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  1. #141
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    From Frum's column at the Daily Beast:

    Two Decades of Prosperity: Gone



    The collapse in asset values since 2007 has busted the net worth of the median family all the way back down to early 1990s levels.

    Three-quarters of the loss can be explained by reductions in housing values.

    The run-up in housing values over the past two decades was welcomed by almost all politicians, of both parties. The housing boom offered an escape route from an otherwise embarrassing and baffling problem: the stagnation of middle-class incomes. Maybe the U.S. could no longer deliver pay increases to the typical person. But at least that person's most important asset was growing in value, inspiring hope that Americans would pay for their retirements by selling their houses.

    On its face, this was an unpromising idea. The next generation of Americans was not going to be so very much larger or so very much richer than the prior generation as to support a long-term tripling or quadrupling of housing prices. And anyway, housing is not nearly so reliable an asset as people tend to assume. (My father, a successful real-estate developer, jokes: "People don't make money on their houses. They only think they do because they don't keep good records of how much they spend along the way.")

    Promising or not, the idea has now decisively collapsed. Individuals and societies gain wealth through saving, and Americans have failed to do much of that. In today's very hard times, saving becomes even more challenging.

    But at least the illusion of a short-cut to individual and national wealth has been dispelled. That opens the way at least to a better discussion of what really happened over recent years—and how the US should arrange its policies to deliver better results to more people in the years ahead.

  2. #142
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    The only swing state that really matters in 2012

    You could say there is only one swing state that really matters in 2012: Germany.

    Whether (and how and when) Germany acts to save the euro will exert huge influence over the U.S. economy, too, and thus over the outcome of the presidential election.

    Next question: How much influence?

    Everybody agrees that the troubles in the eurozone hurt the U.S. economy. When your trading partners slump, you slump with them. Everybody agrees that the uncertainty over the future of the euro currency worries U.S. financial markets. If the currency fails, European banks plunge into a crisis that would be a replay of the shock of 2008.

    But what remains deeply uncertain is the upside of the equation: how much benefit would the U.S. gain if Europe did somehow find a solution to the euro problem.

    It's clear that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the power by saying "no" to lose the presidency for Barack Obama. Could she win it for him with a "yes"?

    By the trade numbers, faster growth in Europe would seem relatively unimportant to the U.S. economy. Trade accounts for only about a quarter of the U.S. economy, and trade with the entire European Union represents less than a fifth of that one-fifth.

    Now remember that the European Union includes a number of important countries, such as the United Kingdom, that do not use the euro. And the largest economy in the eurozone, Germany, continues to buy and sell strongly. A fillip to the economies of Spain, Italy and France would be welcome news but hardly decisive to a U.S. economy still recovering from its own financial crisis.

    Yet trade numbers may understate the story.

    Here in the U.S., the raw materials for recovery are all at hand. U.S. corporations are earning record profits. They have accumulated vast reserves of cash. They are investing, and they have begun to hire, too.

    As Obama likes to note, more people are at work today in the U.S. private sector than on the day he took office. (He does not add that far fewer than were at work when the recession began in December 2007.)

    In aggregate, though, the pace of recovery continues weak. The rocket is lifting off, but it is not achieving escape velocity. Something more is needed!

    The program needed to save the euro could provide a piece of that "something." To save the euro, Germany will have to agree not only to a financial rescue of other countries' banks but to a big program to stimulate the German economy, still one of the world's top five.

    Somebody has to buy, and with China and India slowing down, Germany -- a much richer country -- would emerge as what the U.S. was in the early 2000s: the world's consumer of last resort.

    Over the horizon, we can see the dawn of the next great chapter of U.S. economic expansion: the conversion from coal-fired electricity to a new energy economy based on the exploitation of the vast quantities of natural gas entrapped in U.S. shale formations.

    Gas emits only about half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy as coal, so it is more environmentally benign as well as cheap. The conversion process will be a vast undertaking, putting money and people to work.

