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Centrists, Unite!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

This interview originally aired live on April 25, 2013. An edited version was re-aired on August 2, 2013 as part of a special episode of The Brian Lehrer Show. 

Charlie Wheelan, author of Naked Economics and The Centrist Manifesto, says it's time for a third party to move the country beyond gridlock.

 

The Centrists’ main principles and goals:

  1. Government should do what individuals and businesses cannot do. For example, governments can make markets work better, provide valuable goods and services, and improve on market outcomes when private behavior causes social damage.
  2. Individuals should do what governments cannot (or should not) do. The logic of economics can also determine what we as individuals and private firms can do better on our own. This includes social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and gun control.
  3. Align policy to create wealth and promote productivity. We can accomplish this by respecting the markets, promoting free trade, investing in human capital, building and maintaining twenty-first-century infrastructure, designing a more efficient tax system, and promoting a new form of labor relations.
  4. Respect the environment as a long-term asset. We live better today because of the environmental foresight of past policymakers like Theodore Roosevelt, and we have a moral obligation to pass a clean environment on to future generations. The most logical way to balance growth and environmental responsibility is to build the price of pollution into the activities that cause it.
  5.  Build an efficient social safety net. Establishing a social safety net is the humane thing to do. This net can also ease the backlash against our capitalist system when it disrupts lives and communities in the process of doing new and better things.
  6.  Restore fiscal sanity. Our government must balance the budget and stop borrowing from the future. We can do this by reforming entitlements like Social Security and fixing health care.
  7. Rebuild international institutions. The institutions developed after World War II, like the United Nations and international monetary system, need updating so they can effectively address twenty-first-century challenges including terrorism, arms trafficking, human trafficking, climate change, nuclear proliferation, international fisheries, border disputes, and human rights violations.
Reprinted courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company, publisher of The Centrist Manifesto.

 

Guests:

Charlie Wheelan
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Comments [46]

"Don't label yourself as anything, ever.

You get wrapped up in the definition of that label, and modify your own beliefs to become more accurately described by that label.

Think freely. Make your own opinions, and dgaf* about the side you're agreeing with."

- Anonymous source

*DGAF= Don't Give a [expletive]

Aug. 03 2013 11:49 PM
Guy from NYC

should "casual observers" really be voting in our elections? It seems unethical for a know-nothing to participate in a system they can't begin to fathom.

Aug. 02 2013 11:27 AM
carolita from NYC

OMG, you guys are so cute airing this segment again, as if it were important to the discussion. Can I just ask you this? If this is how the Congress and the House get nothing done now, when it's just two parties that hate each other, with Republicans filibustering everything Obama does just because he's not a Republican, how do you think a third party president would be treated? Good grief. The only way you'll get a third party with any traction is if you get all the boring elections to elect third party candidates all over the country, and fill the House and Congress with them first. That'll take a long time, and barely anyone I know even knows who their congressman is! Barely anyone even knows then these elections take place. You're going to have to make sure that people vote in all these little elections first, engage the public into a life of awareness. If you can do this, you might get somewhere. But it'll have to be more than the WNYC listeners.

Aug. 02 2013 10:49 AM
Guy from NYC

There are two kinds of centrists, in my opinion, those who are paid and those who are ignorant.
Centrist politicians (paid) are cynical operators who want to manipulate both sides to promote their electoral prospects. Citizen centrists are those who just don't really understand politics, are distracted by surface and rhetoric, drawn to simplistic solutions, and are too lazy to investigate politics further.

Aug. 02 2013 10:44 AM
Ryann

There is already a party that follows the social philosophy of Democrats with the fiscal philosophy of Republicans. Its called the libertarian party.

May. 09 2013 08:33 PM

@Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

"Both parties have moved to the Left.

The Republicans have moved to the Center."

If you really believe that the GOP has moved toward the Center, then you must be looking at a mirror.

Put the mirror down.

Apr. 26 2013 11:31 AM
Peter Ungar from New Rochelle, NY

It is impossible to feed one's views on several major issues into the political system by choosing one of two or even three candidates every two years. We need to introduce initiative and referendum into the federal constitution.

