Posts Tagged ‘politics’

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Posted in John's Reviews - books, movies, whatever  by John Brown on December 15th, 2012

After this year’s presidential election I emailed my sister, a smart, super-competent, true-blue, bleeding-heart, save the weeds and snails liberal, who volunteered to do campaign work for Hilary Clinton in Colorado during the 2008 Democratic primaries and, of course, voted loudly for Obama in this last election.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked. “How can anyone who doesn’t have a carrot for a brain want more of the same? I don’t get it. Obama? How can so many Americans be that gullible? I’m totally baffled.”  And that puzzlement wasn’t rhetorical. I was seriously baffled.

“Are you kidding me?” she replied. “Mitt Romney? How could anyone vote for Mitt Romney?  Talk about baffled.”  She went on a rant listing all of Romney’s supposed deeds and positions of sooper evil and stupidity. Then she questioned how anyone could support that Hitler in his Mormon clothes.

Okay, she didn’t say “Hitler,” but she did claim he was “evil” and “despicable.” And when I think of evil, my first thought is always of folks like Mitt Romney.

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, leader of the Juarez drug cartel, which is responsible for hundreds of gruesome murders each year and . . . Mitt Romney. Oh, yeah. They’re like brothers. In fact, wasn’t Romney’s dad born in Mexico? And, hey, one of Romney’s sons even knows Spanish. That boy wasn’t on a church mission there. No, he was making connections with the jefe!

Sonia Montoya-Cadena, the one who ran a human trafficking ring in Denver exploiting young girls for sex and . . . Mitt Romney. Yeah, Romney’s just like that. If he could run slave brothels, he’d do it in a minute to make a buck. In fact, doesn’t Bain Capital own a couple of slave brothels in Greenland?

I wanted to unload. I was prepared to destroy her with fiery analysis of the first order.

Thundering analysis.

Mountain crushing logic.

She was so freaking blind.

Except,

She had never actually considered what I had to say in any of my previous emails. It never mattered how powerfully vast my brilliant logic was. She’d demonstrated wax ear time and again. All of my intellectual might never made a dent in her liberal force field. I brought blood and thunder, and it always seemed to bounce off her like bullets made of styrofoam.

Nevertheless! Clinton? Obama? Save the gerbils?

I made a comment that sent Smart Sister into DEFCON 5. Foolish me. Eventually, her liberal ire cooled and she decided to order comrade Putin to stand down and not push the big red button.

Meanwhile, I started to think.

I noted that if things didn’t change, the Republicans wouldn’t be winning the presidency any time soon. If they couldn’t beat Obama when the economy was in the tank, then there really was no hope. Which meant we are going to end up like Greece, with continuing inflation (which is not only an intentional, government-led annual pay cut on the disgustingly rich, filthy rich, and annoyingly rich, but also on the middle class, poor, destitute, and various and sundry hoboes everywhere), huge debt, stupid taxes, ridiculous health care, Soviet-style redistribution, blah, blah, blah.

I asked myself, like all Republicans did, what could we conservatives do differently? Follow Obama’s example and improve our operations to get the vote out? Build up a conservative La Raza? Do the right thing with the children of illegals? Get someone willing to land more blows on the opposition (Romney could have decimated Obama in debates two and three, but he didn’t; he totally failed to define his opponent).

Maybe it was in the messaging. Maybe what we needed to do was develop something that actually changed minds.

At this point a faint ding sounded in the distance in my mind. A small light bulb suddenly flipped on and illuminated a dark cubby of my mind.

Hadn’t I just read about studies showing how a soap opera in Mexico, a radio play in Tanzania, and sitcoms in America actually changed viewer attitudes and behaviors about literacy, HIV, and abortion? Didn’t I already know about the power of concrete and vivid storytelling? Not sermon-telling, but storytelling.

Why, yes. Yes, I did.

