wOw’s Question of the Week

Last week, David Brooks observed in The New York Times that “Covering this upcoming election is like covering a competition between two Soviet refrigerator companies: Cold War relics offering products that never change.” Do you agree? And if so, can you suggest one fundamental change that might help avert the gridlock?

Joan Ganz Cooney: I agree with David Brooks 100 % and think he wrote a brilliant column about the state of the two American political parties. I certainly don’t have one fundamental change to suggest except to express a wish that the quality and I.Q. of our politicians —  particularly those in the Congress — would dramatically improve. The Congressional representatives of the people don’t speak very well of the people. The founding fathers never expected that the people’s representatives would make lifetime careers in Washington. A first step toward change would be term limits.

Joni Evans: I think the answer to this question is about nerve. Some leader has to have the nerve to change the rules. The complacency of both parties is no longer in the public’s interest and the public is getting antsy.

I read Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch’s brilliant cover article on this subject in the Wall Street Journal last weekend, and couldn’t help but see an American revolution against Republicans and Democrats in the not-too-distant future. They compare our dual system to that of Kodak and Fujifilm. Both giants for decades — both fat and happy and ignoring the interests of their customers, both satisfying their own pockets and treating their customers like captives, and eventually… kaboom, the public had enough and turned away.

So this may be the time for someone with NERVE to start a new party, turn against the one they are in. It’s time to change the two-party system we have or invent a new one.

Liz Smith: Of course I agree with David Brooks’ sparkling analogy. The voters of America are the only ones who can produce an active Congress where one ideology has power over the other. Shame on those who voted right in the last midterm elections, they simply produced chaos and stalemate. SO FAR, THE RIGHT HASN’T PRODUCED ANY IDEAS FOR SOLVING OUR PROBLEMS.

We either go on in the stalemate produced by GOP ideologists who refuse to let the government recover financially because now, AFTER the Bush eras, they want to cut spending to the bone. And spending our way out of this depression suddenly doesn’t appeal to them. All this talk about socialism, communism, and fascism is so anti-diluvium and meaningless.

We need to act ON VISIONS FOR THE FUTURE and have a Congress that can enact Recovery Acts for the future, as in the FDR days, or we have to settle for the useless (to me) GOP version of do-nothingism. So only Voters can change the stalemate.

At this point I would say the Republicans “deserve” to win and reap what they sow. That is to go on being totally intransigent about taxing the rich, controlling Wall Street and totally dedicated to being POINTLESSLY AGAINST gay marriage, Planned Parenthood, Medicare and other social programs that have little to do with whether the U S prevails or not. Both sides know Medicare has to be reformed; give Democrats the chance to do it without killing it.

I feel President Obama might prevail if he would let us cut and run from the Middle East wars, which would reduce our spending, be popular and allow the job market to recover. But of course nobody is sure of anything anymore. I am very fearful of the wasteful manner (wasting time that is) in which we are proceeding. I would hate to see Afghanistan turn into a medieval fortress treating women as slaves, but the U.S. may need to save itself before it can go on preaching and ACTING FOR women’s rights in the world.

P.S. I feel relatively sure that asking America’s rich and wealthy to pay their share and cutting the Pentagon’s budgets back would help us to survive

15 comments so far.

  1. avatar Bonnie O says:

    Once again I am in the mushy middle and agree and disagree with David Brooks.  Are the two political parties acting like “Cold War relics offering products that never change”?  Of course, there are large factions of each party that fit that description.  However, is President Obama a “cold war relic”.  Hardly.  Are Tea Party Activitists offering more of the same?  Not at all.  How about Congressman Paul Ryan and his budgetary challenge to the Congress to either fish or cut bait… cut spending now and raise taxes later if necessary.  The norm in this country has been tthe opposite to raise taxes first and then cut spending if necessary … and, of course, there is never a reduction in expenditures.

    The country is involved in this great debate about fiscal responsibility.  Hopefully all of those who are not acting like “products of the Cold War” will not be shouted off the stage and that includes the President.  His policies for fiscal responsibility differ from those in the opposition.  Let the debate begin and lets keep all the hecklers and naysayers from stealing the headlines like “grandma is being tossed out in the snow”  or  ”the President is a socialist”.