Apr. 25 2013 02:32 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

The democrat party has been hijacked by neo-commies.

Apr. 25 2013 12:16 PM

The problem with the "center" is that it's too far to the right!

Apr. 25 2013 12:11 PM
Dean

*disentangle social progressivism from fiscal progressivism. Issues like workplace discrimination or the funding of social programs like welfare or social security easily cross the borders between the two.

Apr. 25 2013 12:06 PM
Dean

I thought Brian did a great job of posing the idea that Obama and the democrats ARE the centrist party with a list of powerful evidence. And professor Wheelan completely failed to address the question in a substantive way. Also there is no real way to disentangle s

Apr. 25 2013 12:01 PM
RJNYC

I applaud Prof. Wheeler’s efforts and consider myself a centrist but I question his emphasis on electing centrist Senators. A centrist win in the Senate does nothing to guarantee passage in the House. We need centrists in the House to accomplish anything.

Apr. 25 2013 12:01 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Anyone who opposes Voter ID wants to continue hacking the vote.

Apr. 25 2013 12:00 PM
John A

mr nyc,
Torture, drones, and other anti-Geneva, etc practices burns our honorable past and have to go. How to effect that change is less clear. I may start giving to the "constitution project".

Apr. 25 2013 11:56 AM
Rishi Patel

I am always surprised that no one discusses somethings that i think get to the core of why centrist voices are not heard or represented. The two items are 1 - gerry mandering of congressional districts and 2 - the primary system (people not registered to a party can generally not vote until the national election).

the candidates that bubble up through this structure and survive to the point that centrists can actually cast a vote are always people who survived pandering to the most extremes of each party. For example my vote as someone living in lower manhattan does not count if i don't want to vote for someone who is not a 'liberal'.

essentially the dems and reps have a mutually agreed monopoly on the political system and carved up the electorate between them. I think if you ended these two practices and gave it about a decade, i think we would see a much different political landscape.

Apr. 25 2013 11:52 AM

David from New York ~

Thank you.

Apr. 25 2013 11:50 AM
TF01 from nyc

Great topic.

It would be nice if people didn't declare themselves Democrats or Republicans.

Declaring oneself seems to short circuit critical thinking and foster us versus them thinking.

Remaining undeclared helps avoid bias and get to the best overall understanding of an issue.

Apr. 25 2013 11:49 AM
John A

Everything skewing conservative tends to indicate that both sides may thing our best days are behind and to not risk money on liberality.

Apr. 25 2013 11:48 AM
Henry from Manhattan

I would add another bullet to the list.

8. Keep religious doctrine from informing legislation and refrain from government endorsing a state religion.

This is a big problem with the Christian Right that makes up a huge block of the Republican Party who fundamentally don’t understand the concept of separation of church and state and how a secular government is a boon for religious freedom.

Apr. 25 2013 11:47 AM
Jonathan

how much more centrist can a President and a party get than President Obama and the Democratic Party?

There is a cloudless summer day's worth of sunlight between an actual progressive like Bernie Sanders and the current direction of the Democratic Party.

Apr. 25 2013 11:47 AM
David from New York

I'm sorry, this is ludicrous. 46 Republicans, 8 Centrists, and 46 Democrats in the U.S. Senate? The Gang of Six doesn't ring a bell? Or the Gang of Seven, the Gang of Fourteen, the Gang of---it's been tried! multiple times! and it has never worked! Has Prof. Wheelan not opened a newspaper in the past twelve years? 41 Republicans, or even 40 Republicans plus Joe Lieberman, have been sufficient to block all Senate action. This is like an argument about how the U.S. government should operate written by someone who's never lived in the U.S. nor paid much attention to what its government actually looks like.

Apr. 25 2013 11:47 AM

Ugh. "The rhetoric on the left, makes me more upset than the rhetoric on the right". So sayeth milk toast.

You take the progressive left and the "sensible" right and you pass centrist legislation. Centrism is the result of finding a middle ground to get things done. There is no such thing as a centrist. Again, centrism is a compromise.

"Why can't we all get along?" Because it doesn't work that way. Dolts.

