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The New Moderate’s Vigilance List: Our Annual Update

June 10, 2011

What do we moderates have to worry about? Plenty. After all, if you’re a moderate, trouble comes at you from both sides. To make matters even more interesting, our sources of trouble keep changing from year to year.

I’ve been updating The New Moderate’s Vigilance List each June to reflect our current jitters. Some items may have moved up or down the rankings or dropped off entirely; others are still glaring at us, unimproved and unrelenting (see #1). And you’ll notice a couple of ominous newcomers, too.

Anyway, without further eloquence, let me unveil the latest list of things we need to be concerned about, in numerical order — complete with last year’s ranking for comparison. It’s a personal list, of course, but I hope it’s an instructive one. Feel free to agree, disagree, or come up with your own items that belong on the Vigilance List.

1. The Great Recession. (Last year: #1). The light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a mirage. (At least it wasn’t the headlight of an onrushing train.) Unemployment is up again, corporations are still exporting jobs with impunity, and Americans are sinking deeper into debt. The stock market is stagnant, real estate is kaput and there’s nowhere else to grow our assets these days. So what gives? Experts have been talking about V-shaped, W-shaped, L-shaped and even square root-shaped recoveries, so it’s obvious that nobody knows when this nightmare will be over. There’s even talk of a Japanese-style “lost decade” for the American economy. Or we might just be witnessing the irreversible decline of the American empire. Trend: In a holding pattern, and all the more alarming the longer it lingers. 

2. Obama’s inaction on the economy. (New this year) Say what? This item wasn’t even on the list in 2010, and here it is suddenly at #2. Let me explain. Last year at this time, we expected to be pulling out of our recession — or at least notice some discernible improvement. Now we’ve entered the second phase of our double dip, a dip that could last indefinitely if unchecked. Adam Smith’s free market can no longer be trusted to right itself — let alone salvage our economy — because we’re no longer dealing with a pure capitalist system. It’s a corporatist system. Driven by the need to beat Wall Street expectations every quarter, publicly owned corporations will continue to outsource any new jobs to cheap labor markets overseas. That devastating little quirk sets us up for perpetual job woes here in the U.S. In effect, it’s 1933 all over again. Laissez faire is no longer an option. The federal government must intervene now with job creation programs, because the private sector simply isn’t doing it. Where’s Obama, the purveyor of hope and change? Branded as a socialist by the right, he’s turned out to be the ultimate elite establishment liberal: nominally progressive but a little too comfy-and-cozy with big-money interests. Do I want him to nationalize what’s left of American industry? Of course not. But I’d like him to invoke his inner FDR, risk the ire of conservatives and unions alike, and launch 21st-century versions of the WPA, NRA, CCC and other alphabet-soup programs that will put unemployed Americans to work until we gain some broad-based economic momentum. (That means not just the rich getting richer.) Caution can be a virtue in a leader, but not when people’s lives and futures are unraveling. Obama must act, and act now. Trend: anyone’s guess… Obama is an enigma.

3. The federal deficit. (Last year: #4) Yes, the colossal American deficit is officially a crisis now. Everyone is aware of the problem, but nobody is doing anything about it. We’re so seriously indebted to China that we’ve essentially become its vassal state, and our benefactor is starting to throw its weight around. At the same time, we still need to start spending on urgent items like job creation. Where will the money come from when we’re already in hock up to our national armpits? Here’s a start: slash military spending and foreign aid. Dramatically. (In an economic crisis, the needs of Americans must come first. The military is powerless to defeat terrorist armies, anyway.) The government would also be wise to start trimming all those plush federal pensions. The IRS needs to busy itself collecting a fair share of taxes from huge corporations. No loopholes. Stop state-sponsored corporate welfare (like reimbursing Goldman Sachs for 100% of its investment losses). And yes, it’s time to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich. No compromises, Mr. President… just do it. Trend: Screaming for help.

4. Plutocracy. (Last year: #3) Now that we’ve glimpsed the unsightly innards of Wall Street and government-by-lobby, we can no longer deny that the U.S. is a plutocracy. Simply stated, that means too few people command too much power and wealth. We’re a nominally liberal democratic republic ruled by a small, self-entitled, self-perpetuating elite that makes its power felt on Wall Street and K Street (home to Washington’s lobbyist community). When even a certified progressive like President Obama bows to investment banks and the pharmaceutical industry, you know we’re in trouble. Trend: Holding steady.