    Secretary Gates of the Defense has even joined in the debate.  Yes, the Defense budget should be cut.  The USA miitary should be more specialized and our obligations to NATO are no longer an open checkbook.   That’s a start.  Gates is not speaking like a relic from past administrations.

    I am optimistic that the 2012 campaign may produce some interesting and viable ideas on ways to return our nation to the prosperity we once enjoyed.

    We must not celebrate the glib remarks or the nasty partisanship that will be made by those who want to keep the status quo.  Those who do not believe in compromise.

    There are courageous politicans out there ….. let’s not let them be hanged because of their courage to offer bold new initiatives.  
     

  2. avatar KarenR says:

    ” The norm in this country has been tthe opposite to raise taxes first and then cut spending if necessary … and, of course, there is never a reduction in expenditures.”

    No way. We are now at the LOWEST tax levels since the 1950s. That’s NOT a sign of raising taxes first.

    If we could just get back to the tax rates we had when Reagan left office (more or less took office in 1980) we’d be better off.

    consumerismcommentary.com/tax-rate-comparison/

    • avatar Bonnie O says:

      KarenR -  I do not agree with your tax facts.

      When Reagan took office in 1980 a person earning $20M paid 24% in federal tax; $64M paid 49% and the highest earners paid 70%.  A person earning $5M paid 14%.

      When Reagan left office in 1988 the bottom rate was 15% and the highest rate was 28%.

      In 2011, the lowest rate is 10% and the highest rate is 35%.

      Your statement that we are at the lowest tax levels since the 1950s is inaccurate.

      • avatar KarenR says:

        ‘Twas incomplete and unclear – we’re at the lowest combined tax levels:

        “Federal, state and local taxes—including income, property, sales and other taxes—consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.”

        newsweek.com/blogs/the-gaggle/2010/05/11/surprise-2009-tax-bill-lowest-in-nearly-60-years.html

      • avatar Bonnie O says:

        Karen -  Without investigating further I would suggest that the 9.3% of personal income includes all citizens who do not pay either federal or state income tax.  Yet their income is included in the analysis.  I do believe that is misleading.

        Numbers are often calculated in a way that prop up a certain theory or idealogy.

        I am not opposed to a higher personal income tax on the very wealthy in our country.  But we must keep in mind that in combined federal and state tax, the very wealthy are paying over 50% of their earnings to the government.  And, further keeping in mind, that a good portion of those monies would otherwise be used to purchase goods and services and another portion for investment in companies allowing for job growth.  I prefer private sector job growth versus adding to governmental payrolls around the nation. 

  3. avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

    I always find the comments under our Mr. Brook’s columns much more interesting and illuminating. This one from my friend Marie expresses my thoughts exactly:

    “… the two parties contesting this election are unusually pathetic.” — David Brooks

    We can all agree there. But I don’t know how you can write such a column without beginning it, “Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea culpa.”

    You have spent the past bazillion columns touting loony right-wing ideas like the Ryan/Republican Tea Party bill and irresponsible right-wing politicians like Mitch I-Created-the-Deficit Daniels. NOW you say the parties are pathetic? They are pathetic, in part, because the Beltway Noise Machine, of which you are a central character, has focused the parties on nonsense and side issues. Your last column was about Anthony Weiner, for Pete’s sake.

    After your every column hit the Times Website, commenters tried to get you to focus on and understand the real issues. But you chose to lead the Hallelujah Chorus of the same old Beltway standards. Don’t complain, Mr. Brooks, now that you’ve ensured the politicians are following the bouncing ball and singing the lyrics you wrote.

  4. avatar Maggie W says:

    During that sorry spectacle called a debate on June 13, Newt actually had the best line of the night. In attempting to defend his previous remarks about Paul Ryan’s asinine Medicare plan, Newt said it was not wise to continue with a plan when the populace repeatedly tells you they don’t like it.

    Therein lies the problem with both parties.  I have heard Boehner say on more than one occasion, ” We have heard the people,” and Democrats say the same.  Obviously they do not, and they really aren’t interested once elected. They simply stay in campaign mode and sling mud and plan for the next election.  Now that we have the activist Roberts court, even more campaign cash can flow often and earlier and from veiled foreign countries.  

