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Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: U.S. must shore up faith in democracy

February 26, 2013

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Any member of Congress who refuses to compromise on the budget sequester this week should be given this mandatory assignment: Read “Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline of Representative Government.”

Author Joshua Kurlantzick examines the spate of retreating democracies over the last two decades and finds something startling. The middle classes — supposedly the bulwark of democracy worldwide — are often turning against it. As our governmental paralysis continues, the same thing could well happen here.

Two decades ago, Francis Fukuyama famously argued, in “The End of History and the Last Man,” that the world would inevitably evolve toward liberal democracy and market economics. Yet 2013 represents the seventh consecutive year that declines in freedom outweighed gains, according to the Freedom House index.

Kurlantzick offers keen insights into what has gone wrong.

After 1991, the Soviet economic model was discredited. Former communist states turned toward democracy, along with many developing countries. Yet too often they assumed that embracing democracy would confer instant wealth.

“It was a widely held belief in East and Central Europe, and in most emerging democracies,” says Kurlantzick, “that democracy would bring prosperity. When the first years brought slow growth, that was a real disillusionment.”

Absent a culture of democracy or strong leadership, many new democracies struggled; the high expectations of poorer citizens were shattered. But what accounts for the growing frustrations with democracy evinced by its supposed middle-class bulwark - in countries as diverse as Venezuela, Thailand, Egypt, and the Philippines?

Much of the problem can be ascribed to the Three C’s: chaos, corruption, and the crash.

Democracy can open the door to irresponsible populists such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who appeal to the poor (and often wreck the economy). The middle class feels its well-being is threatened.

Moreover, when dictatorships fall in countries with no rule-of-law tradition, a political vacuum often breeds lawlessness and chaos. A prime example is Egypt, where much of the middle class, and many urban poor, now yearn for the stability they had under Hosni Mubarak, though they once rallied against him in Tahrir Square.

Corruption has also become associated with newly open societies. “Rising corruption can lead to popular alienation with democracy,” writes Kurlantzick. In autocracies, corruption is usually controlled at the center, but the collapse of such regimes provides much broader opportunities for graft.

One of many examples: In postcommunist Russia, Boris Yeltsin’s fire sale of state-owned natural resources to private “oligarchs” convinced ordinary Russians that democracy equaled theft, and fueled the yearning for a new strongman.

Middle-class anger has also been stoked by the 2008 financial crash, which resulted in huge economic pain yet let most of the bankers who caused it off the hook.

Little wonder that much of the world began to question the validity of the Western liberal economic model. All the more so when the European Union can’t resolve its postcrash financial crises, and Washington can’t get its fiscal act together. As one State Department official quoted by Kurlantzick puts it: “How can we with a straight face be telling countries in Africa and the Middle East that they need to develop better systems for governing when we can’t even pass a budget?” Indeed.

With the Western model in decline, little wonder, too, that many Asian, African, and Latin American nations look with new interest at the Chinese model of undemocratic development, mixing capitalism with continued government control of key sectors in an authoritarian state.

However, let me stress this: Whatever the risks to U.S. interests posed by the growing gravitational pull of China, the biggest threat to global democracy lies within the West itself.

If Western citizens lose faith in their own systems, new democracies are bound to do likewise. In Europe, post-crash austerity has aggravated job loss and impoverished many middle- and working-class citizens, especially in southern Europe. The post-World War II social contract that ended a century of European conflict is fraying. Right-wing fringe groups are attracting more of the vote.

Meantime, middle-class Americans feel threatened by rising inequality and permanent job loss — and their fear leads to disillusionment with government. Congress is paralyzed, with Republicans pressed by their hard-liners to reject any compromise on revenue and spending. Irresponsible fringe groups proliferate, fueled by billionaire backers. Conspiracy theories go viral on the Internet, like the one I just received, proclaiming: “Secret Obama plot to stay in power until 2020.”

America’s deep democratic roots and strong civic organizations remain a bulwark. Yet relentless right-wing efforts to demonize government undermine our democratic institutions. Washington’s meltdown convinces the world that our democracy can no longer deliver.

And when the world’s paramount democracy can’t function, why would developing countries want to follow our lead?

— Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Comments

Abdu Omar 1 year, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Perhaps going to different sources of news would help keep americans educated. Conventional media sources have been bought up by the few. With this thinking I offer a few suggestions that which are bi-partisan in nature.

