Paralysis in Washington

While some members of the House Republican “suicide caucus” shrug their shoulders in, one hopes, feigned nonchalance, and media outlets sputter that anxieties over the shutdown of the federal government are overblown, more than 800,000 other Americans are wondering when they are going to see their next paycheck. In New York harbor, Lady Liberty, like other federal park facilities across the nation, has gone dark; and hundreds of cancer patients, including 30 children each week, have been locked out of their last-resort treatment at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center. What little time—and hope—these patients have left is burning away while a gang of House Republicans fiddles with the American government.

These are just a handful of the pernicious effects of the shutdown that resulted on Oct. 1 after the G.O.P’s latest effort to obstruct the Affordable Care Act. The closing of the federal government not only shuts down so-called nonessential services, like nutrition aid to women, infants and children, it also means that a federal flow of $3 billion a day into the already twitchy American economy has been cut off.

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A Republican fringe has generated a major legislative impasse, holding the national economy and majority rule hostage to an idée fixe on the Affordable Care Act, a law that has been passed by Congress, vetted by the Supreme Court and signed into effect by a now twice-elected president. This is a law intended to provide health insurance and care to previously unmoored citizens and legal residents. It deploys a free-market model once endorsed by Republicans in a manner consistent with other liberal democracies since the late 19th century, an era many in Congress seem eager to revisit. If Congress’s health care extortionists are able to achieve even a “compromise” remnant of the ransom they seek, it could mean that government by fiscal hostage-taking will become a regular and profoundly destabilizing feature of U.S. political life.

The U.S. bishops, unhappy themselves with the A.C.A.’s contraception mandate, nonetheless were aghast at the political breakdown. In a letter to Congress on Oct. 1, they reminded the nation’s legislators that the proper role of government is to “make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life,” including food, clothing, heath care, education and culture. “In our country today, millions of Americans struggle to meet these basic needs, through no fault of their own, as a result of an economy that continues to fail to create sufficient economic opportunities,” the bishops wrote, adding that internationally, millions more rely on “life saving” aid from the United States. “This work must continue,” the bishops said, “and human needs must be met.”

In other words: Get back to work. A shutdown may make good political theater, but it is an unconscionable burden on those least able to bear it. A tolerance for some factionalism and legislative log-jamming is programmed into the nation’s constitutional DNA, but this month’s paralysis, joining other recent examples of ongoing dysfunction, the “sequestration” failure and the ascendance of the fake filibuster, begins to call into question the effectiveness of the two-party system itself. Many Republican representatives come from conservative districts where the only significant threat to re-election comes from Tea Party challengers in the primaries—a dynamic that tends to produce ever higher levels of ideological purity.

The Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case has allowed a handful of plutocrats to become major players on national social policy; and the permanent election cycle means that members of Congress are forever scurrying back to their base, however indifferent that base may be to compromise, good government or even to reason. It is enough to provoke longing gazes toward European parliamentary systems. Responsible voices within the Republican Party are already trying to find a way out of this artificial standoff. But even if the nation escapes this time, it is clear that something has to change in Washington. The problem, as always, is that the people most in need of reforming are the only ones constitutionally empowered to make it happen. 

Perhaps this latest debacle will propel a popular drive to revisit congressional procedures and privileges, even to force legislation to neutralize the worst effects of the Citizens United decision. But a campaign that might result in loosening the political stranglehold of the nation’s two dominant parties will likely have to bubble up from below, as citizen initiatives lead to structural reforms at the local, then state levels. This is a reform that can only trickle up from an outraged public that deserves—and must learn how to demand—better.

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Bill Jacobs
4 years 1 month ago
This article never mentions that the House passed bills to fund National Parks, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and many other programs. Today, for example, the House voted 425-0 to restore military death benefits. Our system is set up so that one party, or one President, does not have the power to get 100% of what they demand. It is a brilliant system: a balance of power between the Executive Branch, the states through the Senate, the people through the House, and the judicial branch. The power of the purse is given to the government body closest to the people: the House of Representatives. This is intentional so that a President or the states (through the Senate) do not acquire too much power. But for this system to work, the President must be willing to negotiate and compromise, like everyone else is. It is sad to see such a divisive and less-than-truthful editorial in a Catholic magazine.
