The economist: Time for Obama to man up

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Thanas » 2013-05-07 08:03pm

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by CaptHawkeye » 2013-05-09 10:49am

The Bush Library dedication has just made it utterly apparent to me how cowardly the entire Federal Government is about everything. Bush is a guy who started numerous wars of imperialism, is responsible for hosts of the same war crimes he denounced his enemies for, and he gets a giant public structure dedicated in his name with speeches from the last 2 decades of Presidents in his honor.

I guess political expedience is just what happens when your legislative body is run by career politicians. After all these guys can't afford to tarnish their reputations or ruin their jobs trying to take the right, if not popular, course of action with the public.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Simon_Jester » 2013-05-09 11:23am

Unfortunately, in this case roughly half of all Americans think Bush was right and half of them think he was wrong. In a situation like that, the government apparatus is kind of stuck saying neutral- so traditional things like "each president has a designated library associated with them" have to happen on schedule.

If you try to make your political institutions blatantly non-neutral, we're going to be entirely back to the spoils system in short order. That or a one-party state.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by CaptHawkeye » 2013-05-09 11:52am

Alternatively a system could be designed that simply allows for the easy removal of incumbent politicians from office. Imagine how much less damage Bush would have done if we could have simply no-confidence voted on him? Course the problem then is people getting voted out of office for trying to implement morally correct yet unpopular policies. Perhaps a Supreme Court review should be conducted for cases of successful no-confidence votes? Another no confidence vote would require a 2/3 majority or some such and would overrule the decision of the Supreme Court? Just an idea.

The Feds bear some blame here but as usual review of problems in the structure of the Federal Government usually reveals the true source of those problems. The American people and their outdated or narrow-minded values, axioms, and beliefs.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Maraxus » 2013-05-09 11:59am

CaptHawkeye wrote:The Bush Library dedication has just made it utterly apparent to me how cowardly the entire Federal Government is about everything. Bush is a guy who started numerous wars of imperialism, is responsible for hosts of the same war crimes he denounced his enemies for, and he gets a giant public structure dedicated in his name with speeches from the last 2 decades of Presidents in his honor.

I guess political expedience is just what happens when your legislative body is run by career politicians. After all these guys can't afford to tarnish their reputations or ruin their jobs trying to take the right, if not popular, course of action with the public.
Have you been to a Presidential Library before? Apart from holding the papers of the President, they're pretty much all like that. Hell, the Nixon Library just got around to being historically honest about Watergate, and that was 40 years ago! This has nothing to do with Congress being run by "career politicians," whatever the fuck that means, since they're run by the National Archives and Records Administration. A lot of the time they're not even really funded by Congress, since the ex-president's old supporters usually pony up considerable cash to open it. The Reagan Library, for instance, is basically a giant temple to Free Enterprise and Conservative Freedom and was built essentially on huge donations from guys like T. Boone Pickens and Bob Perry.

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Maraxus » 2013-05-09 12:19pm

CaptHawkeye wrote:Alternatively a system could be designed that simply allows for the easy removal of incumbent politicians from office. Imagine how much less damage Bush would have done if we could have simply no-confidence voted on him? Course the problem then is people getting voted out of office for trying to implement morally correct yet unpopular policies. Perhaps a Supreme Court review should be conducted for cases of successful no-confidence votes? Another no confidence vote would require a 2/3 majority or some such and would overrule the decision of the Supreme Court? Just an idea.

The Feds bear some blame here but as usual review of problems in the structure of the Federal Government usually reveals the true source of those problems. The American people and their outdated or narrow-minded values, axioms, and beliefs.
We already have a system designed to do that. They're called elections. Bush won his 2004 re-election when he was sitting right around 55-48% approval, which is pretty decent for modern presidents. Even then, he didn't win by a particularly large margin, and the Republicans lost control of Congress once his approval ratings precipitously dropped during the 2006 midterms. It doesn't seem to be a particularly smart idea to end a president's term prematurely depending on how fickle the American voters are mid-term. Moreover, if you give the Supreme Court the power to decide whether or not to end a presidents term, you're just going to make it even more politicized than it already is. Would you have liked it if the Republicans could have removed Clinton from office in 1995 or Obama from office in 2011? Elections do, and should, have consequences. If anything, elections need to have MORE consequences by removing obviously undemocratic things like the filibuster or gerrymandering. There are many things we could do to make the federal government more responsive to the will of the voters. Making it easy for the legislature or the Supremes to remove a president mid-term seems like one of the least wise decisions to solve this problem.