Now that I've been nice to this piece I'm going to get back to my work repealing the second amendment and building a migration effort to get minorities, women, and gays out of the south so they can secede.

Thank you very much.

Apr. 25 2013 11:46 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Occupy Wall Street wasn’t endorsed by the Democratic Party.

The Tea Party is a block of the Republican Party, there are Republican Tea Party politicians. There are no Democratic Occupy politicians.

Apr. 25 2013 11:46 AM

One caller wants Social programs without taxation to fund them....wow.

Apr. 25 2013 11:45 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Both parties have moved to the Left.

The Republicans have moved to the Center.

The former Democrat party is Left of Center - witness jimmy carter (who I believe is the WORST US PRESIDENT EVER) embracing bums like yassir arafat, fidel castro and hugo chavez.

Google Imaages "carter arafat castro chavez".

Apr. 25 2013 11:44 AM
frank from Manhattan

My most conservative friends, and I have many, all were aghast at republican's gun control vote-down.

Apr. 25 2013 11:44 AM
mr nyc

Is torturing people centrist? Some things you can't split the difference on.

Apr. 25 2013 11:42 AM

to the caller who wants to keep all her money, does she use any government services? roads schools, police courts armies?

Apr. 25 2013 11:42 AM

A cherrypicking "centrist" who neglects the Congressional stonewall against everything Obama does + neglects the "no new taxes" mantra of the GOP, yet it's 30 years after de-regulation/non-regulation by RR, WJC & GWB's Greenspan tax cuts as we entered 2 wars of choice?????

He's against teachers unions, but neglects the overall record of charter schools which is statistically so close to the public schools which Bloomberg et al. have closed & not replaced student chairs in the respective districts.

Apr. 25 2013 11:42 AM

If Bush had announced in 2000 that:

-- "This would be the decade of "Climate Change Repair";

-- "Family Value of Conservatism -- of both energy and government spending";

-- "Separation of Church and State"

He would have had my vote. If Gore had said the first, he would have gotten my time and money.

So long as the Republican Party STANDS for the opposite those above three tenets, I cannot in good conscience "Vote Republican" -- regardless of their strengths. It relieves me from having to become acquainted with the GOP (which I resent).

Apr. 25 2013 11:41 AM
Michael from NJ

How much has Redistricting impacted today's politics?

Apr. 25 2013 11:38 AM
PAUL BERK from prospect heights

Guys like Krugman persistently deny any problem with medicare, medicaid, or SS. All my liberal friends treat Krugman as The Prophet. Yet your guest disputes this--I get very mixed up.

Apr. 25 2013 11:37 AM
Henry from Manhattan

There’s far more outright ideological opposition from conservatives/libertarians on quite a few points of this centrist manifesto list. Where there is agreements on some issues, conservatives suggest that government has no role in any solutions whatsoever.

I don’t see anything on that list that the Democratic Party is fundamentally in opposition to.

Apr. 25 2013 11:37 AM

Wait a minute... The guest says that the Dems claim to be in favor of a strong middle class, but the teacher's union somehow undermines that? Please elaborte Professor.

Apr. 25 2013 11:37 AM

Wait a minute... The guest says that the Dems claim to be in favor of a strong middle class, but the teacher's union somehow undermines that? Please elaborte Professor.

Apr. 25 2013 11:37 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Wait, Prof. Wheelan wouldn't include the Republicans' "taxes are always bad" in the list of their most unreasonable "truths"?

Apr. 25 2013 11:36 AM
David from New York

This stuff always drives me nuts. Because the Republican party always screams about the Democrats being too far to the left, casual observers assume the problem with government is polarization. Again, casual observers make such assumptions, but public intellectuals have an obligation actually to think about it.

If they did, they'd quickly notice the Democratic party already is the great centrist hope they're wishing for; when the GOP claims the solution is to slash government, the Democrats answer they want to cut government slower. President Obama has already cut government spending (insanely, in the context of a national depression) and proposed cutting Social Security (equally insanely, and cruelly, with the mass of retirees whose employers are restructuring their pensions and whose 401(k)s just got wiped out). Republican politicians respond solely to the concerns of the top 1%, but Democratic politicians only respond to those of the top 25%. There's not a poor-person's party in this country, not a working-class party, and nothing that would be recognizable as a left-wing party to any other democracy in the world.

