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October 25, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Just saying no is not governing

The job of each chamber in Congress is to propose legislation, pass it to the other chamber, debate it in a conference committee, make compromises and send legislation to the president.

Too many of us believe that the job of each chamber is to just say no to the other chamber. Some of us think just saying no is OK when our side does it but unacceptable when the other side does it. Worst of all is that because so many of us believe that to just say no is OK, at least part of the time, members of Congress believe it too and act accordingly and we have effective gridlock.

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  1. The two political parties have difficulty agreeing on the problem, the solution and whether or not a problem is best handled at the national or state level. This scenario leads to many no action results.

    There is no consensus about what constitutes doing a good job as a member of Congress. What is the yardstick? How many bills are passed? How do we decide what an effective congressman looks like? What about measuring the effectiveness of policies both current and proposed and at what cost does it exceed being effective? We do expect a congressman to represent constituents. We expect members to bring into the legislative process the views, needs and interests of their constituents; we expect the Congress as an institution to provide a forum to exchange these views, needs and interests. Only in a perfect world would the majority align with what policy experts deem most likely to be effective. When a conflict exists, however, which should take priority? What constitutes good public policy?

    The general public has little in-depth knowledge of what good public policy is that will lead to positive societal outcomes.

    Many may view a "no" as inaction and ineffective however, a compromised solution can often lead to an ineffective watered-down policy and outcomes.
    If you have a family of 5 or more try taking a vote on a restaurant for dinner and have each member write their choice down privately and list why they chose that restaurant but they cannot reveal their choice to other family members until after everyone has written down their choice. More than likely, there will not be agreement on where to eat initially......so who chooses? Some family members will not eat what they desired but they will be fed. Some family members will set aside his or her own personal choice in order to keep the peace but this can result in a false solution to a problem and may cause the accommodating person to harbor feelings of resentment. One solution might be to give each family member $15 dollars to go eat at a place of their choosing. Another might be for the person with the funds to assert decision-making power thus over-ruling everyone else. How passionate is every family member about eating at their place of choice? Is it worth pushing your choice but potentially causing conflict and resentment? The same conflicting elements apply in congress. Competition, collaboration, accommodation or avoidance. If there is little common ground on an effective solution between both parties then a "no vote" or "no action" must be options.

  2. In 1982 the gracious first lady Nancy Reagan coined the very effective phrase,"Just say no to drugs."

    The just say no phrase was so effective back then, that it is now the calling card of the Republican party. They just say no to any proposal that President Obama has presented. The Democrats should start using this same "just say no" phrase as we get closer to the midterm elections.It can be used to address and advise voters to" just say no" to the party of no, (Republicans) at the voting booths, as we approach the 2014 midterm elections.

  3. Sometimes, as in the case of the defeat by the conservative House of the recent farm bill, saying "no" leads the way to reform. I suspect that the House leadership, as well as the Senate that rubber stamped this failed legislation, got a wake up call with the House defeat of the bill. Why? There wasn't a sound heard in the chamber when the farm bill went down in defeat with 62 republicans and 39 democrats voting against. Now, the legislators may actually agree to separate the two issues--food stamps and wealthy farm subsidies--reform each individually and pass each on its own merits. As it always should have been. In this way the cost won't be $1 Trillion to the taxpayers.

    Carmine D

  4. Sam,

    It is a fact that Republicans and Boehner in the House have a decent sized majority and therefore have been willing to bring up some legislation favored by Democrats in the Senate and President Obama but then defeat it. It is also a fact the Senator Reid and Democrats have a slimmer majority in the Senate, so they have been unwilling to even bring up legislation favored by Republicans in the House because by picking off a few Democrats that legislation might pass.

    Legislation offered by the Senate or House is supposed to be considered and debated in the opposite chamber, sent to a conference committee, where hopefully some compromise takes place and then legislation is enacted or turned down. Both parties have forsaken what is 'supposed' to happen in an effort to 'stop' the other side from getting anything through and getting credit for it.

    If we want something better than the status quo, we have to start admitting the truth, placing blame on both parties and demanding that they do what is best for the country instead of what is best for them.