    To close the gap from here to there, though, the U.S. needs a jolt. Could a euro rescue administer it?

  3. #143
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    This is an essay by David Frum in the Democracy Journal about what our Democratic Republic could end up looking like in the future.

    Can the GOP evolve?

    It’s 2024. The vast majority of baby boomers have arrived at retirement age. The pre-baby boomers are rapidly passing from the scene. (The youngest of them, born in 1945, are about to turn 80.) The long-predicted crisis of the American fiscal system has arrived.

    The political scientist Harold Lasswell famously defined politics as a contest over “who gets what, when, and how.” Over the next dozen years, as the gap between the revenue lines and the expenditure lines of the federal and state governments widen, that definition could aptly be amended: Who gets disappointed—and by how much? Will baby boomers receive a less generous deal from Medicare than their parents did? Will the huge promises to public-sector retirees be honored? Or will other programs for younger people be squeezed? Will we sacrifice America’s military presence in the world? Or will we exact more in taxes—and if so, what kind of taxes, and imposed on whom?

    These harrowing questions have disconcerting political implications for the country’s two great political parties.

    For Democrats, the trends pose a stark distributional question. The younger people of the 2020s, survivors of the Great Recession, will in the aggregate be poorer than their elders. Should these younger workers be taxed or see their own social services squeezed in order to support Medicare and public-service pensions in their full amplitude?

    For Republicans, the trends pose a coalition-management question. Throughout the Obama years, Republicans built a powerful coalition of the rich and the old. The coalition was built on two principles: militant rejection of any and all new taxes, and unyielding defense of existing government benefits for those at or near retirement age.

    But as Medicare costs rise, the no-new-taxes/no-cuts-in-Medicare combination will become increasingly difficult to sustain. Already, polls show that Republican voters (as opposed to activists) prefer tax increases on upper-income earners to Medicare cuts. So long as the choice between taxes and Medicare cuts remains latent, the preferences of rank-and-file Republicans may not matter much. But as budget gaps widen, that tension will surely come to the fore.

    The trend, as they say, is the trend only till it bends. Yet it’s also true that 12 years is not so very far away. Let’s hazard two plausible scenarios.

    1) Reactionary Democrats. Democrats depend hugely on public-sector unions for votes and money. Suppose the party decides to make a priority of protecting their interests and those of their retirees. Democrats may call for higher taxes on the rich to pay for these benefits, but that math does not suffice. The non-rich young will also have to pay.

    But the young of the 2020s will not only be poorer than the elderly. They will be ethnically different. Whereas public-sector retirees will be whiter and blacker than the total population, the young of the 2020s will be more Hispanic and Asian. Age competition will also be ethnic competition.

    Could that competition be the force that shakes loose Hispanic and Asian voters from the Democratic coalition? Asian voters in particular are better educated, more affluent, and more likely to be self-employed—prime candidates for Republican recruitment. The Conservative parties in Canada and the UK have made great inroads among Asian voters. (In the Canadian election of 2010, the Conservatives won a plurality among voters who speak Chinese at home.) Could a reactionary Democratic Party at last do what George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” tried and failed to do in the 2000s and move large numbers of people of color into the GOP column?

    2) Upper-class Republicans. If the fiscal squeeze tightens enough, Republicans will be forced to choose between their limited government ideology and their older voting base. If they choose their ideology, they will need to locate some new voters in upper-income America. They will need to draw back to the Grand Old Party the kind of voters who defected to Barack Obama in 2008: affluent professionals, especially women, in major urban centers. This was the kind of Republicanism practiced in the 1990s by governors like Christine Todd Whitman, John Engler, Tommy Thompson, and George Pataki. Such a Republicanism would not need to jettison its pro-life message, just de-emphasize it, as Democrats have, for example, de-emphasized their message on gun control.