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Simon_Jester » 2013-05-09 01:14pm

CaptHawkeye wrote:Alternatively a system could be designed that simply allows for the easy removal of incumbent politicians from office.
Then the challenge is to stop that from being politicized, with each party spending all its time engaged in impeachment games of 'suit and countersuit.'

Let's face it, as long as you have two political parties with roughly comparable leverage in the political system, a democracy will have to keep its basic institutions neutral between those parties. Even if to you, it appears to be a case of being neutral between "smart" and "stupid."
Imagine how much less damage Bush would have done if we could have simply no-confidence voted on him?
Which "we" gets to hold that vote? If someone had tried to hold a vote of no confidence in Bush prior to 2006 they would have lost, even though I'm sure you and I both agreed he should have been out of the Oval Office as fast as possible.

After 2006 Bush became a pretty blatant lame duck anyway because the Democrats held Congress.
Course the problem then is people getting voted out of office for trying to implement morally correct yet unpopular policies. Perhaps a Supreme Court review should be conducted for cases of successful no-confidence votes? Another no confidence vote would require a 2/3 majority or some such and would overrule the decision of the Supreme Court? Just an idea.

The Feds bear some blame here but as usual review of problems in the structure of the Federal Government usually reveals the true source of those problems. The American people and their outdated or narrow-minded values, axioms, and beliefs.
Democracy means that people get pretty much the kind of government they want, plus any unintended consequences of getting it. Unpalatable as you may think it, roughly 50% of Americans believe that (for example) Mitt Romney would make a better president than Barack Obama, and that Bush would have been better than Gore or Kerry, and so on.

If you want to get a do-over on that result, then it's going to cut both ways. then either you're throwing democracy out the window,* or you're having trouble with the difference between "tyranny" and "losing."

*Which is not to say you're bad for doing it, but you should be honest about it. I can understand someone who thinks the political outcomes of democracy are so bad they want to get rid of the system- the majority should not have an inherent right to a say when they are wrong, and all that. But you can't have a popular vote and then expect the government to simply ignore the opinion of the 45-50% of voters who think president X was a hero.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by K. A. Pital » 2013-05-09 01:33pm

Simon_Jester wrote:Then the challenge is to stop that from being politicized, with each party spending all its time engaged in impeachment games of 'suit and countersuit.'
If there is a recall rule, party politics might soon cease to exist (or an actual multiparty system with multitudes of small fractions would form). However, bourgeois democracies do not implement the recall rule, precisely because if it were implemented, people would soon recall those who screw with their interests and break electoral promises. Especially the latter is relevant.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Zaune » 2013-05-09 01:55pm

And in any case, at least a library provides a useful service to the general public, right?
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Wing Commander MAD » 2013-05-09 02:11pm

Zaune wrote:And in any case, at least a library provides a useful service to the general public, right?
Yes, they provide a useful service to the public, but keep in mind that presidential libraries are more akin to a mix between a museum and archival storage of the documents, letters and correspondences, etc. and the overall "legacy" of a particular president than a normal library. Still a very useful function, if only for the archiving of records for the future.

