Archive for Friday, February 19, 2010

Government not broken; it’s working

February 19, 2010


— In the latter days of the Carter presidency, it became fashionable to say that the office had become unmanageable and was simply too big for one man. Some suggested a single, six-year presidential term. The president’s own White House counsel suggested abolishing the separation of powers and going to a more parliamentary system of unitary executive control. America had become ungovernable.

Then came Ronald Reagan, and all that chatter disappeared.

The tyranny of entitlements? Reagan collaborated with Tip O’Neill, the legendary Democratic House speaker, to establish the Alan Greenspan commission that kept Social Security solvent for a quarter-century.

A corrupted system of taxation? Reagan worked with liberal Democrat Bill Bradley to craft a legislative miracle: tax reform that eliminated dozens of loopholes and slashed rates across the board — and fueled two decades of economic growth.

Later, a highly skilled Democratic president, Bill Clinton, successfully tackled another supposedly intractable problem: the culture of intergenerational dependency. He collaborated with another House speaker, Newt Gingrich, to produce the single most successful social reform of our time, the abolition of welfare as an entitlement.

It turned out that the country’s problems were not problems of structure but of leadership. Reagan and Clinton had it. Carter didn’t. Under a president with extensive executive experience, good political skills and an ideological compass in tune with the public, the country was indeed governable.

It’s 2010 and the first-year agenda of a popular and promising young president has gone down in flames. Barack Obama’s two signature initiatives — cap-and-trade and health care reform — lie in ruins.

Desperate to explain away this scandalous state of affairs, liberal apologists haul out the old reliable from the Carter years: “America the Ungovernable.” So declared Newsweek. “Is America Ungovernable?” coyly asked The New Republic. Guess the answer.

The rage at the machine has produced the usual litany of systemic explanations. Special interests are too powerful. The Senate filibuster stymies social progress. A burdensome constitutional order prevents innovation. If only we could be more like China, pines Tom Friedman, waxing poetic about the efficiency of the Chinese authoritarian model, while America flails about under its “two parties ... with their duel-to-the-death paralysis.”

Yet, what’s new about any of these supposedly ruinous structural impediments? Special interests blocking policy changes? They have been around since the beginning of the republic — and since the beginning of the republic, strong presidents, like the two Roosevelts, have rallied the citizenry and overcome them.

And then, of course, there’s the filibuster, the newest liberal bete noire. “Don’t blame Mr. Obama,” writes Paul Krugman of the president’s failures. “Blame our political culture instead. ... And blame the filibuster, under which 41 senators can make the country ungovernable.”

Ungovernable, once again. Of course, just yesterday the same Paul Krugman was warning about “extremists” trying “to eliminate the filibuster” when Democrats used it systematically to block one Bush (43) judicial nomination after another. Back then, Democrats touted it as an indispensable check on overweening majority power. Well, it still is. Indeed, the Senate with its ponderous procedures and decentralized structure is serving precisely the function the Founders intended: as a brake on the passions of the House and a caution about precipitous transformative change.

Leave it to Mickey Kaus, a principled liberal who supports health care reform, to debunk these structural excuses: “Lots of intellectual effort now seems to be going into explaining Obama’s (possible/likely/impending) health care failure as the inevitable product of larger historic and constitutional forces. ... But in this case there’s a simpler explanation: Barack Obama’s job was to sell a health care reform plan to American voters. He failed.”

He failed because the utter implausibility of its central promise — expanded coverage at lower cost — led voters to conclude that it would lead ultimately to more government, more taxes and more debt. More broadly, the Democrats failed because, thinking the economic emergency would give them the political mandate and legislative window, they tried to impose a left-wing agenda on a center-right country. The people said no, expressing themselves first in spontaneous demonstrations, then in public opinion polls, then in elections — Virginia, New Jersey and, most emphatically, Massachusetts.

That’s not a structural defect. That’s a textbook demonstration of popular will expressing itself — despite the special interests — through the existing structures. In other words, the system worked.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Paul R Getto 8 years, 4 months ago

Good points. President Reagan, for example, was much more rational and bipartisan than the myth suggests. We need our representatives to work together again. The poison in D.C. is costing us all dearly.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

When it comes to spending less for health care insurance IMPROVED Medicare Insurance is the only way to go. Why? Because it would substantially reduce the cost of running local,state and federal governments. It would substantially reduce the cost of managing the cost of school districts. In essence it would put more expendable cash back into the hands of taxpayers.