Margaret NEWMARK
4 years 1 month ago
It is a breath of fresh air to read this article and finally having a Catholic magazine speak up!
ed gleason
4 years 1 month ago
Bill Jacobs... the GOP cheap piecemeal bill scam is seen as it is.... a fake..and much to the detriment of any GOP future elections and the GOP will fold next week....as it should by sad bluffers.
ed gleason
4 years 1 month ago
Jacobs et al.. Just reported that Obama got a charity foundation to front the money, $100K each for KIA families for 'immediate relief, to make do during the GOP shut-down. . Maybe the GOP can get the Koch Bros to step up if an unfortunate raid results in more KIA. They will get refunded too. The GOP is folding on the debt limit but not the shutdown.. phew.
John Hobson
4 years 1 month ago
I am a disabled veteran, and I NEED my benefits check. If the shutdown continues, I don't think it's going to come next month. Is JP Morgan-Chase going to say, "Well, that's all right, we can wait for your mortgage payment"? No, the Republicans are acting like spoiled children, saying "We don't like the rules of this game, we are going to shut down the entire playground until you let us take five or six strikes for an out." Negotiate with them? Ronald Reagan, their alleged hero, set the standard: We do not negotiate with terrorists.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
I agree that this editorial is 100% correct in its perspective. It's unfortunate that to get us to this point -- to get those impossible ideologues elected -- Catholic teaching was distorted and exploited.
Paul Fisher
4 years 1 month ago
If the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is so abominable, then use the ordinary legislative process to repeal it. If the ACA is so terrible for the Americn people, use it to defeat the Democrats in the presidential & congressional elections. The problem: the GOP does not have the votes to repeal the Act. They did not have the votes to defeat the President in the last election. In fact they lost congressional seats in the last election!! Now, they hold the nation's economy as hostage. "Do it my way or I'll shoot the Baby!!" This is not negotiation; this is political terrorism. What if Al Gore had used similar tactics in the 2000 Presidential election because he was convinced that the vote in Florida was improperly counted? Remember the 'hanging chads'?? Should he, as President of the Senate, have refused to process and record the electoral votes?? The GOP would be the first to say "no way". That would be subverting the democratic process. But this is what the GOP is doing. They have a clean funding bill sent to the House by the Senate, but the Speaker refuses to bring it to the floor. The GOP is doing more to effect the demise of American Democracy than any foreign enemy has ever been able to do.
Todd Chaddon
4 years 1 month ago
Paul, how many times has the House repealed the act? They just don't have the votes in the Senate, so that's why it's not ever passed. That, and Harry Reid won't bring up for a vote. The only thing left is to not fund it in the first place so Americans don't get on the roles, because if they do, we will never be rid of it. At that point, it'll be political suicide for anyone to bring up ACA repeal after it's started. It seems some of the readers as well as the editorial staff who like to demonize Republicans for this shutdown. You should know that the House has been sending over specific appropriations bills but the Senate is not hearing any of it. I blame the Democrats, and especially dear leader Obama. During shut downs, actual spending is handled directly by the Executive, so any pain felt by the people is controlled directly by him. At least, that is my understanding of things. Haven't you or anyone noticed which things are being shutdown and how people are being treated by park rangers and govt workers? Do you think the EBT 'glitch' was an accident? The Administration is making everyone aware of who is running things, and all of this is orchestrated to show all of us just how much we need govt. At least, that is what they want you think. A government strong enough to give you everything is one strong enough to take everything away. You remember that before taking sides on any political debate. The government is not your friend. As George Washington is credited with saying, government is force. Pure and simple.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
If they don't have the votes in the Senate, this means that the law stands. The Senate is one partner in government, not the enemy of the House. Do you realize how ridiculous it sounds to oppose a program because you fear it will be popular? Also, do you realize that if government spending is reduced in the amounts those who currently lobby against the ACA want it reduced, those things you list as being painful are just the tip of the iceberg? If these things are making you unhappy, you are on the wrong side. This is not the President making it painful for you. It is the President prioritizing so that the luxuries of our lives are sacrificed to the necessities, just like we do at home when we lose our incomes.
