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Train wreck at Montparnasse - 1895
Politics
The political system is broken. On too many of the most important issues, the debates themselves are backward and upside down. It's a given that the Republicans, after decades of catering to their lunatic fringe, now are completely captive to it, but the Democrats too often respond by co-opting what had been Republican positions. The political game keeps being played on the Republicans' home field, with Republican framing, in Republican terms. Only on select social issues are the Democrats moving forward. It doesn't have to be this way. The lessons of history, the objective facts, and popular opinion demand that Democrats move forward, and yet the politics ignore history, objective facts and popular opinion. It isn't the fault of just one politician or one Democrat, although there are plenty of progressive Democrats who are trying their best to do what's best. It's a systemic failure. The political system is broken.

Joan McCarter last week noted that we should be expanding Social Security, not cutting it. Given that Social Security has nothing to do with the national deficit, and is in no imminent danger of insolvency, it is absurd that we are even talking about chained CPI or other means of cutting it. Given that millions of people on fixed incomes rely on Social Security for mere survival, it is more than absurd that we are even talking about chained CPI or other means of cutting it. It is, in fact, reckless. And dangerous. The political conversation should be about creating jobs, helping people keep their homes and regulating banks. But it isn't.

The political system is broken, in more ways we'll discuss below the fold.

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Given that we need economic stimulus, discussing taking money away from people who are most apt to spend it, and thus put it back into the economy, and thus help not only themselves but the businesses on whom they will spend it, is not just absurd and reckless and dangerous, it is also stupid. Discussing cutting federal spending during a still struggling recovery is stupid. Austerity is a continuing disaster in Europe, and hasn't worked anywhere, ever. Keynesian stimulus dug us out of the Great Depression. And given the record low borrowing costs, not only should we not be talking about reducing the deficit, we should be discussing taking advantage of those record low borrowing costs to expand the deficit temporarily to pay for the type of robust stimulus that dug us out of the Great Depression, and that the continuing demand crisis demands. A robust stimulus leading to a robust recovery will then help reduce that deficit all on its own, just as the still tentative recovery already has resulted in the fastest rate of deficit reduction since World War II. And then, once the economy is in full recovery, we can worry about reducing the rest of the deficit. But no matter how overwhelming the evidence— from history, current events, and proven theory— the political conversation continues to be exactly backward.

The political system is broken.

During the health care reform debates of 2009, an idea was floated to lower the age of Medicare eligibility, as a trade-off for dropping a public health insurance option. Which made great sense, given Medicare's overwhelming success both at health care policy and at saving money. But the idea of expanding Medicare eligibility ended up being dropped, just as the public option would be dropped, just as most of the good actual health care reform ideas were dropped. But for a brief moment, politicians actually were discussing the sensible idea of expanding Medicare eligibility. That was then. Now the politicians are discussing Medicare cuts.

The political system is broken.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama challenged Congress to act on climate change, declaring that if it won't, he will. No president ever had made such a bold statement about climate change. No president ever had made addressing climate change such a priority. Or so it seemed.

The climate itself is migrating. Climate stability is collapsing. The risks and consequences are proving even worse than had been predicted. This is no time for half-measures or compromises, and yet that is what we are getting. Domestic oil production is in the midst of a record breaking rise. Oil-soaked Texas may not even reach its record production level until 2020. More oil leases are being rushed to market, and natural gas production is at record levels, with much more likely to come, including for record exports. The Republicans whine about government spending, yet continue to block efforts to end tens of billions in annual government subsidies to fossil fuels industries that already are reaping record profits. The White House seems likely to approve the disastrous Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline that would define the president's legacy on climate change.

The political system is broken.

Last week, it came out that JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon "misled investors and dodged regulators" as his bank lost $6.2 billion. The corruption was endemic. At the same time it was reported that because JP Morgan Chase is increasing its dividend payouts, Dimon will effectively be getting a $1.85 million raise—which should not be a surprise. After all, corrupt bankers crashed the global economy, for which their companies were rewarded with staggering amounts of government money, which they didn't use to make new loans and get the economy flowing again, but did use to reward themselves with record bonuses. Attorney General Eric Holder openly admits that the big banks are too big to prosecute for their crimes, but Wall Street whistleblowers are open game.

The political system is broken.

Numerous polls show majority support for a national ban on assault weapons. A ban on assault weapons even enjoys majority support in states with large numbers of gun owners, such as Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Virginia and Colorado and Oregon and New Hampshire and Maine. An assault weapons ban even enjoys plurality support in deep red Texas. But the assault weapons ban won't even get a vote in the Democratic controlled Senate. The same polls show overwhelming support for universal background checks, yet even that may not get a vote in the Democratic controlled Senate. The Republicans, meanwhile, get their way at continuing to loosen or prevent gun regulation just by attaching measures to unrelated but seemingly necessary bills, which the Democrats really really have to pass, and therefore have no choice but to support. Really.

The political system is broken.

The lessons of history are being ignored. Scientific facts are being ignored. The public will is being ignored. On some social issues, this nation is moving boldly forward. The people are leading and the politicians are following. But on too many critical issues, the people are trying to lead but the politicians are not following. On too many issues where we need political leadership, we are getting none. No one person is to blame. No one coalition is to blame. We are winning elections, and anachronistic Republican lunacy is being slowly relegated to the sewage treatment plants of history, yet we continue to get compromised, bad, and even dangerous policies. On too many issues, we cannot afford to continue getting compromised, bad and even dangerous policies. Too much is at stake. And the problems are systemic. The forces of regression hope to turn the forces of progress away from politics, through a combination of frustration and disgust leading to apathy. That is how they win. But they cannot be allowed to win.

The political system is broken. The politicians will not fix it. The people must. There is no alternative.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 06:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders, The Rebel Alliance, and Frustrati.

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