Above all else it means Everybody In Nobody Out = more paying in = reduction in cost across the board. Eliminates emergency room treating patients that do not need to be in the emergency room which is the most expensive treatment.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 4 months ago

Cap and trade and health care reform are not in ruins, just on the back burner while he tries to give the people what they need more...JOBS

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Removing: elected officials as shareholders( increases our cost of living) special interest campaign funding( increases our cost of living) industry recklessly spending dollars to bribe votes ( increases our cost of living) the news media offering misinformation ( their large advertising revenue is a huge problem)

We might get government for the people.

It's time for a new voting system: Fair Vote America : Demand a change on the next ballot.

The big money ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE MORE BEHOLDEN than ever to corporate special interests due to the very long nature of campaigns. How do they have time to do the job they were elected to do? They say NO to the voters too often!

It's time for public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 4 months ago

grammaddy you sure seem smitten with this president and his ideology. you might be the last one left.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 4 months ago

yay, new taxes for all!! oh, except those of you who don't pay much/any in taxes. you'll get more money at the end of the year.

georgiahawk 8 years, 4 months ago

Barry, do you really believe what you write? If so, how long before you fly an airplane into a federal building? Have you taken flying lessons yet?

preebo 8 years, 4 months ago

"who don't pay much/any in taxes"

Who, prey tel, doesn't pay taxes? I assume you mean income taxes, right? While it is a progressive tax and effects those who make more, it is not the only tax levied on the people. There are other forms of taxes (i.e. sales) taxes that hit those with lower incomes harder causing them to have less money to afford things, I don't know, like health care coverage. This in turn causes them to go to our emergency rooms for simple medical fixes, effectively clogging the system. Then they are unable to pay the ridiculously high cost of care received and the ER and then default on payments passing the cost onto the rest of US.

So again, I ask you, who doesn't pay any taxes?

ivalueamerica 8 years, 4 months ago

The GOP and the Extreme right pray each day for America to fail.

That makes them traitors.

classclown 8 years, 4 months ago

"Government not broken; it’s working"


Perhaps that is the problem and always has been.

gccs14r 8 years, 4 months ago

"I couldn't go back to 2005 when this problem started because Noridian had only taken over the government contract from Cigna in 2007"

So the real problem isn't government workers, but private industry taking public dollars in one hand and denying payments to clients with the other. Yet another example of just how wonderful privatization of government services is.

itwasthedukes 8 years, 4 months ago

Our system was designed to make laws difficult to pass. Unfortunately politicians found out that bribery works much faster than debate and rational discussion and that is why the spending can't stop from their perspective. The people need to ask how many new laws do we really need?

gccs14r 8 years, 4 months ago

Meaningful debate and compromise went out the window when the anti-choice crowd poisoned the political atmosphere in a vain attempt to overturn the Supreme Court. 37 years later, we have American terrorists executing doctors and blowing up buildings. I think it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Here are 10 great reasons to support IMPROVED Medicarel Health Insurance:

  1. Everybody In, Nobody Out. Universal means access to health care for everyone, period.

  2. Portability. If you are unemployed, or lose or change jobs, your health coverage stays with you.

  3. Uniform Benefits. No Cadillac plans for the wealthy and Pinto plans for everyone else, with high deductibles, limited services, caps on payments for care, and no protection in the event of a catastrophe. One level of comprehensive care for everyone, regardless of the size of your wallet.

  4. Prevention. By removing financial roadblocks, a universal health system encourages preventive care that lowers an individual's ultimate cost and pain and suffering when problems are neglected and societal cost in the over-utilization of emergency rooms or the spread of communicable diseases.

  5. Choice. Most private insurance restricts your choice of providers and hospitals. Under the U.S. National Health Insurance Act, patients have a choice, and the provider is assured a fair payment.

