Downgrading America: Frustrati vs. Tea party

The historic downgrade of US Bonds by Standard and Poors — with a threat of a further downgrade if nothing is done to reduce debt, is a moment that should wake Americans up.   This crisis is serious and it’s real.   We can’t stimulate the economy with greater spending because bond downgrades will do more harm than the good any stimulus might do.  There are structural flaws in the US economy that need to be fixed, and the only politically possible way to do so is for both parties to find a way to compromise.

The economic imbalances are real.   Government debt to GDP is at 100%.   Private and government debt to GDP combined is near 400%, and foreign held US debt is between $14 and $15 trillion.    This is serious.   Years of debt, current account deficits and bubble economy delusions have led us into a pit from which there is no easy way out.   It’s not just “another recession,” or part of the business cycle.   It’s not something we can stimulate ourselves out of and return to growth.

President Obama should call on Congress to return and take decisive action.   Standing in the way of doing this are two groups.   The tea party folk are well known — they oppose all tax increases (and would prefer cuts) and many wouldn’t have minded if the US defaulted on its debt.  They generally believe government is bad and thus demand massive spending cuts.   Another group, called ‘the Frustrati’ by blogger Norbrook, believe that the President needs to stand up for purely progressive ideals, protect virtually all government spending, raise taxes and cut only defense.

Both the frustrati and the tea partiers think the establishment of their parties has sold out to “Washington insiders,” and by being more ideologically pure they can achieve true success.    Many on the left are furious with Obama for agreeing to spending cuts at all, and believe that if only he had been stronger and more forceful things would be different.

However, Obama has stared down the frustrati and made it clear that he isn’t giving in to their demands, no matter how much they threaten to withhold money and support.   He knows that the progressive wing of the Democratic party is no more popular than the tea party; Americans want compromise and centrism.   John Boehner, on the other hand, worried about the fragile state of Republican unity in Congress, has done everything he could to keep the tea party satsified.  Boehner has not led, he has followed.

Many on the left don’t really recognize the true scope of the crisis and tend to interpret things in partisan political terms.   They think the problems we face came from President Bush’s wars and tax cuts, and all we need to do is fix that and get back to the happy days of the late 90s when the country ran a surplus.   The problem is that the brief surplus was built on a bubble, while private debt, accumulated foreign debt, and the current account deficit continued to build.   Things weren’t all rosy and sweet in 1999.

The tea party, however, is even more off base.  During the last thirty years we’ve also seen a hollowing out of the middle class, a vast shift of wealth to the wealthiest, and a consumer base that survived on debt and cheap Chinese products at Walmart.    One chart that demonstrates how the growth we did have was misdirected is here:

Note growing productivity since 1989 — that produces more wealth and value.    But middle class and working wages stayed low, both public employees and private sector workers barely kept up with inflation.   This is not what happened in most other countries; in Germany working class wages have gone up significantly since 1985.    I’ve posted other charts that show the same thing: the gap between the rich and the poor has been growing dramatically, during the recent boom most of the country’s income hasn’t even kept up with inflation.

This state of affairs is very bad for the economy.   The wealth imbalance fed the bubble economy, but didn’t grow the economy at home.    A huge chunk of that wealth goes to consumption of  foreign produced goods; even the argument that it gets invested back in the economy is misguided — in our global age most investments do not stay in our borders.   If that wealth was being spent by a viable middle class consumer base it would do far more to stimulate growth and create a sustainable economy.   This shifting of wealth to the elite resembles third world economic relations, and has led to a fundamentally dysfunctional economy.

This is where the tea party is way off base.   We need to address this imbalance in part by taxing the wealthy in order to create incentives for job creation and increased wages for the middle class.   To cut government spending in a way that hurts the poor and elderly while protecting the wealth gains of those who have made off so well in the last twenty years is utterly insane.   The tea party’s core ideals are based on a complete fantasy — it’s ideology on steroids, resistant to facts, evidence and reality.