5. Environmental destruction. (Last year: #12) The disastrous Gulf oil spill of 2010 catapulted this issue into our consciousness once again, and that much-publicized incident turned out to be just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. Americans tend to overlook the ongoing destruction of remote rainforests, coral reefs, rivers and wetlands (not to mention the wild creatures that inhabit them) because most of the destruction is taking place far from our back yards. Eventually we’ll realize that we’ve ransacked a wondrous planet, but by then it will be too late to do anything about it. (And we’re not equipped to start colonizing distant planets just yet.) We need to work toward establishing and enforcing international environmental regulations, because the Earth belongs to all of us. Trend: Increasing, with no end in sight.

6. Radical Islam. (Last year: #2) Two important things have happened since 2010 to drop this item further down the list: the spontaneous, unanticipated and hearteningly secular “Arab Spring” revolts that have been sweeping across the Muslim world… and the termination of terrorist honcho Osama bin Laden. Radical Islam is still a threat wherever it exists, but the Arab Spring has revealed that vast numbers of Arabs (and especially young Arabs) aspire to the freedom and liberality of Western cultures. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the revolution is struggling to prevail in more benighted corners of the region, and that the jihadists still wield significant power. Look for more terrorist incidents as the crumbling old guard flails at its adversaries. But the Arab world is no longer a monochromatic picture of reactionary religious fanaticism, and that’s cause for celebration. Trend: Set for a long-term decline despite predictable (and increasingly isolated) flare-ups of Islamist fervor.

7. Multiple endless wars. (New this year) We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for a decade now, with no endgame in sight, and we’re still ensconced in Iraq. Now we’re participating in airstrikes over Libya and conducting a covert war in Yemen. Even a madman like Hitler only fought on two fronts, and it was more than his crackerjack military could handle. How many military engagements can we manage simultaneously without breaking ourselves?  How can we justify risking still more American lives in dead-end conflicts? Afghanistan seemed like a noble enterprise at first, but it’s finally clear that we’re stuck in a quagmire comparable to Vietnam. We still haven’t learned that guerrilla fighters never surrender; they have no infrastructure to bomb and no capital to occupy, so we’d have to gun them down to the last man. And when we can’t trust the “legitimate” government we’re fighting for, it’s time to cut the cord. The United States simply can’t control and fine-tune all world events to its specifications. That’s a surefire prescription for a fatal overextension of our resources.

8. Illegal immigration. (Last year: #7) Call me a “nativist” if you like, but I don’t think the mass incursion of undocumented Hispanic immigrants bodes well for our national health. Given the disparity in birth rates betweeen the native-born and Hispanic immigrant populations, the U.S. will increasingly take on the attributes of a Latin American nation. That means a less-educated populace and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, with the added element of cultural friction between Anglos and Latinos. (On the plus side, at least we might get into the salubrious habit of taking siestas.) We don’t need to overreact, but we shouldn’t just be rolling over and accepting the new order. We need to make the U.S. less appealing as a destination for illegal immigrants. Trend: The number of new illegal immigrants has declined somewhat, but their population within the U.S. (including their undocumented children) continues to grow at a rapid clip.

9. Outsourcing and downsizing. (Last year: #10) Sure, let’s export all our manufacturing and white-collar jobs to help the struggling populations of developing nations. How altruistic of our big corporations! Meanwhile, all those jobless Americans won’t have the money to buy all those imported goods. We need to reward companies for keeping their jobs in the U.S. and punish them for going abroad. I’d gladly pay slightly higher prices for U.S.-produced goods, wouldn’t you? As for downsizing, it’s time we abandoned the warped perception that corporations exist solely to make money for their investors… they need to honor their stakeholders (including employees), not just their shareholders. Trend: Still unchecked.

10. Cultural degeneracy. (Last year: #6) Movies, TV, pop music, video games and high art have combined to forge a decadent culture that worships all the most loathsome and idiotic idols. Do I believe in having fun? Absolutely. (This isn’t The New Puritan, after all.) But we also need to restore respect and affection for the nobler virtues, or we’ll crumble, as the Romans did, from internal and external assaults that we’re too weak to withstand. Do I sound like an alarmist? You bet. Trend: Still increasing, but bumped down the list by even more urgent issues.

11. The Great Demographic Shift. (New this year) It’s a given that wealthy and middle-class folks have fewer children than poor people, but the gap has already reached crisis proportions in Europe and we’re looking at a similar trend in the U.S. On top of that, medical advances are boosting our life expectancies so that we can now look forward, on average, to 15 years of retirement. (When Social Security arrived on the scene in the 1930s, the average American didn’t even make it to retirement age.) How will a stricken and shrinking middle class support burgeoning numbers of poor and elderly Americans? Don’t ask me; I’m just the messenger, not a prognosticator. But my personal recommendation is that middle-class folks start ditching the birth control while poor people start discovering it. Trend: Increasing, especially over the long term.

