Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How to figure out the minority party's agenda

Whenever one of the major parties is out of power, you can go its party platform to find out what it would do if and when it got back in power.

But isn't it far more certain to see what that party did when it was in power? That's when a party has to put its money where its mouth is.

Right now an omnibus financial services industry reform bill has been introduced by the majority party. The Republicans will say "our plan is better," and offer one as they try to shoot down anything that would crimp the style of their backers on Wall Street--in the name of The People, of course.

But let's recall what the Republican Party did about financial services industry reform during the 12 years they controlled Congress:

Nothing. Unless you count deregulation and hamstringing enforcement of whatever regulations were left by defunding the regulators.

This isn't an argument for or against the Democrats' bill. I'm just pointing out that the alternative to the PIP's (Party in Power's) bills are never the POOP's (Party Out Of Power's) proposals. It's what the POOP did when it was the PIP.

Given the nature of our constitutional democracy, at the federal level we get the bills of one party or the other, and those are pretty much our only alternatives.

It's the same with healthcare reform. I don't have to be a mindreader to know that the Republican alternative--what they'd do if and when they regain power--is nothing at all. Because that's what they did. Not rocket science. Ditto this financial services reform bill.

So please don't compare the Democrats' very flawed efforts with some dream bill--or with what the Republicans are saying they'll do if you put them back in the driver's seat. The Republicans have proven that they're the party of no regulation of businesses. That's the real alternative to what the Democrats have put forth.

Just ask yourself: are these bills better than exactly nothing? Of course Republican hardliners will opt for nothing in a heartbeat. Independents and Eisenhower Republicans--and hard left Democrats, for that matter--should know better.

See what liberal economist Paul Krugman has to say about these bills. He's shown an ability to not let his ideology keep him from living in reality.


Sean said...

As long as our political parties fight for dominance at the expense of the American people, there will always be the POOP unloading propaganda all over the PIP in an effort to dethrone the current king of the mountain. This is simply a by-product of our imperfect political system. Is it really fair to simply reach back a couple of years (back when the POOP smelt better) only to pick and choose what to be nostalgic about? I support financial regulation, and I support efforts to fix our current healthcare system, but let's be a bit more honest about who's at fault. Our political system does not comprise of angels and demons. Everything is 20/20 in hindsight: The optimistic atmosphere that led to financial deregulation of the 90's was embraced in a bi-partisan way. So yes, someone should have seen the financial mess coming from a mile away (during the Bush years), but even NPR pointed out that it's hard to point fingers at a particular political party (as I recall from NPR's Marketplace). On healthcare, I agree that something should be done. If anything, I'd love to see the current healthcare bill get shoved through just to prove that our Congress is capable of something other than sitting on their hands and bickering. Maybe I'm being a little too optimistic, but I like to think our current battle in the Senate is a bit more substantial than a brawl between the evil insurance-giant backed republicans and the saintly democrats.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to hold political parties accountable for what they did or did not accomplish (whether as the PIP or POOP), but I get tired of the swinging pendulum of vicious attacks on the opposing party. The right does not purely consist of the far right pro-corporation/anti-middle class stereotype, and the left does not reside somewhere on the left side of Mao. Let's not add to this fire.

Ehkzu said...

I think you're hearing the frustration of a former Republican (moi) who feels ethnically cleansed from the GOP by today's wack jobs and sock puppets.

But apart from my ranting at one of the big parties and claiming that the other one's a bit less villainous, surely you'll agree that whoever's the POOP, you can rely more by what they did last time they were the PIP than what they say now.

I will also agree that corporate and other special interests have certainly demonstrated a lot of muscle with the Democrats. Hence the flaws of the current healthcare bill.

I'm just weighing in on the side of the party that actually got any kind of remotely decent healthcare and financial services reform legislation to the point of passage.

BTW I'm married to a very conservative Republican (28 years and counting), and attend a Mormon chuch with said spouse, weekly, so I'm not suffering from lack of exposure to Republican ideas!

And I see how personally virtuous nearly all the many Republicans I know are. So my beef is with the leadership and the tribal Republicans who really have put their party above their country.

It's also why I keep hoping honorable Republicans and Democrats will unite to work for reform of America's political infrastructure, so as to make elections and governance more fair and more democratic, regardless of who's in power at any given time.

First on this list is nonpartisan legislative redistricting. Gerrymandering produces districts where the pols pick the voters instead of vice-versa. This is inherently corrupting--and it produces legislatures full of partisans.

Second is open primaries that put the top two vote-getters in the final election, regardless of party.

Third is modifying the electoral college system to send electors proportional to the vote in every state instead of winner take all.

Fourth is amending the Constitution to eliminate considering any but American citizens in determining Congressional apportionment (this generally favors Republicans, I note, even though I'm a Democrat--but it's fairer).

Fifth is eliminating the anchor baby loophole from the Constitution. The loophole favors Democrats, but again the current system isn't fair, and that's more important.

Sixth is modifying the electoral college system so that it's a little less imbalanced between populous and non-populous states. Currently one Montana voter's vote counts as much as nearly four California voters. How about halving the imbalance?

Seventh is making district attorneys and judges unelected offices and putting a 20 year term limit on Supreme Court appointments.

Eighth is making passing a relevant civil service exam a prerequisite to running for national office. The exam should be, oh, 2/3 as difficult as a Bar exam.

Would you agree these eight nonpartisan reforms?