The President needs to address the nation again and lay out the seriousness of the challenge.   He has to tell Congress that they must undo the damage done by the downgrade by agreeing to his $4 trillion deal and accepting tax increases.  He has to make it a priority to not just create jobs, but to assure that the working and middle class get paid fairly.   Relying on the market to do it alone doesn’t work; markets are not magic.    The frustrati have to accept entitlement reform, cuts to programs they believe are valuable, and a downsizing of federal government.    The tea party has to accept higher taxes, more regulation of the financial sector, and cuts to military spending.

That’s not easy.  If a couple has been living beyond their means, how do they adapt?   At first each one might want to keep doing what they’ve been doing and have the other cut back.  Ultimately, that doesn’t work.    Politically there is no other alternative then a compromise than neither side finds acceptable — but one that actually works to address the problem rather than put it off.

Restructuring the economy will take time.   As I noted in January, power may shift from the federal government to state and local control.    It may be years before we get back to unemployment levels back at 5 or 6%.   It may be a decade before we see the economy described as “healthy.”   This is real and the longer we wait to do something significant, the harder it will be to pull ourselves out of the hole we’ve been digging.

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  1. #1 by Black Flag® on August 8, 2011 - 16:03

    Oh yeah….

    Restructuring the economy will take time

    Actually, no.

    It will probably happen “over night” – Public Choice doctrine dictates this.

    As I noted in January, power may shift from the federal government to state and local control.

    It probably will dissolve to even smaller government entities, county or city, as the State’s are in as much a mess as the Federal government and have no ability to absorb the dissolution of tasks.

    It may be years before we get back to unemployment levels back at 5 or 6%. It may be a decade before we see the economy described as “healthy.”

    If government continues to “plan” the economy, you are right.
    If government leaves the economy, it will take a year to 18 months.

  2. #2 by thebigweasel on August 8, 2011 - 17:04

    Claiming the “frustrati” — your disparaging name for Democratic liberals and moderates–opposed all spending cuts, or that Obama “stared them down” is highly inaccurate.

    Democrats offered four trillion in deficit reduction with a blend of spending cuts and tax increases.

    The progressive budget, available online, eliminates deficits by 2025 and is also a blend of spending cuts and tax increases.

    The devil is in the details, of course. What progressives want in spending cuts aren’t what the teabaggers want, and teabaggers oppose any tax increases, no matter what. I’ve even seen them argue that it’s OK that Exxon paid no federal taxes on $43 billion in profits because they DID pay taxes in other countries.

    • #3 by Scott Erb on August 8, 2011 - 17:17

      Well, I don’t mean to disparage all progressives, I just think Obama is on the right track and if the Democrats really put pressure on the GOP by supporting Obama’s efforts rather than holding out for something that is politically unrealistic, I think we could enhance pressure on the tea party types. As I mentioned to a friend, it’s less about what I think is ideal, more about what is politically possible. I’m sure if Obama were not President he’d likely be opposing a lot of what he now is doing — it’s easy on the outside to be critical. That said, the reason for this impasse is not the progressive wing of the Democratic party (or the frustrati, who I take it from reading Norbert tend to be pretty vicious at times against Democrats who want to compromise or Obama), but clearly lies with John Boehner’s inability or refusal to break from irrational tea party demands.

    • #4 by classicliberal2 on August 8, 2011 - 22:07

      And I would add that, contrary to the–no other way to put it–absolutely ludicrous assertion that “the progressive wing of the Democratic party is no more popular than the tea party,” most of the policy prescriptions of “the progressive wing of the Democratic party” are INCREDIBLY popular. The polling data is voluminous, hits the matter from every conceivable angle, and always reaches that conclusion.

