All I want is Czechoslovakia – Appeasement Politics in the U.S.

November 19th, 2010

Ezra Klein’s article in today’s Washington Post is a prime example of how easily we can mistake the dirty pool of politics for government policy. While earmarks are being banned (in a non-binding sort of way), we are ignoring the fact that every single item on the US legislative agenda is automatically turned into an earmark. Every proposal requires bargaining and if there is a clash of interests, we can always ensure the bill never leaves its ‘study’ committee for a floor vote. Keep it captive until someone has something to trade for the right of citizens to enjoy the evolution of our society.

Today’s legislators tell us if they can’t have their way, all governmental activity will cease. These tantrums consist of elected officials holding their breath until their constituency asphyxiates. Sorry, Mr. Klein, but this column isn’t up to your usual standards of insight as I pointed out in this comment on your column today.

Why would a progressive columnist encourage the bartering of our constitutional system of governance for the convenience of the moment, thereby ensuring we never return to the main issues at hand? We have perhaps two years to re-educate the people who used our money to run expensive campaigns based upon who can yell, “Liar!”, loudest and longest.

We are practicing the economic equivalent of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy by extending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. This is our ‘Czechoslovakia’ and health care won’t be spared for long. The flaws were purposely put into the bill in order to justify later repeal rather than repair. Increasing illness and disability (already 30%), is a much greater threat to small business and to any concept of full employment. When you look at it carefully, isn’t productivity inversely related to any rise in the need for health care spending?

With all due respects, Mr. Klein, settle for helping your readership to recognize how the government is being hijacked instead of proposing ways in which to collude with the hijackers. Any compromise on taxes will just fuel further resistance to improving health care reform. A single period of extending unemployment insurance won’t matter since high unemployment also benefits the wealthiest Americans. There is an endless pool of potential employees to ‘recycle’ as early disability and the senseless terminations of good workers end notions of job security and worker advancement in a ‘free enterprise’ system. Nothing is ever ‘free’. Why do you think that bankrupting the government isn’t the ultimate goal? It guarantees an end to all entitlements and supports for HHS systems producing healthy, educated citizens to enter and safeguard the labor market from abuses.

Instead, urge an end to the illegal system of super-majority rule in Congress. Urge citizens to punish legislators who participate in filibusters and claim they will not allow the business of government to continue unless their (personal) goals are met. That is sedition, not government. End the electoral college which removes the value of the individual voter to politicians. If paying down the debt and financing the military are required, one must have a viable tax structure that doesn’t impoverish the population. The wealthy benefit most from our economic system and taxes are another means for corporations to protect their supply of human labor. When citizens are sick and broke with no discretionary income to spend, they pay no taxes or prove useful as consumers.

But all business wants is Czechoslovakia. Come to think of it, they really do:

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Newspaper Commentary, Washington Post

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  1. kohler

    About the Electoral College . . .

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Elections wouldn’t be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be equal and counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    Now 2/3rds of the states and voters are ignored — 19 of the 22 smallest and medium-small states, and big states like California, Georgia, New York, and Texas. The current winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states, and not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution, ensure that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. Voter turnout in the “battleground” states has been 67%, while turnout in the “spectator” states was 61%. Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. It does not abolish the Electoral College, which would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska — 70%, DC — 76%, Delaware –75%, Maine — 77%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 74% , Massachusetts — 73%, Minnesota — 75%, New York — 79%, Washington — 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), The District of Columbia (3), Maine (4), Michigan (17), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), New York (31), North Carolina (15), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California (55), Colorado (9), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), New Jersey (15), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington (11). The bill has been enacted by the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington. These seven states possess 76 electoral votes — 28% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


  2. agasaya

    Thank you for this comment. While this proposal has merit, it again relies upon the electoral college instead of simply making each vote count by itself. There is no reason to cast votes for electors to implement because it is discourages third party challengers from entering political races (as noted by the conservative Representative Bolen in his opinion linked to this site). Still, this does improve upon the status quo under a two party system. It may lead to more voters exercising their power at the polls, knowing their votes can help offset losses in other states, if not their own.

    Abolition of the electoral college remains the ultimate goal for truly democratic elections to take place.


  3. kohler

    Don’t hold your breath. Abolishing the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere would be equal and counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

  4. agasaya

    I guess I’m just uncomfortable with the need for a pact among a certain number of states to override those not participating. I’d rather see a referendum on the system itself which could lead to such an amendment. I believe electoral college delegates are not obliged to case votes for the individual who won their state or district, but customarily do so. The pact is unlikely to alter that privilege. Working around the law is basically all are legislators do these days in government. It’s a shame to consider that our only option.

    But again, it is an interesting proposal and likely to win its place in the process.

  5. kohler

    The National Popular Vote bill is superior to the current system with regard to the virtually non-existent problem of faithless electors because it would further reduce the slim possibility that a faithless presidential elector could affect the outcome of a presidential election. Under the National Popular vote compact, the nationwide winning candidate would generally receive an exaggerated margin (roughly 75%) of the votes in the Electoral College in any given presidential election. The reason is that the National Popular Vote bill guarantees that the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will receive at least 270 electoral votes from the states belonging to the compact. Then, in addition to this bloc of at least 270 electoral votes, the nationwide winning candidate would receive a certain number of additional electoral votes from whichever non-compacting states he or she happened to carry. Because the non-compacting states would likely be divided approximately equally between the candidates, the nationwide winning candidate would generally receive an exaggerated margin (totaling roughly 75%) of the votes in the Electoral College. Thus, it would be virtually impossible for a faithless elector to affect the outcome of the presidential election.

    Questions about the possibility of faithless electors often stem from the incorrect assumption that presidential electors are a lofty group of independent-minded people who sit in judgment of the people’s choice for President, and then graciously accede to the people’s choice. It is true that the Founding Fathers envisioned, in 1789, that the presidential electors would be outstanding citizens who would meet and debate and exercise independent judgment in choosing the best person to become President. However, that expectation was dashed with the emergence of political parties in the nation’s first competitive presidential election in 1796. Since 1796, presidential electors have simply been willing “rubberstamps” for their party’s nominee for President.

  6. kohler

    The normal way of changing the method of electing the President is not a federal constitutional amendment, but changes in state law. The U.S. Constitution gives “exclusive” and “plenary” control to the states over the appointment of presidential electors.

    Historically, virtually all of the previous major changes in the method of electing the President have come about by state legislative action. For example, the people had no vote for President in most states in the nation’s first election in 1789. However, nowadays, as a result of changes in the state laws governing the appointment of presidential electors, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states.

    In 1789, only 3 states used the winner-take-all rule (awarding all of a state’s electoral vote to the candidate who gets the most votes in the state). However, as a result of changes in state laws, the winner-take-all rule is now currently used by 48 of the 50 states.

    In other words, neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, that the voters may vote and the winner-take-all rule) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

    In 1789, it was necessary to own a substantial amount of property in order to vote; however, as a result of changes in state laws, there are now no property requirements for voting in any state.

    The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes. The abnormal process is to go outside the Constitution, and amend it.

    What the current U.S. Constitution says is “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

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