Why are Republicans Wrong about Everything?


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Dr. F.

Boulder climber
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 2, 2013 - 08:24pm PT
The root of Washington’s ills

By Fareed Zakaria, Published: August 1

The hottest political book of the summer, “This Town” by Mark Leibovich, is being read in Washington with equal parts embarrassment and delight. It is a vivid, detailed picture of the country’s ruling elite, filled with tales of ruthless networking, fake friendships and a sensationalist media. But beneath the juicy anecdotes is a depressing message about corruption and dysfunction.

If you are trying to understand why Washington works so badly for the rest of the country, the book says that it works extremely well for its most important citizens: the lobbyists. The permanent government of the United States is no longer defined by party or a branch but by a profession comfortably encamped around the federal coffers. The result is that Washington has become the wealthiest city in the nation, and its relative position has actually improved over the past five years, during the worst recession in 75 years. The country might be struggling, but K Street is not. .

Leibovich describes a city in which money has trumped power as the ultimate currency. Lobbyists today hold the keys to what everyone in government — senator or staffer — is secretly searching for: a post-government source of income. He cites an Atlantic magazine report that says that in 1974, only 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists; today, that number is 42 percent for members of the House and 50 percent for senators.

The result is bad legislation. Look at any bill today: They are gargantuan documents filled with thousands of giveaways. The act that created the Federal Reserve in 1913 was only 31 pages. The 1933 Glass-Steagall legislation that regulated banking was 37 pages. The current version of that law, the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill, is 849 pages, with thousands of pages of additional rules. The Affordable Care Act runs more than 2,000 pages. Bills have become so vast because they are qualified by provisions, exceptions and exemptions put in by the very industry being targeted — a process that academics call “regulatory capture.”

In the mid-1950s, there were 5,000 registered lobbyists in Washington. Today, there are 12,000 — and, by several counts, many, many more, because thousands have reclassified themselves as “consultants” and “strategic advisers.” The money they spend — as much as $3.5 billion annually in recent years — sounds substantial but is trivial compared with what they are able to divert from the government’s $3.5 trillion budget.

The mistake Leibovich makes in his telling of Washington tales is to imply that today’s Washingtonians are particularly greedy or venal. I doubt they differ much from earlier generations of power brokers. But the system in which they operate has changed, creating much greater incentives for venality.

Consider just one factor (and there are many): the role of money, which has expanded dramatically over the past four decades. Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig has pointed out that members of Congress spend three of every five workdays raising money. They also vote with extreme attention to their donors’ interests. Lessig cites studies that demonstrate that donors get a big bang for their campaign bucks — sometimes with returns on their “investment” that would make a venture capital firm proud. A company would be crazy not to make such investments.

Compared with other democracies, the United States has become not just an outlier but practically another planet. The total cost of the 2010 national elections in Britain — the mother of parliamentary government — was $86 million. The cost of the 2012 U.S. elections has been estimated to be nearly 75 times that number, at $6.3 billion.

Taking money out of politics is a mammoth challenge. Perhaps the best that one could hope for would be to limit instead what Congress can sell. In other words, enact a thorough reform of the tax code, ridding it of the thousands of special exemptions, credits and deductions that are institutionalized, legalized corruption.

The most depressing aspect of Leibovich’s book is how utterly routine all of the influence-peddling has become. In 1990, Ramsay MacMullen, a distinguished Yale historian of Rome, published a book that took on one of the central questions of his field: Why did the greatest empire in the history of the world collapse in the 5th century? The root cause, he explained, was political corruption, which had become systemic in the late Roman Empire. What was once immoral became accepted as standard practice, and what was once illegal was celebrated as the new normal. Many decades from now, a historian looking at where America lost its way could use “This Town” as a primary source.

many Republican Congressmen stand to earn millions if the Keystone Pipeline goes through, talk about insider trading, it should be illegal.

Social climber
So Cal
Aug 2, 2013 - 08:27pm PT
But you just want to reward that same broken system by fueling its growth.

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Aug 3, 2013 - 12:12am PT
Leazarian....why don't you get a job a walmart so you can enlighten supertopo more about the intellectual side of living on minimum wage..?

Trad climber
Aug 3, 2013 - 03:54am PT
The problem with Americans today is that they don't appreciate how much their 7.25/hour job is actually hurting the economy. Don't they see if they worked for 3.65/hour that we could hire twice as many people and their lives would be better? Then we could cut food stamps and other forms of government assistance that are just making their lives worse. Earned income tax credit for the working poor that has actually been shown to ease poverty and was a Republican idea? There's an extremely broad intellectual consensus* that eliminating the minimum wage basically accomplishes the same thing, right?

*All Republicans consider themselves economists and anyone who has discussed Atlas Shrugged with a friend considers themselves an intellectual.

