Streams

Todd Purdum on D.C. Dysfunction

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Todd Purdum, national editor of Vanity Fair, went to Washington to figure out just why things are so dysfunctional. He profiles the Obama West Wing in the latest issue.

Guests:

Todd Purdum
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Comments [28]

RJ is absolutly roght!
Money and the loopsided distribution of wealth completely hijacked the process. The lack of notion that ecverybody SHOULD sacrifice further isolate the "have"s from the "have-not"s; there are the "in' people and the "out"people.
Look what's happening now: the Republicans argue that the Bush-tax cut should remain for the top 2% of ipeople with income of $250,000 and more...
The 14 million people on unemployment continue to pay income tax on the unemployment compensation, even if they run out of unemployment.
Who is fighting for them? Isn't it perverse?

Aug. 11 2010 11:48 AM
Leo in NYC

One of the best reform ideas I've heard is the concept of blind trusts for campaign donations. This seems like it wouldn't run afoul of (the supreme court's crackheaded interpretation of) the 1st amendment. The idea is that people and corporations could contribute to political campaigns as they do now, but all of the money would by law go into one big pool, with the names and amounts of the contributors kept secret. This way, people and companies could express their preferences with their donations, but politicians would never know whom they were indebted to. So no undue influence.

Aug. 11 2010 11:34 AM
RJ from brooklyn

I think Mr. Purdum's acceptance of the idea that Americans don't want to settle for less as the core problem of distribution of wealth in this society, as something that has become part of the conventional wisdom, is part of the problem. The amount of wealth available in the world has grown dramatically, through positive and negative means (invention or badly exploited resources). It's the distribution of that wealth that is the problem.

The idea that Americans haven't sacrificed for the wars, for example, is absurd; it's simply been indirect, through the deficit growth and loss of services. Unfortunately most haven't connected those dots.

Aug. 11 2010 11:32 AM
Susan

The current system breeds distrust and contempt, as our purported representatives ignore their constituents in favor of their paymasters, obscuring their bought-and-paid-for favors with endless, incomprehensible layers of taxes and deductions. Representative government can only function if those in office actually represent those who elected them rather than those with deep pockets. Time to clean house (and senate). If politicians wonder what is fueling populist rage, they need only look in the mirror. As Dennis Kucinich would say, "WAKE UP AMERICA!'

Aug. 11 2010 11:32 AM
RJ from brooklyn

I think Mr. Purdum's acceptance of the idea that Americans don't want to settle for less as the core problem of distribution of wealth in this society, as something that has become part of the conventional wisdom, is part of the problem. The amount of wealth available in the world has grown dramatically, through positive and negative means (invention or badly exploited resources). It's the distribution of that wealth that is the problem.

The idea that Americans haven't sacrificed for the wars, for example, is absurd; it's simply been indirect, through the deficit growth and loss of services. Unfortunately most haven't connected those dots.

Aug. 11 2010 11:31 AM
RJ

I think Mr. Purdum's acceptance of the idea that Americans don't want to settle for less as the core problem of distribution of wealth in this society, as something that has become part of the conventional wisdom, is part of the problem. The amount of wealth available in the world has grown dramatically, through positive and negative means (invention or badly exploited resources). It's the distribution of that wealth that is the problem.

The idea that Americans haven't sacrificed for the wars, for example, is absurd; it's simply been indirect, through the deficit growth and loss of services. Unfortunately most haven't connected those dots.

Aug. 11 2010 11:30 AM

Issues of fact may have one right answer.

Some issues have a great deal more than "two sides" — despite the determination of US government and media to reduce everything to Republican versus Democrat.

And let's drop the pretense that the Times or the Post or CNN have any special grip on fact. Look at the Times coddling of Judy Miller for _years_.

Aug. 11 2010 11:27 AM
clarence

We the American voter has no one to blame but ourselves....we allow our elected officials to pick issues for that offer mask of delay addresiing real problems..."We the people....." We are the people...

Example...immigration vs the 14th amendment...

Aug. 11 2010 11:27 AM
JP from NJ

Please, please, please ask guest about the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752 and H.R. 1826)!!!!!!

Aug. 11 2010 11:25 AM
Jay from Brooklyn

Safe districts and the corruptive effects of money are the factors that are destroying our political system. I see public funding of campaigns and a non-political method of drawing up Congressional districts as two needed reforms.

Aug. 11 2010 11:24 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

Make it illegal, per se corruption, for any congressman to receive any amount of money from any individual, business, organization, or corporation.
Create one single fund that anyone can contribute to in any amount that ALL members of congress receive their congressional funding from, divided up evenly. On the contribution form people can write in why they are donating this money, for example "I love Obama" or "I am a tea partier", etc.
We own the air waves. Force all tv channels to set aside a number of minutes in different time slots for each region and divide those minutes up evenly between candidates.
Lobbyist power would be finished while preserving Rights to petition.

Aug. 11 2010 11:23 AM
Michael Reese from NJ

You cannot exclude the powerful effects of political redistricting.

Aug. 11 2010 11:22 AM

George Washington was setting up a nation, the Constitution was newly drafted. It was a very very different nation.

Aug. 11 2010 11:21 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

The media, particularly the constant cable news cycle of crackpot pundits who spew out ever increasingly bizarre, extreme viewpoints to just plain flat out lies and distortion of facts without ever being challenged is one of the major reasons why our system has become so ridiculously dysfunctional

Aug. 11 2010 11:21 AM
Frank from Rockaway, NJ

The tax system is the fault. A flat tax would eliminate a lot of lobbying.