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Maraxus » 2013-05-09 04:00pm

Stas Bush wrote: If there is a recall rule, party politics might soon cease to exist (or an actual multiparty system with multitudes of small fractions would form). However, bourgeois democracies do not implement the recall rule, precisely because if it were implemented, people would soon recall those who screw with their interests and break electoral promises. Especially the latter is relevant.
Not really. Eighteen states already have recall provisions and California has had a recall option for nearly a century. Recall elections have not brought doom and damnation on any of the state parties, nor has it been terribly effective at keeping politicians honest. It has, however, been quite effective at blackmailing politicians into voting against state interests. Anthony Adams is a pretty good example of this. Adams and five other Republicans voted for Arnold's tax increases to close up California's $41B budget deficit. The local right wingers promptly began circulating recall petitions and probably would have succeeded in removing him from office had they not been so hilariously inept. The other five Republicans also faced recall attempts and one was removed from the Republican Caucus. They may not have recalled any of these guys, but they did put the fear of God into any Republicans who might even consider violating the No Taxes Not Now Not Ever pledge that seems so popular among the CAGOP.

Recalls, like most of the "good government" things passed at the turn of the century, seem like a great idea on paper but horrible in execution. Again, we have ways of removing politicians who break electoral promises or screw with their constituents interests; they're called elections.

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by K. A. Pital » 2013-05-10 08:50am

Elections are too far and remote. A 4-year cycle is enough to screw the nation top to bottom. A 6-year one is even worse.

If people want no taxes, if they want to annihilate their government and run themselves into the ground thereby, let them do it. Holding them back is just making them never learn from mistakes.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Maraxus » 2013-05-10 05:42pm

Stas Bush wrote:Elections are too far and remote. A 4-year cycle is enough to screw the nation top to bottom. A 6-year one is even worse.

If people want no taxes, if they want to annihilate their government and run themselves into the ground thereby, let them do it. Holding them back is just making them never learn from mistakes.
Yeah, that sounds fucking peachy when you don't have to actually live under a system with said rules. People in general don't want to see their taxes go up, but it's not as though the No Taxes Not Now Not Ever thing is at all popular with the public. Instead a very small proportion of the electorate wants to punish the rest of the state by withholding any kind of tax revenues that don't come out of the sales taxes. This wouldn't be a problem if California didn't require a 2/3rds vote to raise taxes, but it does. So it is a problem. And recall threats are just another way of scaring even moderately sensible GOP legislators into voting against thing that they know to be in the best interests of their constituents. California has had all of these wonderful pie-in-the-sky ideas to keep politicians accountable to the voters. By in large, they haven't worked or they've proved much more harmful than the problems they intended to solve. I see no particular reason why they would be more effective on a national level.

But more importantly, why should you get a do-over election just because your candidate couldn't get his/her shit together by election day? If someone is wrecking the country, the time and the place to do something about it is before the first Tuesday in November, not afterwards. And why are four year terms too remote and far away? Because you say so?

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Rogue 9 » 2013-05-10 08:49pm

Simon_Jester wrote:If you want to get a do-over on that result, then it's going to cut both ways. then either you're throwing democracy out the window,* or you're having trouble with the difference between "tyranny" and "losing."
We've had some pretty prominent figures in government who've had trouble telling that difference before. It wasn't pretty.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Thanas » 2013-05-15 04:04am

It is more than hilarious that nearly all democracies in the world except the USA have some sort of recall mechanism or vote of no-confidence and manage to do just fine, but such a mechanism is too threatening to the home of the brave.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Simon_Jester » 2013-05-15 06:24am

A vote of no confidence within the legislature is a different animal. If we actually had a parliamentary system that would be fine, and I think we probably should have a parliamentary system.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by thejester » 2013-05-15 07:07am

Thanas wrote:It is more than hilarious that nearly all democracies in the world except the USA have some sort of recall mechanism or vote of no-confidence and manage to do just fine, but such a mechanism is too threatening to the home of the brave.
Not sure you can seriously compare recall mechanisms and votes of no-confidence, in the Westminster system at least. Even if a government is forced to resign the individual members of it can reform reasonably quickly; the same can't be said of a recall vote, which is inevitably a long and drawnout process.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Thanas » 2013-05-15 07:21am

That is a valid point, but my general idea was more that it is possible for democracies to allow for a quick removal of a leader or head of government.

