How Broken is Washington?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

This week, Indiana senator Evan Byah said polarization in the Senate has driven him to retirement. Chris Beam, political reporter for Slate, talks about disunion in Washington and if it will prevent anything from getting done.


Chris Beam

Comments [22]

gary k. from hollis


We don't have enough space to debate the two economic theories each of us support. Suffice to say that TARP should have been restricted to loaning assets to private banks---the essential utility of our economy. That's what republicans believed, and was reflected in their votes in congress. Banks that want to repay the loans are being given a hard time by Obama, because Obama wants big government for the public to become dependent on, and thus compliant to government policy.

But I digress. There's legitimate debate on whether and how government should have aided the investment firms and AIG. But there's no justification for the government to bail out General Motors (or shall I say the United Auto Workers Union?) and the assortment of friends of the administration, or at least what the administration deems worthy in our society. Municipal union workers, for example, received the bulk of the stimulus $$. Ironically, they're the highest paid and have the greatest benefits than any other worker in the private economy.

That's what republicans believed, and was reflected in their votes in congress. We are out of danger of a depression. Recessions heal better on their own, without government temporary make work programs which do nothing for the economy on balance.

As George Will said yesterday, we have two political parties with two political philosophies. What do you think they exist if not to debate and win the public to their point of view. There are some things you cannot compromise on. Yet compromise is the watchword for MSM whenever Dems are in the majority and are trying to enact their agenda.

Feb. 19 2010 11:45 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

@gary k. - Huge government is spending IS necessary when full-scale economic depressions are to be averted and when consumer demand comes to a halt, both of which happened in 2008. Do you disagree that these events occurred?

Clearly huge government spending does NOT a sustainable economy make, but sometimes governments are the only backstop to keep economies from complete collapse.

What do you think would have happened if the federal govt. wouldn't have stepped in with TARP? Even though the terms of TARP could have been much better for the taxpayers, without it the entire banking industry would be insolvent with a run on most banks, the dollar made virtually worthless, throwing not only the U.S. into a credit/monetary catastrophe, but the entire global economy.

Secondly, the jolt of money that the Recovery Act gave to the US economy (again, a terribly inefficient piece of economic legislation) has allowed the economy to gain its footing while keeping the unemployment rate lower than it would have otherwise.

You can argue how much or how long the government should intervene during economic recession/depressions, but economic history shows that governments are the lender of last resort and give the framework for economies to grow.

These are not "ideal" economic times and comparisons to former Federal budgets after the Great Depression are not tenable...

Feb. 18 2010 04:28 PM
gary k. from hollis

Chris Baratta:

Your condescending remarks notwithstanding, it is you who didn't bring facts to the table. you're wrong on both counts.

First, huge government spending prolongs recessions, just like it had with the new deal. It takes money from one sector and gives it to another. it doesn't create wealth, nor permit market forces to stabilize, because government invariably guesses wrong on what goods need to be produced and by how much.

Second, this excerpt from

By comparison, from the day Mr. Obama took office last year to the end of the current fiscal year, according to the Office of Management and Budget, the debt held by the public will grow by $3.3 trillion. In 20 months, Mr. Obama will add as much debt as Mr. Bush ran up in eight years.
Mr. Obama's spending plan approved by Congress last February calls for doubling the national debt in five years and nearly tripling it in 10.
Mr. Bush's deficits ran an average of 3.2% of GDP, slightly above the post World War II average of 2.7%. Mr. Obama's plan calls for deficits that will average 4.2% over the next decade.

Feb. 18 2010 12:28 PM
Chris Baratta from UWS

To Gary K-

With all due respect, you simply don't know what you're talking about. The overwhelming majority of the Deficit as currently exists is the product of the Bush policies of the last 8 years, in addition to the loss in government revenue related to the "Great Recession."

The stimulus increased the deficit by only a marginal amount- an amount that is necessary in order to dampen the great human suffering that has resulted from the massive job losses that the country has suffered in this recession.

Next time, please bring facts to the table.

Feb. 18 2010 11:19 AM
gary k. from hollis

To continue my point, the host failed to justify her request for listers to offer a solution to the "partisan" problem of fillibuster. It seems fine to me. The significant minority will pay in the polls if their actions prove unpopular. The penalty could lead to a minority that can't prevent cloture.

The host also failed to note that Obama's pledge which she quoted-----that he will not pass along the deficit to the next administration-----was hypocritical: HE is the one who is enacting deficit-doubling budgets and "stimulus" bills!!!

Feb. 18 2010 10:55 AM
Yvonne from Brooklyn, New York

I fail to understand the comment stated on the air that President Obama does not reach out to those who had supported him during the election!

Has this person ever gone to the websites and or thought of joining Organizing for America (I am on their mailing list)????

There is constant outreach to me personally through my email to be involved in countless ways.