    Michael

  5. Mike would have us believed, based on this and his many other postings, that divisive issues can be reduced to and addressed by compromise. Some pundit, most likely a Texan, famously said the the middle of the road is populated by a yellow stripe and dead armadillos. As the Republican Party has moved further to the right it has become more difficult for the parties and for individual members to work cooperatively. I think that the current stalemate will have to play itself out for several election cycles. Demographic trends do not bode well for Republicans nor do attitudes of voters. Take, for example, the issue of marriage. For twenty years conservatives have ridden the anti gay marriage horse. In a very short period of time the nag has foundered and conservative are, mixing metaphors, abandoning the ship. It's probably time for a re-alignment in party politics. Mike's desire to see a centrist Whig Party may come to fruition. As for me, I'd like to see a full blown Progressive Party on the lines of Canadian New Democrats.

  6. Where you been, Sam? Did you sleep through the 8 years George W. was in office and the Dumbocrats, led by Reid the Red, stalled almost every initiative, proposal or nomination he made? Actually, gridlock is the American public's greatest ally against the tax & spend US government. The "farm bill" is an excellent example. Why do we subsidize farmers (or any other business) at all? Let them sink or swim on their own merits. But, there's lots of votes to be had by larding up bills with tax dollars and it doesn't cost either side a dime. Perhaps, if the American public wasn't so lethargic, paid attention to more than the apcray on TV and voiced their dismay over blatant payola, sops such as the "farm bill" would never see the light of day in the first place.

  7. Pat,

    I actually agree with part of what you said. On social issues, Republicans have not moved along with the society as a whole. If they continue to lag behind it will hurt them. Where we disagree I think, is where you claim that only Republicans have moved to the 'edge' of their party. Unfortunately, so have Democrats. That's why we are so polarized. It's actually dangerous to be moderate so few people in office dare to be moderate. That's a real problem.

    I've communicated with the person from Canada that writes in. He tells me he loves much about the Canadian system but he also realizes that it isn't financially sustainable. He's retired and on the 2nd half of his life but he says he feels sorry for those younger people, because he knows difficult times are ahead for them under their system.

    Michael

  8. Mr.Fink,

    "Where you been,Sam? Did you sleep through the 8 years George W was in office."

    The answer to that would be that I was very awake at that time and voted for Bush/Cheney in both elections. Until it became very clear to me in the middle of their second term, that I finally realized that we were being lied to about the Iraq war (WMD). But I didn't move over to voting for a Democratic President quickly and voted for Sen.John McCain in 2008. The Republicans have lost their way with the tea baggers calling the shots. If they ever want to be the party they once were,they need to unload some their excess baggage.I hope I answered your question.

  9. Michael,

    We all Know whats going on here and that is the midterm elections in 2014.I don't expect anything to change until the Republicans lose the midterm elections. After the loss, they will have to wake up and make an attempt to try and reorganize and save what's left of this dysfunktional party.The tea baggers and Mitch McConnell are the thorns in their sides.

  10. Sam,

    I agree that the midterms are a factor. I have no idea if Republicans will lose, win or stay about the same in the midterms. I think most Americans are pretty dissatisfied overall, so I think anything could happen.

    Personally, it would worry me to see either the Republicans or Democrats in control of the government. Democrats are too Progressive for my tastes and Republicans are to Conservative, but the one thing that seems constant is that neither side is really willing to tackle our toughest and most pressing issues, especially in the economic area.

    I do believe that we will all regret that we did not force our government to take the tough actions required economically. The repercussions of not doing so will show up eventually and we will all suffer.

    Michael

  11. See my comment on the article "Congress is not representing the People". The H of R is so partisan it's killing our way of life.

  12. In reply to Bradley, I'll just point out the following:

    Many of the social welfare programs that were started under FDR and have been continued and expanded to the present day, have been poorly administered, contained waste and fraud and often overlap. What has been done about it? Very little.

    Many defense programs have been and are terribly wasteful and military spending is huge and largely unchecked. What has been done about it? Very little.

    We've had de-facto open borders for years. What has been done about it? Very little.

    Our income tax code has been and is incomprehensible, unfair and just a mess. What has been done about it? Very little.

    I could name more but these are the biggest issues. They all have something in common. They all have powerful 'constituencies' that matter to the parties.

    Huge numbers of people, in and out of government depend on the social welfare programs. Entire industries exist because the government spends all this money.

    The same is true of the defense spending.

    Business depends on exploiting the cheap labor of illegal immigrants. The public gets to buy less expensive products and services.

    The complex income tax code allows many entities and individuals to skirt taxes. It also allows our government to create winners and losers using the tax code; to buy votes, as it were.

    It's all a huge cesspool where all these 'constituencies' buy our government and 'we' don't get these issues addressed. It didn't start with Bush or Obama. It has been going on for years and it gets worse with every passing day.