  6. No Interference with Care. Caregivers and patients regain their autonomy to decide what's best for a patient's health, not what's dictated by the billing department. No denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions or cancellation of policies for "unreported" minor health problems.

  7. Reducing Waste. One third of every private health insurance dollar goes for paperwork and profits, compared to about 3% under Medicare, the federal government’s universal system for senior citizen healthcare.

  8. Cost Savings. A guaranteed health care system can produce the cost savings needed to cover everyone, largely by using existing resources without the waste. Taiwan, shifting from a U.S. private health care model, adopted a similar system in 1995, boosting health coverage from 57% to 97% with little increase in overall health care spending.

  9. Common Sense Budgeting. The public system sets fair reimbursements applied equally to all providers, private and public, while assuring that appropriate health care is delivered, and uses its clout to negotiate volume discounts for prescription drugs and medical equipment.

  10. Public Oversight. The public sets the policies and administers the system, not high priced CEOs meeting in private and making decisions based on their company’s stock performance needs.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Most people cannot afford insurance at todays rates. And would never spend that much in a 12 month period. Wny not just pay out of pocket and save thousands.

If millions of healthy insured dropped their policies not only would they save thousands of dollars the insurance industry would faint in disbelief that this many people actually are awake and give a damn.

Paying out of pocket will save thousands of dollars a year.

Set up a health care investment account or annuity that makes YOU money instead of wealthy CEO's. Your health care annuity will NOT cancel out on when the poop hits fan.

Sooner or later more will do the same. Suddenly all of america would realize the medical insurance business has been doing nothing but making tons and tons of profit by way of fear mongering.

Now more money is available to invest smart instead of supporting high rollin medical insurance executives and shareholders.CIGNA just retried their CEO with a $73 million bonus.

Insurance rates are increasing by 24% , 39% and 56% thus far. Did your salary increase by any of those percentages?

Maybe get on with that home improvement with cash instead of borrowing from the bank.....just maybe. STOP supporting high rollin medical insurance executives and shareholders!

Maybe go to Jamaica for a few weeks instead of supporting high rollin medical insurance executives and shareholders.

Most consumers are under-insured = candidate for bankruptcy. Most coverage WILL NOT stick with consumers when the going gets tough = fraud.

ivalueamerica 8 years, 4 months ago

Tom, your hate for America puts you at the top of the traitor list.

jayhawklawrence 8 years, 4 months ago

Why do these Republican hacks always want to give us a history lesson as a backdrop to repeating their talking points?

There is always a serious problem with their revisionist view of history. The problem is that historians and the people that actually REMEMBER what went down are still alive.

Well, health care is STILL broken and fewer of us will be able to afford it each year into the future. If this formula continues, and politicians love these formulas, the only people with health care will be the politicians and health care CEOs.

Cap and Trade. Probably sucks. But we still do not have a solution do we?

The grade for this congress so far is an F.

Someone needs to remind these goonie birds that in a global economy in the midst of the information age we need to focus on being COMPETITIVE.

We ARE in a competition. If you don't show up you WILL lose.

georgiahawk 8 years, 4 months ago

If this dysfunctional partisan way of governing is Krautboys idea of a working government I would hate to see what it is like inside his family. My guess (and I do not know, nor would I care to know) is that dysfunctional behavior is the norm.

Ivalueamerica, I to have wondered about Tom's patriotism. He seems to revel in partisan bickering without any desire to solve problems. I believe it is more important for Tom to think he is right than to actually be right. But hey, I am the only one that I know that is right all of the time!

preebo 8 years, 4 months ago

They, including Krauthammer keep trying to compare Obama to Carter, when everything shows that he is looking increasingly more like Clinton, not as progressive as people thought he would be. I know the "right" in this nation would like to see Obama be Carter, but if one was a student of history, they would clearly see that our current President resembles our last two-term Democratic President. Comparison only goes so far, and things can change but I would be surprised that the current incantation of the Republican party could really formulate a real substantive Presidential platform in 2012. Much to Cheney and CPAC's chagrin, history would argue that Obama is a two-term executive.

georgiahawk 8 years, 4 months ago

So Tom, your idea of patriotism is to never admit your country made a mistake or screwed up in any way? Are you serious? Surely you mean that only Republican Americans have never made a mistake because I believe that you have said that Carters handling of Iran was a mistake! Or is it unpatriotic of me to suggest that?