I am not in favor of allowing parliament to dismiss a member of the cabinet per se, only the head of government/Government as a whole.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by thejester » 2013-05-15 07:41am

Thanas wrote:That is a valid point, but my general idea was more that it is possible for democracies to allow for a quick removal of a leader or head of government.

I am not in favor of allowing parliament to dismiss a member of the cabinet per se, only the head of government/Government as a whole.
Except I'm not sure how that would solve the problems that started this discussion. Even in the US system the head of government is beholden to the legislature to a considerable degree. Bush's policies were, to a large extent, approved of by Congress; and as we saw from 09 onwards, Democratic control of the house rested on a group who in practical policy terms were conservative. So painting a picture of the Bush era being the result of some rogue agent in the White House who was unanswerable to voters is totally wrong.

And on that note - I basically agree with Maraxus. How anyone could look at US politics over the last 4-5 years and conclude that the answer was more elections baffles me. One of the major reasons Washington is broken is because elected officials are totally obsessed with their own electoral livelihoods, to the total detriment of policy; implementing changes that would increase that trend would be about the worst possible thing that could happen.
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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by energiewende » 2013-05-15 12:01pm

Maraxus wrote:Adams and five other Republicans voted for Arnold's tax increases to close up California's $41B budget deficit. The local right wingers promptly began circulating recall petitions and probably would have succeeded in removing him from office had they not been so hilariously inept. The other five Republicans also faced recall attempts and one was removed from the Republican Caucus. They may not have recalled any of these guys, but they did put the fear of God into any Republicans who might even consider violating the No Taxes Not Now Not Ever pledge that seems so popular among the CAGOP.
This is a symptom of a deeper problem which is that the short term electoral time scale diverges too much from the long term debt repayment time scale. The optimal move to generate short term popularity is always to buy votes now with money that will mostly be paid back by one's political successors. If those successors then pay back the debt by raising taxes rather than cutting spending, public spending will continually increase until it hits the maximum of the Laffer Curve.

The Republicans have correctly identified that the only way to break out of this prisoner's dilemma and reach a long term optimum outcome is to have a culture of opposition to any increase in spending and forego the short term popularity for the sake of long term prudence. The problem is that they don't any longer have enough power to stop spending increases in California so the result is a permanently large deficit that cannot be paid back.

The problem probably cannot be solved by increasing term lengths so the sensible approach would be to place constitutional limits on maximum indebtedness and maximum deficits. Politicians will spend up to their credit limits, hopefully on actually important short-term crises rather than on continuous consumption, and then be forced to stop. The Eurozone in principle has similar policies for its members but enforcement has been ineffective to say the least.

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by PKRudeBoy » 2013-05-15 01:48pm

The problem probably cannot be solved by increasing term lengths so the sensible approach would be to place constitutional limits on maximum indebtedness and maximum deficits. Politicians will spend up to their credit limits, hopefully on actually important short-term crises rather than on continuous consumption, and then be forced to stop. The Eurozone in principle has similar policies for its members but enforcement has been ineffective to say the least.
Have you been paying attention at all to whats been happening with the debt ceiling? What you're talking about will just cause the same exact political games that have been happening in congress to happen more often. Politicians absolutely won't spend on short term crises and not on continuous consumption, they'll spend on continuous consumption and when a crisis comes along pass emergency legislature to let them borrow more because it's a crisis.

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by energiewende » 2013-05-15 02:02pm

The debt ceiling is fiction because it's no harder to raise the debt ceiling than to pass the spending bill that would breach it in the first place. Most countries don't bother with the whole charade for that reason.

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Re: The economist: Time for Obama to man up

Post by Simon_Jester » 2013-05-15 05:52pm

Thanas wrote:That is a valid point, but my general idea was more that it is possible for democracies to allow for a quick removal of a leader or head of government.