Juliana Boerio-Goates
4 years 1 month ago
My daughter who serves as a legislative director for a congresswoman has come to call this piecemeal legislative approach "the Republican whack-a-mole" strategy. Wait until some constituency raises its voices loud enough that the congresspeople become afraid and then they pass narrow legislation. If Mr. Jacobs would consider the process by which ACA was passed, he would see that there were negotiations and compromises made at every stage. The legislation passed and has survived a Supreme Court challenge. The president was re-elected after the passage of the bill. The people of the US have spoken at the ballot box. Now, the Senate has passed a bill that would restart the government. Indications are that the House has enough votes to pass the Senate bill. The Republican Speaker of the House refuses to bring it forward for an up or down vote. Who is not willing to compromise here?
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
The President can negotiate and compromise when legislation is being developed or programs are being fine-tuned. However, the President should never compromise the democratic process because that would just encourage more of this extortion from minorities in Congress. If this were to become the way Congress does business, the stability of our nation would be compromised. Having the "power of the purse" does not mean that it's OK to not do the job of passing a budget; it means that the House has the responsibility to pass one.
Ed Knauf
4 years 1 month ago
Perhaps the editors of America should stick to matters Catholic, since they are obviously not well-versed in the constitutional division of powers nor are they aware of the powers which the constitution vests in the people's House, which has the constitutional authority to spend the taxpayers' funds. Your paradigm is one in which the government appropriates monies based on "continuing resolutions" which carry forward the status quo, but that is a quite recent phenomenon brought on by the failure of one side of the Capitol to pass a budget in years. That paradigm, which includes the notion that the House ought to be a rubber-stamp to the President and Senate's wishes, is simply incorrect. With respect to the ACA, it is true that it was passed by both houses of Congress, signed into law and has passed constitutional muster. But do not forget that it was principally the ACA that led the people to elect a GOP House in 2010 and again in 2012 (because a majority of Americans oppose this law, not just a "Republican fringe"). The President and you, the editors, ought not overlook these facts. We the people have elected a divided government, and so long as neither side wishes to budge rather than negotiate, the impasse will continue. But I am at a loss to understand why America would spend its limited goodwill on such a divisive issue, an issue on which there is no clear "Catholic" teaching, when there are so many issues on which there is clear "Catholic" teaching on which you remain silent.
Paul Fisher
4 years 1 month ago
Ed, Perhaps America thinks this is as important Catholic issue because the Church's teachings on Social Justice mandate a strong preference for the poor and marginalized. It is poor and the marginalized that have the most to lose from the government shutdown.
Bill Mazzella
4 years 1 month ago
Ed, The ACA led the people to elect Obama in record numbers. Not less than the popular vote as W Bush received. The new pope is talking about clear Catholic teaching which gels soundly with this editorial. Or is your direction that of a sour grapes restorationist?
Bill Mazzella
4 years 1 month ago
Republicans now have the lowest in history approval rating because of this debacle. So what logic supports that the people are behind this lunatic group. Many reasonable Republicans are rethinking their support of this fringe group. Even the Kock brothers are worrying how their own fortunes will be affected by this mad group. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/10/us/business-groups-see-loss-of-sway-over-house-gop.html?hp&gwh=83493FBA5F7A88B66BB8703E5BD103E9
geoffrey o'connell
4 years 1 month ago
This childish congressional game did not occur when Social Security, seat belts, car insurance and medicare was nationally mandated!
FRAN ABBOTT
4 years 1 month ago
The current stalemate is the result of years of poisonous and vindictive partisan politics culminating in total dysfunction. I think it is time to quit finger-pointing, clear out the playing field and start over. I will not vote for reelection of anyone currently serving in Congress. If these people cannot find some way to work together, perhaps their replacements will get the message and try harder.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
That's just foolish.