Had I not witnessed the use of storytelling on U.S. television for, what, fifteen years by those wanting to build sympathy for homosexuals? (A good thing, even if I disagree with some of the gay agenda.) And the cheapening of sex by others? (A bad thing.) And the clearly conscious promotion of many other attitudes and beliefs via various media programs?

I determined there was something to this.

If people were going to vote for fiscal responsibility in Washington, something like this was going to have to be done. It wasn’t going to happen in flame wars.

About this same time I was browsing through the recent Radio West programs. I saw one called “The Righteous Mind.”  It was an interview of Jonathon Haidt about his new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Hey, wasn’t that addressing my question?

The program blurb states: “Monday, our guest is the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, whose latest book sets out to explain the root causes of the divisions in our society. At the heart of his argument is the idea that the human mind is designed to “do” morality. But when we separate into tribes – say political affiliations or religious denominations – we focus on different moral foundations. Haidt joins us to explain why he says we need the insights of liberals and conservatives to flourish as a nation.”

I listened. And loved the program.

Haidt shared a number of deliciously insightful things about how our mind works and how we choose our affiliations. He shared so many insights that I immediately requested his book at my library. The library ordered a copy for their collection. I, of course, was first in line to read it. I just finished the book.

It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year.

Haidt explains why my sister and I were both baffled by people who voted for the opposition candidate. He explains how human morality works. How our reason does not lead us to make the judgments we do, but instead more often acts like a lawyer to justify our positions to others.

As soon as he explained that I saw how I had done that time and time again. For example, in this election cycle I blamed Obama for the economy. In the Bill Clinton re-election I vigorously argued that the President doesn’t have any effect on the economy and is lying if he takes credit for it. I’m not saying that Obama didn’t do things that might have hampered the recovery, but how did I know his actions exacerbated our problems? What evidence did I really have?

Haidt explains that there are six basic moral bases then points out which ones drive liberals, conservatives, and libertarians, and how we can use that knowledge to disagree more constructively. He provides strong insights into how our reason and intuitions and judgments work, the evolutionary function of our morality, and how our wiring for group affiliation affects it.

I didn’t agree with some of his conclusions. He sometimes takes his points too far. For example, he seems to suggest that people in cities are pre-disposed to be liberal. And that’s why they live there. Um, no. That’s not why they live there. They live in cities because that’s where the jobs are. The agricultural revolution made sure of that, remember? In his effort to explain the smaller biological basis of our beliefs, he also downplays the larger effect our families and groups have. But despite these excesses, he shares so many fresh and exciting ideas that they don’t matter. And he shares them all in such a fun and clear way that I couldn’t help but stay up late a number of nights reading this book.

Do you know how much I wanted to trash Obama to my sister?  That Soviet-style central planner.  That drunken sailor spender.  That choom wagon pot head.

And yet, you and I also know that will never work. I now know better why. Because of Haidt, I think I see a better way. I certainly see how I have done exactly what drives me mad about those who have drunk the opposition candidate’s Kool-aide. I see that I have my own conservative force field that deflects liberal bullets (and perhaps even blinds me to the truth sometimes). And why I need to watch my reason, that cunning lawyer part of my brain, as well as my intuition.

Haidt, a liberal, has given me, a conservative, a great gift. I intend to use it. If you are interested in the two taboo topics of politics or religion, if you enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink or the Heath brother’s Made to Stick, if you want to find a better way to influence than flame wars (as fun as they can sometimes be), then I think you will enjoy the wonders Haidt shares in his fine book.

Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to the Radio West program http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/righteous-mind for a taste of what awaits you.

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Obama, Romney, Rich People, Roasts, and A Good Cause

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on October 19th, 2012

Every year the Alfred E. Smith Foundation hosts a millionaires-only fundraising dinner for Catholic charities. It’s a custom to have the two main candidates speak in election years.  President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney roasted themselves and each other this week, just two days after their brouhaha second debate.

Not only are both talks funny, but the fact that these two men came together for this purpose says a lot about both of them. Go Obama and Romney! It’s the perfect antidote to bitter political rancor.