      Scott, this constant effort at phony “balance” in your previously insightful blogs are, of late, making them increasingly off-putting, and when the “facts” you’re using to make the case for this “balance” are Uranian in origin, that leaves the conscientious reader with the impression that you’re just spewing words, without any meaningful connection to reality. Characters like Rush Limbaugh have made a great deal of money doing that very thing, but I see no reason for you to take up this practice. If liberals become as disconnected from reality as conservatives, they’ll be no good to anyone. Maybe that puts the matter a little more bluntly than decorum suggests I should, but it doesn’t even begin to reflect my own incredulity at this recent trend.

      You get the reactionary wing of the Republican party right (and that’s really the proper characterization, not “tea party”), and you identify very real problems with the American economy (and society), but you then act as if the only elected officials who have tried to do anything about fixing the problem are part of the problem, and are standing in the way of fixing it. That’s just B.S. in the extreme.

      • #5 by Scott Erb on August 8, 2011 - 22:39

        Actually, I’m not trying to give balance, I’m analyzing reality as I see it. And I think you are vastly over-estimating the popularity of the progressive wing of the Democratic party. But your response shows part of the problem — you complain about me, what you don’t give a real counter argument or evidence. I also make the point that President Obama has showed leadership to not only take the hits from his left flank, but to come up with a politically viable deal that would have avoided a downgrade and started a change in direction. Boehner and McConnell have shown no such strength, they’ve been cowards. I’m crediting the President and the White House, as well as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi with having been willing to undertake what for them would be very difficult compromise.

        I’m crediting them! Sure, I’d like there to be an even greater tax increase in the final analysis. And if we want that, then probably we need to make sure the Democrats take back the House and Obama is re-elected, because it’s clear Boehner and McConnell don’t have the strength or leadership skill to do what is right. Again: politics is the art of the possible.

        Also, it’s not clear what you’re disagreeing with, your complaint is a bit vague. What points do you think I’m wrong about?

      • #6 by Scott Erb on August 8, 2011 - 23:01

        Oh, one more thing — if you read what I wrote I think it’s clear that my criticism is not ‘balanced,’ I’m far harsher on the radical right.

    • #7 by Norbrook on August 9, 2011 - 00:06

      No, the term “frustrati” does not describe Democratic liberals and moderates. It describes the group of people who infest a number of so-called “progressive” sites who do very little except gripe and moan about what the President hasn’t done, or complain about what he does. You can see them in full force over at FireDogLake, Democratic Underground, or Daily Kos.

      The reason I (and a number of others) disparage them is that, despite their claims to be “the Base,” and their bragging, when you look at their actual numbers and capability, it turns out that they’re a small minority of liberals, and singularly ineffective.

    • #8 by pino on August 11, 2011 - 02:23

      a blend of spending cuts

      I think the Democrats count “tax breaks” as spending. So, to a Democrat, ending a tax break is cutting spending. To an average American, a spending cut is what you do when you quit paying out the same amount of money as you did before.

      teabaggers oppose any tax increases, no matter what.

      This is true; The very fiscal conservatives do not want any tax increases. In fact, they want tax cuts. I mostly agree with them. However, where I do disagree is in making the tax code simpler.

      I’ve even seen them argue that it’s OK that Exxon paid no federal taxes on $43 billion in profits because they DID pay taxes in other countries.

      Careful, the Exxon thing is very murky. In 2009 they did, in fact, pay no tax. But that was because they received a positive ruling from the IRS that they OVERPAID in 2008.

      If you go over the last 5 years, Exxon has paid $22 billion in taxes on $67 billion in income. That’s about 32%.

      • #9 by Scott Erb on August 11, 2011 - 02:39

        Fiscal conservatives do not by definition want tax cuts! Many want tax increases because fiscal conservatism is just keeping your budget balanced. How much you spend and how much you take is a matter of societal preference.

        Sweden, Germany and Norway are doing very well in this recession compared to other states. They have large social welfare systems and very high tax rates. They also have successful businesses, many wealthy people, and a well paid middle class and labor force. I think in pure economic terms that is better for a society and its economy than the large gap in wealth the US has between the middle class and wealthy. I think that makes their future more likely to be better than ours.