Now I see why it is so important for you to feel as if you are always right, the truth may just crumble your house of cards. If it will make you feel better, here is a pat on the back and a "you have never been wrong".

gccs14r 8 years, 4 months ago

Carter got sandbagged on Iran by Reagan/Bush.

lindseydoyle 8 years, 4 months ago

The Republicans have only had the 40 votes necessary for filibuster since Feb 4 but the mainstream media has been warning about the threat preemptorily. Meanwhile, what about cloture? It gives the majority party the means of stifling debate and has been used extensively in recent years. Yes, our political system is broken and one party is just as rotten as the next. They are aided and abetted by the corporate media which witholds information from the people. Just look at the attempt at health care reform. It ended up as a huge giveaway to the insurance and medical industries. The difference between now and previous years is that the mainstream media sees its job as herding the people, not informing them.

Orwell 8 years, 4 months ago


I think Col. Jessup said it best: "You can't handle the truth!"

Katara 8 years, 4 months ago

TomShewmon (Tom Shewmon) says...

"So again, I ask you, who doesn't pay any taxes? " -preebo

That would be 40% of Americans.

"Even 57.5 million is not the actual number of people because one tax return often represents several people. When all of the dependents of these income-producing people are counted, roughly 120 million Americans – 40 percent of the U.S. population – are outside of the federal income tax system."

And this study is five years old now.

Don't despair though, millions of other households like mine are happy to kick in 40% to take up the slack. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Oh, that is just hilarious! I was wondering where this 40% figure was coming from and it is because they are figuring dependents (i.e. children, the elderly being cared for their families, etc.) in.

Tom, do you realize that since you have dependents, that means you are part of the 40%?

Damn those children! Such lazy deadbeats! And GreatGrandma too! How dare they not pull their weight and get out of paying their taxes!

Katara 8 years, 4 months ago

Much more accurate figures are around 32% and it was not up to that much until Bush's tax cuts.

"The percentage of tax returns with no liability was fairly low in the 1960s and again in the early 1980s. A record had been set every year since 2002, as tax cuts throughout the Bush years, especially the refundable child tax credit, pushed low-to-middle income people off the tax rolls."

notajayhawk 8 years, 4 months ago

ivalueamerica (anonymous) says...

"The GOP and the Extreme right pray each day for America to fail.

"That makes them traitors."

Hey, can someone save me the trouble of sifting through the old posts and just link to all those patriotic posts made by ivalueamerica supporting the previous administration?

Shouldn't take long.

Let me guess, iva, the typical Lib/Dem mantra: "But ... but ... but ... but that's different!"

If the so-called America you value is the one envisioned by Obama and his buddies, iva, I'd be darned proud if you'd please add me to your traitor list.

Mixolydian 8 years, 4 months ago

No one has to "see" Obama as Carter...we're all living Obama as Carter. As bad as the malaise of late 70's were, I'm starting to get nostalgic for them.

At least the Royals were competitive.

We'd all love Clinton to come back. Democrats because of partisanship, Republicans because of, well, because of their own purient interests...for rational Independents like me, because he didn't do squat. That's the best we can hope for in a president. Don't do anything, get out of the way and the country can take care of itself. Short of that, pray for gridlock.

JKBagby 8 years, 4 months ago

In defense of some who posted on this, I think some leader, maybe Thomas Jefferson, said to question one's government is to be patriotic. What you are all doing is patriotic. We must question the power that be. Whether we like the process or not, Iraq was a door to link the west to the Middle East and have a door for new commerce. Now I know it was violent and that is not good. But where we are now as a species we are doing what seems necessary. Enlightenment has not really become global. Probably wont until we hit that severe ultimatum as an Earth community. Can I trust the Fed Reserve, VinoVeritas? No, not at all. But as a little fish do I have an option? Maybe I see a witch doctor when I feel ill. until recently I had not had the option of choosing my own Primary Care Provider. Myself, I don't see the difference. But that is because for most of my adult life I was in an environment that would have been seen as providing socialized medicine. Another argument for Mandatory service I suppose. And even though I can deal with that, some close friends really argue strongly for individual Health Plans. Which I can understand from their point. It's a hard line to disagree with the government under which ever guise it manifests itself, and then simply wanting to survive and hope the best for humanity. Shall I stockpile ammunition or meditate? These are issues.

