The Party of Bad Ideas

They are not just the party of no, today's Republican party is also the party of singularly bad ideas. In Utah, GOP State Senator Chris Buttars is proposing that senior year of high school be made optional as a means of tackling the Beehive state's $700 million budget gap.

In South Carolina, State Rep. Mike Pitts, a four term Republican, introduced a bill earlier this month that would ban what he calls “the unconstitutional substitution of Federal Reserve Notes for silver and gold coin” in South Carolina. Yup, that's right he wants to take the country back to 19th century. From the Palmetto Scoop:

If the bill were to become law, South Carolina would no longer accept or use anything other than silver and gold coins as a form of payment for any debt, meaning paper money would be out in the Palmetto State.

Pitts said the intent of the bill is to give South Carolina the ability to “function through gold and silver coinage” and give the state a “base of currency” in the event of a complete implosion of the U.S. economic system.

“I’m not one to cry ‘chicken little,’ but if our federal government keeps spending at the rate we’re spending I don’t see any other outcome than the collapse of the economic system,” Pitts said.

But one legal expert told The Palmetto Scoop that, even if it were passed, Pitts’ bill would quickly be ruled unconstitutional.

“It violates a perfectly legal and Constitutional federal law, enacted pursuant to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, that federal reserve notes are legal tender for all debts public and private,” the expert said. “We settled this debate in the early 1800s. I appreciate the political sentiment but the law is blatantly unconstitutional.”

Pitts, however, dismissed that claim, saying that “adherence to the Constitution is a two-edged sword. The federal government has consistently violated the Constitution, especially the 10th Amendment and Commerce Clause.”

Constitutional issues aside, Pitts’ bill faces another hurdle. Critics point out that silver and gold coins can’t actually serve as a form of currency.

“You can’t put a set value on a pure silver or gold coin because it’s actual value fluctuates,” one expert said. “You can say a gold coin is worth $50 but it would actually be worth whatever the market says it’s worth, based on supply and demand. In reality, what you have is a bartering good, not a form of currency.”

Still, Pitts said, a system based around bartering is better than a currency-based economy.

A barter economy? That's a sign of systemic failure, not of a healthy economy. It is almost as if conservatives would prefer to turn the country into a Zimbabwe rather than raise taxes. Perhaps we should all revert to growing our own crops and spinning our own yarn.

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Have the Democrats lost populism?

The progressive netroots movement has always been about the populism of getting people involved with political activism. "The Rise of People-Powered Politics" was part of the subtitle of Crashing The Gate; the election wave of victories in '06 Moveon.org capped the slogan"People Powered Politics" atop the historic wave election for Democrats. However, over the past couple of months, I'm becoming convinced that the perception, to put it simply, is that the Democrats have become the party of the bankers.

The story goes that Obama, when he decided to let the Goldman Sachs/Wall St alumni run his Treasury, paid off a campaign debt to his biggest financial backers. But it wasn't just a tip of the hat, as it led to Obama & the Democrats becoming the establishment face of TARP (with that second round of bank bailout money), which is arguably the biggest miscalculation of his Presidency, and for Democrats this cycle. It might take failure to pass healthcare reform, or a reneging of his promise to pull out of Iraq in 18 months, to top that bank bailout mistake. To Big To Fail has become The Big Fail. There is even talk now that some of the TARP money will be used to paydown the deficit. That's smart because people are worried about the deficit over boosting the economy by a 2:1 margin according to recent Peter Hart polling. But you have to wonder if the damage has already been done:

In September, the Democratic pollster Peter Hart asked registered voters who they thought had benefited most from the Obama administration's economic policies. Sixty-two percent said the main beneficiary had been the "large banks." In contrast, 65 percent said the "average working person" and "small businesses" hadn't been helped. Seventy-three percent said "my family/myself" hadn't been helped.
The Republicans are jumping at the frame:
Under Obama's policies, he is reorganizing the Democratic Party into the elitist coalition, representing Big Government, big bankers, big Wall Street, big universities, big Hollywood -- all protected under the mantra of "too big to fail."