        We can disagree on that very profoundly but still be fiscal conservatives. I don’t like high debt to GDP ratios, I’d prefer to run small surpluses during booms to help pay for stimulus during busts. We just disagree on the best way to balance the budget. I mean, Norway, Germany and Sweden have really strong economies and their systems work in many ways better than ours! I’m not saying we should be like them, only that there is not one way to have fiscal stability and a strong economy. You can do it with minimal government, or you can do it with a large social welfare system and powerful unions. The choice of how to do it is up to the voting publics. What I hope we can agree on is that you shouldn’t do it by running up debt!

  3. #10 by Black Flag® on August 8, 2011 - 23:20

    Scott,

    but to come up with a politically viable deal that would have avoided a downgrade and started a change in direction

    That would only have happened with a significant budget cut – today – which was impossible.

    The downgrade was unavoidable and as I said before, the smart money has downgraded the US a long time ago, and they don’t need some rating agency to tell them to do that.

    • #11 by Scott Erb on August 8, 2011 - 23:48

      I think S&P would not have downgraded if the $4 trillion deal Obama had on the table had been agreed to — they’ve insinuated as much. This was a message to America’s leaders that the problem is serious and the US can’t get away with whatever it wants to do any more — not at 100% debt to GDP ratios and growing!

      • #12 by Black Flag® on August 9, 2011 - 00:35

        Scott,
        $4 trillion – over …what… 10 years?… back ended.

        Do you believe anyone seriously was fooled by such a plan?

  4. #13 by Black Flag® on August 9, 2011 - 00:37

    So…
    …now you are into censorship, huh?

    …interesting.

  5. #14 by Norbrook on August 9, 2011 - 11:31

    @classicliberal:

    most of the policy prescriptions of “the progressive wing of the Democratic party” are INCREDIBLY popular.

    It usually depends on how the question asked, and often falls apart when you get down to specifics. That’s the problem with saying that polling shows that “X is popular.” The general idea may be, but specific ideas and methods for implementation may not, along with how its going to be paid for.

    It’s also meaningless unless you can turn that into concrete legislation that will get through Congress. I saw that during the Affordable Care Act debates. The people on the Left who were chanting “kill the bill” were pointing to various polls supporting their position, while the Republicans were pointing at others supporting theirs. At the time, I asked those same people on the Left what their plan was, if the bill was killed, to introduce their “ideal” bill and get it through Congress. They didn’t have one, beyond “oh, they’ll have to!” That’s a wish, not a concrete plan.

  6. #15 by Black Flag® on August 10, 2011 - 14:52

    Oh glorious France – Scott’s model of “how to get it right”

    And yet, if you‘re looking for the next downgrade, and the source of the next shock to the global markets, it’s France you should be looking toward. The country’s debt is exploding. It is steadily losing competitiveness against Germany, and running up huge trade deficits. Its political system is every bit as dysfunctional as America’s. And, of course, it is about to be presented with a massive bill for bailing out Italy and Spain.

    A French downgrade may only be a matter of time. If it happens, it’s going to be a huge blow to already-fragile markets. The country has the fourth largest debt in the world, and its paper is heavily traded by global investors. There would be some nasty losses on a French downgrade.

  7. #16 by classicliberal2 on August 10, 2011 - 21:16

    @Scott & Norbrook:

    You are far harsher on the reactionaries, Scott, which is entirely appropriate, but you have this niggling need of late to also slam the other side, and act as if they’re two sides of the same coin, and that’s simply not a sound analysis. It’s like the mountains of press reports blaming “partisan rancor” on “both sides” for the debt-ceiling debacle, which was, in fact, entirely the creation of only one side.