    Until we find a way make serving in government not be 'unlimited' and a lucrative 'career' and we allow people wishing to run for office or be re-elected to do so without having to worry about the money required to run, we will have a system where powerful players make sure we don't get the issues above and many others addressed in a way that benefits the majority of us instead of just a few.

    Michael

  13. I'll reply Bradley. Gerrymandering is very old. Please go look it up under Wikipedia and pay special attention to the section entitled 'Effects'. Note that there are many examples of gerrymandering by both parties and for various reasons.

    You tend to point out bad things, done by both parties and just ignore the Democrat side. I won't do that. Gerrymandering is bad, but it is done by both parties..... to..... wait.... gain an advantage! What a surprise. Should we like it? No. Should we recognize that it's a part of our system. Yes.

    It is sooooo foolish that sooooo many of us don't recognize the systemic problem we have in how our legislative branch is elected and operates and instead think that the problem is totally on one of the parties only. I hope you and others wake up one day.

    Michael

  14. If a president is an experienced leader with integrity, not a campaigner, and willing to work with both sides of the aisle, Congress, democratic or republican controlled, would do the peoples' work.

    Carmine D

  15. El_Lobo says 'I vote Democrat because they come closer to representing what I believe in that the Republicans do, but I don't always agree with the Democrats on every single issue...'

    I have no problem with that. It is what you should do. 'Attitude' is where it must start. Being willing to admit that 'your' party; whichever one that is, is fully invested in the corrupted legislative branch. Stop buying the nonsense that everything wrong is the fault of the other party. That's not true. When big issues are not addressed; immigration, income tax reform, social program reform, defense spending reform, etc, do not automatically vote to re-elect the current person in office. They do not deserve re-election. Take some chances and vote for an inexperienced newcomer. Write letters to your representatives expressing your anger and disappointment. Research the issues and make sure you have a good understanding of them.

    I don't know how we get it, but I do believe we must have public financing of campaigns and term limits to try to get the influence peddling and corruption out of Congress. If we can't get that, we just surrender our country to the wishes of the powerful and the wealthy with lobbyists, and that will be true no matter what party controls government.

    Michael

  16. Michael...I'm afraid that I must challenge your contentions in your reply to my post.

    First, Democrats have not moved left, to the "edge" of the party. I have been involved in Democratic Party and union politics since the early sixties. Democrats were generally more liberal on many issues then than they are now. The biggest change is that we no longer have to accommodate Southern Democrats as they have become, in the main, Republicans. What we have lost as a party is a commitment to progressive policy, replacing it with liberalism. For example, what we call welfare has morphed from a support and self-help program to keep people working and productive, a progressive policy, to a maintenance program for every perceived ill, a liberal/conservative mishmash. Social Security and Medicare are the only two remaining progressive social policy initiatives. Conservatives are counting on muddled liberals to "means test" them and turn them into pejorative welfare programs. Meanwhile, because they also serve moneyed interests, we will keep and expand progressive institutions such as the BPA and BoR.

    Second, I too have Canadian friends who appreciate their social benefits. They are, in fact, sustainable with the correct fiscal policies. Canadians do not have to spend vast sums on military adventures thus freeing up taxable capital for endeavors which improve society. Conservatives are fond of routinely pointing out the imminent collapse of [fill in your favorite European nation here] because of socialized health care, idle citizenry, influx of immigrants, or whatever. I grew up in Europe [and other places] and correspond with friends in several nations. They continue, as do their parents and offspring, to be better educated, have better health outcomes and have more satisfying quality of life than do Americans. Most middle class Europeans and Canadians have a better quality of life than most middle class Americans. Conservative pundits and commenters dearly wish for the collapse of some Western European social democracy but it has not happened and is not going to happen. No, you can't count Greece, as Greece bears the same relationship to Western Europe as does Mexico to the US.

    We need, in this country, a greater range of political party options. Unfortunately Republicans and Democrats have a duopoly and they will not easily give it up. Right now the best hope is that the Republicans will fracture into a hard right wing and a centrist business wing, the latter attracting more conservative Democrats. that would allow the traditional Democratic Party to more closely align policy with practice.

  17. Pat,

    I'm all for getting out of the business of world policeman and using that money here, either leaving it with the taxpayers or having government spend at least some of it for the betterment of all, in this country.

    I do however see many people aligning themselves with Democrats, who you call Liberals I think, really being bothered by the fact that there are people who do really well and people who do really poorly in a Capitalist system. If people cannot accept that fact, at least to a certain degree, they don't believe in Capitalism; they believe in some form of Socialism. I believe in the Capitalist system.