    At the beginning of the Tea Party era, there was much talk that Republicans might switch to a more economic, less culturally exclusive message. That talk came to nothing. Instead, Republicans infused cultural exclusion into their economics, drawing a sharp distinction between the “earned” benefit of Medicare and Social Security and other programs that serve supposedly less deserving populations: food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid.

    Yet it does not have to be this way. The GOP can remain a culturally conservative party without needing to endorse vaginal inspections of women or miring itself in fights over birth control. The coming generational shift within the GOP on gay rights points the way to such future change.

    Such a GOP would look more like conservative parties elsewhere on the planet—and less like the Southern Democrats of the 1950s. And while some Republicans might dismiss those non-U.S. conservative parties as squishy, it’s worth noting that at least some of them—notably the Germans and Canadians—managed successfully to complete the fiscal consolidation that in the United States still looms terrifyingly ahead.

    Of course, this is not the only option for the Republicans. But it’s the way that remains truest to what is most useful in the GOP, as the party of enterprise, opportunity—and freedom.

  4. #144
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    Part of the issue is that what makes conservatives "conservative" is the belief in the preservation of institutions. Increasingly, Americans are believing that these institutions no longer serve the public good, and instead exist to enhance the wealth and power of its members alone. That's why there's no real cognitive dissonance in opposition to both the Federal Reserve and labor unions - in this view, both are institutions that seek to enhance the power of its members at the expense of everyone else.

    What's troubling is that the ruling class seems to have little faith in its own institutions at this moment. Rather than working/spending to improve overall social health so as to protect their own wealth and power, the strategy seems more to be centered on the reduction of short-term losses (through tax cuts and austerity programs), and enhancing security through violent means. The latter includes the expansion of national security surveillance, increases in personal expenditures on private security, and the significant remodeling of the judicial system.

    The judicial transformation, in particular, is troubling. This has involved the trend toward increasing reliance and insistence on strict interpretations of statutes, which represent the norms and interests of the ruling class, as expressed through the legislators whose campaigns the members of that class contributed to. This is in contrast to the common law, which has always arisen from the customs and norms of the communities in which these disputes originate. To put it another way - statutes are binding law because the state can and will use overwhelming violent force against those who would oppose it, while common law is binding because it is accepted to be so. The common law may be enforced through violence, but it would be accepted as law even in absence of that violence, while statutory law is only accepted as law through the threat of that violence.

    Less and less do people believe that our governing institutions act with the consent of the governed. What is interesting about the modern political cynicism, though, is that people are beginning to whisper the truth that must not be acknowledged - that these institutions had never acted with the consent of the governed in the first place. Furthermore, they never will.

    In my opinion, the time seems ripe for another Great Awakening. There will be a trend towards a wider and deeper religiosity in Americans. However, it won't be of the sort that we mostly associate with the Christian Right. This movement will mostly come from the left, as their political marginalization continues and intensifies. As the belief in the power of the state to effect social change crumbles, this will be replaced by a belief in the power of communities united by ethics and the desire to improve humanity's lot on a local scale. This lends itself greatly to Social Gospel politics. I also think that this will have a strong element of deep ecology running through it, centered on the religious obligation to be stewards of the environment.

  5. #145
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    From Time:

    How Dangerous Is America’s Debt?

    The deficit needs to be trimmed, but not at the risk of austerity policies that could cause another recession — and the real long-term problem is entitlements

    In the past three weeks, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released two reports that seem to justify contradictory fiscal policies. The first calculated that the U.S. economy could be thrown into recession because of existing legislation to reduce the deficit sharply next year (the so-called fiscal cliff). The second projected that the U.S. will face an eventual financial crisis if the deficit is not reduced sharply. So what are we supposed to do? Obviously, America’s debt is a problem — but is it a clear and present danger, or just something we need to deal with as circumstances permit? To understand how to make smart policy choices that address both these issues, it’s helpful to take the debt numbers apart.