Enjoy. 

President Obama’s Speech

Transcript: http://blogs.suntimes.com/politics/2012/10/transcript_president_obama_at_the_alfred_w_smith_dinner.html

Mitt Romney’s Speech

Transcript: http://blogs.suntimes.com/politics/2012/10/transcript_mitt_romney_at_the_alfred_w_smith_dinner.html

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No Apology: Chapter 1 – The Pursuit of the Difficult

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on October 3rd, 2012
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WE MUST FACE OUR CHALLENGES OR DIMINISH

Romney starts the chapter with a quote his dad used to recite to him: “the pursuit of the difficult makes men strong.” Romney states that over the years, he’s come to believe that this idea applies to more than individuals—it applies to businesses and nations as well.

He maintains that America has always faced great challenges. He cites a few examples from America’s history and states that there really hasn’t been a time when we were free of challenges. It seemed, after Reagan and Bush had presided over the fall of the Soviet Union, many thought “peace and prosperity were here to stay—without threat, without sacrifice.” Of course, that proved untrue.

America has faced great challenges in the past and faces huge challenges now. He believes we will “remain the leading nation in the world only if we face our challenges head on.” If we do not face and overcome them, we will become “the France—still a great country, but no longer the world’s leading nation.”

The question is: what’s so bad about that?

The answer is that some other nation or nations would fill the power vacuum. Romney poses the fundamental question: “what nation or nations would rise, and what would be the consequences for our safety, freedom, and prosperity?”

FOUR GLOBAL STRATEGIES FOR WORLD POWER

Romney suggests that there are a number of nations and groups who are “intent on replacing America as the world’s political, economic, and military leader.” He states that there are, in fact, “four major strategies currently being pursued to achieve world leadership.”

The first global strategy to achieve world power is the one represented by the United States. It is a strategy based on two fundamental principles: economic freedom and political freedom. Those nations that follow this strategy have become economic powerhouses and account for more than 60% of the world’s GDP. They are also the countries who have given humankind the most freedom.

The second global strategy is the one pursued by China. Its fundamental principles are free enterprise and authoritarian rule. He spends a couple of pages discussing how well Chinese enterprise is doing. Then he believes China is intent on becoming stronger than the United States.

The third main global strategy is the one pursued by Russia. It’s fundamental principles are authoritarian rule and controlling energy. “By controlling people and energy, Russia aims to reassert itself as a global superpower.” He then explains how this could be possible.

The fourth main strategy for global power is the one pursued by the violent jihadists, who count many foreign leaders in their numbers. Their strategy is based on conquest and compulsion through a variety of tactical means.

Of these four strategies in competition today only one is founded on freedom. Romney then suggests that we can be confident that our children and grandchildren will be free ONLY IF the economic and military strength of America and the West endure. He suggests that our superpower status is not inevitable. “Three other global strategies, each pursued by at least one state or major actor, are aggressively being pursued to surpass us, and in some cases, to suppress us. The proponents of each are convinced they will succeed. And world history offers us no encouragement.”

Because of this, he believes that “our primary objective as a nation must be to keep America strong. I am convinced that every policy, every political initiative, every new law or regulation should be evaluated in large measure by whether it makes us stronger or weaker” because “our freedom, security, and prosperity are at stake.”

OBAMA’S DRAMATIC SHIFT IN FOREIGN POLICY

Romney next maintains that president Obama has introduced a foreign policy that “is a rupture with some of the key assumptions that have undergirded more than six decades of American foreign policy.”

He states that when World War 2 ended, America executed a “dramatic and profoundly meaningful shift in our relationship with the rest of the world.” Previously we had guarded our own hemisphere and attempted to stay isolated from the affairs of Europe and Asia. But we found with WW1 and WW2 that “our vital interests could not be secure in the face of threats to the cause of freedom elsewhere. At the dawn of the nuclear age, a third world war was unthinkable; it would mean the destruction of humankind.” So the president and leaders of both parties “shifted America’s foreign policy. America took on the task of anticipating, containing, and eventually defeating threats to the progress of freedom in the belief that actively protecting others was the best way to protect ourselves.”

