- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
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
When my boys were growing up they learned rude words from their classmates (school is an education) and naturally I tried to filter out the most offensive. When a four letter word slipped out of their mouths I would always say “Please don’t say that.” After I explained that their meaning was offensive, and if it became their familiar vocabulary it would inevitably slip out when they didn’t want it to (like in front of a teacher), they were pretty accommodating. Their father however replied to my request not to swear in front of the children (without prevarication) “I’ll effing well Read on →
Chip Wells, 43, an 11-year veteran at the 5,200-worker Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, says the recent bad news coming out of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, did nothing to deter him and fellow pro-union Nissan workers from their campaign to join the United Auto Workers. “People think that derailed us,” says Wells, who works in Nissan’s paint department, “but we think it made us stronger. That plant (in Chattanooga) was only opened for two years. They’re still in the honeymoon phase.” The UAW “made some mistakes and they realize it,” he says. “The demographics were different. Here labor rights are civil rights, act Read on →
That the Crimean Crisis would be exploited by Republican Congressional leaders to criticize President Obama was inevitable. Politics hasn’t stopped at the water’s edge in the United States for a very long time. What wasn’t inevitable was the shamelessness of Senator John McCain’s denunciation of President Obama in a speech to the most powerful ethnic foreign policy lobby in Washington. In a March 4th address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Arizona Republican complained about a “feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.” Yet after insisting that Russian action in Crimea “must be made unacceptable to the world commu Read on →
What would winning the War in Afghanistan look like? America has been at war there for 13 years and you would expect that after thousands of casualties and spending immense sums of our tax dollars something that could be deemed victory would have been achieved by now. Instead of that we are presented with soon to be retiring Rep. Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, chiding the America people and President Obama for not wanting to keep fighting the longest war in our history. In a February 24th speech to National Press Club the California Rep Read on →