    There are lots of ways to calculate debt. All the sources have different numbers. And all the figures are slightly out of date. So let’s proceed by setting some approximate benchmarks. If you compare the debt of national governments to their countries’ annual gross domestic product (GDP), the European Union averages 83% and Canada around 85%. Call that normal. Individual European countries that are in the worst financial shape have debt levels that are a lot higher — see Italy’s 120%. Call that bad.

    How does the U.S. compare? Officially, our figure for debt to GDP is 102%, which makes it seem as if we’re well on the way to having Italy’s problems. But our number is inflated by the peculiar way the government accounts for Social Security and a few other programs. The Social Security Trust Fund is debt that the government owes to itself. It’s really just an accounting device indicating that money is promised for future Social Security payments. If you look at only debt held by the public, U.S. debt to GDP is just 71%, well below the danger zone.

    (MORE: Spain Bank-Rescue Glee Morphs into Market Rout)

    There are other ways of calculating debt that need to be considered too. One is to include state and local obligations, which boosts the total government debt figure by as much as 20 percentage points. Another approach is to consider all debt, both public and private. This is important to look at because in some countries, government debt is not the main problem. Spain’s government debt, for instance, is less than that of Germany, France and Britain. What has brought Spain to the financial brink is bank debt that is largely the result of real estate loans incurred during the country’s building boom.

    Here’s what this all adds up to: U.S. government borrowing by itself does not become dangerous for more than 10 years.

    Entitlements are another question. A recent study by USA Today calculated that if Social Security, Medicare and all other entitlements are counted, then U.S. debt is growing at four times the rate reported by the government. By that standard, we are already bankrupt. In addition, the indebtedness of state and local governments, as well as the debt carried by banks and other private-sector financial institutions, shouldn’t be ignored. Both areas are potentially fragile.

    But translating these projections into commonsense policies isn’t very hard, as long as you don’t get tangled up in politics. Here’s what it boils down to:

    Discretionary spending should be trimmed slowly. Government spending needs to be steadily brought down, but we have more than a decade to do it, and we don’t have to make big, slashing cuts at the moment when the U.S. is extremely vulnerable to a downturn.

    Entitlements, particularly health care, are the big risks. The government simply won’t be able to pay for all the things it has promised. Social Security is fairly easy to fix. Cuts can be made in ways that are almost imperceptible by altering the formula for calculating initial benefits, tinkering with inflation adjustments and nudging up the cap on the amount of income that is subject to taxation. Medicare, and health care generally, is the area where runaway spending is really scary.

    (MORE: Does God Want You to Be Thin?)

    More-orderly policies are needed to deal with local financial crises. Some state and municipal governments are in terrible financial shape and will go bankrupt or have to make big cuts in pensions and other benefits. But the legalities of such moves are unclear. Stockton, Calif., for instance, is embroiled in court fights over potential changes to pension and health care plans that could occur if the city goes bankrupt. We need consistent and fair procedures for dealing with such disputes.

    There should be a tougher regulatory system for banks. Judging by JPMorgan Chase’s recent unexpected $2 billion–plus trading loss, there is still insufficient oversight in banking. Proper regulation should discourage banks and other private-sector financial institutions from becoming overextended and also ensure that a crisis in one area of finance will not spread. The greatest risk is that losses in investment banking, for example, will lead to cutbacks in commercial lending and home mortgages and thereby stall the entire economy.

    We have to weigh the short-term effects of reining in the deficit against the threat posed by soaring debt over the long term. Reducing the deficit too quickly — whether by spending cuts or tax increases — can backfire. Indeed, the CBO study figured that the tax cuts expiring at the end of this year plus the spending cuts scheduled to go into effect in 2013 would cause an effective reduction in stimulus next year of more than $500 billion and probably push the U.S. into recession. However much the country needs to cut spending over the long term, it has to be done more deftly than that.

  6. #146
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    Quote Originally Posted by onemoretime View Post
    Part of the issue is that what makes conservatives "conservative" is the belief in the preservation of institutions. Increasingly, Americans are believing that these institutions no longer serve the public good, and instead exist to enhance the wealth and power of its members alone. That's why there's no real cognitive dissonance in opposition to both the Federal Reserve and labor unions - in this view, both are institutions that seek to enhance the power of its members at the expense of everyone else.