    You wrote “Obama has stared down the frustrati and made it clear that he isn’t giving in to their demands, no matter how much they threaten to withhold money and support.” The thing is, Obama didn’t stare them down, and no part of this sad, pathetic saga supports your characterization of the Obama as some sort of wise leader. Obama began with a demand for a clean bill offering a debt-ceiling increase. Then, he threw that over the side. In subsequently negotiating over it (which he should NEVER have done, as I think you agree), he demanded a balanced approach–new revenue and spending cuts. Then, he threw that over the side. He had always insisted he would defend things like Social Security and Medicare, then the spent the entire negotiation trying to preemptively give them away. He demanded a longer-term hike in the debt ceiling, so this ridiculous game wouldn’t play out again in six months. Then, he threw that over the side. This continued until he’d given away everything, and John Boehner could honestly say he’d gotten 98% of what he wanted from the bill. Obama wasn’t some bold leader staring down “the frustrati”; he was a cowardly weakling who, for no good reason, was selling them out. Staking out one hard position after another, then throwing every one overboard, in exchange for nothing. That’s not “leadership,” and it’s not a mark against those who elected and support him if they feel increasingly betrayed and even outraged by this behavior (the behavior was particularly bad in this case, where he could have offered absolutely nothing, and would still have won).

    You assert that “the progressive wing of the Democratic party is no more popular than the tea party,” but, in fact, the polling data shows exactly the opposite–their policy prescriptions are incredibly popular. Huge majorities were telling pollsters they favored a balanced approach to deficit reduction (new revenue and spending cuts). The reactionaries’ insistence on no new revenue under any circumstances has no real support at all. Norbrook, support for the progressive prescriptions doesn’t fall apart when you get to specifics–it, in fact, strengthens. Specifics break down support for the position of the other side. Ask people about a balanced budget amendment, everyone likes it, because they see it as a simple fix to things like this ongoing fiasco; ask if they’d support it if, for example, it involves big cuts in Medicare (which it would), support for it drops perilously close to single digits.

    The Obamneycare bill that was eventually passed SHOULD have been killed, and it wouldn’t even matter if no one opposing it had any alternative at all–doing nothing is always preferable to making already-bad matters much worse (which is what that bill did).

    • #17 by Scott Erb on August 10, 2011 - 21:51

      I agree that we need tax increases as part of a way to solve the deficit, absolutely. But look at election results. 2010 was real. Wisconsin’s recalls had minimal success. We did get a long term debt ceiling agreement. Did Obama making a mistake in thinking he could get a grand bargain with Boehner. Yes, he under estimated the lack of good will on the part of Boehner — or perhaps Boehner’s fear of the tea party. But not being privvy to inside details, it’s hard to know what he could have done differently.

      What gets me upset is how quickly some can be to blame Obama when the Republicans stand in the way, or to think that somehow if Obama had “demanded more” he could have gotten it. Kill health care because it’s not a good enough bill? Fine, but that kind of scenario — a Democratic President with both houses Democratic was a rare situation, the only time where health care reform could be passed. It was that or nothing, thanks mostly to conservative Democrats in the House. The Senate has the filibuster which Democrats have often used when Bush was President. This idea that somehow if Obama had been a “true progressive” he’d have been able to get more (or even get elected) is misguided. Politics is the art of the possible, and while all Presidents make tactical errors, even if Obama loses he will have accomplished more than most Democratic Presidents since FDR. Ironically LBJ, who was hated by the left wing of the party when he was President thanks to Vietnam would be the last to really get as much done.

      Obama is what he is — a pragmatist who likes to find compromise. That’s what he campaigned as; that’s why he was electable and, say, Dennis Kucinich was not. I also don’t really trust polls on “the issues.” It’s easy to cherry pick those and read too much into them. Elections say more. The country voted Obama, then voted for the GOP two years later. I don’t think they are ideologically motivated, they want the leaders to work together to solve problems.

      • #18 by classicliberal2 on August 11, 2011 - 20:02

        “This idea that somehow if Obama had been a ‘true progressive’ he’d have been able to get more (or even get elected) is misguided.”