--- KKFI-FM 90.1 ( Mon – Fri 8AM-10AM )

--- UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS - http://http://www.ucsusa.org

--- FRONTLINE - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/view/

--- THE NATION - http://www.thenation.com/

--- Democracy NOW - http://www.democracynow.org/

--- IN THESE TIMES - http://www.inthesetimes.com/

--- LABOR RADIO - http://www.laborradio.org/

--- COST OF WAR to our community - http://www.costofwar.com/

--- JIM HIGHTOWER - http://www.jimhightower.com/

--- MOTHER JONES - http://www.motherjones.com/

--- ALTERNET - http://www.alternet.org/

--- DOLLARS AND SENSE - http://www.dollarsandsense.org

--- COMMON DREAMS - http://www.commondreams.org/ REPRESENTS AT LEAST 80 NEWS SOURCES

--- LAW AND DISORDER - http://lawanddisorder.org/

--- LAURA FLANDERS - http://www.lauraflanders.com/laura/pages/radionation.html

--- HUFFINGTON POST - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

--- ANTI WAR - http://antiwar.com/ = MULTIPLE WORLDWIDE NEWS SOURCES

--- CORP WATCH - http://www.corpwatch.org/ - WORLDWIDE COVERAGE

Crazy_Larry 1 year, 9 months ago

Wealth Inequality in America. Have a look at reality.

Land of the fee, home of the (debt) slave.

Lane Signal 1 year, 9 months ago

What a great explanation of wealth inequity in the US. It's worse than I thought. It's pretty scary. The one piece I'd like to see added, that might make it even scarier is the change over time to the distribution. Based on current trends, what's the distribution going to look like in 5 years? Or 10 years? But the point in the video is well taken. It's important for people to understand the extent of the gap. Most of the (voting) public has not idea how bad the problem is.

chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

So is sequestration - ie, massive spending cuts - a good thing or a bad thing? I get confused on this whole "Obama did it, and what we really need to do is cut spending" argument.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

Yes, it's a bit odd, isn't it?

You'd think they'd give him credit for the spending cuts if he's the one responsible, since that's what they want.

Of course, in reality, both sides of Congress voted for this idea, and it was supposed to make them come up with better ideas that both sides liked a little more - the failure to do that falls entirely on their shoulders.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

I'd like to believe that in a perfect world, or at least in a perfect Constitutional form of government, that a budget should be passed by Congress and then either signed or vetoed by the President. Those days are long long. This sequestration was an agreement between Congress and the President and whatever the consequences, good and bad, are shared by both equally.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

We're far from perfect.

In fact, we're highly dysfunctional. A good government would simply work to achieve our goals without a "prod". A somewhat dysfunctional government would require a "prod", one which both sides dislike, in order to do that. Our government sets up a prod, and then fails even then to work together to avoid it.

Do you have a source for the idea that the president is equally responsible for this? If he suggested it, and Congress voted for it, and then fails to act appropriately and forestall the negative consequences, I'd say Congress bears the lion's share of blame for that.

To be precise, it's the failure to act to avoid the consequences nobody wanted that I blame Congress for rather than the president, since it's their failure to do that, not his.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

Obama does share much of the blame, but primarily for going along with the idiocy that austerity will reduce the deficit, when in reality it'll further tank the economy and make deficits even worse.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

We all know that spending bills are supposed to originate in the House, right? Just like Congress is supposed to declare wars. So does that mean we've had no wars since WW II? Of course not. But what has happened is that Congressional leaders and the President have made a series of agreements that can best be described as extra-Constitutional. That is what has happened with this whole idea of sequestration. It happened with the fiscal cliff. If the onus of making a compromise was on Congress alone, then this whole idea of a sequestration would be irrelevant. Congress wouldn't need permission from the President. They wouldn't need an agreement for compromise. Unfortunately, long ago, Congress and the Presidents have decided that agreements made between party leaders will trump the Constitution. But in this particular situation, yes, the agreement was supposed to be between Congress and the President, not for Congress to make the compromises between themselves.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm sorry, but that's not very clear.

My understanding is that the sequestration (an unnecessarily odd word) was a series of automatic cuts that would take place if Congress didn't pass something better before the deadline.