tbaker 8 years, 4 months ago

So "expanding government" is the only way to go, huh Merril? Why is it people - of all political stripes - cannot see and appreciate the wisdom of "reforming" things about our healthcare system that DO NOT COST A DIME of tax dollars? Why can't we do those reforms first, and see what happens? Who doesn't want, more, cheaper, faster healthcare? Everyone can agree on that. Why then cannot everyone agree we should try the FREE reforms first? What do we stand to loose?

I would guess the reason this is the case is becuase the hard-over socialist liberal wing of the democratic party (now in power) are terrified these reforms would actually work, thus demonstrating that a larger, more expensive federal government is clearly unecessary. Since their reason for getting out of bed in the morning IS a larger, more expensive federal government, they oppose it. Whats best for the country is not what is best for them.

cnwtrainman 8 years, 4 months ago

Great article, dead on. Mr Obamma simply needs to work harder. Maybe a smaller healthcare plan with popular measures should have been tried first. Dont eat the elephant in one bite. President Obamma needs to learn to wheel and deall. Sessions wants an FBI lab Bond wants a new downtown GAO office, maybe these things are possible in exchange for a trimmer healthcare plan? Fast victories would have changed the whole picture. I am thinking maybe Rahm Emmanuel needs to go home and maybe Obamma needs to make a Clinton move and get a a Republican advisor who can help him get votes across the aisle.

cnwtrainman 8 years, 4 months ago

Great article, dead on. Mr Obamma simply needs to work harder. Maybe a smaller healthcare plan with popular measures should have been tried first. Dont eat the elephant in one bite. President Obamma needs to learn to wheel and deall. Sessions wants an FBI lab Bond wants a new downtown GAO office, maybe these things are possible in exchange for a trimmer healthcare plan? Fast victories would have changed the whole picture. I am thinking maybe Rahm Emmanuel needs to go home and maybe Obamma needs to make a Clinton move and get a a Republican advisor who can help him get votes across the aisle.

cnwtrainman 8 years, 4 months ago

Obamma would be better advised by David R. Gergen or Dick Morris rather than Rahm Emmanuel

tbaker 8 years, 3 months ago

Dear Beobachter - your assertion is true. You'll get no argument from me on that point.

That said, tell me, was it wise for Mr. Obama to say things like that in public? In what way are the interests of the United States being served by doing so? I submit they are not. It was foolish for him to do that. When it comes to the world's opinion of the United States, I think the record is abundantly clear: talk may harm a country, but examples of soothing platitiudes actually doing a country any good are rare. I'd like a good, contempoary example of a world leader actually advancing the interests of their country in a measurable way solely by delivering an apologetic speech. The world, most notably our adversaries, pay no attention to talk. They are only moved by the sum of our actions.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 8 years, 3 months ago

Dick Morris, now that's a laugh.

It's hard to ignore the fact that government is broken, but there are some things that can improve. Notice I don't say that it can be fixed, it's just hard to believe that it will be fixed completely. Charles makes the case that some level of cooperation occurred to not only help America out of crisis, but promote prosperity. An important distinction between the scenarios Charles cites and the current state of affairs is cooperation, specifically in the US Congress.

It is also clear that the lack of cooperation many years ago resulted in a GOP-led Congress pretty much having their way governing. The governance they provided stands as a major contributor to today's reality in many ways and should be held to inspection if for no other reason than to learn from the mistakes. People may disagree on individual policies, but it should be obvious that some changes are in order. The only real question is what kind of change and how much.

For those that berate the Dems for not fixing the mess fast enough, it should also be noted, with history as our guide, that most of the crises, especially those of recent past, took longer than a year or two to show wider, appreciable improvements. Those who cling to that blame regime are chattering masses that, while obviously believe change is required, lay blame incorrectly mainly due to the poor messages they receive from the entertainers on the airwaves.

