Friday, January 30, 2009

A New Balance In America and the Future It Shows

Based on a concatenation of every poll that Gallup did in 2008 (a total of 350,000 people), there are only 5 states left in America that can be considered "Republican", while 35 states can be considered "Democrat". (The reason why there is a difference between this map and the results from the presidential election is because this map shows "all people", not just likely voters or registered voters... which more accurately depict election results.)

You would imagine that this is the point in time when Republicans might assume a more conciliatory tone, recognize that the "kumbaya atmosphere" that America is experiencing is not an opportune moment to play spoiler on popular legislation, and perhaps (just perhaps) play the part of "concerned-and-sober-minded" minority instead of the "let's do whatever it takes to stop the liberals" gang of pissy thugs who have been voting near-unanimously against meaningless but sensible legislation, such as moving to digital TV (because it's suggested by the Democrats), or taking a dump on equal pay for women (because it's suggested by the Democrats). America just isn't in the mood for this.

It really does make you wonder just how dumb (or suicidal) the Congressional Republicans are. Nate Silver ponders:
It's not just the goose egg that the House Republicans laid on the Democratic stimulus package yesterday: Boehner's Boys have been equally uncooperative on other matters. Case in point: a bill yesterday to delay the transition to digital TV. This measure was approved unanimously by the Senate; every Senate Republican gave it the green light. But 155 out of 178 House Republicans voted against it, which resulted in the measure's defeat since a two-thirds majority would have been required for passage under the House's suspension of the rules.

Or, take the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a seemingly fairly popular/populist (if not inscrutable) piece of legislation on gender-based pay discrepancies. This was something that Barack Obama whacked John McCain on on the campaign trail, with McCain offering little rebuttal. In the Senate, five Republicans — out of 41 — voted with the Administration on Ledbetter, including all four Republican women. In the House, just three Republicans did — out of 178.

Boenher and Eric Cantor have obviously done an impressive job of rallying their troops — and Cantor, in particular, seems proud of his efforts. But what grander purpose does this strategy serve? The House Republicans are opposing popular legislation from a very popular President, and doing so in ways that stick a needle in the eye of the popular (if quixotic) concept of bipartisanship.

Thus the Republicans, arguably, are in something of a death spiral. The more conservative, partisan, and strident their message becomes, the more they alienate non-base Republicans. But the more they alienate non-base Republicans, the fewer of them are left to worry about appeasing. Thus, their message becomes continually more appealing to the base -- but more conservative, partisan, and strident to the rest of us. And the process loops back upon itself.
The first thought that comes to mind is that the Republicans are really hoping that Obama fails, and America slides into another Great Depression (an evil-but-far-too-plausible likelihood). They believe that they will then somehow have the right to stand up during the 2010 elections and say, "You should have listened to us." But that belief doesn't explain why they are being as baldly contrarian as they are now. It's petty, and I really believe it is destroying (or vastly delaying) the ability of actual conservatives, moderates, and libertarians to rise from the ashes of The Republicans' eventual funeral pyre and reassert themselves in American politics.

I am really starting to believe that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Republican party on this earth, and that a new conservative party will rise to replace it at some point in the future... although the time of that birth will be largely determined by how messy these current Republicans make their own death throes, and so far — what with the shit-slinging that's going on — it's pretty messy.

The basis for this prediction of death is something you can witness for yourself. Ask any American about their political leanings. Nobody admits to being a Republican anymore; instead people say they are capital-C conservatives... or (especially among younger folks) they just claim to be Libertarian. (Conversely, nobody admits to being a liberal anymore; instead people say they are Democrats.) What you have there is the recipe for the fatal poison to a political party: When you reach the point where people will only identify themselves with the mindset of a political party, but not with the political party itself, that political party cannot long survive.

What you will see soon is coalition politics growing on the conservative side of the aisle in Congress, with many more conservatives moving up the ranks from local politics either as independents, or within small parties such as Constitution, Reform, and Libertarian. As those politicians make it from local to state and then to national prominence, more will follow, and soon they will outnumber Republicans even as they caucus together, and probably even cross-nominate single Presidential candidates. Eventually (within 25 years probably), one of these small political parties will become the new dominant "home" for conservatives (the Constitution Party would be my guess) leaving whatever destructive voices — conservative Christians especially — still remain from the current Republican party out in the cold, and the 2-party politics that America has practiced for most of its life will return once again.

(Of course, it's totally likely that those out-in-the-cold folks will batter down the door and finagle their way back inside and start the Conservative decay all over again... but that's a bit too far in the future for anybody to bother to look at.)


ding said...

I am more than willing to admit being a Republican. As far as the GOP voting against this Socialist "stimulus" plan - thank God. This is a bunch of worthless spending that does nothing for the economy - have you even looked at it ? Sooner or later people will realize "The Messiah" can't perform miracles and come back to their senses.

ding said...