    What's troubling is that the ruling class seems to have little faith in its own institutions at this moment. Rather than working/spending to improve overall social health so as to protect their own wealth and power, the strategy seems more to be centered on the reduction of short-term losses (through tax cuts and austerity programs), and enhancing security through violent means. The latter includes the expansion of national security surveillance, increases in personal expenditures on private security, and the significant remodeling of the judicial system.

    The judicial transformation, in particular, is troubling. This has involved the trend toward increasing reliance and insistence on strict interpretations of statutes, which represent the norms and interests of the ruling class, as expressed through the legislators whose campaigns the members of that class contributed to. This is in contrast to the common law, which has always arisen from the customs and norms of the communities in which these disputes originate. To put it another way - statutes are binding law because the state can and will use overwhelming violent force against those who would oppose it, while common law is binding because it is accepted to be so. The common law may be enforced through violence, but it would be accepted as law even in absence of that violence, while statutory law is only accepted as law through the threat of that violence.

    Less and less do people believe that our governing institutions act with the consent of the governed. What is interesting about the modern political cynicism, though, is that people are beginning to whisper the truth that must not be acknowledged - that these institutions had never acted with the consent of the governed in the first place. Furthermore, they never will.

    In my opinion, the time seems ripe for another Great Awakening. There will be a trend towards a wider and deeper religiosity in Americans. However, it won't be of the sort that we mostly associate with the Christian Right. This movement will mostly come from the left, as their political marginalization continues and intensifies. As the belief in the power of the state to effect social change crumbles, this will be replaced by a belief in the power of communities united by ethics and the desire to improve humanity's lot on a local scale. This lends itself greatly to Social Gospel politics. I also think that this will have a strong element of deep ecology running through it, centered on the religious obligation to be stewards of the environment.
    While there is some faith in some public institutions among the right (the military being a good example), they are much more likely to view government growth as a whole negatively than are those on the left.

    With FDR the left laid the legislative foundation for the US in the 20th century. While in recent years the Republicans have been eating away at the edges of this foundation, the new deal still stands as the model for American Government.

    Between the public works (infrastructure) projects, the Glass-Steagall Act, and WWII (not too mention a host of other circumstantial factors), America thrived.

    America's technological advancement during these years relative to the rest of the World, set the stage for our incredibly stable growth in the second half of the century.

    America's success during this period hid the fact that there were structural issues with the fiscal specifics of the New Deal entitlement system. The most important of those structural issues being the fact that the US health care system is un-fundable beyond a certain level of population growth, unless America were to maintain that pace of growth present when the new deal first became effective.

    The success of America in the second half of the 20th century justified the principles of the New Deal to the people, and no one asked if our legislative paradigm would remain solvent and competitive in a changing world.

    I don't think the left has the Political will to do what is necessary to avert another crash (much worse than this one). Since that would require basically admitting the problems inherent with bills like the affordable care act.

    That we can't just mindlessly throw money at problems, and expect the creation of yet another blue ribbon commission to actually do anything about them.

    That we will need to begin to at least perform a benefit/detriment test before we just pass legislation that may cost the taxpayer billions. That the tendency to just expand programs and agencies endlessly without much real thought about whether they are providing a necessary service to the public (that couldn't be done better by the private sector), whether or not they are as effective per dollar as they can be, and whether or not the funds used to sustain them could be better spent elsewhere.

    These things won't be easy to do, either politically or logistically.

    Historically, the one who's in office for the worst bit of an economic downturn doesn't stay in office too long. And publicly, the pain of that downturn turns the people (rightly or wrongly) against the sitting president, and their respective party. In the 30's this was the Republican Herbert Hoover, who was replaced by FDR, and the rest is history.