12. Potential class warfare. (Last year: #14) The old American class hierarchy with its nearly invisible boundaries is splitting, like some great ice sheet, into upper and lower castes as mid-status jobs trickle away. Educated elites will continue to marry among themselves and produce increasingly elite offspring with formidable SAT scores. Downward mobility is already becoming a way of life for the rest of us. The two castes will despise each other, naturally… and resentments will simmer until they start bubbling over. Trend: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

13. Manmade global warming. (Last year: #15) When we have to navigate the streets of New York and London by gondola, maybe the skeptics will finally believe. Unfortunately, this subject appears to be owned by zealots with a vested interest in promoting their faith. (Witness the recently exposed cover-up of “inconvenient” data that contradicted global warming.) We need to hear unbiased, purely scientific opinions on the subject, if such a thing is possible. Still, the empirical evidence is convincing enough: steadily retreating glaciers, earlier spring blooming seasons and crazy-violent weather (like the catastrophic 2011 tornado season). Trend: Heating up, just like the planet.

14. Polarization. (Last year: #5) What a difference a year makes! During the 2010 campaigns, strident and divisive Tea Partiers seemed to be in the catbird seat. Sarah Palin was gathering momentum for a presidential bid. Glenn Beck ruled the airwaves. And the snooty rancor emanating from the left only aggravated the problem.  What happened? Conservatives won their predictable victories in November, so they could no longer position themselves as an insurgency of outsiders. Palin never quite recovered from having targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on her infamous “crosshairs” map. Beck lost listeners and found himself expelled from key markets. Yes, moderate candidates still face formidable obstacles within their own parties, but the extremists no longer dominate the public dialogue the way they did last year. Trend: Declining, at least for now.

15. Political correctness. (Last year: #8) For a while it looked as if the PC police were a resurgent force in our polarized red-blue culture. The melodramatic liberal-left overreaction to Arizona’s immigration law was a case in point. The sensitivities of militant special-interest “communities” (blacks, gays, feminists, Native Americans, even the handicapped — see #17) still tend to stifle our freedom of speech, inadvertently or not. And of course the world of academia, at least in the liberal arts, still falls under the dominion of dedicated multiculti leftists. But given all the other hot issues on our Vigilance List, I’ve had to drop political correctness down several notches. Trend: Still with us, but hardly worth any loss of sleep at this point.

16. Racism. (Last year: #11) And I mean black racism as well as white racism. The U.S. is far too race-conscious as a society, and we’re much too inclined to close ranks with our skin-brothers when trouble is brewing. Sure, it’s human nature to instinctively favor our own group, but it’s time to override our instincts and think about impartial justice instead. End of sermon. Trend: Still cooling off after some high-profile flare-ups back in 2009 (the Henry Louis Gates arrest, the Philadelphia swim club incident, the New Black Panthers, Glenn Beck’s race-related tirades against Obama). But have we entered a post-racial America? Nope.

17. “Community”-based allegiance. (New this year) It used to be, in a more innocent time, that nearly all Americans identified themselves as Americans, plain and simple. Yes, we came from a multitude of backgrounds, and we honored our ancestors, but our allegiance to the Stars and Stripes trumped everything else. It also used to be that a community was the place where you lived, plain and simple. You made your home in your community and enjoyed the cozy feeling of belonging there. No longer: now we’ve splintered into a motley assemblage of special-identity “communities” based on race, politics, gender and sexual orientation. We identify with our identity group, plain and simple. We align ourselves politically with the interests of our group, which are generally one-sided, frequently narcissistic and increasingly oblivious to the fact that all of us are Americans. This is a dangerous development, and we should keep an eye on it. Whatever we do, let’s not start thinking of ourselves as members of the “moderate community.” Agreed? Trend: Developing slowly, but probably approaching a tipping point.

Bumped from the list: The angry white Religious Right (#9 last year); Creeping socialism (#12 last year). Gone but not forgotten.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. Priscilla permalink
    June 11, 2011 12:07 am

    Ok, #2 is where I disagree with you almost 100%. The alternative to more Keynesian stimulus ( which has failed spectacularly under both Bush and Obama) is not laissez-faire, it is the implementation of pro-growth policies. I am not talking about hand-in-glove corporatism, which, I do agree with you, is killing the free market, but genuine private sector development. The government simply cannot inject money into the economy without first taking money out of the economy (or borrowing more money fromChina). You can’t take money out of your left pocket, put it in your right pocket, and say that you have more money….especially when you are transfering money from the productive sector of the economy to the government, unquestionably the least efficient, most wasteful employer of all.