This new order had three main pillars:

1. “Active involvement and participation in world affairs”
2. “Active promotion of American and Western values including democracy, free enterprise, and human rights”
3. “A collective security umbrella for America and her allies”

He talks about how all the presidents, Democrat and Republican, followed this new strategy. But President Obama is engineering a dramatic shift away from it based on his own underlying attitudes.

Obama envisions an America that arbitrates disputes rather than advocate ideals. This is one of the reasons why he apologized to countries around the globe for American arrogance, trying to placate our enemies. This is also why it seems he has undercut many allies, including Israel, Poland, and Columbia. To be an arbitrator, you need to be equidistant from both sides. Not advocating for one or the other.

Another one of Obama’s assumptions is that “America is in a state of inevitable decline.” He, therefore, considers it futile to fight it; instead, it’s his job to help us manage our decline. Romney suggests Obama believes maintaining a dominant America is “a bad idea even if it were possible.”

Of course, Romney fundamentally disagrees with that assessment.

GETTING BACK ON TRACK

Romney suggests several things we can do to get back on track:

• Treat our allies like allies
• Strengthen the American economy
• Increase our defense spending
• Remind ourselves that the most attractive thing about us is our ideas—so we should “encourage democracy where we can, give aid and comfort to those who want it, and not undermine those who already have it”

Undergirding all of this, Romney suggests, “must be a certain conception of the goodness and greatness of America.” This “doesn’t mean America is a perfect country. We have made mistakes and committed grave offenses over the centuries.” But we should recognize that “No nation has shed more blood for more noble causes than the United States. Its beneficence and benevolence are unmatched by any nation on earth, and by any nation in history.”

Romney concludes by saying that he believes America is “destined to remain as it has been since the birth of the Republic—the brightest hope of the world” but only IF we face our challenges head on and work to keep America strong.

MY RANDOM COMMENTS

First, I don’t know if I’m going to have the time to capture each chapter in such detail. We’ll see.

Second, I found the discussion of the four strategies insightful. Particularly because it put in explained a number of questions I had about why Putin’s Russia does what it does. It also gave me insight into China, which I thought was still mostly economically socialistic.

I found the explanation of America’s shift in foreign policy in the 20th century interesting. As well as the shift Obama has made. I think I need to understand Obama better. Does he really think this? The actions and speeches Romney cites certainly are suggestive. Has anyone seen the movie 2016? It sounds similar.

It might appear the book will continue allocating space for attacking Obama, but I believe the six pages in this thirty-page chapter form probably the biggest appearance Obama makes in the book.

It’s clear that Romney’s business experience, especially as a consultant, has influenced how he sees things. The whole talk of strategy and challenges and competition reminds me of Michael Porter.

Porter is a Harvard professor and founder of Monitor, a strategy consulting firm that has been hired by corporations and countries. He is claimed to be the most cited author in business and economics. According to Wikipedia “He is generally recognized as the father of the modern strategy field, and his ideas are taught in virtually every business school in the world. His work has also re-defined thinking about competitiveness, economic development, economically distressed urban communities, environmental policy, and the role of corporations in society. . . his main academic objectives focus on how a firm or a region can build a competitive advantage and develop competitive strategy.”

The idea that America is competing with other nations is, of course, true. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone running for president claim that their central goal, the goal any president should have, is to keep America strong because of the competitive threats we face. The talk is usually all focused on this issue or that without the broader picture I found here. I found Romney’s central tenet clarifying and refreshing. The rest of the book is going to be about how to keep our competitive advantages and strength.

Comments, observations, or issues from anyone who has read the chapter?