    That recession was a transformative event in our nations history. Something had to be done, and eventually it was.

    I think this recession may be one as well.

    Depending on what goes on with Europe, and with the Supreme Court ruling on the ACA this summer, Obama may be the one left without a chair when the music stops in November.

    The problem is that the left has lagged behind public opinion on how to deal with the downturn.

    As can be seen in Wisconsin.

    There is a tendency among incumbents to stick their heads in the sand a say everything is fine when things in the economy aren't going their way(for example Obama's gaffe where he said the private sector is doing fine). This has been done, and is done on both sides of the aisle. But this time it's a different level of problem just like it was in the 30's. Then there was the tyranny of big business, just as now, and the economy was depressed because of rampant speculation on the part of many of those big businesses. As far as the whole big business thing is concerned, the two situation are quite similar.

    Where they differ, is the fact that now that speculative boom-bust cycle (large enough to effect the global economy) was allowed to occur under a legislative paradigm created by the left.

    While it is argued that the Republicans are the true culprit when it comes to the down turn, the honest answer is that both sides have become too comfortable in their relationship with corporate America.

    You can throw blame back and forth if you want, but that won't get us anywhere.

    Given the inability of the public generally to think of our economic problems in such nuanced terms, this election will probably end up being a referendum on the last 4 years (the last thing the President wants).

    Luckily, I think a legislative foundation with more conservative input than in the 30's is just what the country needs.

    If we can address our problems in a bipartisan fashion and not just elect a President and a majority (of one party) to both chambers of congress and ram through a partisan answer, we may just come out of this stronger than we ever were before.

  7. #147
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    While there is some faith in some public institutions among the right (the military being a good example), they are much more likely to view government growth as a whole negatively than are those on the left.

    With FDR the left laid the legislative foundation for the US in the 20th century. While in recent years the Republicans have been eating away at the edges of this foundation, the new deal still stands as the model for American Government.
    This is an area I think we are just going to have to disagree on. In my mind, the New Deal was a profoundly conservative set of reforms, as its purpose was to preserve the existing American institutions from particularly strong contemporary challenges. This is an attempt to step outside the New Deal dichotomy, where both "liberals" and "conservatives" were center-right on the global scale.

    People at the time thought that representative democracy was a failed system of government in the face of industrialization, and that the newer forms of government being put into place in Europe were the only way of dealing with the crisis of the era. The New Deal reforms were put into place so that the existing form of government could meet the challenges set forth by Anarcho-syndicalism (as in Spain, and much more popular in the US than generally remembered), Fascism (as in Italy), Authoritarian Militarism (as in Japan), Institutional Socialism (as in France), Social Populism (see Huey Long), and Communism (as in the Soviet Union).

    For all the New Deal did, it's important to look at what it did not do. It did not eliminate the Federal Reserve or private control over the monetary system (nor most of the big banks), even though that system failed catastrophically. Most measures were not handouts, either. Roosevelt staunchly opposed the Bonus Bill, even though he was elected after armed veterans marched on Washington looking for their WWI pay, and were violently driven out by police and the standing Army. The new regulations did not place a disproportionately large burden on massive institutional market actors, giving them a significant advantage over smaller competitors who had to devote a greater proportion of their resources to compliance (this is, after all, why the SCOTUS found the NRA unconstitutional in Schechter. The New Deal did not set up a guaranteed income, but instead provided works projects and infrastructure improvement.

    Even Social Security was, intentionally, not a simple wealth-transfer program but an old-age and unemployment insurance program, specifically because they concluded that people would not accept government charity. Even the NLRA was structured so that the largest, more "moderate" unions were protected, while smaller and/or more radical unions (like the IWW) would operate outside legal protection. Roosevelt even presented a balanced budget in 1937.

    The New Deal was a set of very conservative, incremental changes, in my mind. The more radical changes came with the War, the adoption of Military Keynesianism, the establishment of the Permanent War Economy and the postwar empire.