Do you have a source for the idea that the president is equally responsible for this?

jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

The system is supposed to work in a certain way. Spending bills (the budget) are supposed to originate in the House, then off to the Senate for passage, then to the President to sign or veto. We haven't had that for several reasons over the years, one of which is the simple understanding that it's somewhat pointless for the House to pass a bill that the Senate is known to reject. Or it's pointless for Congress to pass a bill if it's known the President will veto. So back room deals are made. One such back room deal is the one we have now. The very notion of automatic cuts was a deal made by the President and Congressional leaders. (I should add that not just the President, but the President as head of the Democratic Party. And not just Congressional leaders, but leaders of the Republican Party). This whole agreement goes contrary to the way the Constitution says things should happen. We've now entered into the world of practical politics. The President should never have had a role in this, at least not at this point in time. But he did. Congress should never had behaved in this extra-Constitutional way. But they did. So here we are, both have agreed to these spending cuts unless both agree to some set of compromises. And the compromises haven't been achieved. However, with both sides having agreed in principle to work outside the framework of the Constitution, it's difficult to hold one side only accountable for working outside the framework of the Constitution. Hence this sequestration, like the fiscal cliff before, is an invention of both sides of the political isle.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

Absolutely both sides of the aisle - I've already said that.

I just question your "equal blame" of the president for the failure of Congress to come up with something better in time.

Even if the president proposed it, if Congress voted for it, and has failed to come up with something better, I blame them a lot more than the president for that failure.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

Ah, but the sequestration isn't just a handshake agreement between Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans . It was put into the form of a law, meaning it was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.

I'm not a big fan of circumventing the process that is specified in the Constitution. That's why I earlier mentioned wars. Congress is Constitutionally empowered to declare war, not the President. Both have agreed to circumvent that process since WW II. Likewise, both Congress and the President have agreed to circumvent the Constitutionally mandated budgetary process. That was the agreement they both made when this sequestration became law.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

Ok.

That's a bit clearer - he signed the legislation. But, it's still Congress' job to come up with compromises that avert the automatic cuts, right? If they had done that, and the president had vetoed it, I'd blame him. But, they can't even get there.

I'm not sure that this legislation violates the constitution - I'd need a lawyer or some research for that determination.

When Congress passes budgets, does the president have the ability to veto those, or is he powerless in that regard? If he has that power, then this isn't all that different, I'd say.

If not, then this arrangement does give him more power, and is a little funny.

By the way, I agree completely about wars and the declaration thereof, and would greatly prefer it if we followed the correct procedure there.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

Again, Jafs, you're overlooking some of the practical agreements that both sides have made. The House has agreed not to send to the Senate a bill that will simply be voted down. The Senate has agreed to do the same. And both have agreed not to send to the President legislation that will be vetoed. These are all the things that skirt around the Constitution without actually violating it. But they've all agreed to this process. A strict interpretation of the Constitution, in my opinion, would have the President not be a part of the legislative process at all. But we're not there. We're at a point in time when it's not Congress behaving one way and the President behaving in another. We're at a point in time where leaders of the Democratic Party are behaving in a certain way and leaders of the Republican Party are behaving in some other way. And like it or not, whether it's this President or some other, he is the leader of either the Democrats or the Republicans.

You simply have to ask yourself this question, Jafs. In all this controversy, why has the House, with it's Republican majority, failed to send bill after bill to the Senate, with it's democratic majority? Or why has the reverse not happened? It's because they've agreed not to do so. And along with the President, they've agreed not to send to him bills that he won't sign. So he absolutely is a part of whatever negotiations are going on.

Or you might ask yourself the question why did this whole idea of sequestration originate within his White House staff? The logical answer is because he was already then a part of the negotiating process. Not that he was Constitutionally required to be. But he was. And he is.

BTW - The War Powers Act, that which allows for the skirting around the Constitution, has never been ruled unconstitutional, to the best of my knowledge. And what Congress and the President are doing now is not unconstitutional, in my opinion. They are skirting the law, without breaking it. But if it were I advising them, I'd say stop doing that and just follow the Constitution.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, if it's not unconstitutional, then it's ok for them to do it.

Maybe they just don't want to waste everybody's time, so they don't forward bills they know won't pass the other house or survive a presidential veto.

Last minute attempts by both the house and the senate have failed to pass any sort of compromise bill that would have averted the sequester - that's on them, not the president.

If they're playing the game you say, it's still on them - they should have passed the compromises, and let the president veto them, if they could have. Then it would be on him. But I strongly suspect they were unable to get enough votes for those regardless of the president's position.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

You want to hold this President harmless, go ahead. You're seeing what you want to see and ignoring the truth. Fine.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, that seems to be the end of this discussion then.