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No Apology: The Structure

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on October 2nd, 2012

I posted my review of No Apology on a few sites the other day. I can understand how some folks might be skeptical that the book is nothing more than a PR puff job. But I’m surprised at how many refuse to even test their assumptions with ten or fifteen minutes of reading (or listening to a few minutes of the book on audio).

Too bad for them. They’re missing out.

For those who think they know Romney from what’s being reported in the press, I want to suggest you listen to or read Pat Caddell’s recent comments on 9/21/12 at the Accuracy in Media conference. Caddell is a Democrat, BTW. He is the founder of Cambridge Survey Research, a public opinion pollster, and an expert in analyzing public opinion.  He’s been working for democratic campaigns for a long, long time. He started with the McGovern campaign.  Then worked for the Jimmy Carter campaign, for Gary Hart, for Joe Biden, and Jerry Brown. His speech is titled “The Audacity of Corruption”.  Find it here: http://www.aim.org/video/pat-caddell-the-audacity-of-corruption/

Back in college I took this class on epistemology (how we know what we know). It was fascinating. One of the best classes I took. One of the things the professor taught us was that the first step in examining someone’s ideas was to capture them. So he’d have us research all sorts of stuff and then write a short paper in which we restated the ideas in summary form.

A few years later I read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful people. An amazing book. One of the habits was to seek first to understand, then to be understood. He pointed out that probably the best measure of whether you have actually understood someone is that you can restate their point in your own words to their satisfaction.

First seek to understand, then to be understood. Capture.

I’m going to try to do that here.

I’ll start by outlining the structure of the book.

CHAPTERS 1-3
Romney shares some interesting insights about the four main current geopolitical strategies being employed by major players around the world and the threats they pose to us. He also considers lessons from great nations in the past that have fallen—what were their mistakes and how can we avoid them.

CHAPTER 4
Romney discusses key ways we can grow American “soft power” and maintain our “hard power” abroad.

CHAPTERS 5-9
Romney discusses domestically what we need to do to remain internally powerful, and, therefore, prosperous and free. Topics include the economy and jobs (chapter 5), the entitlement programs social security, medicare, and medicaid (chapter 6), health care (chapter 7), education (chapter 8), and energy (chapter 9).

CHAPTER 10
Romney suggests that culture is a huge factor in the success of nations. He summarizes key values and practices he feels will promote a strong culture.

CHAPTER 11 – EPILOGUE
Romney provides a method for gauging how we’ll we’re doing—a set of national indicators—as well as a summary of all the things he discussed in the preceding chapters that he believes will make and keep America strong.

The central overarching theme of the book is that America will only remain strong if we follow certain principles. We’re at a point where many feel America is starting its demise. Romney rejects that must be the case.

In the next post, I’ll capture chapter 1 and make my few comments. I hope you join me :)

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No Apology

Posted in Blather, John's Reviews - books, movies, whatever  by John Brown on September 30th, 2012
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The Book

Political TV ads can be fun. And annoying.

Debates can be fun. And maddening.

You can indeed learn things about the candidates from watching the ads and debates. But fifteen and thirty second snippets of information really don’t give you the full picture. And sometimes they actually hide the facts, producing nothing more than informational smog.

Recently, I decided I wanted to really know what Mitt Romney thought.  What he was about.  What he hopes to accomplish if he wins the presidency. If Mitt was someone in my neighborhood, I’d go visit the man, and we’d have a chat.

I’d ask him about his ideas and past. I’d ask him to give me examples. Because of the nature of the issues at stake and the number of them, I imagine our chat would probably last a few hours.  It might stretch over a number of evenings.

Of course, I’d want time to consider our chat and determine where I did and didn’t agree with him. I’d want to hear what others thought. And I’d want to look into his history, his successes and failures.

But the first step would be to go to the man himself and hear him out.

I hate it when people put words in my mouth. I’m sure Romney, or anyone else running, hates that same thing. If I were running, I’d would hope folks would take the time to hear me out. They may ultimately disagree with me on many or a few things. But I’d hope, as they are gathering information, that they would take the time to actually go to the source and listen to what I myself had to say.