Arguments that government dysfunction is the result of polarization, and that the solution is a new "centrist" party are the last resort, not of scoundrels, but of lazy thinkers.

Apr. 25 2013 11:12 AM

RUCB Here's are a few lines from Nixon tape transcripts on Healthcare:
"You know I'm not to keen on any of these damn medical programs."

Ehrlichman responds: "Edgar Kaiser is running his Permanente deal for profit. And the reason that he can—the reason he can do it—I had Edgar Kaiser come in, talk to me about this and I went into it in some depth. All the incentives are toward less medical care, because the less care they give them, the more money they make."
"...and the incentives run the right way"

To which Nixon responds "Not bad."

Nixon was a douche...

Apr. 25 2013 11:03 AM

RUCB Here's are a few lines from Nixon tape transcripts on Healthcare:
"You know I'm not to keen on any of these damn medical programs."

Ehrlichman responds: "Edgar Kaiser is running his Permanente deal for profit. And the reason that he can—the reason he can do it—I had Edgar Kaiser come in, talk to me about this and I went into it in some depth. All the incentives are toward less medical care, because the less care they give them, the more money they make."
"...and the incentives run the right way"

To which Nixon responds "Not bad."

Nixon was a douche...

Apr. 25 2013 11:03 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Hmmmm...The premise appears to falsely defines Democrat initiatives as 'left'. Remember that Nixon (a nominal conservative) wanted universal health care, implemented the EPA and took the country off the gold standard. How to define the rightward drift of the nation? The last 40 years of constant inflation and shrinkage of average income (relative to national income) has made a**holes of us all.

The premise also fails to deal with the unfair burden of taxes that fall upon the middle-tier. If you are below the FICA cap, an additional 15% of your income is going into Fed coffers. The incentive to 'get rich' is no longer based on work but on 'making a pile' so that we can hire accountants to hide assets from the government.

Apr. 25 2013 10:52 AM
antonio from baySide

1. If centrists are supposed to be pragmatic and reasonable, why haven't I heard them say to republicans "If you're concerned about the impact social security on the deficit, we propose raising the contribution cap." Right now it's 113k. People making more don't pay anymore after that. Period.

2. The fiscal cliff compromise approved by Congress raised the dividend tax from 20%, from 15%, for those earning more than $400,000 a year ($450,000 if married). Raise that.

3. And finally raise the overall income tax for people making more than 300K to 40%, 400 - 500K - 50% and 600K - 60%

4. How about raising the minmum wage to $30.00 dollars per hour in exchange for the elimination of SOME safety net programs.

The idea of centrists today are a distraction as they would never mention anything sensible...

Apr. 25 2013 10:49 AM

One problem I see with the manifesto is that anybody can claim that their party is the party that represents most of those tenets. Keep in mind that there are people that think Fox News cuts it right down the middle...the political version of parallax error perhaps?

Apr. 25 2013 10:20 AM

One problem I see with the manifesto is that anybody can claim that their party is the party that represents most of those tenets. Keep in mind that there are people that think Fox News cuts it right down the middle...the political version of parallax error perhaps?

Apr. 25 2013 10:20 AM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes NJ

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
— Senator Barry Goldwater, acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, San Francisco, July 16, 1964.

“Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.”
— Republican Michigan Governor George Romney in a letter to Barry Goldwater explaining why he did not endorse him, December 21, 1964.

Apr. 25 2013 10:06 AM

1st there is a centrist party it’s called the Democratic Party. What is missing is a reasonable party on the right. what’s left of the Republicats are folk fearful of modernity and their own countrymen and increasingly regional. As the old grand party joins the Whigs, the nation will need people like mr Wheelan,to keep the Dems honest. Just look at Albany to see what happens under one party rule. How many of our employees in Albany ran unopposed?

Apr. 25 2013 09:24 AM

Another Pete Peterson false flag waver?

Apr. 25 2013 08:39 AM

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