    This is not necessarily a Democrat/Republican thing…Reagan and Clinton were both pro-growth. Bush and Obama, both corporatists. But, right now, the Democrat party is definitely NOT pro-growth. It is flat-out committed to unlimited deficit growth. Very bad.

    I would also take out #9, which is just a side effect of a bad business environment. And, conservationist that I am, I hate to quibble with #5, but I think that we are focusing on the wrong environmental issues. #15 and #16 are basically the same thing…just combine them. #8 should be moved up to 4 or 5. #13 is just not supported by the scientific data…there may very well be something there, but it needs to be separated from the political agenda of the left.

    Otherwise, I totally agree with you 😉

    • June 13, 2011 6:22 pm

      Priscilla: Glad we agree on a few things, but I had a feeling you’d take issue with my #2 concern here. My question for you: How would federal job creation programs take money from anyone’s pockets? Remember, I’m advocating cutting WAY back on spending in other areas to accommodate this new New Deal, so we wouldn’t be increasing taxes beyond eliminating corporate loopholes and letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire. If those federal job programs focus on areas of the private sector where nobody is hiring these days (construction, for example), private enterprise wouldn’t be losing out. If anything, those programs would put money in the pockets of unemployed and underemployed Americans, so they’d feel more confident about spending (and boost American business revenues). Seems like a win-win situation to me.

      As for the environment, I’m not really enthusiastic about those tangled and costly regulations on acceptable emission levels and the like. I’m more concerned about the destruction of fragile habitats in places like South America, Africa and Indonesia… not to mention the continued slaughter of endangered tigers, rhinos and other irreplaceable species to satisfy the huge (and idiotic) market for traditional Asian medicines. I know I risk sounding like a PETA crackpot, but I think we need to make poaching of endangered species a capital offense. We also have to force China and other Far East countries to mandate medical education programs for believers in folk medicine to slash demand for animal parts.

      Global warming is incontrovertible… the issue is whether it’s caused by human industry. I agree with you that the left is too agenda-driven on this issue to be trustworthy, but meanwhile the glaciers are still melting, the temperate latitudes are warming up, and the tropical seas are dying. I don’t know how much we can do at this point to reverse the damage, but we have to try.

      • Priscilla permalink
        June 13, 2011 11:41 pm

        Well, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to have a government jobs program in the face of almost 10% unemployment. During an employment slump as deep as ours, there are some compelling reasons to support the creation of temporary, low paid public jobs as an alternative to collecting unemployment. There are risks, since someone doing a low-paid temporary job has less time to seek more fitting permanent employment. But the risks are not so large that I would be unwilling to try such a program…BUT, the time for this has passed. The $1 trillion stimulus was supposed to do exactly that, but, instead, it was used 1)to prop up existing federal and state jobs and public union pensions 2) as a slush fund to finance and reward companies and organizations favored by the Obama administration and 3) maintain a lot of useless and wasteful government program.

        I guess my point is that I uderstand what you are suggesting, and I don’t necessarily disagree with you…but the fact is, that the government cannot create wealth – it can only redistribute it. Job creation and wealth creation happens in the private sector, particularly in small and mid-size businesses. The real estate broker that I have always used once employed 34 agents. It now employs 10. Those 24 jobs are not going to be recreated by the government.

        The other issue is unionism, permitting, and regulation. Public sector unions are going to fiercely resist any attempt to create low paid temporary jobs that could be done by well paid government workers who have excellent benefits and job security. Even if you could surmount union opposition, the red tape of government would kill the program. It takes months to get hired for a job with the federal government. It takes months to ramp up a new program. By the time you got your WPA through Congress, over union objections, civil service waivers, bidding waivers, etc….it would be 2012.

        Quickly, re: global warming…if it is not man-made, how do we stop it? And do we know that is destructive? I’m a skeptic here…I want real scientific data, not boogey-man scare tactics.

    • June 14, 2011 11:45 am

      Priscilla, I like the way you approach issues, especially your 6/13 comment. In any case, the reason for my entry today is to ask if you and others will take a look at the NCP website, http://www.NationalCentristParty.org, and provide your feedback, presumably by mail to my address, scottehredt@NationalCP.org. Or, maybe Rick will open a thread so we can put the NCP offering through its paces? I welcome being asked tough questions about it.

  2. June 11, 2011 12:27 pm

    The National Centrist Party approach is to let members identify what the issues are and which need to be addressed first. If you’re interested in politics that are driven by voters instead of special interest, get signed up. Centrist and Moderate Independents have the numbers to reshape politics if we will only get organized. And the NCP offers a means to accomplish this. But people reading this must be willing to take easy steps like getting signed up.