I never "held him harmless", I just said I blame Congress more than I would blame him. Your tendency to allocate blame evenly regardless of the details isn't convincing to me.

It's like the filibuster - these days they just accept the threat of it. They should make them actually do it - it's much harder to do than to threaten. If Congress can agree on a compromise, let them pass it and make the president veto it. Then he'll be the one who looks bad.

Lane Signal 1 year, 9 months ago

And/or give them all political cover when the cuts went into effect. Both sides can now point fingers and at the same time actually initiate a massive tax cuts that would contains many 3rd rail, political suicide type cuts for both sides.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

They know that the sequestration is going to dramatically slow economic growth, perhaps even put the economy back in recession, and they're merely betting that Obama and the Democrats will get the blame for it.

It's a win-win situation for them. No significant tax increases for the plutocrats that are their one and only true constituency, and significant cuts in spending on the social welfare side. They figure that once the Democrats take the hit for the ensuing recession, they'll be able to restore the cuts to defense (and all the corporate welfare that goes with it.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

Plutocracy and democracy are at extreme odds, and by definition really can't co-exist, but an increasingly plutocratic state is precisely what the current Republican Party has in mind, and, sadly, way too many Democrats are all too happy to support some sort of plutocracy-lite. Wall Street is happy to support them.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 9 months ago

A wonderful column by Trudy. I feel like I just had steak and eggs for breakfast.

I think I would like to consider how serious our political situation is compared to other moments in our history and whether our country is more resilient than we realize.

Most people would agree that we needed to inject spending as a remedy to our dire financial situation and it is predictable that the right wing is trying now to redefine history and the facts for their own political ambitions.

But now we need to reduce spending and if the Republican Party cannot allow even a small tax increase for the well off, then that certainly explains a lot about the character or lack of character during and after the financial crisis. This is a game of chicken at the expense of the American people but I don't believe it is the end of our country as we know it, just a lot of political careers, both Republican and Democrat.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

We don't need to decrease spending. We need to increase spending, but we need to do it in ways that advance the economy and the nation's infrastructure, without throwing people already struggling to survive out the curb.

Once the economy has been strengthened (meaning putting people back to work doing what really needs to be done) the deficit will take care of itself.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 9 months ago

If we need to increase spending in certain areas, then I would prefer a restructuring because there is no political capital for increased spending and to increase the national debt as a remedy is courageous but very risky. I don't believe the American people can handle that kind of risk but I do believe we could handle some austerity measures.

chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

The political capital doesn't exist because the propaganda has all been one sided. If Obama weren't such a centrist moderate, there might be some pushback on the idea that somehow the debt is the worst crisis ever. It's not. Jobs and lower income wages are much more pressing issues, health expenses are still an issue, and retirement is going to be a huge concern very soon - which will not be helped with a chained CPI, thankyouverymuch. We can deal with the debt when the economy is strong. So long as we don't have another Bush in office trying to give away all the money instead of paying off the bills.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 9 months ago

"The depression changed the attitudes of many Americans toward business and the federal government. Before the depression, most people regarded bankers and business executives as the nation's leaders. After the stock market crashed and these leaders could not relieve the depression, Americans lost faith in them. The government finally succeeded in improving conditions. As a result, many Americans decided that the government -- not business -- had the responsibility to maintain the national economy."

http://thehistoryprofessor.us/bin/histprof/misc/depression.html

Looking at our current situation, I think we have been there before.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

"And when the world’s paramount democracy can’t function, why would developing countries want to follow our lead?"

Pick a few: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, UK, Canada, and Australia don't count?
I think only an American writer would refer to America as "the world’s paramount democracy."

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

While I find the premise interesting I question the jump to Republican bashing in the conclusion. I might opine that the middle class in this country may be feeling left out. The Republicans can not move to tax reform given all the demonstrated inequities that favor a special few. The Democrats can not seem to find the breaks on their demands for more and more social programs that disproportionately benefit a few at the expense of the middle class tax payer. One of the challenges in being a senior is remembering when most of the social programs we have today did not exist and well the ox carts did not roll at dawn. Just like Venezuela we can promise too much too fast and get caught up in a whirlwind we can not control. Given chaos or dictatorship people have mostly voted for the latter.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

"Just like Venezuela "

Venezuela (nor Greece) has absolutely nothing to do with the US situation.