That's Craig Shirley, Elites overlook power of populists, but you have to go back to read what he wrote in April of 2006, How the GOP Lost Its Way, because he's seen this coming for a while now in the Republicans. The mix of populism with movement conservatism to create the populist conservative moment is underway. All for it is Matthew Continetti, A case for the new populism. All against it is Patrick N. Allitt, Instead of going rogue, Instead of going rogue, Republicans should cultivate leadership in ideas and solutions; and then there's Christopher Hitchens, best known for his neocon atheism, who believes that if the likes of Palin represents populism, the opposition should go all in with embracing elitism, Base Appeal (what I want to know is why it takes Democrats a couple of decades to remake the party while it only takes Republicans a couple of years).

That Democrats this year lost the opportunity for a "Barack Obama, FDR and the Hundred Days" moment is pretty clear in hindsight. To recover the momentum, we have to roll up a package of issues, vote them up or down, and if they don't pass, run on them in '10. Right now, Democrats are so afraid of failing that nothing is getting done. Yea, there's a whole progressive agenda that's been left by the wayside so far, but if Democrats don't halt this move toward becoming the party that holds the bid for JP Morgan right now, even worse will happen.

I just got my copy of "Censored 2010: The top 25 stories of 2008-09" and you know what the first one is? Its "US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street" and lays it at the feet of Democrats. Since the start of 2009, Wall Street has donated more than any other sector to DC politicians, and "58% of that has gone to Democrats, marking a change, perhaps, in political strategy. Not since the 1990 election cycle have finance, insurance, and real estate companies given more than 52% of its overall donations to Democrats, and from 1991 to 2006, finance gave the majority of its money to Republicans."

That's change, for the wrong people. Yes, this is reflective of a political strategy furthered by D politicians such as Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel. Basically, their thinking goes, since the Republicans have relied upon lobbyist, corporate, and financial funding to maintain an advantage over the past decades, undercut that, and D's will gain the financial advantage over R's.

It reminds me of the sort of thinking that went along with Bush and the Republicans willingly signing McCain-Fiengold CFR into law; and many establishment Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, thought the Democrats were committing funding suicide. I wrote just the opposite was happening-- that it would lead to the Democrats being funded by the grassroots. And that happened, no doubt surprising the Republicans that they were suddenly being outspent a few cycles later.

The upside of this topsy-turvy state of funding turmoil is that funding of Democratic institutions by populist progressives has come to a standstill, funding of conservative populists is going to rocket. Funding of Democrats by the big banks is at record levels, and funding of Republicans by those same banks is on the wane. Alongside the perception that Democrats can't pass meaningful legislation and that Obama is too passive in pushing for the promises on which he campaigned, it does add up to an electoral disaster-in-waiting in '10.

Rahm Emanual is reading the '09 tea-leaves, and now says that"reducing America’s long- term federal budget deficits is now is foremost on his mind and the mind of the economic team". This midnight conversion of Hoover/McCain thought can't be taken seriously.

Then there's the first line of Politico today: "BREAKING I: Obama administration to launch big financial fraud crackdown. A senior administration official tells POLITICO: "We will be announcing a sustained, multilevel attack on financial fraud." Sounds like another window dressing initiative.

There's does seem to be the possibility for movement/moment right now for take down of one of the architects of this disaster, Timothy Geithner.

Geithner has been Singled Out In TARP Watchdog Neil Barofsky's Scathing Report On AIG Bailout. He's game for being the scapegoat.

Update [2009-11-17 14:40:52 by Jerome Armstrong]:A bit more on this last point from Joe Costello:

SIGTARP, the Special Inspector General for TARP, who is supposedly charged to make sure your tax dollars going to the banks aren't wasted, which is funny in itself, released their first report, which is a joke in itself. The report basically says the New York Fed under Mr. Geithner was basically played by the banks in the money paid through AIG. Of course, that's not really true, AIG was simply used to funnel money into the banks, that was without a doubt always the idea. Whether you think that was criminal or in the public interest, well it was criminal. Yves Smith has a longer take down.
To quote the Epicurean Dealmaker: Tim Geithner and the Federal Reserve got royally played. And you and I, my friends, paid dearly for the privilege.

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Thought about populism

The dollar hit a new low today against other currencies. If you google Obama's deficit plan, you'll pull up a Page Not Found*.

I've been mulling over and writing something about populism and the political turmoil that's underway as the GOP remakes itself, and Democrats struggle with having the power.

