderate Republican and I kind of blew that away yesterday in Oh People Get a Grip. You have to actually look at his stand on issues. The second false assumption is that compromise is an end in itself.

The biggest blowhard on this approach is Chris Mathews with his never ending references to Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan and how they fought tooth and nail, but always found compromise. Different time, different issues, and the compromises made back then have landed us where we are today. Said another way, maybe the middle ground is so far right that it does not right the ship. Let me give you a “business” example.

Say a company is floundering, so they bring in a new CEO to turn it around. Say that there are differing opinions on the Board of Directors on the way to go. Say the company is a book company that has bookstores throughout the nation that are losing money and the CEO wants to jettison them and go to internet sales. Should he compromise with the Board and continue the bookstore’s losses while he tries to gain a foothold in internet sales? If he does, he is a weak leader and will probably fail. If he sees the future in internet sales, he should be all in.

Conservative economic ideas are those profitless bookstores. The economic inequality and jobless recovery while the stockmarket soars is a direct result of those compromises as we moved further and further right.  Do you want an optimal solution or a compromise solution that isn’t even suboptimal, but counterproductive?  So this idea that we just need to work together like we did in the 80s is how we got here.  One side has it totally wrong for us, has become immune to data and facts, but their ideas are very right for them and the 1%.

My own opinion about what this election meant, which is about as worthless the as pundits’, is that I believe the Republican Party is facing a larger civil war.  Instead of Christie pointing the way for respectful conservatism as the way forward, the right will draw the conclusion that Virginia could have been won and the Christies of the world are the death of the Party which will result in further civil war.

Secondly when the media quits fawning over Christie and actually looks at his record and conservative ideas, we will see nothing new, and really old failed ideas of both a social conservative and an economic conservative, moderated by a liberal legislature and the courts.  The press is infatuated with Christie right now because he doesn’t spin when it comes to politics.  Thus the respect they have for him on telling the truth.  But when they listen to the truth he tells, if he does, about his ideas, the love affair will be over.

Said another way, putting a smiley face on conservative ideas, still doesn’t change the fact that these ideas in action have only served the wealthy.  We need a new approach and it is called progressivism and that is where most of the civilized country is moving.

Some Rules to Live By

I was reading the papers this morning (actually reading their e-editions) and it occurred to me that they are giving us three truly important rules to live by:

I believe we have some real wisdom to live by. Who said reading the news just depresses us?

At this Point It Should be Crystal Clear

President Obama has sadly listened to the Beltway pundits again and is engaging in a push to work with other side. See his latest push for infrastructure investment that would be revenue neutral to make the Republicans happy. They won’t bite. What should be crystal clear at this point is that they aren’t going to do anything Obama. I doubt seriously if we are going to get anything but eye shadow for immigration reform, and forget anything gun related.

The ‘reasonable’ Senate Republicans now have six Senators who say they will filibuster background checks (more regulations). We have a nation poised for change and all the polls show the American people on the side of gay marriage, immigration reform with a path for citizenship, gun law reform including a ban on assault weapons and high capacity clips, and investment in infrastructure. None of it is going to happen because the Republican Party no longer accounts to what is good for America. Talk about a ground bargain is nonsense, and stupid by the way.

So one might ask yourself, why continue to play the game on the Republican’s court? Why not change your strategy from trying to accommodate the nonsense the Republicans are pushing (see the Ryan and Rand Budgets) with compromises they are never going to agree to, and go after them for the damage they are doing to the country. These are not fellow Americans with a different point of view. These are Americans who if they get their way, will take our country back hundreds of years and turn our society into the upper and lower classes. Call their policies what they are instead of trying to compromise with them, and move the fight to your court.

The conventional wisdom is that the nation is gerrymandered to keep Republicans in power so nothing much will change in 2014. And I believe that is true if Democrats do what they usually do and pander to polls instead of standing up for principles. But if you really understand what the Republicans stand for, the wealthy and disenfranchising everyone else (did you listen to the questioning by the conservative judges on the Supreme Court try to dodge the obvious?), then you understand what this is about. Republicans resist change in a changing world where change is the very foundation of survival and success.

So the strategy from Obama on down to the Democrat running for dog catcher is that they need to recognize that Republican policies are bankrupt and they need to be attacked head on. No more debt is the problem, we have to reduce the debt and invest, maybe we don’t need the assault weapon ban if we get background checks, and on and on. You are not going to get any of them. Go for the throat as the Republicans have been doing successfully to you. Attack their ideas and offer a different world view. If you want to move the country, you have to win the Congress, and to do that, you have to discredit conservatism. Compromise just lends credence to bad ideas and that is what Democrats have been doing now for 5 years.

It is a sin that borrowing right now is free (zero interest rate) and we have not put our people back to work because we bought into the home budget analogy of the Republicans. We let them control the debate focusing on debt which is not a problem instead of jobs. We keep dancing around cutting entitlement benefits when that is not the problem. We try to compromise on gun control, or immigration, or investment in infrastructure and we get nothing. What more do you need to realize we need to become the uncompromising party and fight for real change?