    Between the public works (infrastructure) projects, the Glass-Steagall Act, and WWII (not too mention a host of other circumstantial factors), America thrived.

    America's technological advancement during these years relative to the rest of the World, set the stage for our incredibly stable growth in the second half of the century.
    Please remember that America's technological advancement during these years came mostly as a result of the destruction of the industrial infrastructure of essentially every other competing country during World War II. Before the war, one could argue that Germany was more technologically advanced than the US, as evidenced by their enormous technological advantage in weaponry.

    America's success during this period hid the fact that there were structural issues with the fiscal specifics of the New Deal entitlement system. The most important of those structural issues being the fact that the US health care system is un-fundable beyond a certain level of population growth, unless America were to maintain that pace of growth present when the new deal first became effective.
    This analysis is problematic, in that the government did not address health care until Medicare and the Great Society reforms of the 1960s. Truman tried to get a universal health care bill passed after the war, and ultimately relented, thinking that it would be forever politically impossible. Even Medicare barely managed to pass at that late date.

    The success of America in the second half of the 20th century justified the principles of the New Deal to the people, and no one asked if our legislative paradigm would remain solvent and competitive in a changing world.
    I don't think most people gave it this level of broad, overarching thought. After all, all politics is local, as Mr. O'Neill said. Instead, people mostly looked at their paychecks, and their neighborhoods. For most of us, the people who were getting steady pay at a comfortable level figured that things were all going well. When that started to change in the mid-60s, as Europe finally rebuilt its industrial capacity and could compete again, people started to question the dominant paradigm, figuring it must be legislative and within a semblance of popular control. Meanwhile, what was considered societal "stability" was turned upside down in the Civil Rights Era, and white people started to feel like they weren't safe anymore. Furthermore, everyone looked around and noticed that everything was paved over all of a sudden (though this was nothing new to the poor).

    On the other hand, there was one overriding governing principle (intentional on the part of some policymakers) that did drastically change the tenor of the period - the necessity of keeping the American people terrified at all times. Since the end of WWII, the government has constantly kept the populace aware of all the real and imagined threats to American safety and health that lurk outside and within our borders. These include imminent nuclear annihilation, Soviet designs on world conquest, Communist infiltration of all aspects of American life, Middle Eastern extremists, Southeast Asian anti-colonialists, leftist guerrillas in Central and South America, leftist democratically elected leaders in Central and South America, radical minority activists in the US, drug cartels (other than the CIA), and so on. The point of this constant message of fear is to terrify Americans enough to not question foreign policy and the existence of the national security state.

    I don't think the left has the Political will to do what is necessary to avert another crash (much worse than this one). Since that would require basically admitting the problems inherent with bills like the affordable care act.

    That we can't just mindlessly throw money at problems, and expect the creation of yet another blue ribbon commission to actually do anything about them.
    As useless as I think blue ribbon commissions are, I think you're being a little cavalier in your assessment of what the left thinks.

    It's not that the left doesn't have the political will, it's that it doesn't matter if it has the political will or not, because it's entirely shut out of the process.

    That we will need to begin to at least perform a benefit/detriment test before we just pass legislation that may cost the taxpayer billions. That the tendency to just expand programs and agencies endlessly without much real thought about whether they are providing a necessary service to the public (that couldn't be done better by the private sector), whether or not they are as effective per dollar as they can be, and whether or not the funds used to sustain them could be better spent elsewhere.

    These things won't be easy to do, either politically or logistically.
    Those tests get done all the time. Usually by an organization called "Office of Legislative Services" or something like that. It rarely matters, because the people who vote on the bills don't pay attention to that, nor do they care to pay attention to that. They know what their benefactors want to have done, and will do everything they can to see to it that it comes to pass.

    Washington doesn't work on high-minded principles or even basic concerns of governance. Instead, it's a set of simple questions - does this bill leave "my guys" better off or worse after passage? Will my support or opposition to this bill help or hinder my reelection chances?