streetman 1 year, 9 months ago

Sure would like the Dems/Obama to explain how going further into debt (i.e. no substantive cuts in spending or even spending growth) will improve things. No matter how much and on who they would raise taxes, it would not be enough. We, as a society, have had our party -- time for the hangover.

kansanbygrace 1 year, 9 months ago

I would propose we've had the party and now it's time to pay the tab. We can party or not in the future, but we can't walk on the check for what we've already consumed.

chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

Sure would like you to explain how massive austerity and the paradox of thrift will get this economy rolling again. Go on.

streetman 1 year, 9 months ago

Cutting spending by a whopping 2% (the sequestration) is hardly "massive austerity." And most of that would be cuts to planned increases!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

When the real cure to the current economic situation will only come with dramatically increased government spending (on things that will put people back to work doing things that need doing,) these spending cuts will be very damaging to millions of people.

But the plutocrats will come out OK, so Republicans don't care.

Liberty275 1 year, 9 months ago

The more they spend the more they print. Why have a hangover when you can just stay drunk?

funkdog1 1 year, 9 months ago

It's because of where Republicans want to make the $85B in cuts, which is mostly to programs that benefit the out-of-work, poor and elderly. If Obama was a real liberal, he'd slash spending on new weapons and really work on drawing down the wars. He'd shrink the military drastically and shift some of those funds toward making sure our veterans have adequate medical care and job training. He'd also make sure that businesses hiring veterans get tax incentives.

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

Do you have any support for your argument? Over half the sequestration comes from Defense. The cuts in n on-Defense are as of his yelping mostly coming from things like TSA and Homeland Security Exactly how are we hurting anybody when we are asking for 1 2% cut to programs that have been increased by almost 20% in the last five years?

By the by veterans expenses come from Defense spending. About 80% of the DOD budget comes from O&M and people are most of that.. So let us hurt gainfully employed people over people who will not work.

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

Please explain how you came to this conclusion?

Armstrong 1 year, 9 months ago

The smoke and mirrors must be fading. Today on MSN a "panel of experts" were shocked to find more people are now blaming Barry for the sequester debacle. If I had not seen it on MSN I would not have believed it.

kansanbygrace 1 year, 9 months ago

Trudy and most of the rest of the opinion industry once again creates her own failure by conflating democracy with bank-centered capitalism. One is a principle of sovereignty and governmental responsibility and the other is a method of generating and manipulating money. Successful democracies have had socialist, populist, capitalist monetary structures, as have failed democracies, oligarchies, socialist societies.

Several democracies in the American hemisphere are more successful with blends of socialism and regional free enterprise than their earlier forms of "democratic" capitalistic relationships that had them in the role of "extraction colonies".

That's why Mercosur is growing in success, popularity and adherence, while the US continues to wallow in the trough of unmanageable confusion.

Cait McKnelly 1 year, 9 months ago

Being an example of "democracy" is pretty darned hard to do when there are states like Kansas, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi working their tails off to become oligarchical theocracies, i.e. the next Taliban.
Just as plutocracy and democracy are antithetical, so is democracy and theocracy, which is why I believe the REAL "founding fathers" (not the made up Parson Weems style caricatures so dear to the hearts of the religious right) fought like honey badgers to keep the country's government separate from any religion.

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

They were elected. Do you propose Empress Cait48 to make them do "what is right (left)"?

Cait McKnelly 1 year, 9 months ago

I only propose "making them" follow the Constitution of the United States. If they don't wish to do that, they are welcome to (try and) secede.

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

Help me here- and I am serious - what constitutional infringement?

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

That's as a percentage of GDP, and what it really means is that GDP fell precipitously during the meltdown, and is getting a bit better over time.

It doesn't mean we're not still running deficits each year, or that that's a good idea.

And, the projected deficit in the future is still a deficit, and means that our debt will grow each year.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

The deficits are a direct result of the recession caused by the collapse of the housing bubble and the unemployment that followed. Engaging in austerity hysteria will create more recession and more unemployment, creating even more deficits. The downward spiral continues.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

Current deficits are partly caused by that, of course.

But all of the deficit spending over the last 30 years certainly wasn't caused by it.

Why are you so stubborn about ignoring that huge reality? I've posted information and you can find it easily on line as well. We're $16 trillion in the hole nationally - that wasn't created in the last couple of years.

And, my point remains - that chart doesn't show that we're not running deficits, or that it's a good idea. It doesn't even really show that our deficits are decreasing (they might be, but the chart doesn't show that).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

By far the majority of the deficits run up since 2007 is a direct result of the bursting of the housing bubble, and the subsequent spending to support the millions of people thrown out of work by that recession.