        Actually, it’s a misrepresentation. The argument isn’t that the Obama isn’t a “true progressive” (though he certainly isn’t). It’s that he is a weak and cowardly president. Too often, you seem to want to portray this as a strength, when, in fact, it’s a crippling weakness. He comes charging out of the gate, talking a good talk, and being loud about it, then, at the slightest hint that Republicans may not approve of what he says he wants to do, he folds like an accordion every time, and gives them whatever they want without demanding anything in return. He won’t fight for anything. Often, he just preemptively surrenders. As a consequence, we’re three years into an alleged Democratic presidency, two years of which featured a Democratic majority in both houses of congress, yet Republicans have continued to run the government as if Bush never left. You’re wrong to say the Obama prefers to find “compromise.” He’s never found “compromise” on anything–not one major issue–at any point in his administration (because the other side has no intention of compromising with him on anything). It is true that he elevates the concept of “compromise” over utilitarian concerns like, say, what would actually make for sound policy, and it’s also true that he insists on looking for compromise when absolutely no compromise is available. This, again, is the behavior of a weak fool, not a bold leader.

        You’re right to be upset about Republican obstructionism–it has been an outrage that has entirely nullified our elections. I’ve expended a lot of time ranting against it. It should be a huge national scandal. That it isn’t is largely the Obama’s fault, though. The press won’t tell the public about what’s been happening (and contrary to your irritating “balance” habit, nothing like what’s happened in the previous four years remotely resembles Democratic opposition to Bush, or anything else in the entire history of congress). It is, therefore, incumbent upon Democratic pols–and Obama is the big one–to get out the word, and make the press do its job. Where are the press conferences called by the Obama to rage against this behavior? Where are the national addresses? Where are the interviews devoted to it? There’s nothing. He may offer up a line or two of grumbling here and there, but he’s made no effort to call out the Republicans, while they’ve stood against not only everything he has tried to do, but lots of things THEY previously wanted to do but turned against once he endorsed them. Republicans are willing to fight. That why, even when they are a minority with little real public support, they still get their way.

        That “rare situation” you describe–big Democratic majorities in both houses, and in the White House–is the very reason why the health care law that was passed is so entirely unacceptable. It was a Republican bill, and could have been passed if the party situation was directly inverted. What’s the point of electing a Democratic government to enact Republican policy that makes things worse than they already are?

        I’m not sure what you think the Obama has accomplished. His “accomplishments” pale in comparison to even Clinton, his most immediate Democratic predecessor. Neither accomplished much of anything worth bragging about.

        Polls can be abused, cherry-picked, misrepresented, and so on, but mostly, this happens because people don’t understand what they are and what they measure. They’re our only real means of measuring public opinion, and are not intimidating to those who understand them.

      • #19 by pino on August 11, 2011 - 20:59

        The argument isn’t that the Obama isn’t a “true progressive” (though he certainly isn’t).

        Obama certainly IS a far left-wing kook. That he is a shitty one shouldn’t change that fact, I’ve made the point before that just because the Pittsburgh Pirates are a horrible horrible baseball team doesn’t change the fact that they are a baseball team.

        <It’s that he is a weak and cowardly president. Too often, you seem to want to portray this as a strength, when, in fact, it’s a crippling weakness.

        This I agree with. The fact that Obama has never demonstrated any form of leadership capacity in the past was completely ignored by everyone on the Left. What I AM surprised by, however, is the fact you are surprised.

        Serious. What single thing in this author's life made you think he knew how to govern nation?

        You’re right to be upset about Republican obstructionism–it has been an outrage that has entirely nullified our elections.

        Again agree with you. We have never seen the filibuster used this often. Much of it has to do with ideology. However, a significant has to do with the fact that the Democrats wouldn’t ever allow the Republicans to add amendments to bills. Harry Reid simply “filled the tree”.

        There is enough blame to go around on this one.

        I’m not sure what you think the Obama has accomplished. His “accomplishments” pale in comparison to even Clinton, his most immediate Democratic predecessor. Neither accomplished much of anything worth bragging about.

        We are simply full of agreements today. Why would you feel the Liberal agenda would ever lead to anything worth bragging about? And again, why are you so surprised that Obama has failed?