FRAN ABBOTT
4 years 1 month ago
Thank you for your opinion, but I respectfully disagree. How else fix the current broken system?
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
Removing everyone from Congress and replacing them would just as likely lead to more nonsense as people who are unqualified lead could all come in at once. People need to look carefully at candidates before electing them, but they also need to realize that voting for someone because you hate the same things as they do is not a good idea, particularly if those things are not things that elected officials can or should be addressing. Some ideas for fixing the system is public-only funding of campaigns so not only rich people and those sponsored by rich people get elected and terms limits so that people do not become dependent upon their elected positions (like John Boehner apparently has) and therefore fail to put the country's best interests ahead of their own. However, first, we need to elect people who would pass these reforms.
FRAN ABBOTT
4 years 1 month ago
My point exactly!
James Richard
4 years 1 month ago
I partly blame the USCCB, who made such an issue about the Affordable Health Care on the contraception, requirements for the insurance companies, that it help feed the right wing support of the Tea Party Republicans. The Tea Party Republicans opposed the AHC for reasons other than the contraception requirements for insurance companies, but more so because they just plain hate President Obama. They shut down government in order to get a delay in the individual coverage mandate, because they know that without the mandate, the program will not work, as it does in Massachusetts with Romney Care.
Paul Fisher
4 years 1 month ago
Concur. What happened to Catholic Social Justice?
Edward Ray
4 years 1 month ago
During the Carter administration, the government shutdown 5 TIMES, each shutdown lasting 10 days (50 days total). Democrats had control of both houses (House and Senate) at the time. This is a normal part of how our government functions when people disagree. Read the Federalist papers people, especially James Madison. Congress, in particular the House of Representatives, has the power of the purse. If this can result in more balanced budgets/surpluses and less debt, then shutdown and debt ceiling fight will have been worth it for long term health of the nation.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
http://www.npr.org/2013/09/30/227292952/a-short-history-of-government-shutdowns "...the amount of money we saved over that government shutdown literally is almost a rounding error. So we went through all of this for almost no savings..." Steve Bell, former Republican congressional aide, who is now with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, regarding the Gingrich shutdown during the Clinton administration. So, Mr. Ray, what makes you think this could possibly result in more balanced budgets/surpluses and less debt? Only increased taxes, particularly in the realm of capital gains, can do that.
Richard Savage
4 years 1 month ago
I don't understand theologians, such as the authors of this editorial. Every system of morality I'm aware of includes a prohibition against theft. I'm told there's even a Judeo-Christian commandment against it. In five years, Barack Hussein Obama has added $6 million million (no, that's not a typo) to the USA national debt. That's theft of $6 trillion dollars from future generations, who will have to pay it back. Of course, in the listless economy Obama is imposing on us (and them), it will be very difficult. On top of Medicare (going broke) and Social Security (going broke), Obama and the Democrats have rammed through, against the will of a majority of the voters, another entitlement, ObamaCare (the Unaffordable Careless Act), destined to go broke. In the meantime, after millions of dollars for development, the enrollment system doesn't work. The Catholic Church clearly needs more economists and fewer theologians. The economy has changed tremendously since the time of Thomas Aquinas; theology, not so much. Why don't you people go argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Even better, why don't you do it in a nice Socialist country like Argentina? Where do you think Pope Francis got his concern for the poor? In a country that has lots of them - because it follows the economic policies AmericaMag endorses. A country that has already defaulted once. And, BTW, the 800,000 people you say you are concerned about? They're Federal employees, guaranteed back pay for no work. In the meantime, they're collecting unemployment benefits - another unaffordable entitlement. Non-essential employees, like 91% of the IRS and 93% of the EPA, busily protecting us from "global warming", of which there has been none for 15+ years.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
Forbes magazine headline: "Who Is The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It's Barack Obama?" http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/05/24/who-is-the-smallest-government-spender-since-eisenhower-would-you-believe-its-barack-obama/ Also, Mr. Savage, I am not sure why you think employees who are furloughed are guaranteed pay for the time they were not working? Are you aware that unemployment benefits are quite small and that if you collect them, you must declare them on your income tax? Do you realize that the EPA protects your health by protecting the water you use and the air you breathe? Do you realize that it does not address global warming? Would you by any chance be employed at the IRS so that you are in a position to evaluate that 91%, versus say 50%, versus say 1%, are non-essential to the collection of taxes that support the United States government, from which you probably derive numerous benefits which you fail to acknowledge? Perhaps, you favor Medicare for all instead of collecting your benefits from the labor of today's employed under 65's?
J Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago
I would not buy a used car from the guy who wrote the Forbes article. The numbers were certainly cooked to make his point which was not a valid one.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
You are asserting this, but Forbes article's author addresses a similar assertion in the comments following the article. Essentially, most of the "cooking" involves attributing the Bush spending that was inherited by Obama to Bush. This is the correct way to evaluate a President's spending, and it is consistently done this way through the history of Presidents.
J Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago
In the Forbes article, the author cherry picked what he wanted, leaving out very useful information on which to make a judgment which would lead to an opposite conclusion. The budget for the outgoing year of a president is often attached to the president who is in office at the beginning of the fiscal year. The reason being is that te out going president usually signs the appropriation bills before leaving office. The 2009 budget and the 2010 have some very unusual anomalies. First the 2008 and 2009 budgets originated as spending proposals by the White House and sent to Congress but in reality it is the House that writes the appropriation bills. In 2008 and 2009 the budgets were controlled by Democrats but in 2008 there was not much difference between the president's proposal and the House because Bush could veto any appropriations bill. This was not the case for the 2009 budget. For 2008 Bush proposed $2.9 billion and except for some minor niggling that was what the budget was. For 2009 Bush proposed $3.1 billion but the budget ended up at $3.5 billion as Congress did not submit any spending bills to Bush but continuing resolutions. Obama actually signed all the appropriation bills in March 2009 which normally would have been signed by Bush but because the Democrats knew that the Democrat president would be more amendable to the spending increases they never submitted the bills to Bush. Also as part of the spending is the TARP program which was almost unanimously opposed by the Republicans. This TARP added almost $200 billion dollars to the budget. The funny thing is that this was really a loan but was put down as spending. So the numbers add this money to Bush's last budget over which he had little control. When the loans were repaid they were subtracted from Obama's spending. So it looks like he spent less than he actually did as these loans were paid off. To see the effect of this go to the CATO spending chart I recommend and click on the Treasury Department and see the spending trends for 2007-20011. This loan and repayment is what causes the Treasury numbers to go up and down. http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/charts.php The author of the article must know this. So at best he is ignorant but in reality he is deceitful. Hence, don't buy a used car from him. Also included in these numbers for Bush is the bailing out of Fannie and Freddie and in later years there is a repayment for a lot of this so the same thing happened, a charge to Bush and income to Obama that is independent of the spending. In reality both of these programs should be removed from the analysis. Bush's final request was $3.1 billion. He averaged about $2.8 billion including this request over his last 4 years. Obama has averaged $3.6 billion or about a 25% increase over Bush. An incredible difference from what the article says. The last year of a Republican controlled budget was 2007 and the deficit was down to $167 billion. Doesn't fit the big spender image that the Forbes author claims. By the way he identifies himself as the house liberal at Forbes. Be careful of what he says. He is going to distort it and is analysis is biased.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
At the end of Clinton's term there was a surplus.
J Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago
The last Clinton budget was a deficit (actually this is wrong, there was a surplus. just edited this.) Clinton had little to do with the surplus during his second term. He was in the station when the internet bubble pulled in. Then taxes were lowered on capital gains and revenue rolled in. It was never going to last and it didn't as recession set in during his last budget year for which he did sign the appropriation bills. Also the level of the appropriation bills were being held down by the Republican congress who restrained spending. These surpluses should have been called the Republican Congress and internet bubble surpluses. See a discussion here about a year ago about taxes and the Clinton surpluses: http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/truth-taxes
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
So Clinton does not get credit for his surplus and Obama has to take the blame for Bush's deficit? Look, we all know that the problem is Bush's unfunded wars. War, in general, throughout the history of this nation has been the reason for economic difficulty for the government, even though government spending during war has always benefited some part of the private economy. The focus on welfare spending with regard to the deficit is wrong. What is needed is a war tax every time a war-like action is undertaken. On the other hand, welfare spending does more good than harm even if, at the level of the individual recipient, it isn't the whole answer to their problems, and it should be continued and studied for ways to improve it -- and those studies should include meeting with people who have been served well by this system. I can only imagine that without our welfare system, we would be seeing a lot more begging, stealing, prostitution, and early deaths, both from illness and violence, than we see now.
William deHaas
4 years 1 month ago
$6 trillion - why don't you go to FactChecker on your statement. Most of this debt happened for three reasons: - Bush's two undeclared wars costing us trillions of dollars - at the same time, Bush did not raise taxes to fund his undeclared wars (oh, and added the prescription donut hole bill without funding it) - Bush's wars, prescription bill, and economic policies almost put us into a major depression - Obama's spending was to correct or pay for Bush's incompetence Let's at least be fair and balanced here. Repeating the talking points of Palin or Senator Rafael *Ted* Cruz doesn't contribute much to the discussion.
Richard Savage
4 years 1 month ago

"Bush's two undeclared wars costing us trillions of dollars"

Approved by 98-0 vote by the US Senate. Skip the lies.

"Let's at least be fair and balanced here."

No, let's have no more lies from the likes of you. Obama has run the national debt into the stratosphere. To make it even worse, SENATOR Obama, in 2006, opened his big lying mouth on the SENATE floor to oppose raising the debt ceiling by GWBush:March 16, 2006 - look it up, liar.
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Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
Before you call people liars, don't forget that the Senate voted based on having been told lies by the Bush administration.
John Loeffler
4 years 1 month ago
If you think it's bad now, wait until the government can no longer service the debt it has created, (a day just around the corner) and a lot of that money to the poor you're screaming about has to be rerouted to interest and other payments. This will require hideous levels of inflation of the dollar to service the demand load and keep the whole game going. That will radically increase prices of everything from food to fuel and eat the poor up alive. I'm not sure why America Magazine's Jesuits don't seem to understand the injunctions about sound economy that God put in the scriptures: you can't spend what you don't have without borrowing, begging or stealing. To quote the priests in high school, it is a mystery my son.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
So you believe it would be correct to continue to support oil companies and agribusiness with subsidies and to enrich the military-industrial complex by pursuing military "solutions" to the world's problems while reducing the funds that go to providing for the child citizens of the United States?
J Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago
For those who want to see how the budget has gotten out of control, the Cato Institute has a site which allows you to analyze how the budget has been growing and where. http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/charts.php If you click any of the departments on the left of this page, the site will draw a curve of spending for the last 43 years. For example, click the first department, Agriculture department and it will display spending since 1970. You then have the option of clicking the little plus sign under Agriculture to see all the various programs that make up Agriculture. One can do it for any department of the government. You will quickly see that a few departments make up most of the spending and then one can pin point just how much each is contributing to government spending and how it has grown. The charts are in 2013 dollars so increases are real and not due to inflation. So before one can criticize those who protesting what is happening, they should be aware of just what has happened. The budget is quickly getting out of hand. And who is trying to slow this growth from creating a catastrophe? Maybe we should look at these people as heroes and not as villains. The bishops have no leg to stand on as far as government services being cut back. Maybe the bishops should look at what is feasible for all and not just for a few. Start with Defense, Health and Human Services, Treasury and Social Security. These four make up most of the budget. Agriculture and Labor are substantial but much less than these four.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