Stopping medical advertisement would also help.

Aug. 11 2010 11:20 AM
Frank from Hoboken

To what extent would one ascribe this partisan gamesmanship to the general decline of the US economy?

Not just because of the financial crisis, but also over the past 20 years, given that the purchasing power of the average citizen has decreased, and our balance of trade, continues to show we are losing ground in terms of creating relative wealth.

In other words there's less to spend, so the finger pointing is going to get worse.

Aug. 11 2010 11:19 AM
Leo in NYC

Since the passage of the 17th amendment and the nationalization of party politics, individual citizens have become responsible for decision making in national elections. But the issues facing Americans have become vastly more complicated over the last century. It is simply unrealistic to expect the average citizen to have enough of a grasp of, say, health care regulations or the minutae of energy policy, to make a truly useful and informed decision. I am a politics junkie and I can barely understand most of this stuff. The result is that our national elections have become a kind theater, in which candidates present bite-size false choices and non-policies, and then the punditocracy debate these policies as if they are real issues. None of any of it has anything to do with the way real politics works once the candidates are in office.

Aug. 11 2010 11:19 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson


Thanks Brian for giving your guest a pass on how wonderful lobbyists are.
Lets stop this charade called “American Democracy,” and have corporations run as political candidates. Better yet lets just have corporate Junta.

Aug. 11 2010 11:19 AM
Peter

Lobbyists are by their very essence anti-democratic. We're supposed have government of, by and for the PEOPLE ... not the corporations, trade associations, and chambers of commerce. Contrary to the old saw, what's good for General Motors (or Wall Street) is almost certainly not good for America.

Aug. 11 2010 11:17 AM
Karen from NYC

I think the problem comes from the bottom up, not the top down. The American electorate seems extremely uninformed. Most Americans obtain their information, not from NPR and the NYT, but from Fox TV and YouTube. Our kids don't read, and their "research" consists of Google searches that turn up, not reliable sources, but blogs. The far right appeals to people who believe that Obama was not born in the U.S. ("Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and his workshop is in Kenya,"), and the politicians do what politicians have always done: pander to the voters.

Large corporate interests do in fact unduly influence the political process, but do so, not merely by contributing to politician's campaigns, but by hiring public relations and market research firms that organize, e.g., the "Town Hall" disruptions of last summer. If people -- and the tabloid, cable media -- were not gullible enough to fall for such tactics, those tactics wouldn't work.

It's our fault. We need to educate our kids and ourselves. Democracy is government "by the people": it's only as good as we are, and we are getting worse.

Aug. 11 2010 11:17 AM
bob from huntington

business not only owns our national government, the only people who can afford to become government representatives in our distorted, televison- dominated electoral process are wealthy business people such as carly fiorina, linda mcmahon and meg whitman.

Aug. 11 2010 11:17 AM
Mike from NYU

one of the major problems that he is not addressing but in fact adding to in that commencement address is the false perception that all issues have 2 valid and opposing arguments to them. There are not two arguments to every issue. For opinions sure. But on issues of scientific fact there is only one correct issue and the other side, be it Glen Beck or the left, are simply wrong, and the other side should not be given any credibility. This is the central problem in Washington.

Aug. 11 2010 11:17 AM

Lobbying is _illegal_ in most (maybe all) western European countries — definitely illegal in Britain and France.

Britain has a permanent civil servant workforce that is informed and, despite their own opinions, work for the government in the interest of the people.

Money and the lust for wealth at the expense of _everything_ is at the heart of American problems. We have the greatest disparities in the distribution of wealth of all of the industrial democracies. We have the lowest social mobility of those countries. We stand out for the number of wealthy individuals in the legislative branch. And we have a woefully ill-informed populace. Even Britain, where people are only marginally better-informed than Americans, rejected categorically Tony Blair's proposals to cut public services for the sole purpose of cutting taxes.

Aug. 11 2010 11:16 AM
JP from NJ

It’s your constitutional right, its Exxon’s constitutional right, its AARP’s constitutional right and its Green Peace’s constitutional right to lobby congress 365 days of the year. It’s criminal for Exxon, AARP and Green Peace to Lobby politicians with millions in campaign finance funds to get anything they want, not what the actual voting public wants. Until you make this legal form of bribery illegal, nothing will change.

Please ask if Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752 and H.R. 1826) is waste of time or something that could actually work?

Aug. 11 2010 11:15 AM
blossom

In an economy where the legal field is shrinking and shedding jobs (3% of all job losses nationawide in June, 1/2% of the losses in July), lobbying has been an area of greatest growth for law firms. I think that the numbers billed for June and July were very high.

(Ithink Purdham will be off the air by the time I cite my sources, and I want to post this!)

Aug. 11 2010 11:14 AM
snoop from Brooklyn

Exactly...money, money, money. That's what the problem is. Do you really think that most lobbyists would get in the door if they didn't drop off wads of campaign cash as well?

Aug. 11 2010 11:13 AM
Mike from NYU

clergy, nobility, peasantry

Aug. 11 2010 11:08 AM

has the tea party phenomenon prevented normal republicans from doing the right thing?

Aug. 11 2010 10:14 AM

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