From CNN - On Monday, Congressional Republican leaders put out a list of what they call wasteful provisions in the Senate version of the nearly $900 billion stimulus bill that is being debated:

• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient. (inefficient, that's govt for ya)
• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.(seriously, we should all get to see movies for free since we're paying for the film)
• $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program. (here's an idea, just get cable and scrap the converter box)
• $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker. (what's wrong with the old one?)
• $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters. (can't they just move into the pentagon?)
• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters. (i want money to furnish my house)
• $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees. (i got nothing for this one)
• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's. (yeah, that's going to stimulate the economy)
• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.
• $125 million for the Washington sewer system.
• $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities.
• $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.
• $75 million for "smoking cessation activities."
• $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.
• $75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI.
• $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction.
• $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.
• $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.
• $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings.
• $500 million for state and local fire stations.
• $650 million for wildland fire management on forest service lands.
• $1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.
• $88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service.
• $412 million for CDC buildings and property.
• $500 million for building and repairing National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland.
• $160 million for "paid volunteers" at the Corporation for National and Community Service.
• $5.5 million for "energy efficiency initiatives" at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.
• $850 million for Amtrak.
• $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint.
• $75 million to construct a "security training" facility for State Department Security officers when they can be trained at existing facilities of other agencies.
• $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems.
• $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations.

Jungle Jil said...

You've only got three things the government can spend money on to stimulate job creation and economic activity: Infrastructure, social programs, and its own upkeep.

Yes, there are a couple of "wasteful" things in CNN's list, Ding, and a couple of red herrings unfortunately (see below), but also many good things as well.

0.5% of the $1 trillion goes to flood management on the Mississippi? That's infrastructure. It's a modern version of the TVA. How is that a bad stimulus program?

New and refurbished government buildings (DHS, CDC, Smithsonian, NIH, Amtrak, State Department, FSA, the VA) is most certainly stimulus spending. That's almost half the list right there. It's government maintenance, and it puts people to work... especially in the construction industry which really needs help after the collapse of the housing market. You don't have to like it (and no conseravtive should), but that's stimulus spending: America asked for it, America got it.

(I think that the $6 billion for making the federal government green is a bit much, but it certainly will put people to work and kick-start a growing industry.)

0.2% for creating computer labs in public colleges across the nation? It's not going to produce a lot of jobs, but it will produce more qualified job seekers... which is another reasonable goal of stimulus spending: Programs which upgrade the American public itself. Job training and reducing the number of "useless" Americans through alcohol abuse (that "tribal" program), poor health ("smoking cessation"), poor adolescent behavior ("youth activities"), or general stupidity ("computer labs").

I'm not saying that I would want tax money going to these programs normally, but if the government has been tasked with job creation... most of these programs can be defended on those merits.

Even the red herrings you're sputtering about have benefit: Look at the $400 million for STD prevention for example. The CDC is going to open up several hundred clinics across the country employing thousands of people. In addition, they are going to be purchasing millions of STD tests and rape kits that would not have been purchased before, which is going to cause the companies that make those products to also hire more people. Of course, there are actual health benefits to the program as well. (Is it worth $400 million? I don't know... but is it the "worthless spending" that you think it is? That's too much to presume.)

Anyway, like I said: The government is in Liberal mode now, and was made that way by the American people... not President Obama. They asked for stimulus spending, and that is what Obama is giving them, like it or not.

Jungle Jil said...

By the way Ding, I should add that I don't think that the stimulus bill is perfect either. I don't think that many of these programs have been analyzed or means tested, and probably the entire package could be improved upon with some basement-level analysis of each expenditure.

However, I'm still of the opinion that the government needs to increase spending to stimulate the economy (not lower taxes, note... and not hand out corporate welfare either). I do believe that the American economy could feasibly collapse (and may well do so regardless of what efforts are made), and it would be criminal to do nothing to stop it... criminal to do nothing less than everything possible to stop it.

I don't know if you have an alternative action in mind. The Republicans' plan isn't a whole lot better than the Democrats if you are against "wasteful spending".

Jungle Jil said...

Here: Andrew Sullivan (a guy who thinks almost exactly the same way I do about politics) says it best.

One reason I find this debate hard to enter decisively is because I don't know what the solution is. I do not have the expertise to figure out what mix of spending and tax-cutting is the best tailored to this particular down-turn, how much stimulus is required, how much would be too much, how much too little. Usually, in policy debates, I try to ask myself what my ideal might be and then figure out why that can't work, and come to some kind of conclusion. But on this, I don't know where to start.

Worse: I read all these economists and the "once-in-a-century event" we're experiencing seems to leave the honest ones among them flummoxed as well - or at a minimum open to debate. More importantly, some kind of decision is necessary since the economy is indeed in flux and inaction could be as momentous as action. From all this, I'm not alarmed that this process is messy or contentious within some limits. But it also seems to me that this president and this new Congress were elected in part to address this issue, that their more interventionist stand was clear, and that they should both get the benefit of the doubt - as well as full responsibility for the consequences.

The GOP has every right to resist; but they should surely understand that they lost the last election; that they have no credibility on fiscal discipline; and that, when push comes to shove, it may be the responsible thing in a crisis like this to be a little more gracious in setting aside hardball partisanship.

Issarat said...

Two things: Why is there ANY herring in the bill? These are hard times and it seems the goverment just cannot get it together.
The other point is amusing; when people (usually GOP) refer to President Obama as "messiah or savior" I guess if hope for a new direction and a new leader causes people to call him that; then so be it.
It does sound better than "war monger, hillbilly and village idiot".

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