Social climber
Falls Church, VA
Aug 3, 2013 - 07:53am PT
the liberal definition of "recovery" (aka "job stimulus"):


Aug 3, 2013 - 10:10am PT
In fact, I question whether any of the sorts of transactions identified as worsening the problem would have even been covered by Glass-Steagall before the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act amended it.

Gramm-Leach-Billey act allowed Travellers Group (insurance) to merge with Citibank to create Citigroup. Investment banks and commercial banks were also allowed to merge. If they lost a sh#t ton of their depositors' money...they were now "too big to fail".

"In the 1930s, at the trough of the Depression when Glass-Steagall became law, it was believed that government was the answer. It was believed that stability and growth came from governement overriding the funtioning of free markets. We are here today to repeal Glass-Steagall because we have learned that government is not the answer. We have learned that freedom and competition are the answers. We have learned that we promote economic growth and we promote stability by having competition and freedom". Sen. Gramm, November 12, 1999.

We don't have a free market and Gramm of course knows that. How long will Americans swallow this socialist scare as rationale?

Aug 3, 2013 - 10:25am PT
You cite "too much government intervention" but do not say on behalf of whom. The problem here is definitely NOT that government keeps intervening on behalf of the weak and the victims are not "taxpayers" exclusively but the politically impotent. The system has consistently been rigged for the wealthy for the last several decades with very clear results: a widening income gap and stagnant wages even as worker productivity increases.

The problem isn't that government intervenes too much (as a generalization, there are obviously times when it does/has) but that the political system is rigged for it to consistently intervene on behalf of those who do not need it.

Part of this trick is getting people to complain that government intervenes too much so that any proposal that would actually help real people is easily shot down as "socialism" whilst tax cuts, subsidies and contracts are showered on the industries that can afford the best lobbyists.

I say that's the crux of the matter. If we could understand this simple deception maybe the country could move on to discussing the details of how we're being ripped off. I believe it's obvious that the Obama administration and the congressional right wingers care nothing about the liberal and conservative values that occupy gullible Americans minds.

Social climber
So Cal
Aug 3, 2013 - 08:18pm PT
Some more trash that needs to do prison time.

Hey, what's wrong with stealing a billion or so as long as you are a Friend of Barry!

Customers were left reeling when it was discovered that about $1.6 billion was missing from their accounts. That money turned out to have been used as stop gaps, which is illegal and caused public outrage.

Corzine maintained during several Congressional hearings that he did not know what happened to the money. But recorded conversations unearthed by MF Global's regulator showed otherwise


Aug 3, 2013 - 08:23pm PT
Proof: Repubs Have Failed.


'Red States' Rank Low On U.S. Human Development Index

When it comes to well-being — as measured by health, education and income — the southern ‘red states’ continue to be in worse shape compared to their Yankee rivals, according to a study called the Measure of America, released Wednesday by the Brooklyn based-Social Science Research Council.

The state of the nation is often expressed through Gross National Product, daily stock market results, consumer spending levels, and national debt figures. If the stock markets up, everyone should be happy, says the general consensus. TV hosts are smiling. Movie stars are buying more bling and having babies with other movie stars. Miley Cyrus is spending all of her Hannah Montana money trying to find herself.

But these numbers provide only a partial view of how people are faring. Human development is defined as the process of enlarging people’s freedoms and opportunities and improving their well-being. The Human Development Index is an alternative to the market’s money metrics and instead measures the real freedom ordinary people have to decide who to be, what to do, and how to live in their prospective states.

The first Human Development Index was launched in 1990 by the United Nations and was the brainchild of Indian economist Amartya Sen and Pakistani economist Mahbub Haq. It has been an annual feature of every Human Development Report since, ranking virtually every country in the world from number one (currently Iceland) to 177 (currently Sierra Leone).

This is where we fare in the Measure of America.

In the heat map that ranks U.S. states on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being a high level of well being, Democratic or so called ‘blue states’ dominate on the end of the scale while Republican strongholds rank the lowest.

The best state in the union? Connecticut, of course. When you’re the world’s headquarters to hedge fund traders, the wealth gets spread around. The state ranks 6.17. When considering education levels, 20% have just a bachelor’s degrees and 15% have advanced degrees. At least 53% graduated high school. And only 11.4% did not, which for the richest state in the country is still high, though the number includes much older generations and immigrants. Average life expectancy is 80.8 years old 81.8% of the state’s school aged population (3-24) are in school. Democrats control the joint.

On the low end of the scale it’s Mississippi. They rank just 3.81 out of 10 with an average life expectancy of 75, 76% of the student aged population (3-24) are in school and only 12% with a bachelor’s degree. Just 7% of the state have advanced degrees and 19% have less than a high school education.

That state is run by Republicans except for one Democrat in the House of Representatives.

The highest ranking state south of Mason Dixon is Florida, with an index score of 4.82.