    • Kent Garshwiler permalink
      June 13, 2011 10:30 am

      Scott,

      I am unfamiliar with your National Centrist Party. I am curious.

      I started forming the idea of the NCP in spreadsheets, flag design and philosophy around Oct. 2009.

      It is good to see others thinking of a new political party in order to combat the two ineffective party’s. It is often said that one thinking in the world….another is also somewhere else thinking the same thing.

      Instead to bring everyone in to share thoughts and to improve the overall human intelligence as a whole is a doorway to a better life.

      Current Party’s:
      They keep smashing each other in politics and hopefully will not notice that it is a much needed bigger party that can one day smash them both because we are not inclined to leave anyone out. It is amazing that ideology based on either Religious or Humanist principles has begun to separate our country. The first President mentioned that he was concerned over a country becoming a two party system. I don’t think he knew the scope of the bias of either party that would divide our nation today. If he did he would of been a prophet.

    • Kent Garshwiler permalink
      June 13, 2011 11:22 am

      Scott,

      My philosophy was actually begun in Oct. 2007. I wrote a speech for “Toastmasters’ that month. After speaking about the “divide” I saw coming in politics and how I saw a broken system of government….I was asked what the title was to the speech. I didn’t have one….I quickly said “Change” when sitting down. That is what started it all.

      Little did I know that the next month, a person called “Barack Obama” was using the same theme in the start for the 2008 Pres. Elect.. When I heard about his message…I was shocked! The more I heard of his “Change” was more ideology biased than constructive for all. From then on I knew that “Change” is anything different than the current norm. When you mix it with good intentions…. “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

    • June 13, 2011 8:45 pm

      Scott: I’ve been meaning to get back to you, so I might as well do it here. I’m all in favor of a third party for a number of reasons: 1) As we know, moderates are being marginalized by partisan ideologues as “in name only” candidates; they’ve become almost unelectable. 2) Both the Republicans and the Democrats are currently in bed with lobbyists who essentially buy their favors. I know you insist that Centrist candidates stay away from lobbyists, and that’s great. (I’d take it a step further and criminalize any exchange of money between lobbyists and representatives.) 3. Neither major party is currently representing the interests of ordinary middle-class Americans, which is absurd when you think about the numbers we represent. As my brother put it, there has to be a middle ground between favoring the rich and paying impoverished single women to have more babies.

      Your party faces some formidable obstacles, though: no new American political party has amounted to more than a blip on the political scene since the Republicans in the 1850s. I think the NCP is a valiant cause, and it’s probably more viable than most of the transient third parties that have appeared from time to time. But it’ll be an uphill struggle convincing anyone to pour substantial funds into a new party. Can it be done at the grassroots level? Can you convince big-name moderate politicians to defect to the NCP? The key might be to crystallize the party around a dynamic centrist candidate who can personify its ideals and win financial (as well as electoral) support.

      Electoral… that reminds me of perhaps the biggest obstacle. The Centrist candidate for president has to be able to win electoral votes, which means finishing first in a given state. Second or third place won’t cut it. How does a third-party candidate win a state? Maybe the NCP needs to start electing local and state candidates first. Put a handful of Centrists in the House or Senate, and an NCP president won’t seem so farfetched.

      Good luck, and let me know if I can help you by writing any opinion pieces promoting your party.

      • June 13, 2011 10:42 pm

        I agree with your assessment and have some clarifying comments.

        Regarding no party replacing the dominant ones in the last 150 years, one wonders also if the outer parties have ever been so far apart as they are today. Spurred by their own echo chambers to move further from the center, they create a political vacuum, which is an opportunity for a centrist 3rd party.

        Concerning money, so far we have $20,000 from major donors waiting to be matched according to our financial plan which calls for ordinary folks like you and me to kick in just $10 per month. That’s all it will take…just $10/month by eventually 4 million centrists offers a billion dollars per election cycle. That is enough to fund every federal house and senate race. We need to create a critical mass of people and money one conversation and one member at a time. Signing up just says that you want to see the idea of the NCP pursued. It can be free, it is easy, and it doesn’t ask that anyone give up any current affiliations they may have. Every new member and contribution makes it easier to convince the next person to sign up and contribute.

        We’ll work at the grassroots level but will take our lucky breaks wherever they may come from.

        Regarding “Electoral” challenges, you are essentially asking how we see success. Naturally, it would be a dream come true if the NCP went viral and Americans brushed off the outer parties. But another very real measure of success would be just to achieve 5 million well-disciplined members that could swing most elections. This ability would provide support to moderate R’s and D’s, who were willing to support centrist positions like ranked choice voting, balanced budget amendment, and campaign finance reform. Ultimately, the way I think we win elections is by offering a political process that isn’t repulsive so that talented and successful (recent) retirees are willing to start campaigns for positions they are overqualified for. If someone is qualified for Federal Senate seat, they should run for the house. If they are qualified to be president, they should run for Senate, etc.