    My biggest concern however, is that both Capitalist leaning and Socialist leaning Americans seem to be OK with government spending that is completely disconnected from revenue collected. Whether it be defense spending or social program spending, we just don't pay for what we spend. We don't prioritize; we don't concern ourselves with waste, fraud and duplication of efforts; we don't examine spending and programs to see if they are working well and are efficient after implementation, we are unwilling to raise taxes on large majorities of Americans, etc.

    I really don't see the above as much different in Canada or Europe except that they spend much less on defense than we do. According to the guy that writes in from Canada, even though the taxes are high, they are not high enough to sustain the spending, at least in his opinion.

    I've traveled to Canada a couple of times a long time ago and never been to Europe so I dont have any first hand knowledge. I just happen to think it is a bad idea to have spending this disconnected from revenue, no matter where it takes place.

    Michael

  18. Michael,
    I agree with a lot of what you had to say on your 8:14 a.m.post today.Maybe we need to have a strong Democratic win in the midterms to wake up the Republicans.We need more then constant gridlock,and yes we the people are getting tired of it.

  19. Sam,

    Again, I have no idea what will happen. Most people I talk to have about 10 % trust in Republicans and 15 % trust in Democrats, at this point.

    If you're not blind, you can see that neither side is rushing to face the big issues we have. That may make people reluctant to vote in a way that would end up giving either side a clear majority.

    I know I would not be comfortable with Obama and the Democrats having total control of the government; anymore than I would have been with Romney and the Republicans with a clear majority.

    I think either side with such a majority would run over the other side, back up and run over them again. Either way, that is a scary proposition to me.

    Michael

  20. El_Lobo,

    Of course I realize that Congress and powerful interests with lobbyists will never, by themselves, vote for term limits or public financing of campaigns. Neither one is in 'their' interests, but both are in ours.

    I point both out because more people need to understand how important these two changes are so they will start to ask for both from their representatives. The alternative is to just keep electing Democrats and Republicans and allowing the rich and powerful with lobbyists to basically run 'our' government.

    Michael

  21. Lastthrows,

    There is a lot of data supporting global warming, climate change and the effects fossil fuels have on global warming. There is also a lot of data supporting the view that global warming is a natural cyclical phenomena and is largely unaffected by the use of fossil fuels. There is also data supporting the view that any recent warming has been minor and has now plateaued.

    I would like to find more people who fall on one side of this issue or the other but who are actually open to the possibility that their view could be correct...... or incorrect.

    As with everything else these days, though, that isn't an acceptable position. No doubt must ever be allowed to creep in. Once a position is taken, it cannot be changed, no matter what.

    Michael

  22. Anyone who thinks or believes both parties are guilty of a stagnant Congress are fools. We all know for a fact since 2008 beginning with 112th Congress Republicans have been setting records filibustering blocking senate bills and appointees by Obama. The GOP/Tea Party can't win without cheating because of their arse backwards ideology so they have to cheat with the aid of the SCOTUS. Citzens United and today's decision of voting rights knocked the legs from under our democratic process. The two worst decisions in my lifetime. If this continues I can envision the riots and demonstrations of the 60's and 70's. People can be abused only so far before they take to the streets in violence, especially the working poor who are getting the worst screwing since the Great Depression.

    wtplv - "There is also a lot of data supporting the view that global warming is a natural cyclical phenomena and is largely unaffected by the use of fossil fuels."

    We've NEVER EVER had 400 parts per million of CO2 in the entire time man has walked this planet. If anyone thinks that won't have an effect on any species of life and the climate they truly have their heads in a place the sun won't shine. It's the same denying belief system that dictates the gulf spill and oil spills in general don't have an effect on the food chain. 97% of scientists believe man made global warming is a real issue and a handful of ideological fools are ignoring the data.

  23. Vernos,

    I could easily see the need for Federal oversight and approval of voting laws in certain areas of the country when the state authorities were part of keeping minorities from voting in the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's. There was no place for anyone unfairly denied the right to vote to appeal to because the general public , the media and the authorities were not sympathetic to what was happening.

    Now, the general public, the media and state authorities all have a completely different outlook. All a person unfairly denied the right to vote would need to do is contact the media today. The wrong would be righted and it would happen quickly. In that environment, I think the states could be allowed to make their own laws surrounding voting without having the Feds grant approval. It's not like the Feds can't step in if necessary.

    I also happen to believe that it is common sense to require a voter to show a picture Identification. In states that want to make that a requirement, why must we assume it is to suppress the vote? If the requirement run afoul of what the Fed's think is acceptable, they can intervene.