Regardless, what harm has actually been done by the deficits over the last 5 years? Please be specific. And then compare that with the damage done by unemployment, whose real rate is, counting underemployment, at least 15%?

jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

The real harm today is that 6% of our budget is earmarked to pay the interest on the debt we've already accumulated. That translates into about $220 billion. I'd say that's significant. Assuming the debt remains where it is today, we'll need that amount again next year and the next. It will be needed every year until the end of time.

Now you're proposals are always to increase the size of the debt, which will increase the numbers of real dollars needed to service that debt as well as increasing the percentage of the budget that needs to go to servicing that debt. What you never mention is actually retiring the debt, or even paying it down from it's current 16 trillion to something more manageable.

Unless, of course, you think our economy can simply grow it's way out of that debt, like we did with the dot com bubble of the '90s or the housing bubble. Shall we do it with a shale oil/fracking bubble? Assuming we don't use the bubble and bubble bursting philosophy, upon what model do you see us being able to reduce the debt by simply growing out of it, coupled with your current desire to substantially increase the debt in the short term? In fact, given the very real pressures of a world economy, I see us needing to work very hard just to maintain our current position. I see nothing on the horizon that indicates the type of rapid expansion of our economy that would allow us to grow out of the debt. The only real alternatives I see is to either pass this debt on to future generations, when they will be forced to make some very difficult decisions, or we can make some less difficult decisions now, (not easy decisions, just less difficult than if left to future generations).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

The fact still remains that the deficits that have been run up in the last five or so years are a direct result of the crash of the economy due to the burst of the housing bubble, and the subsequent high unemployment that came in its wake.

And no matter how much you may dislike deficits, it's still a fact that austerity measures will do nothing be weaken the economy and increase unemployment, which will perpetuate deficits, not reduce them, much less eliminate them. So, we can have a balanced budget, if we want, but the economy, and quality of life, will resemble what we had in 1932.

If we really want to get deficits under control, we need to remake the economy into something the embodies sanity, not the grinding poverty of 1932. That means cutting military spending by at least 50%. That means remaking the healthcare system, almost certainly by adopting some sort of single-payer system. That means a tax and dividend program to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, and going on a crash program of modernizing our electrical generation system and the grid that carries it, creation of transportation systems that use a fraction of the energy currently used, improving the energy efficiency of all our buildings, residential, commercial and industrial. And, yes, doing all of that will require deficit spending for the next couple of decades. But the legacy of that abstraction of fiscal debt will much better than the legacy of an unlivable world should we fail to do it.

(Not that it matters all that much, but this was in reply to jafs. Man, this site is really goofy today.)

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

Yes, it's just such a short window to look at the issue that it doesn't explain enough of our problems.

So, your suggestion is to double or triple our current national debt in order to get our financial house in order. I can't imagine any decent financial adviser recommending that to their clients.

I don't accept your alternatives, I think there must be better ones. We should be able to deal with getting our debt down without creating 1932. And, we shouldn't have to double or triple the debt to do it.

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

That's just the last few years, as I said.

We've been running deficits each year for about 30 years or so now, and you just can't blame our 16 trillion national debt on the housing bubble, no matter how hard you try.

I can't answer your question in the terms you specify - if you don't have any sense at all of why it's a bad idea to be $16 trillion in debt and constantly increasing that each year, I can't help with that. It seems self-evident to me that's a bad idea.

Also, I don't like your assumption that our choice is between unemployment which hurts people and constant deficit spending, which seems financially imprudent to me - it's like asking whether you want me to hit you or kick you.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

Just to put things in perspective, the interest we're paying just this year on just this debt, is equal to roughly 3 times what is going to be cut via sequestration. Bozo is advocating for that and more. And where is that money going? Not Mother Teresa's orphanage. That's an awful lot of money being removed from our economy and going to exactly the places Bozo doesn't want. I really don't understand the logic.

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

Hey Bozo, what do you really want? The middle class taxed at 60%? All business run by the government? Property redistributed so everybody owns a small home (or nobody - the government owns them all)? Do we allow people to better themselves over tiemn? Does the government decide who those people are?

Why go to KU for many years to earn a PhD only to have the "masses" hold your income to about what you would have earned without all that education?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, I don't really want to entertain your straw men.