        You and each of your readers could be of tremendous help. Just go to our sight and get signed up, thereby demanding government from the informed center and reform of the political process. Support us with just $10/month, which is at the same time trivial and crucial. Your help is most welcome.

  3. June 11, 2011 12:48 pm

    There is a common theme to what is right and what is wrong through your entire list. You trust far away Muslims to get things right on their own, but you do not trust you kids. In most instances you trust in government rather than free people. The sole purpose of government is to secure our individual liberty as Jefferson eloquently expressed in the Declaration.
    I am constantly calling you out as a closet liberal rather than the moderate your blog title claims, because it is clear that in your heart you trust government more than individuals, and you do this despite evidence you supply.

    What has government down to prevent or to recover from economic downturns that has worked ? Given all the false promises that have been made in that respect, why would you believe that recovery is inside the power of government. ?

    In almost all the items on your list the theme is absent government intervention we face doom.
    Even in those instances we agree, you still insist – despite your own evidence on misdiagnosing the causes or cures.

    I am angry, and depressed, I see the world as dark dangerous and foreboding, yet by comparison I am an optimist. Everything that worries you will work out. Despite government and because of individuals in ten, twenty thirty years, my life, my children’s, my countries and that of the world will be overall better than it is today – just as today it is better than it was ten, twenty, thirty years ago, and has been since the importance of individual liberty and the subservience of government, started to form in the minds of western civilisation.

    So long as so many like you believe that the solution rather than the problem lies with government – against your own evidence to the contrary, progress in those areas in which you empower the most will be the least.

    • June 13, 2011 11:00 pm

      dhlii: I know you think I’m a MINO (Moderate in Name Only), but let me try to explain my positions. Overall, I believe our country has shifted too far to the right in the financial/economic sphere, and too far to the left in the social/cultural sphere. As a moderate, my vision is to yank those two runaway spheres back to the center.

      I can’t understand how anyone who has witnessed the abuses of Wall Street and corporate America during the past decade can still trust an unregulated capitalist/corporatist system to represent the interests of most Americans. We’re a plutocracy now. We’re already in the midst of the Second Gilded Age, with a spread between rich and poor that hasn’t been seen since before World War I. Our middle class is being squeezed out of existence by corporate downsizing, outsourcing, healthcare costs, successful lobbying by big-money interests, a decade of stock market doldrums (except for rich hedge fund managers and their clients), and outrageous banking practices. Banks are charging up to 30% interest when we borrow money from them, while they pay us less than 1% when they borrow from US. This is naked usury, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

      Most important, the private sector simply isn’t hiring. It’s not because of heavy taxation (what did GE pay last year? Zilch!)… it’s because companies are totally beholden to the whims of their investors and dare not squander precious revenue by adding to their payroll. The tail is wagging the dog.

      If the private sector isn’t hiring, SOMEBODY must step in to fill the gap and put our unemployed citizens to work. The only “somebody” in a position to hire is the federal government. The current rate of unemployment and underemployment is simply unacceptable. As I wrote in my current column, the federal job programs would be a temporary measure until the newly employed workers start spending enough to assure corporate America that it’s safe to start hiring again.

      By the way, it’s not a question of my trusting the government more than I trust the people; it’s that I trust the government more than I trust the corporate and financial establishment.

      Thanks for keeping me on my toes. I honestly hope your optimism is warranted.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    June 12, 2011 12:03 pm

    By the way, this is what I mean when I say that we are focusing on the wrong environmental issues, and that the Obama administration is killing the private sector (and consumers) with overregulation. If you like bigger government, you have to love Obama:

    “Consumers could see their electricity bills jump an estimated 40 to 60 percent in the next few years.
    The reason: Pending environmental regulations will make coal-fired generating plants, which produce about half the nation’s electricity, more expensive to operate. Many are expected to be shuttered.
    The increases are expected to begin to appear in 2014, and policymakers already are scrambling to find cheap and reliable alternative power sources. If they are unsuccessful, consumers can expect further increases as more expensive forms of generation take on a greater share of the electricity load.”
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-0612-rates-20110611,0,7432941.story

    Billions and billions from the “stimulus” were directed towards “green energy” companies, most heavily invested in by Democrats. No real jobs were created and, so far, no aternative clean energy sources developed……but, in the meantime, moratoriums on drilling and the destruction of the country’s coal industry has left us with the prospect of skyrocketing energy costs, It’s awful.