    Where was it that we decided that states could not be trusted with important decisions and only the Federal government could be entrusted with those decisions? Our Republic was set up with States for the specific purpose of keeping the Federal government from becoming too powerful and to be able to use states as an area where experimentation could be tried. People run states. People run the Federal government. Both are fallible. Why do we have such disdain for states and so much confidence in the decisions of the Fed's? Both have made both terrific and horrible decisions. Why the totally unequal view of both?

    Michael

  24. I would never favor using government coercion to force my views on others, but here is what 'I' would like to see from people who honestly believe that man made global warming is destroying the planet and that we must take drastic steps that include government coercion of the public:

    Don't be an Al Gore... talk the talk and walk the walk...

    Immediately sell whatever cars you have that are not a hybrid or electric. Replace them with $ 40,000 Chevy Volts. Finance them if you have to.

    Don't fly anywhere and restrict your travel and trips to only the distance that your limited mileage Volt can take you.

    If you have central AC, stop using it and use fans instead. In winter, just use blankets and be cold.

    Take every tax refund you get and return it to the government so they can spend it on more 'retail' green energy projects.

    There is a lot more that you can do, but that should set a good example for the rest of us cave dwelling Neanderthals to follow.

    Michael

  25. Federal 'oversight' of elections is fine. If violations are found, they should be addressed. States having to request 'permission' from the all powerful Federal government before they can make any changes was justified in the past but not today.

    The GOP is taking a beating, and for the reasons El_Lobo provides. This is NOT a reason to extend the Federal governments placing its thumb on states that have done little more than ask that they be allowed to require a picture ID to be able to vote.

    Jim Crow will probably always be alive in a few people. That is not a reason to take a 40 pound hammer to a problem that hasn't even shown up lately.

    Talk about conspiracy theories. State governments everywhere, when controlled by Republicans are busily planning how to disenfranchise 'millions' of minority voters. Oh boy! And the Federal government planned and carried out 9/11. And Obama is a closet Muslim that supports terrorists and hates America. Black helicopters everywhere....

    Really?????

    Michael

  26. Leadership starts from the top and goes down. Not the other way around. Congress doesn't lead, it follows. The president sets the domestic agenda, working in concert with Congress, republican and/or democratic. Then the president works with both sides of the aisle in order for government to accomplish the peoples' business. The same is true on the world scale. The U.S. president sets the agenda and works with allies and foes to accomplish mutually desirable results. If a president can't do this at home, then he/she likely can't do it abroad.

    Carmine D

  27. Leaders lead and that's what presidents are elected to do.

    Carmine D

  28. I don't miss George W. Bush at all. Every time I see and hear Obama, I'm reminded of Dubya. Why? Both have good intentions, talk a good game, play good golf, and take lots of vacations. But neither could work with both sides of the aisle to lead the nation forward domestically and abroad. Bush is retired. Obama is not. So it's the latter that matters.

    Carmine D

  29. "The Obumma economy downgraded in first qtr from 2.4 to 1.8% "growth"." Rusty57

    Despite the setback for GDP in Q1, many economists are predicting a more robust 2014. Why? There are signs, not the stock market, that the recovery which officially started June 2009 is poised to break out. Housing starts and sales, new vehicle sales, consumer confidence, and housing prices are all ticking up. Unemployment is still high but leveling off slowly, very slowly, and gradually ticking downward. The two variables that could throw a money wrench in the U.S. recovery in 2014 are Europe and China. Both are squishy and tenuous now and into the future. Since the U.S. is coupled with both Europe and China economically, they could pull the U.S. growth rate down as a result in a decline in demand for U.S. exports. The term of Ben Bernanke, the real architect of the U.S. recovery, ends in January 2014. Whether he stays on or goes depends on what happens between now and then. We have to wait and see. Bernanke has been walking a tight rope with QE 1, 2, 3 unto infinity. One wrong move, and the party is over.

    Carmine D

  30. We could do with far LESS LEGISLATION and a whole lot more ENFORCEMENT of our laws. So much of the Congressional "activity" is posturing and orchestrating media sound bits. They often know or intend to NOT FUND much of their proposals. We need to PRIORITIZE FUNDING first for national SECURITY, including border security and E-Verify, then for courts/incarceration (including expulsion and deportation), the "common good" on a limited bases and ONLY THEN consider cost-effective treaties with other countries to enhance our MUTUAL interests instead of dumping money into every body that wants free funding.