We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Having It Both Ways
Year of Wonders?
Will 2013 be a year of wonders? Disappointed in 2012 by our delayed planetary doom/arrival of our ‘space brothers’ perhaps predicted on a Mayan stone calendar or the perennially postponed performance of the Antichrist? Well if the unendingly sour and dismissive conversation on CNBC’s Squawk Box can turn entertaining, as it did early on the morning of January 3, 2013, then anything is possible this year!
What could be the least bit diverting about the dreary business talk show that conservatives turn to when they begin to weary of the inanities on Fox News? The answer is contradiction obvious to everyone, it would seem, but the show’s hosts and guest.
“Where Will Money Come to Support Retirees?” CNBC Squawk Box.
This minor miracle of amusement was the product of a predictably grumpy exchange about Congress, taxes, spending and deficits, during which Congress was assessed as dysfunctional because partisanship was preventing it from achieving consensus. Guest Judd Greg, who today is a Goldman Sachs International Advisor, a position to which he ascended after was first serving as a U.S. Senator and Governor from New Hampshire, explained it in terms of safe party districts in the U.S. House and nervous U.S. Senators running scared of partisan voters in their states.
At that point, junior host Andrew Ross Sorkin asked, “So is democracy at work?”
Greg responded by admitting that, “I’m concerned that our democracy is starting not to work.”
Senior host Joe Kernan then charged in to the defense with the following: “But look around at the rest of the world…They got six different parties that form these ridiculous coalitions between the far left and far (the next word is suppressed after the initial ‘r’ sound)…and they get nothing done. They’re out in eight months.”
With that cue, Greg added, “Under no circumstances do you want to us to go to a multiparty system. The way our system works, the way it reaches consensus, is that the first step is the party system, where you got two parties, and they are very broad umbrellas and they start to reach to consensus, and that works its way up until you get candidates from those parties, and then those candidates either get elected or don’t, and the public gets consensus.”
There is no contradiction in Kernan’s criticism of “the rest of the world,” by which he probably meant Europe, for being governed by short-lived coalitions of parties from opposite sides of the left-right ideological spectrum. He is just factually incorrect. What he got right was that, with a handful of exceptions like the United States, Jamaica and Barbados, most liberal democracies on the planet and most European countries have multiparty systems and coalition governments. What Kernan got wrong is that coalition governments are usually formed by parties that are ideologically adjacent and coalition governments are often stable. If stability is what is wanted, then Germany and not the United States should be the model. Note that there have been fewer German Chancellors than American Presidents since the end of the Second World War. Moreover, if the success of government is to be judged by other reasonable measures such as the size of the deficit compared to GDP, GINI index, unemployment rate, personal freedom, and incarceration rate, then countries with multiparty systems ruled by coalition governments such as Australia, Germany, the Norway and Switzerland shine by comparison with the United States with its two party system and one party government.
At this point the ‘Goldman Sachs International Advisor’ surely realized that the senior host was out of his depth. Rather than offer any correction, Greg proceeded to argue that the American two party system is better because it leads to consensus. Here is the problem. Greg had just gotten through explaining how partisanship wasn’t leading to consensus in Congress, but instead to dysfunction. You cannot have it both ways.
This leads back to the smartest comment that was made during the exchange, Sorkin’s question: “So is democracy at work?” Eventually we will summon the courage to examine the relationship between our political institutions and the performance of government. Will it happen in 2013? If CNBC’s Squawk Box can be entertaining, even intentionally, then maybe.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
"A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it." -- William Penn The iconic images of recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri -- after the police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen -- have left Americans of all ilks wondering: Is this America? Military Humvees, still in camouflage and mounted with machine guns, in the hands of municipal police. SWAT teams of police in full riot gear, bristling with automatic weapons, pointed at a lone protestor with hands up. Have we become a police state? Americans now have yet another Read on →
My friend and co-author, Robert Clark, and I long planned to give readers a look at the Southland and its abundant beauty, unusual charms, and fascinating stories. We came up with “Closed Wednesdays” but never got it off the ground. Too much traveling, too many book-related events, and life’s way of throwing detours in our path got in the way. We stepped back and thought things over and decided to offer readers something a bit shorter. Seems today’s hectic pace discourages many from reading long pieces. Robert’s idea, “The Photo of the Week,” resulted and so far it is getting a good recept Read on →
The excitement and acclaim that greeted both the Peachtree and the Broadway premieres of producer David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Gone With the Wind seventy-five years ago this week seems genuinely cringe-worthy today, after multiple indictments over recent years of Margaret Mitchell’s novel as racist and historically distorted. Mitchell is clearly culpable on the first count, although by no means uniquely so, but latter-day critics who charge her with distorting history would be well advised to consider the history she had to work with and, in some aspects, even undertook to revise. Released in mid-summer 1936, Mitchell’s book had already sold more Read on →
When he gasped to take a breath and to stop swearing in his fractured English, he told her he had a “fucking shit life” and that she was a filthy whore who would die a horrid death. Spitting out more vitriol with each breath, he finished his rant by saying, “You will lose this war.” Perhaps time will, if it hasn’t already, prove him right. Certitude rang out from this Algerian jihadist who had been captured by Afghanistan’s tribal Northern Alliance shortly after the American onslaught following 9/11 . At this point, however, the “interview” was concluded when she said, “That may be, but your Read on →