  5. June 12, 2011 1:37 pm

    If we consider the entire list, we’ll never be in agreement. The country can’t focus on such a wider array of issues anyway. And when we try to do this, each party just spins the election result. What we need to do is concentrate the collective mind of the electorate on 1-4 of the top issues facing America so that an election result actually means something….then address those issues according to what it is voters actually want.

    In the above, all three of the top issues are about keeping the economy humming so Americans can maintain a high standard of living. But if either party could actually control the economy they would do so in a way that prevented any future recession, thereby all but ensuring their everlasting control of power. Of course, neither party has been able to do this in part because both approaches are flawed: 1. Too much control by government as advocated by Dems stifles the economy, while 2. Too little control as advocated by the Reps leads to predatory situations like the lending failed banks did. Still, they have each proven that government cannot control the economy. Thus, issue #1 and #2 are largely out of scope. But what the government can but won’t do is the simple act of balancing the budget.

    That’s why the National Centrist Party makes a principle of focusing the minds of voters on just the most important issues facing America, as ranked by NCP members themselves. Because our fiscal outlook is so far out of whack and there are so many components to putting it back in shape, it would be a tremendous accomplishment if the 2012 election and the ensuing Congress were to address only this one issue is a lasting way. If we could, over the next 18 months, focus primarily on this one topic, we could probably get 70-80% of Americans to sign on to a plan to balance the budget and return American to sound fiscal footing. That’s what the NCP offers: long-term, common-sense solutions that take into account the truth that exists along the left-right political spectrum and that can be embraced by 70-80% of the people.

    • Kent Garshwiler permalink
      June 13, 2011 10:45 am

      Scott,

      I agree that balancing a budget is the main problem at this point. Unfortunately, we don’t have 18 months to budget. Aug. 2 is a date has been set as a must balance budget date.

      Many have made this date important in that what they fear is not done (budget) will give negative readings across many markets. It will effect those that are not inclined to think of Aug. 2 as important.

      It is a psyche (in the mind) set date. When people are caught up in this date and our government reps. can’t figure out how to pay for the expenses. You have lost the trust of some.

      These are grownup Representatives that think they are leaders over the people. Yet, some are scared to tell the people the costs of budgeting. Afraid they may lose their jobs. They get great benefits. $140k plus, insurance, parking spaces, and many other benefits. It’s like a business in many ways. I don’t think the founders intended the Congress to be a Corporate-like organization. But I digress, are the government politicians becoming “individual profit without individual responsibility”?

      • Priscilla permalink
        June 13, 2011 12:27 pm

        “But I digress, are the government politicians becoming “individual profit without individual responsibility”?

        In a word, yes.

  6. Kent Garshwiler permalink
    June 13, 2011 10:05 am

    Rick and Everyone,
    I believe that Rick is only showing what is of concern over the “whole picture” of what he sees are issues to be kept on the list to review in the future.

    It is common sense that you can’t debate all at once, so it then becomes a “one-at-a-time” debate.

    Which one’s to debate first must be the one that affects most people in the most time. Money is a daily worry and that means budgets must be “checked”. Obtaining the money is jobs. When you have a job…you have taxes. Taxes is back to a national budget, and other items.

    Everything is connected in some form.

    It makes sense now that we haven’t had a national budget for 18 months on time. Aug. 2 is the default date I hear and still I hear nothing from Congress except it is someone else’s fault.

    • June 13, 2011 11:29 pm

      Kent: Good observation that everything is connected. That’s why I take the ostensibly immoderate position of advocating federal intervention on the employment front. We need to put people back to work en masse… we can’t wait for the private sector to come around.

      Once we give jobs to all those marginalized Americans, they’ll start spending AND paying taxes. The former should help the private sector gain enough confidence to start hiring again, and the latter should help trim our deficit. But the machinery has to be set in motion, and I think the government needs to step in, as it did back in 1933, until we pass through this crisis.

  7. sicklygreyfoot permalink
    June 14, 2011 10:06 pm

    I’m ambivalent about #2, but with all the rest I’m in complete concurrence.

    Good post, Mr. Bayan.

    grey

    • June 15, 2011 11:06 pm

      greyfoot: Even I’m ambivalent about #2, but I’m afraid that only a New Deal-style government intervention is going to relieve the unemployment crisis at this point. Of course, I wouldn’t advocate intervention without also cutting the federal budget in other areas (e.g., wars, foreign aid, pensions and welfare) and ending the tax breaks and loopholes I mentioned so we can raise more revenue.

