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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hate politics vs Budget Discussion

What makes me disgusted about politics in the USA these days is the hate and anger and the focus by both the right and the left on destroying the other side rather than having a meaningful debate. Never mind the loonies like Glen Beck or Sarah Palin or the left wing loonies (I don’t even know who they are) but even congressional politicians and the talking heads on the cable news media like MSNBC and Fox News seem to have no interest on debating ideas, only hitting home on the other side for whatever stupid points they can find to attack.

Thomas Friedman has it right when he says, “there is something deeply wrong about Mitch McConnell, saying that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”. Why is this more important than “to mitigate the recession… and to put the country on a path to sustainable economic growth”?

There is also something deeply wrong when the right is in such a murderous rage about the left, about Obama and Pelosi, about Health care and the stimulus, that Sarah can propose that conservatives should “reload” and she then puts rifle cross hairs on the names of several liberal legislators. Murder threats result and John McCain supports her on it.

This anger and rage is not about Health Care or the Stimulus. It is a (in the words of Frank Rich) “tsunami of anger which is illogical”, given for example, that much of rage is about what the right calls “Obamacare” when “the bill does not erect a huge New Deal-Great Society-style government program. In lieu of a public option, it delivers 32 million newly insured Americans to private insurers.” The Wall Street Journal says “the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas.”

No, much of the anger and hatred “is about fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country” and it would occur “no matter what policies were in play”. It is about “the conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman” (says Frank Rich). These are the underlying causes. When the Tea Party says “we want to take the country back”, this is who they want to take it back from.

And the anger is about hating government, about the conservative obsession with cutting spending and shrinking government, repealing the health care bill, ending bailouts, and to achieve that, anything goes, including threats and murders.

Enough already! Can’t we be adults here?

We do have some serious issues to solve and we need to recognize that there are differing, valid, views on how to do that. I don’t necessarily agree with the conservative agenda but I know many people do and I respect that. The need to address the deficit and other issues are clearly important to a lot of people, many of whom felt the democrats swung too far too fast after the 2008 election, as shown by the recent mid-term elections. We need to acknowledge the election results and shift course. We live in a democracy.

Look, there can be a reasonable debate and there can some compromise-middle of the road solutions.

We need to work on them.

Here is an example: The budget deficit.

The NYT published an analysis in the form of a puzzle which allows you to make the spending and tax cut choices you feel are right to solve the budget deficit. New York Times Budget Puzzle . I did this exercise and found it fun and educational. Most interesting is that I was able to chose some cuts and taxes changes which resulted in a solution to the budget deficit, changes which I feel we could all live with. I know however that my conservative friends would probably make different choices. So why can’t we bring our solutions to the table and debate these differences, and in the end let the democratic process be the decider. Who knows, we might agree on most of it and produce a compromise on the rest which everyone could vote for.

Here is how any of us can start this process. Invite some of your friends over to your house some night, friends with views different from yours, the friends ones you don’t talk politics to because it is always incendiary, for a bottle of wine and a fun, rousing, political discussion on the budget deficit. Bring the NYT puzzle to represent your choices. Get into it. Don’t expect agreement but expect to exchange views. Don’t get hot, have fun. Remember, these are your friends; you want to keep them friends. Maybe, in the end, after everyone goes home, some views will change slightly, and maybe some respect will be granted. Maybe. Its worth a try because the path we are now on is terrifying.

Fred Roswold

Links to sources of this story:
New York Times Opinons
Frank Rich Columns
Frank Rich on Illogical Opposition to Health Care
Thomas Friedman Columns
Thomas Friedman "I think I can Fly"
The NYT Budget Puzzle


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Fred,
I remember watching you go out for every Wed. night beer can race when I lived aboard my Cape Geo 36 "Maripiosa" in Shilshole.

Here are a few websites you may be interested in if you want to move beyond Friedman's level of understanding of the US political/economic situation:

Fair winds,
Richard Elder

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:43 PM  

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