Unfortunately, I can’t walk around the corner and knock on Mitt’s door. But he did write a book that was published in 2010, and it’s probably the next best thing to talking to Romney at his kitchen table. The book is called No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.

I’ll admit I thought it was going to be a dry guide book explaining his position on every hot political issue. It’s not a guide book.  In fact, he leaves a number of topics out. Nor was it dry.

I also suspected it might be a scathing attack piece on the Obama administration. It’s not that either.  Not even close. He does criticize some things where he and Obama differ, but he also commends him on a few things. Either way, Obama is a very small part of the book.

So what IS this book?

Romney states its purpose in the introduction: it’s “about what I believe should be our primary national objective: to keep America strong and to preserve its place as the world’s leading nation” and “the course I believe we must take to strengthen the nation in order to remain prosperous, secure, and free” (2). It’s about his ideas on how to make sure America does not falter as so many nations have, but remains wealthy, happy, and productive.

I finished the book yesterday. I found it interesting, personable, sometimes surprising, and insightful.

I found Mitt Romney to be a man self-deprecating humor.  He’s also a thinking man, one who likes to look at data to see what it shows. It’s clear he’s a man who does NOT think he knows everything or has a monopoly on every good idea, but he’s also a man who demands evidence.  I also saw a man who is kind.  He doesn’t talk much about his 14 years of service as a lay minister in his church in this book, but you can see how those years changed him as he discusses helping the unemployed, out-of-wedlock births, and single-parent families.  Finally, I saw a man who loves, LOVES, America and is convinced she can remain the hope of the earth, but only if we do things that foster our strength.

This book outlines what he thinks those things are.

The book is written in a conversational and easy style with many examples from his personal experience, studies, and history. Romney’s record of accomplishments demonstrates his skills and hard work ethic. This book explains to what end he would apply that skill and work.

If you’re planning on voting this November for the president of the United States, I think you’ll find this book very useful.  You may end up agreeing with many things he says. You may end up disagreeing with him on many points. But before you can do either, you need to understand what Romney’s position actually is.  And the first step in doing so is to fully hear the man out, in his own words, from his own lips.

As a result, whether you end up deciding he’s your candidate or not, you WILL come away with important insights into the issues discussed.

What’s Next

I want you to know that I do not worship George, Ben, Tom, Adam or any of the other guys who formed our constitution and started this nation.

They put their lives and fortunes on the line for what they believed in. And I am immensely grateful for what they did.  I enjoy tremendous freedoms because of their courage, determination, and sacrifice. Those guys, by-and-large, rock!

But I do NOT believe that their words are scripture nor that their ideas are sacrosanct—merely to be accepted and not to be considered and questioned and disagreed with.

Even so, these guys were gutsy and brilliant. They attempted something everyone thought would fail.  Something that HAD failed every time it had been attempted in their recorded history. But they pulled it off and changed the world.

These guys believed in the common man. They believed that the educated common man was the best person to hold the reins of government. Thomas Jefferson thought up a rhyme to make the idea easy to remember.  He said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

I can’t argue with that.

Of course, we’re not going to become experts on every policy issue. But we certainly can become informed on the broad principles and issues. And we can certainly become informed about the candidates.

Because I found No Apology so useful, over the next few days I’m going to summarize Romney’s main points, chapter by chapter, here. I’ll also point out interesting ideas and facts he shares as well as share any questions, quibbles, or disagreements I have.

I hope you find it useful. More importantly, I hope you read the book and join in the conversation.

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Federal Spending 1972-2011: What The?!?

Posted in Blather  by John Brown on May 29th, 2012

Last week a chart made the rounds, ranking the Presidents since Reagan on spending.  Look at Reagan.  That happy man is a freaking profligate. Obama, on the other hand, heck, he’s doing better than Bill Clinton.

Except there are a few problems. 

First, I can’t tie this data out to the official CBO numbers. 