      • #20 by classicliberal2 on August 12, 2011 - 06:41

        @Pino:

        “Obama certainly IS a far left-wing kook.”

        You get nearly everything else right, but it would require scientific notation to chart how utterly wrong and profoundly disconnected from reality is that notion. Obama has governed as a moderate conservative Republican; any other interpretation is ludicrous.

        I haven’t really been disappointed by him–I never thought much of him in the first place. I can understand why those who backed him would be quite disappointed. I have been shocked by his political ineptness, and, in fact, picked up on it (and wrote about it) before he’d ever even taken the oath.

        As far as congress under the Demos being run in a way unfair to Repubs, this was a fairly minor sampling of the dictatorship that had existed under the Repubs for years. I don’t approve of it, but it doesn’t surprise me. And it isn’t as if Repubs weren’t getting their way in everything that came up. Obama has surrendered–often preemptively–on everything. About 40% of the stimulus was tax cuts. It didn’t matter. Health care was a Republican bill. It didn’t matter. Obama endorsed Paygo. It didn’t matter–its Republican sponsors turned against it. The same with the debt commission bill and numerous others (Repubs came out against their own bills after Obama endorsed them).

    • #21 by Norbrook on August 11, 2011 - 00:38

      Um, yes, they do unfortunately. Just look at “single payer healthcare” as an example. If I phrase it – as the Republicans did – as “government healthcare” and talk about bureaucracy, the percentage of people in favor of it drops like a stone. Now, if I phrase it differently, then yes, it does do well. It always falls apart when you start talking costs and specifics. Just because you want something doesn’t mean that it’s ideal or even practical. An idea may be just dandy in the hypothetical, which is what polls ask, and not so much in the actual implementation.

      Your comment about “doing nothing is preferable” just shows that you leapt to a conclusion and never actually looked at what was in the bill as it was passed. I guess the 17 million more people who are covered under Medicaid (which is a single-payer system) isn’t noteworthy, the closure of the doughnut hole in Medicare, the allowing of children to stay on their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26, or the requirement that insurance companies spend at least 80% of their premiums on actual health care. That’s just a small sample of what that bill does.

      Now, I’m old enough to remember when Clinton tried it, and he had all sorts of public opinion polls to back him up as well. It didn’t get through, and it was 25 years before it came up again. Maybe you were happy with the old system, because you have health insurance, so you could wait another 25 years.

      I also have learned to loathe the term “the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Quite frankly, it’s been used by a bunch of Naderites and PUMAS (AKA The Frustrati) to describe themselves ad nauseum, and it basically turns out that it’s about 4% of the membership of the Democratic Party – if that. That’s not a wing, that’s a tail feather. .

      Quoting polls is all well and good, but the functional reality is that unless you have enough people on the ground, working in local parties, to be able to get candidates you

      • #22 by Norbrook on August 11, 2011 - 00:39

        (continued) want that support your agenda, it’s meaningless.

      • #23 by classicliberal2 on August 11, 2011 - 20:32

        If you ask single-payer questions and throw in phrases like “government healthcare” or “bureaucracy,” then you’re merely measuring people’s response to buzzwords. It’s like the polls Gallup conducts every so often when they ask people if they are “liberal” or “conservative”; the “liberal” label has been so demonized that no one calls themselves that, and “conservatives” are shown to greatly outnumber them, even in the most liberal states in the U.S. What the cleaner polls really demonstrate is that, while conservatives have a visceral reaction against even the suggestion of such a thing, most people do not.

        Your comment about my leaping to conclusions shows you not only leaping to conclusions, but also adopting the behavior of far too many of its Democratic supporters by representing a handful of positive elements as if they were the entire bill, while ignoring most of what it actually does. The law establishes a rule that requires the purchase of health insurance (no different than solving the problem of homelessness by passing a law that says everyone must own a home), then puts the corrupt and broken insurance industry–and its purchase of legislators–on the public dole, preemptively destroying any hope of future reforms, while doing absolutely nothing to curb the costs that will make future reforms a necessity. This was a TERRIBLE thing to do to the United States.