I am not in favor of allowing parliament to dismiss a member of the cabinet per se, only the head of government/Government as a whole.
Votes of no confidence allow for quick removal of a Government, but don't override election results- all the members of parliament the voters put in the legislature are still there, they're just kicked out of government office.

My original issue with recall elections was that they came up in the context of a silly person fantasizing about having been able to recall Bush. My point there was that this would not work reliably, because despite his fantasies the US really does have a large number of Republican voters who don't vote in favor of recalling Republican politicians in mid-term. This is not some kind of bizarre foreign imposition, it's just an issue with the US, and a fact about the US, that it does have a sincere political party, roughly half the population, that is absurdly far right by global standards.

So it's not realistic to assume that a recall would improve the tone or quality of politics by allowing voters to oust the bad politicians; we're more likely to just get new bad politicians, and both parties using recalls whenever convenient. Sort of like how Gray Davis got kicked out in California and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, of all people.

In the specific context of US politics, it just guarantees that the opposition will be a bunch of obstreperous morons, indirectly help cause a political crisis, then get rewarded at the ballot box for doing so because the recall predictably throws out the incumbent.

To get rid of that we'd need other systematic reforms. And if we had those, we wouldn't need recall elections so much in the first place.
energiewende wrote:This is a symptom of a deeper problem which is that the short term electoral time scale diverges too much from the long term debt repayment time scale. The optimal move to generate short term popularity is always to buy votes now with money that will mostly be paid back by one's political successors. If those successors then pay back the debt by raising taxes rather than cutting spending, public spending will continually increase until it hits the maximum of the Laffer Curve.
At the moment, basically all US polities are comically far over below the peak of the Laffer curve when it comes to taxes- raising taxes still increases revenue. Given that this is the case, I don't think the fear of taxation should be dominating our policy. It would make far more sense for us to actually sit down and plan "what social services should our society provide, what should the government subsidize to be built or researched," then work out a budget consistent with getting the appropriate share of that done.

But such planning is impossible, precisely because the Republicans have developed, as you say, "a culture of opposition to any increase in spending..." and also a similar culture opposing any increase in taxes. Therefore, we cannot have remotely logical discussions about the budget. The Republicans will resist any change that does not result in a net decrease in taxes and spending. Their version of "deficit reduction" is all about reducing spending. Meanwhile, just keeping basic social programs that serve sectors of society which can't afford their own lobbyists is hard enough that the Democrats wind up driven toward hardline positions: "No you can NOT cut XYZ's budget, deficits be damned, because we know perfectly well you're using the deficit as an excuse to push a social agenda!"
The Republicans have correctly identified that the only way to break out of this prisoner's dilemma and reach a long term optimum outcome is to have a culture of opposition to any increase in spending and forego the short term popularity for the sake of long term prudence.
Experience suggests that the Republican Party is totally indifferent to the problem when they are in office, running up massive deficits. I would argue that their culture of opposition has more to do with the desire to create artificial crises to prevent their opponents from accomplishing anything that makes them look bad.
The problem is that they don't any longer have enough power to stop spending increases in California so the result is a permanently large deficit that cannot be paid back.

The problem probably cannot be solved by increasing term lengths so the sensible approach would be to place constitutional limits on maximum indebtedness and maximum deficits. Politicians will spend up to their credit limits, hopefully on actually important short-term crises rather than on continuous consumption, and then be forced to stop. The Eurozone in principle has similar policies for its members but enforcement has been ineffective to say the least.
I think the sensible approach would be to have actual organized, intelligent analysis of the nation's budget needs and what taxation is needed to make it happen. Instead we have endless bickering by industry lobbyists for a tax rate of zero and subsidies for all, which chokes all useful discussion. Or endless corrupt idiocy, which does likewise.
energiewende wrote:The debt ceiling is fiction because it's no harder to raise the debt ceiling than to pass the spending bill that would breach it in the first place. Most countries don't bother with the whole charade for that reason.
In that case it's an actively dangerous fiction, because it requires the political system to waste immense time and energy purely on changing the fiction. This makes it even harder to have a rational budget policy in the US.
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