Not all blue states are rolling in the well-being. Michigan is the stand-out at 4.76 on the index. The state has a Republican governor and a mixed representation in the House, but the Senate is still blue. Neither party in Washington or in the state itself has been able to improve the quality of life in the state as Detroit’s auto labor woes continue.

The state saw the greatest decline in human development over the past decade and is the only U.S. state
whose 2010 Human Development Index score is lower than its 2000 score.

Other Key Findings

Only six states—Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming—plus the District of Columbia finished the first decade of the 2000s with higher median earnings than they had in 2000 (in inflation-adjusted terms).

People living in the nation’s twenty-five largest metro areas tend to have higher levels of well-being and access to opportunity than the average American. Only four metro areas, Houston, Tampa–St. Petersburg, San Antonio, and Riverside–San Bernardino, have HD Index scores below the national average of 5.03.

The metro areas that perform best on the American HD Index are, starting from the top, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis–St. Paul, and New York. Workers in the top-ranked Washington, DC metro area make over $14,000 more than the typical American wage-earner, are more than twice as likely as other Americans to have a graduate degree, and live 2.1 years longer.

Ironically, while Detroit is dragging down Michigan, Washington’s political industry and its derivatives, from media companies based there to cover the Fed and Congress, to lobby firms, have helped increase its well being. Thank you, Mr. President?

The five metro areas with the greatest increases in their index scores from 2008 to 2010 did so largely on the strength of improvements in health and longevity: Baltimore, Washington, DC, San Antonio, Dallas, and Boston. San Antonio, although it ranked last in 2008 and second-to-last in 2010, is gaining ground at a comparatively quick clip.

Meanwhile, the five cities with declines in index scores from 2008 to 2010 were Detroit, Portland, Atlanta, Miami, and Tampa–St. Petersburg due to a loss of income for the majority people in those metro areas, the report states.

Data on the report is from 2010. This is their second report since the first one in 2008-09.

There are many ways to measure well-being. Most of it is on an individual level. For the purposes of the study, stagnant to declining incomes over a 10 year period, coupled with health issues and educational attainment, at least, make Republican stronghold states less apt to rank high on the index than the wealthier northeastern states. The index is not a measure of individual happiness.

So, yes, dear readers in ‘Bama, the fact that you can hunt a gator and buy an M5 probably makes you a lot happier than the 30 year old paying $2,000 a month for a 400 square foot hole in the wall in Brooklyn commuting 45 minutes to his job as doorman in the Upper East Side. Give yourself a high-five.


Social climber
So Cal
Aug 3, 2013 - 08:26pm PT
Keep on defending the thieves.


Aug 3, 2013 - 08:35pm PT

"Keep on defending the thieves."

Hahahahaha. Idiot.

Keep on babbling like a scared little child.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Aug 3, 2013 - 09:10pm PT
"Money has trumped power as the ultimate currency" - Mark Leibovich

This is some kind of revelation ?

Social climber
So Cal
Aug 4, 2013 - 06:48am PT
Kenya say scandal?


Mountain climber
La Mancha
Aug 4, 2013 - 09:32am PT
At least 53% graduated high school. And only 11.4% did not

Uh, so what did the other 35.6% do? If they died, that's a pretty high mortality rate...

Gold Canyon, AZ
Aug 4, 2013 - 10:37am PT
Thank you, Curt, for proving my point. Warren, a hero of the left, offers a classic post hoc ergo propter hoc argument, i.e. we passed it, and had no failures for 50 years. Therefore, the Act must have prevented the failures.

While I agree that correlation does not prove causality, it's exceptionally difficult to see how an increase in banking deregulation did not play a part in the resulting bubble and multitude of bank failures.


Gold Canyon, AZ
Aug 4, 2013 - 10:42am PT
The New York Times columnist writes that the Republican Party "has basically gone off the deep end."


Krugman's central theme was expressed exceptionally well in Mann and Ornstein's 2012 Book, "It's even worse than it looks." Mann and Ornstein, who have historically been equally critical of Democrats and Republicans, concluded in this book that Republicans have become:

"...an insurgent outlier -- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition"


Aug 4, 2013 - 11:00am PT
Even FauxNews Has Had It With Congressional Repubs!


Hahahahaha, watch Cantor get reamed out by Chris Wallace - Priceless!

He spends 12 minutes absolutely refusing to answer one single question...what a blithering idiot

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Aug 4, 2013 - 11:31am PT
In the clip Cantor says they want to make sure only the people that need assistance gets it.

How do they do that, more government?
Does he believe that anyone can walk in the way it is now and claim need to programs without any process?

Mountain climber
La Mancha
Aug 4, 2013 - 12:30pm PT
I think he's talking about Republican't congress members...

Gold Canyon, AZ
Aug 5, 2013 - 09:23am PT
Threats, intimidation and bullying by Republicans. How completely unremarkable.


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