        I don’t have health insurance. I’m one of the people who would have benefited from the public option the Obama gave away in a backroom deal with lobbyists before the health care debate started (while pretending, in public, that he still supported it). Instead, all I get is a rule that says I have to have the insurance coverage I can’t afford, and, if I make little enough, a credit to help me buy coverage that won’t buy coverage.

        What polls show is that Americans are instinctively liberal. That doesn’t necessarily translate into votes; it just means there’s a market that can be exploited (and translated into votes), if any pols ever want to exploit it.

  8. #24 by Black Flag® on August 11, 2011 - 16:39

    Scott,

    Germany “recovery” – as usual, your headliner is a fall-liner!

    Germany’s Recession vs. America’s: Doing Worse, but Feeling Better …
    http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2009/0728_recession_elliott.aspx – Cached
    28 Jul 2009 – The global recession is damaging Germany twice as much as the nation where it started—the United States. …..

    German suffers worst recession since 1930s – Telegraph
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/recession/…/German-suffers-worst-recession-since-...
    13 Jan 2010 – Germany suffered its worst recession since the Great Depression last year when Europe’s largest economy contracted 5pc, according to ….

    “The prevailing philosophy is that people have been paying themselves too much in some countries, and we should be more like Germany, where people didn’t get a real pay raise for 10 years,” said John Monks, head of the European Trade Union Confederation. ”

    Germany heading for a Recession?
    (www)creditwritedowns.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/German-manufacturing-PMI.png

    Suddenly People Are Starting To Ask: How Screwed Is Germany?
    Joe Weisenthal | Aug. 4, 2011
    (www)businessinsider.com/german-recession-odds-2011-8#ixzz1UjtBTFU8

    • #25 by Scott Erb on August 11, 2011 - 18:30

      Check my link from “Modell Deutschand.” Your 2009 articles is obsolete, as is your January 2010 article. Germany’s been out performing the US in much of 2010 and into 2011. Yes, people are worried in a global economy that Germany could fall into a recession, but overall they’ve weathered the storm much better than we have, as have Scandinavian countries. The reality is that you can have Social Democratic state with a sound functioning economy and liberty. Your ideology, besides being subjective whim, is disproven by reality.

  9. #26 by Scott Erb on August 11, 2011 - 21:44

    Classical, what would you have Obama do differently? Too often the answer people give is based on thinking rhetoric, speeches and tough talk would make a difference. Be specific. How does a President “fold”? What does that even mean? Should he have veto’d the debt compromise and risk default? That would have been insane. Should he have invoked the 14th amendment? That would not only have led to a constitutional crisis but he KNOWS that the 14th amendment was not applicable. To knowingly misuse the constitution to achieve a political end is not only an impeachable offense, but also exceedingly unethical — if Presidents start doing that, democracy weakens even more.

    What other administration has done so much:,passing a major stimulus bill, repealing DADT, ratifying the new START treaty, passing health care reform, reformed regulation of the financial sector with consumer protection, expanded the powers of the FDA to regulate tobacco products, expanded hate crime laws to protect sexual orientation, increased protection of equal pay laws for women, and increased/reformed financial aid for college students.

    I mean, given that we are in a recession that makes getting anything done difficult, I have to agree with Andrew Sullivan that Obama is the most effective politician in Washington right now. But given divided government and the nature of the House GOP, I find that when people criticize Obama on “strength” it’s vague, and often ends up as wishful thinking that some vague trait like “forcefulness” or “anger” might change reality. That’s not how politics works. To think that the President somehow can magically ‘get the word out’ is pure fantasy — it doesn’t work that way. He gives speeches and he makes those points constantly!

    Others point to tactical errors, but you can do that with every President — in the real world of politics, no one plays the games perfectly. No President will match up to anyone’s imagined “ideal” President.

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