  8. Priscilla permalink
    June 15, 2011 8:08 am

    Ok, I’m going to link to a video here, which tries, in a pretty creative and amusing way, to illustrate the differences between Keynesian vs Free-market economics. Full dislcosure: I consider Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” to be one of the main books that has influenced my thinking on economics…more recent economists of this school have been Milton Friedman (Rutgers ’32 – yay!) and Thomas Sowell….Sowell, in particular writes in a very accessible way, i.e. eyes don’t glaze over, as with most economic theory, lol.

    Interesting that, at the end of the video, Keynes ends up the “winner” and is swarmed by the “media,” while Hayek is congratulated by the folks without the cameras and microphones….the “people”? The guy who looks just like Ben Bernanke seems pleased with Keynes’s victory 😉 http://youtu.be/GTQnarzmTOc

    I guess, for me, the difference is that Keynesians believe that any economic activity is good,and will jump start the system….supply-siders believe that economic activity can be destructive if it does not result in production and profit. There is an economic parable, often cited by Friedman, known as the “broken window fallacy” : a child throws a rock and it breaks a shopkeeper’s window. The shopkeeper has to pay to have it repaired, and, as a result, money is paid to the repairman, who spends it on other goods or services. The Keynesian may say that breaking windows is good, because it spurs economic activity. The supply-sider says that now the shopkeeper cannnot spend that money helping to build his business or pay himself or his workers……..

  9. June 15, 2011 10:12 am

    Cute video, and well produced, too. Obviously they’re pointing to Hayek as the good guy (and of course he gets no respect, so we sympathize with his ideas). In the best of all possible worlds, Hayek would be right — it’s better to generate economic activity from the bottom up, not from the top down. But this is no longer the best of all possible worlds; the system has been corrupted by corporatism, lobbying, globalism, Wall Street machinations and a host of other impurities.

    I’m certainly not a believer in Keynesian master planning, and I endorse the idea that economic activity should be productive (where does that leave the hedge fund managers and investment bankers, I wonder). But if the government hadn’t stepped in to bail out the system in 2008, we could have witnessed a massive economic collapse that would have made the current recession look like a lawn party. I’m not enough of a purist to risk disaster for the sake of economic principles.

    Even with our less disastrous but still-lingering “recession” (which is looking more and more like a depression to me), capitalism hasn’t been putting nearly enough people to work. People have to work, and if the private sector isn’t giving them the chance, the government should step in with a temporary fix until people feel secure enough to start spending again. This isn’t the same as Keynesian top-down planning… think of it more as a fire company putting out a fire.

    Our old fellow-alum Milton Friedman probably placed too much faith in a system that was already corrupted beyond repair. Even pure, untarnished capitalism is subject to bubbles, panics and other disasters that probably could be averted with a litttle more regulation. I’ll have to read more about Hayek, though. I know next to nothing about him… thanks for the lead.

    • Priscilla permalink
      June 16, 2011 8:34 am

      No question, the video is pro- Hayek (why do you think I linked to it, haha?) but I think it makes the point that, in today’s media-driven world, Keynesian stimulus plans are too often described as “the only way out of this recession”….and that, frankly, is simply not true, and reveals a significant level of bias (and/or ignorance) on the part of the media. If it were true, the first stimulus and QE2 (aka inflation-driver) would have gotten the economy back on track – or at least BEGUN to do so, and the reality is that we are now likely headed into a second downturn, with the prospects of higher taxes and skyrocketing energy prices to go along with the unrelenting joblessness and horrifying deficit. Isn’t it at least reasonable to try JFK’s approach, if not Reagan’s – lower taxes in order to spur spending and investment? It has worked everytime it has been tried, so far….

      “”Our tax system still siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power and reduces the incentive for risk, investment and effort – thereby aborting our recoveries and stifling our national growth rate.” ~ JFK 1-24-1963

  10. valdobiade permalink
    June 16, 2011 4:15 pm

    I think that this whole conception of taxes is totally distorted in the US. And it got worse since the “Tea Party” party. The original message of Tea Party in 1750 was “No Taxation Without Representation!” But I guess that the US history is again read by Palin.

    Are not the lobbyists the representation? OOPS, I forgot that lobbyists actually want *no taxation* , only representation. Corporations don’t want to be taxed, only the population… because you see… corporations are giving jobs to the population and the population should carry the burden of paying for Defense of the United States.

    But here are no more jobs for population, so the government needs to tax somebody… Otherwise the corporations will say: “You know what? Forget the government; we will take the Defense of the US in our own hands!” But I think that is already happening… see Iraq war and Halliburton…

    • Priscilla permalink
      June 17, 2011 8:15 am

      It’s about time that you showed up on this thread, valdo 😉

      • valdobiade permalink
        June 17, 2011 1:05 pm

        You betcha! 🙂

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