America is currently experiencing the effects of policies put in place in the 2000 - 2005 timeframe along with global events that changed so much. A strong sense of nationalism brought America together, but it was soon hijacked by Republicans. Fortunately, the elephants did not run completely wild in this period, but the stage was set Deregulation was the order of the day and government oversight diminished. Crises like Enron and FERC-ignored energy pricing crimes were largely ignored and abuses in the deregulated sectors. One might claim that these were just bad players, but it was enabled by lack of oversight by both Congress and the administration, at that time GOP-controlled and notably resistant to calls for oversight.


a_flock_of_jayhawks 8 years, 3 months ago


If there is something that can be learned from those times and how they were handled, it is that government, when serving the needs of the people, does have an important role to play. A balance must be struck that moderates such oversight for best effect where needed, preserves freedom and opportunity, and promotes overall prosperity.

Th current set of alternatives served up by our representation in DC is a return to smaller government and less oversight (GOP) or a moderation mixed with some targeted change (Dem). And let's be honest, those advocating the GOP approach are colorfully mis-characterizing the moderated approach as socialism/fascism (they are drastically different) and practically any other extreme label available. In reality, it is moderated, in large part due to the role Obama has pursued.

Given those choices and the GOP's stubborn opposition, character flaws individually and as a movement, and migration to far right, it is truly a mystery that it is a real option to solve problems and move forward. Time for a change. At some point, the GOP will likely moderate and come back to the table with something of substance, but that may have to wait until the purification cycle has run it's course.

independant1 8 years, 3 months ago

K is spot on! Will Rogers would say something like, "when congress makes a joke, it becomes a law."

notajayhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

cnwtrainman (anonymous) says...

"Maybe a smaller healthcare plan with popular measures should have been tried first. Dont eat the elephant in one bite."

This has been one of my biggest complaints regarding the proposed 'reforms'. When you're conducting an experiment, you don't manipulate all the variables at once. If you do, you have no idea which of the variables were responsible for positive change, which contributed nothing at all, and which may have caused change in the wrong direction. Everyone agrees there are several specific problems with our current system. It's ludicrous to pass a 2,700+ page piece of legislation instead of smaller solutions that 1) everyone can agree on and 2) target those specific problems.

tbaker 8 years, 3 months ago

  1. End state insurance commissions. Remove all barriers to marketing health insurance across state lines. Let people pick and choose the coverage they want without being forced to accept "mandatory" coverage for anything.
  2. Give individuals the exact same tax deduction for healthcare expenses currently given to business. If I buy a Q-Tip, its a write-off. I shouldn't have to accumulate $10K in healthcare costs before I am able to deduct anything. This should change regardless of "healthcare reform" because it is immoral as it is.
  3. Require any and all healthcare providers, to include pharmacies, to publish their prices for medical procedures and prescription drugs on the internet and be visibly displayed in the store / doctor’s office. These three things are FREE. They do not cost US taxpayers a dime. Why isn’t congress doing them? Why are we even discussing spending trillions on another entitlement program our bankrupt government cannot afford before we even give the free stuff a try first? How can anyone “support” healthcare reform without championing these ideas first?

jafs 8 years, 3 months ago


Actually Clinton (and the Congress of the time) instituted tax policies that resulted in the only 4 years of budget surpluses we've had in the last 35.

They were obviously doing something right as far as not running deficits.

gccs14r 8 years, 3 months ago

I really wish the Clinton administration hadn't used the term surplus. People of limited mental capacity thought that meant the government was taking too much money and started demanding tax cuts, not realizing that the only way we'll ever pay off our national debt is to routinely collect more in tax dollars than is expended on services, possibly for decades to come. In fact, paying off the debt is the only way we'll ever be able to have a meaningful, long-term tax cut. Most of us won't live to see it, but maybe our great-grandchildren will. The alternative to not paying off the debt is to be subservient to our creditors. I think we know how that ends.

jafs 8 years, 3 months ago


Good point.

I guess a lot of people don't understand the difference between deficits (the amount the national debt grows in a given year) and debts (the total amount of our national debt).

Commenting has been disabled for this item.