Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Thursday, January 30, 2014


I need a system where I can stick posts that I want to refer back to later.  This one, from Matt Welch, about casual assumptions of racism is a prime example. 
This isn't just bad journalism, it's bad tolerance. Attributing a single set of personality traits to scores of millions of people whose only commonality is age and race is the opposite of judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. It's also a cheap way to wave off the substance of anti-Obama criticism—why bother figuring out why a majority of Americans have consistently disliked the flawed Affordable Care Act when you can just roll your eyes and assert that the real reason is white anxiety and worse? There is nothing tolerant about assuming that those who have different ideas than you about the size and scope of government are motivated largely by base ethnic tribalism.
 The casual assumption is a lazy excuse to avoid answering real arguments.  As a bonus, it gives the accusers some unearned virtue so that they can beat up their opponents.  Of course, it's also become a signal that the speaker should simply be ignored . . .


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Money in Politics

In a recent article from Eric Black, he talks about the migration of donors from President Obama to possible Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  He ends with a weary observation:
In the corrupt world of big-time fund-raising the help of Priorities USA will bring plenty of potential conflicts of interest between the fund-raisers, donors and lobbyists.
I think there is a lot of disappointment on the left with how much money has flowed through the Obama presidency.  And I don't think fans of good government are at all pleased with how easy it is for businesses to influence how the rules are made.  I'd like to offer some suggestions on how to do a better job of picking a presidential candidate to do some actual cleaning. 
The first step is to pick out some simple, bi-partisan, good government regulations.  Some suggestions:
  • One of the most effective ideas I've read is found here from Glenn Reynolds.  The basic idea is that government employees in policy positions would face additional taxes on earnings that are higher than what they earned while in government employ.  The idea is to blunt the edge that lobbying groups and companies can gain by buying influence.
  • Perhaps there should be a rule where candidates for high office (House of Reps, Senate, President and Vice President) must make their taxes public each year.  And maybe for some period prior to candidacy, like five or ten years.  We don't elect people so that they can become rich in office.  Let's see what money they're receiving.
  • There was some embarrassment recently when we learned that Obama's nominee for Ambassador to Norway, knows next to nothing of the country.  It seems he was picked more as a reward for fund-raising than for talent.  This is a bi-partisan tradition and it should be stopped.  Maybe we'd be better off if the State department sent annual lists of people that were qualified to be ambassadors.
These strike me as non-partisan or at least not of any obvious partisan advantage over the long term.  Maybe they don't appeal to you, or you have different ideas.  It almost doesn't matter what is put out there as long as it's a fairly straight-forward, non-partisan, 'good government' idea.  Ideally, there would be at least three or four good bills put forth.  That's step two.
Step three is the big one.  Every presidential candidate should be on record regarding each plan.  If it's someone like Elizabeth Warren or Rand Paul, then we'll have their votes.  If it's someone like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush then we need to make sure they're asked and interviewed until we know where they stand.  The best way to find someone who won't use the presidency as a cash register is to find someone who will bind their own hands before they get there.

Yes, I can hear people out there muttering about Citizens United.  I don't think that Citizens United has had much effect on letting big money into politics.  Or in other words, people like Karl Rove would still be raising and using large amounts of money even if the Supreme Court had ruled the other way.  In any case, the issue is contentious and those on the right don't trust those on the left here.  If you won't act without overturning 
Citizens United, then you simply won't be acting. 
The key is to find a plan which should appeal across the aisle.  Candidates shouldn't be able to dodge by saying that any such bill would only help the opposition.  Good government measures are supported by people of all political stripes and it shouldn't be too hard to ways to fix things.