Second, it does a bit of apples and oranges because the numbers are based on each president’s whole time in office.  What does it mean when Obama increases the debt by 35% over three years, but it takes Bill Clinton almost EIGHT YEARS to increase the debt that much?  A better measure would be an average per year.

Third, some have suggested this chart monkeys with the numbers, allocating the first year of each president’s first term to the previous president.

Fourth, the president isn’t the only one in Washington. Senators and Congressmen also have responsibility.

Finally, while a % increase in debt is a helpful measure, it’s not the only story. And it can be misleading if viewed on its own. For example, if we have $1 of debt, and I increase that to $10, I’ve increased our debt by 1000%. Holy Schnitzel!  But if we have $500 million of debt and I increase it to $600 million, I’ve only increased it by 20%. Which is worse?

So I went out to the CBO and took their numbers from 1972 – 2011.  You may get the XLS file yourself: http://www.cbo.gov/publication/42911. Then I made sure to identify who was in charge when and marked it with spiffy colors (Red is Republican, Blue is Democrat). Here are the results. Click on it to see it in its full size glory.

 

 What does this tell us?

First, there was only ONE four-year stretch in the LAST FREAKING FORTY YEARS where the folks in Washington did not spend MORE than they took in. That was the four year period from 1998 – 2001.

What the?!?

Look at that chart again. There is a serious and systemic spending problem in Washington.

What happened in 1998 to change what had been going on for almost three decades? That was when the citizens got fed up with Washington, threw out a great number of the Senators and Congressmen, and bought into the Contract with America.  This was when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House. This was when Clinton was getting pounded for all sorts of stuff and worked with those particular Republicans in Congress to balance the budget.

Second, the deficit, the purple line at the bottom, tripled when Obama took office.  And stayed!  Who put that first chart together? Oh, yeah. It was Nancy Pelosi.

You might say, well, raw dollars is good.  But what’s really important is how big a percentage that spending is of our nation’s GDP. If you’re spending 100 billion when the nation is producing 1 trillion, that sounds big, but it’s actually not as big a deal as when you’re spending 100 billion and the nation is only producing 200 billion. Okay, let’s look at these numbers as a % of GDP.

 

Again, 1998-2001 were good years. On a % basis, the folks in Washington during that time did better than anyone else in not spending the nation’s wealth.  There’s no doubt that Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton during his fist 3 years and the Congress during those times were all happy to be big spenders.  Look at the debt burden during their years. But Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress since 2007–drunken sailors compared to those guys. And then the Republicans come in and it doesn’t change. Gridlock?

 Let’s look at our presidents since 1972 and see how well they do on an annual basis. Those numbers in the first list, BTW, are stated in billions.

Seems to me the most fiscally responsible groups were those in charge during the latter part of the Clinton years, the Nixon years, and the year when Nixon resigned.  It appears that during that year the folks in Washinton were so busy with the Watergate scandal they forgot to feed their spending appetites.

Bottom line: as I said before, Washington has a serious and systemic problem with over spending.

And when I say “systemic” I mean it appears the whole thing is rigged to produce over spending. We don’t just need new people out there. We need a system that prevents the overspending. We need an ammendment that requires a balanced budget and caps the size of the government in relation to GDP.

We also need to find a way to incentivize Congress to pass a budget each year.  No budget, no pay is a good idea. The current House has indeed passed a budget. But the Democratic Senate has not, preventing us from having a budget at all. Obama submits budgets, but not a soul in the Senate, Democrat or Republican, will vote for them. It’s only the Republican House who seems to want to actually do their job. How can that be? Read It’s Deja Vu All Over Again with National Fiscal Policy for more info.

This November we need to get a bunch of folks like those in 1998 back in Washington. A President AND a Congress who will actually finally tame the nation’s out of control spending.  Let me suggest you look at your Congressman’s and Senators’ records.  How have they voted? As for President Obama, well, I’m looking at the numbers above.

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