Feb. 18 2010 10:51 AM
J.C. from Minneapolis

The thing you have to remember about proportional representation is that there's no good way to decide who gets to fill the seats that a party has won. Countries that use the system (e.g. Germany for about half of the Bundestag) resort to parties nominating lists of candidates. If the party wins 15 seats, the first 15 names on the list are elected.

Of course, if you want a more direct say in who gets on those lists, you have to work your way up in the party ranks so you can be a convention delegate or committeeman. The sweet spot for any officeholder is to be so highly-ranked on the list that the party would have to face electoral catastrophe before you lose your seat.

As for term limits...California has those.

Feb. 18 2010 10:44 AM
gary k. from hollis

The host and guest failed to show how partisanship is bad. Because it actually upholds the framer's intent to slow government action. They distrusted government. They also failed to understand that fillibuster is a mechanism to accomplish this----it permits a SIGNIFICANT minority to slow down the majority----which the pro Dem MSM considers a moral crusade when Dems are the minority, and deem it a problem----as the host believes----when Republicans are the minority. Hence the topic of today's show!

Host and guest also failed to understand who Mr. Brook's commentary was vapid: Presumably and inexplicably, a third party will have the wisdom to choose the right amount of spending and taxing?! How exactly will that happen?

Feb. 18 2010 10:35 AM
hjs from 11211

whose side are you on?

YES WE CAN end these 2 parties!

Feb. 18 2010 10:31 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Evan Byah, a conservative Democrat, is part of the Washington problem. He made sure that the House of Representative's health bill would not pass in the senate.
Lots of luck Mr. Byah in retirement when you joining your wife by working for health insurance companies.

Feb. 18 2010 10:29 AM
Tom from Upper West Side

It is dangerous to think of historic templates without the context of time....i.e., While we have had other political parties in our country's past, our current giant parties - Democrat and Republican - are as firmly established as the largest corporations. Neither will be swept away in our lives by something as naive as voter discontent. Both major parties are bought and paid for, supported by special interests - and set for decades to come!

Feb. 18 2010 10:29 AM
RLewis from bowery

Mark, Term Limits??? come on. All that would do is keep our highest decisions being made by rookies. Other countries would eat our lunch, and lobbyist would have a field day, cuz they would know more than all the elected folks. What we need is wisdom and experience.

Feb. 18 2010 10:24 AM
David T. Little from Weehawken, NJ

We need to move away from the two party system toward a government based on proportional representation. The two party system has become polarized beyond functionality.

Feb. 18 2010 10:23 AM
jeff pappas from Ct.

Lets apply the same stringent rules that are used in an 8 th grade debate to Our Congress

Feb. 18 2010 10:22 AM
Chris Baratta from UWS

Can someone confirm that when the Senate changed the rules in 1975, they indeed had 67 votes to do so?

It's my understanding that if that's the case, the threat of having a simple majority of Senators to change the rules (the "nuclear option") was what prompted those 67 senators to come together.

Is there a reason to believe that a credible threat of such a change by simple majority would cause a similar coalition to form presently?

Feb. 18 2010 10:22 AM
RLewis from bowery

Bi-partisianship is a myth that would decimate the minority party. Politics is a competitive sport to these guys - one team has to go out and beat the other. Quit waiting for them to agree - that only happens when the legislature is 50/50 split.

hjs - we both need a vacation.

Feb. 18 2010 10:20 AM
mrbad from NYC

Why is no one mentioning how the Fillibuster has been used historically ? Namely, to shoot down civil rights legislation (desegregation). The Fillibuster has only ever been used to limit social progress in this country.

Feb. 18 2010 10:20 AM
Bob from Manhattan

It's fascinating that with the Democrats in the majority, we now see complaints about "the system." When Democrats were in the minority and blocked legislation and appointments, we never heard complaints about the fillibuster and other traditions/rules in the Congress.

Feb. 18 2010 10:17 AM
Mark from CT

Term Limits would allow Congress to act as responsible statesman. As long as they need to rely on lobbyists like me for money to get reelected, we can stop any legislative action.

Feb. 18 2010 10:17 AM
Michael from Clinton

Senate rules have made the fillibuster too easy. What we have now is a "virtual" fillibuster, there's no one actually holding the floor to extend debate.

If a senator who wanted to stop a bill cared enough to hold the floor, to do a full Jimmy Stewart, it would be used less and have more effect when it was resorted to.

Feb. 18 2010 10:17 AM
hjs from 11211

the filibuster is a joke and a myth. when was the last time the f word was ACTUALLY used!

Feb. 18 2010 10:12 AM
hjs from 11211

a multi party democracy might be an interesting experiment for us to try. the 2 party system is just too easy for the corporation to manipulate.

Feb. 18 2010 10:09 AM

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