    Historically, the one who's in office for the worst bit of an economic downturn doesn't stay in office too long. And publicly, the pain of that downturn turns the people (rightly or wrongly) against the sitting president, and their respective party. In the 30's this was the Republican Herbert Hoover, who was replaced by FDR, and the rest is history.

    That recession was a transformative event in our nations history. Something had to be done, and eventually it was.

    I think this recession may be one as well.
    It may also be a repeat of the Long Depression of 1873-1896, where there was no transformative election.

    Depending on what goes on with Europe, and with the Supreme Court ruling on the ACA this summer, Obama may be the one left without a chair when the music stops in November.

    The problem is that the left has lagged behind public opinion on how to deal with the downturn.

    As can be seen in Wisconsin.
    The left is right there with public opinion on how to deal with the downturn - end foreign adventures, reinvest in the country, stop corporate handouts, particularly when they come at the cost of American jobs, and put people back to work. The Democrats are not, because they are a center-right party that mainly concerns itself with the well-being of the Wall Street banks that fund its national elections.

    And needless to say, that's a fairly vague and unsophisticated reading of the Wisconsin recall election, even though that is the party line.

    There is a tendency among incumbents to stick their heads in the sand a say everything is fine when things in the economy aren't going their way(for example Obama's gaffe where he said the private sector is doing fine). This has been done, and is done on both sides of the aisle. But this time it's a different level of problem just like it was in the 30's. Then there was the tyranny of big business, just as now, and the economy was depressed because of rampant speculation on the part of many of those big businesses. As far as the whole big business thing is concerned, the two situation are quite similar.

    Where they differ, is the fact that now that speculative boom-bust cycle (large enough to effect the global economy) was allowed to occur under a legislative paradigm created by the left.
    Never mind that the last 30 years of both legislative and executive economic policy have had essentially no leftist characteristics to it. Honestly, it's beginning to sound like your entire argument is "it's all the libs' fault."

    While it is argued that the Republicans are the true culprit when it comes to the down turn, the honest answer is that both sides have become too comfortable in their relationship with corporate America.

    You can throw blame back and forth if you want, but that won't get us anywhere.

    Given the inability of the public generally to think of our economic problems in such nuanced terms, this election will probably end up being a referendum on the last 4 years (the last thing the President wants).
    I disagree. When it comes to economics, the American populace tends to have a very nuanced view, because it directly affects their pocketbooks, and they can see what effect policies have in the past, and likely will have upon them in the future. When shifted to this point of view, they also have a tendency to notice acutely who has the same interests as them, and whose interests come at the expense of everyone else. The main way to get around this is to scare the public - which is why Obama is placing such emphasis on his tough-on-terrorists persona, and why Bush said 9/11 every two seconds in 2004.

    Luckily, I think a legislative foundation with more conservative input than in the 30's is just what the country needs.

    If we can address our problems in a bipartisan fashion and not just elect a President and a majority (of one party) to both chambers of congress and ram through a partisan answer, we may just come out of this stronger than we ever were before.
    You're making a big assumption there - that the people who are the movers and shakers in Washington actually want the US to come out stronger than before.

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    We may just have to agree to disagree here.

    Let's see how things play out and who gets vindicated.

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    Fair enough. Just so you know, it's not about vindication or winning for me. I have such little power over the situation, that it would be foolish of me to entrust any personal pride to what will happen in the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by onemoretime View Post
    Fair enough. Just so you know, it's not about vindication or winning for me. I have such little power over the situation, that it would be foolish of me to entrust any personal pride to what will happen in the future.
    I also have little power over the situation, but that's not what matters to me really.

    What I have been trying to hone is my ability to read between the lines and try to game out where things are headed (in my opinion this is one of those skills that's essential to last in politics).

    Given how much of myself I invest in following politics, and the extent to which politics is my personal passion (not too mention how competitive I am), I really enjoy trying to read the political tea leaves.

    It's a challenge where so many things in this world aren't.

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