Before I begin, let it be known that "The Cato Institute is an American libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974 by Ed Crane, Murray Rothbard, and Charles Koch,[6] chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries.[nb 1]" (wikipedia) and "The Institute's website states, 'The mission of the Cato Institute is to originate, disseminate, and increase understanding of public policies based on the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.'[10]" (wikipedia) So, before we even look at their statistics, we have to recognize that they will be reporting them in such a way that they support the institute's foregone conclusions that government spending is bad, that people who receive government assistance are giving up their liberty, and that the unfairness that is natural to "free markets" is good. In addition, the Cato Institute presumes that it has the expertise to judge and recommend reforms of the various elements of the government that it has studied numerically from afar. Furthermore, there is no reason to include Social Security in discussions of budget deficits given that the government does not borrow money for this program, but taxes the working people in order to pay the retired people's benefits, just like with Medicare and Medicaid. Ultimately, the statistics produced at the Cato Institute are meaningless for the purposes of addressing budget deficits. What is meaningful, on the other hand, is that the US government does not collect enough taxes to cover it's spending while wealthy individuals have become basically hoarders of the currency due to the structure of the tax code that they have influenced through lobbying. Finally, if one begins with the premise that the less advantaged among us should be helped and that this help should not be based on luck but should come from a reliable and steady source, the only conclusion is that the government is the entity best positioned to assist the disadvantaged. There is no Federal or State program that deprives people of liberty. They all give people a footing that can be used to become contributing citizens. Government policy, however, should not pit workers in countries with high currency valuation against workers in countries that have low currency valuation. Nevertheless, the wealthy once again get their way and promote policies that reward companies for finding the lowest labor costs even when this means the citizens lose their jobs and are reduced to dependence on government programs. In other words, libertarian free markets are only reasonable in the absence of all order, but in piecemeal, they put an unfair burden on workers that needs to be addressed by strong worker oriented versus corporation oriented government policies. The Catholic Church is right to put this requirement forward as socially just.
J Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago
So, before we even look at their statistics, we have to recognize that they will be reporting them in such a way that they support the institute's foregone conclusions
My guess is that you did not even look at them. The statistics are taken from a White House website. There is no bias in these numbers. If there are, then I suggest you point out where it happens. Otherwise you are just disparaging someone who you seem not to like.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
I am not saying there are phony numbers there. I am saying that deciding that the numbers going in a certain direction is always bad is a biased perspective. You and I have been over this before, where I see a system doing it's job (feeding the ever increasing number of poor), you see more people wising up on how to exploit the system, for example. You cannot simply display a graph where spending goes up in one area and compare it to a graph where spending goes up in another area and say that the one that goes up more or faster is worse. You have to put value on the areas in ways that can be measured numerically to know if something is worthwhile or not. There is no absolute value against which all spending can be compared.
J Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago
you see more people wising up on how to exploit the system, for example
I suggest you keep away from personal assessments of other people especially when they have not said them.
You have to put value on the areas in ways that can be measured numerically to know if something is worthwhile or not. There is no absolute value against which all spending can be compared.
This sounds like you know better than others. Do you think others are not using values to make their judgments. Maybe they have better information than you. There is plenty of evidence that government programs have negative outcomes in more ways than one.
I am not saying there are phony numbers there.
The numbers are from a White House website. The reflect actual government reporting. It is difficult to understand the problem till one has facts about the issue. Here spending is the main thing that has changed and it is easy to identify where. The question is what is to be done about it. I also suggest you keep away from personal attacks and trying to understand other's motives. You can ask if you want but just don't arbitrarily assume you know or are right. Argue for what you think is best but be aware that you may not be right on a lot of the facts.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
OK so when you say that government programs have negative outcomes, are you looking at individuals or statistics that correlate but do not show cause and effect?
J Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago
If anyone wants to understand how dysfunctional government programs have been read Charles Murray's "Losing Ground "and Myron Magnet's "The Dream and the Nightmare." I also recommend everyone especially the editors read Murray's "Coming Apart." It describes in incredible detail how the country is dividing on class lines. A lot of people of good will have recommended and participated in these programs but in general the poor are much worse off culturally and spiritually than they were when they were started. Their material needs have been met but at an incredible cost to their self worth. I would also recommend that anyone who is interested but especially the editors read about Public Choice Theory. Human nature will always make government programs dysfunctional which is a good reason to reduce government as much as possible. We need government but is should be limited especially at the national level. This does not mean that those who are successful do not have responsibilities to the less fortunate but we have to re-think how to do it best.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
JR, Thank you for pointing me to the two books. Since I cannot possibly read them and comment in a timely manner, we will have to agree to disagree that there is something wrong with our government seeing to it that the material needs of our poor are met. My position is that children cannot be left to go hungry and uncertain of where they will be sleeping on any given night. My position is that not taking care of the children will lead to more social problems down the road than there are now -- now being a time when crime rates are falling and more people than ever are attending college. I would like to point out that Charles Murray is known as a Libertarian and that Myron Magnet is an alum of Phillips Exeter Academy (a very expensive and esclusive high school) and Columbia University and University of Cambridge. In other words, neither has first hand experience of the United States welfare system or living in poverty.
J Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago
I suggest you read the books and look at Charles Murray's background. Your objections would apply to nearly every social scientist in every Democratic administration since the 1930's. The Democrats are known for their use of academics starting with Roosevelt's brain trust. I agree that the problem lies with this type of people but most have been liberals and so was Murray when he first started out. But he became appalled at what these government programs did. His book, Losing Ground, is credited with welfare reform that took place in the 1990's.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
Well, here's what I found regarding Charles Murray, so please don't put him forth as a credible expert on the subject of welfare: "His career began in a secret Pentagon counterinsurgency operation in rural Thailand during the Vietnam War, a program whose stated purpose included applying counter-insurgency strategies tested in rural Thailand to America's own restive inner cities and minority populations. By the late 1970s, Charles Murray was drawing up plans for the US Justice Department that called for massively increasing incarceration rates. In the 1980s, backed by an unprecedented marketing campaign, Murray suddenly emerged as the nation's most powerful advocate for abolishing welfare programs for single mothers. Since then, Murray revived discredited racist eugenics theories "proving" that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior to whites, and today argues that the lower classes are inferior to the upper classes due to breeding differences. The American Institutes for Research program in Thailand where Murray worked as a covert military counter-insurgency program run by the Department of Defense's research and development agency ARPA, in cooperation with the CIA included testing crop destruction and artificially-induced starvation as a way to pacify restive populations and was described as a "behavior control plan enhanced by crop destruction." "In 2012, Murray published his newest variation on eugenics, Coming Apart, arguing that wealth and poverty are a product of breeding, and that the poor are poor because they're genetically inferior types who interbreed with each other, while the rich are getting richer because they are genetically superior types who are increasingly interbreeding with each other." Read more at http://shameproject.com/profile/charles-murray/
Tim O'Leary
4 years 1 month ago
Marie: are you deliberately looking for defamatory reasons to avoid facing arguments that go counter to your prejudices? Charles Murray (Harvard and MIT educated) has been worrying and writing about the decline of the lives of the poor for many years. His writings include: “Losing Ground” (1980), "IQ and economic success”, “Income Inequality and IQ”, “The Underclass Revisited”, And "Coming Apart.” Why would he write these things if he didn't care about people? While I do not agree with all he says, or even his politics, I have to conclude he is writing honestly and brings good arguments to the table. Murray is undoubtedly not a racist, but is called so because his studies connect economic and social success with the tests for intelligence (like the SAT and IQ). By the way, he was in Thailand as part of the Peace Corps (do people join the Peace Corp to starve people?). Why not address the facts J Cosgrove brings to the discussion, and avoid the ad hominem attacks on his sources?
Marie Rehbein
4 years 1 month ago
Tim, JR suggested I look at Charles Murray's background, so I did. I would not say he is not a racist; sometimes people become racist, but sometimes they have always been racist. Maybe he joined the Peace Corp because he thought the people he would be helping were inferior -- looking on them like people who want to help animals look fondly on them but do not consider them equal. We don't know, but we know that he was part of a cross burning incident in his teenage years. He left the Peace Corp and went to work on studying how to starve people into submission. These are facts. What JR is bringing to the discussion is theory.

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