All this political reshuffling has led me to go back to the history books to re-read the mid 1890's to early 1900's, which, with its social conservative populism and economic turmoil, have similarities to glean over; President Grover Cleveland, then the battles between William McKinley vs William Jennings Bryan, and Teddy Roosevelt. That's a fascinating period, when the financial standards were moving from gold & silver to greenbacks. Amidst a financial collapse and recovery, a new economic environment emerged. Both parties became radically transformed as the nation moved from an agrarian to a industrial based economy. The Republicans transitioned from the party of Lincoln and the Civil War victors of justice to being the party of business. The progressives existed within the Republican party still, but the Democrats became less southern and more populist-based. I love reading about that era and its political upheavals. Its also distant enough that it gets away from the whole current era's Red-Blue divide, because you could find progressive arguments for both sides.  

Consider another angle of possible similarity, that as we move toward a globalist economic system, its possible that the current fiscal attempt to rescue the economy by inducing inflation through deficit-ballooning is setting the stage for a move away from the dollar to a new global currency. Obama is probably ideally positioned for leading such a move, and I have little doubt that the populist conservatives would lead the charge in support of the dollar. You could make the progressive arguement that its much better for us to be led down that path by the likes of the Democrats doing the bidding of the banks under Obama, than it would be under BushCo. Although, one could counter-argue that Bush I & II made the corporate New World Order possible; Clinton, Obama and the Democrats just get to follow-through.

Update [2009-11-16 19:51:12 by Jerome Armstrong]: Consider if these are related?

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The Right Targets Utah's Bennett

While Utah no longer wears the crown of America's reddest state and despite some minor Democratic inroads, the Beehive state remains a hotbed of conservatism. The state is also emerging as one of the more improbable battlegrounds for the future of the GOP. To some on the rabid right, that future does not include Senator Bob Bennett who after three terms in office is facing his stiffest primary challenge. At least three have already lined to challenge Senator Bennett with perhaps more in the wings.

Today, Erick Erickson of Red State blogged that "defeating Bennett in the Utah Republican Convention should be a high priority for conservatives considered [sic] about the leftward drift of the Republican Party." The considerate but unconcerned Erickson cites a local source suggesting that defeating Bennett is feasible.

A well-placed Utah GOP source said the conservative movement could really have an impact in the state, especially if the Tea Party movement, the 9/12ers and the Patrick Henry Caucus can settle on one candidate.

"This is tailor-made for those folks," the source said. "This is a state where those people can make a difference, and quite honestly, they do not like Bennett."

Another group that could join the cause is the Club for Growth. After endorsing Marco Rubio over Gov. Charlie Crist this week in Florida's GOP Senate primary, the group will continue to monitor Utah.

The Club has already contacted potential delegates several times and run $100,000 worth of ads against Bennett's healthcare plan.

Why is Bennett even a target? After all, he has won re-election by landslide margins. On the other hand, he has alienated hard core conservatives with a number of stances. In 2005, he opposed a constitutional amendment banning flag burning -- an effort spearheaded by his home-state GOP colleague Senator Orrin Hatch. A year later, he was a vocal supporter of then-President George W. Bush's push for comprehensive immigration reform. And last year, he voted for the TARP that bailed out Wall Street banks and perhaps even more egregiously for the Tea Party set he offered his own bipartisan healthcare legislation, "Healthy Americans Act" (S. 334), with Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. Trying to solve problems is apparently a bridge too far for some conservatives.

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Barney Frank's Post-Partisan Depression

I am relieved to hear that some on our side of the aisle in Congress are finding their spine. Kudos to Congressman Barney Frank for telling it as it is. From The Hill:

President Barack Obama's post-partisan campaign theme has only emboldened the GOP's opposition to his agenda, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said on Sunday.

Frank's rejection of bipartisanship comes at a time when many congressional liberals are calling on Democratic leaders to pass healthcare reform by a party line vote. Frank's comments are one of the few to directly take on the president.

Frank, speaking at the Oakland County (Mich.) Democratic Party Dinner, said that Democrats could not count on Republicans to support healthcare reform and new financial regulations as a result of "extreme conservatives'" opposition to the president.

"Knowing how far right the Republican Party has become, when Obama said he was going to be post-partisan president, I got post-partisan depression," Frank said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "That would empower a group of extreme conservatives and it's simply not possible to work with them on major public policy."

Bi-partisanship for the sake of bi-partisanship is simply bad politics. I'd rather lose an election based on my principles than compromise on policy to placate those who can't be placated to begin with. Stop placating the GOP and start placating the American people.

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