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

You have found a magic source of money to pay for all that you seek on here daily! Wow. Quick, start the funding flow so that the battle over the budget later this month is avoided.

Oops, your funding source is us so we go back to my question - how much is enough?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

CUT OFF THE GOP STONEWALLING!!!

Then cut corporate welfare to the wealthy across the board…. Absolutely.

The nation has 20 years to adjust Social Security.

--- Killing Social Security Insurance Is Not An Option. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0111orr.html

--- SSI Not Going Broke. http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/david_cay_johnston_social_security_is_not_going_broke_20120504/

--- Killing Medicare Insurance is simply not an option. http://www.thenation.com/article/159769/paul-ryans-plan-destroy-medicare

--- INSTEAD we improve medicare insurance to reduce the cost of government. Physicians for a National Health Program http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single-payer-resources and http://www.healthcare-now.org

President Obama and the Democrats have many more options in which to bring this economy around and put the GOP stonewalling out of business.

First off Uncle Sam needs to employ as many workers as necessary to rehab our nations federal highways and bridges that are 70 years old.

Second the president should fill all the regulation enforcement vacancies that guard our food,pharmaceuticals,home loans and insurance industries. Fill the IRS vacancies as well.

We do this Robin Hood tax. http://www.robinhoodtax.org

Let’s use 10 easy ways to fund what we need to do. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/11/10-easy-ways-avoid-fiscal-cliff

Then we cut more from the Defense Budget. The GOP recently passed a budget that went $1.7 billion over budget requesting pork barrel projects that the military does not want.

Then we relieve taxpayers of the responsibility for guaranteeing construction costs of nuke and coal fired plants. Additionally we relieve taxpayers of the responsibility as the insurance arm of nuke and coal fired plants. These $$$ could be better spent in a more fiscal responsible fashion.

Now we have not only cut off the stonewalling and produced a strong economy we taxpayers now have enough tax dollars available to spend on ourselves.

More years of GOP stonewalling has simply got to go!!!!

Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Cutting spending across the board will damage the economy further AND it will put a lot more people out of work which seems to a republican platform thing and a dumb thing at that. The economy depends on OUR tax dollars being available to help secure jobs.

People with less money = means retail shopping goes straight to hell with fewer sales in cars and housing.

Also let's not forget republicans Right To Work deal means lower wages and zero benefits for the working class. Republicans come up with these flag waving phrases that dupe the American people. For example the Bush blue sky initiative was really brown sky legislation.

Right to Work = less money for the working class = let's NOT get fooled again.

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

Good lord. The united socialist republic of North America

Liberty275 1 year, 9 months ago

You don't know how lucky you are boy, back in the US, back in the US, back in the USRNA.

:-)

jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

jhf, I did some research about this sequester thing.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 was necessary because TP members of Congress refused to raise the debt ceiling without some sort of deficit reduction plan, and this was what they all came up with. So one could blame it on them.

Or one could look back at the deficits and see that the vast majority of them were due to Reagan and the Bushes, so one could blame them.

Or one could say that the voters elect these morons who promise everything, and blame them. Like when BB promised to "cut taxes, balance the budget, and protect education/social service funding", which was obviously not going to happen.

Or one could blame congressional R who refuse to allow any new tax revenue from closing loopholes to be used for spending (thus reducing the deficits), but insist they be accompanied by lower tax rates instead.

It's kind of funny, actually - you blame the president for a "lack of leadership", but if/when he exercises some, by insisting on a "balanced plan" that most nonpartisan economists believe is our best chance out of our financial mess, you blame him for that too.

Personally, I'm more interested in solutions than in "who to blame" - it's a much more productive thing. To that end, I think we need higher tax revenues and lower spending to get out of our debt problem. It's a little discouraging that these "cuts" aren't even actual cuts in spending, they're just smaller increases than were planned.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 9 months ago

Yes, reasonable tax increases and reforms coupled with reasonable spending cuts over time will fix most of these issues along with a national manufacturing strategy to set goals and drive job growth for the future.

Our politicians=Poor managers

George Lippencott 1 year, 9 months ago

Tax, Tax, Tax, Tax.

Who do you propose to tax and for how much. The trillion dollar deficit requires a doubling of the tax we now pay - unless of course you can accept increases taxes on those who do not pay them.

Cutting Defense and taxing the rich will only make a dent in the problem. WE just can not afford to do everything for everybody nor can we afford to only do what the left wants and nothing of what the middle or right want.

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