    As for Brooks, he takes the blinders off. Then he puts them on.  Takes them off, puts them……

    • avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

      Do you recall when Tom Daschle came out last year and told us the dirty little secret of the ways and means of congress?
      Here’s how he sketched a portrait of the contemporary senator who is too busy to think: ‘Sometimes, you’re dialling for dollars, you get the call, you’ve got to get over to vote, you’ve got fifteen minutes. You don’t have a clue what’s on the floor, your staff is whispering in your ears, you’re running onto the floor, then you check with your leader-you double check-but, just to make triple sure, there’s a little sheet of paper on the clerk’s table: The leader recommends an aye vote, or a no vote. So you’ve got all these checks just to make sure you don’t screw up, but even then you screw up sometimes. But, if you’re ever pressed, “Why did you vote that way?” -you just walk out thinking, Oh, my God, I hope nobody asks, because I don’t have a clue.’”; So Senators don’t actually do any legislating, they rarely read the bills they vote on, they are much too busy fund raising, poll watching, and setting, taking, making appointments with lobbyists and staffers in what has become a 24/7 campaign effort.

      • avatar Maggie W says:

        I hear you.  A few months back I caught a clip of Congress in action.  I don’t recall the congressman who held the floor, but he had that Weiner type bombastic oratory going full steam ahead.  The chamber was about 1/3 full .  Most of those in attendance were either on their laptops, texting,  playing Blackberry time, laboring over a crossword puzzle,  nodding off, walking in and out, while staffers were running in and out with sheets of paper… to inform the congressmen just what the hey was going on with the speaker on the floor. ( assumption)  A Boy Scout meeting is better organized and has a clearer mission.

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    I disagree 100% with David Brooks assessment.

    The Tea Party flourished as we all know, the moment President Obama came into office….literally. I still recall the hate-filled and in some instances racist (mispelled) signs that abound at their rallies. The segment of society that I knew would have a problem with seeing someone like Barack Obama in the White House let their voices be heard. They galvanized and created their own little party that they could call their own.

    They played a big part in last year elections and won some seats. And it is no surprise that most of those that voted them into office are now experiencing Buyers Remorse - which I believe will have a significant affect on how their political input is weighed in 2012. Mainstream Americans will once again see them for who they truly are.

    So with that said, 2012 will be a vibrant and electricity filled time for politics. With Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers and countless other Independents vying for the top seat. All bringing to the table their different ideas of how ”they think” America should be led.

    The Obama administration in my opinion is not perfect. He was able to pass laws and make changes that were/are significant, but he failed in one big area (IMO) and that was his assurance that he would bring change to how Washington works. I could tell when he first entered office he honestly believed because most of the world and U.S. loved him, people would listen and respond to whatever he had to say. He had already been in politics so he knew how staunch Republicans could be….I don’t think that was a surprise to him. But I do think he was caught off guard by how bad our nation was and that there would be those on the right posed to derail his presidency. I think he was too diplomatic. I didn’t want him to be a George W. and ride into town with a “Kill or be killed” mentality. But I do now admit he was too logical. He tried to (as he always says) speak to others as if they were all adults, and given they aren’t – I knew that wasn’t going to work. 

    However, we have all been a witness to where his logical and cool demeanor comes in handy, and that was with his handling of the Osama Bin-Laden capture. We didn’t know any of it was happening. And in this day and age where we are all demanding complete and total transparency, he showed us as our president, some things are not for us to know. I trust him. I respect him. I admire him. I will vote for him. I can say that now without even seeing who his opponent in 2012 will be.

    The democrats have it right. They are not to be compared to the republicans in any way as David Brooks is attempting to paint them. They do have fresh ideas and a plan for America that will lead us in the right way.  The other parties have very disturbing ideas that scare me. It will be interesting to see who will win in 2012.  President Obama does not receive enough kudos from those in the press for how he saved our nation from countless catastrophes in a number of areas. He really was handed a bag of crap when he first entered office, crap that was over-flowing and ready to burst. Because of him, all that crap is beginning to setlle a bit. We’re still in the thick of it, but it’s not as overwhelming as it was.

    The question for me is simple. Who do I trust to handle the crap we are in? Who will attempt to pull us out of it? And who will, if given a chance, simply add to it?

  6. avatar Linda Myers says:

    My interest is not in what party they come from or the color of skin and gender. My interest will be in the candidate who is willing to let go of the past and not be focused on a time which is yet to exist. My preference would be a candidate who can see the world for what it is and focus change and policies for the time we are in. One who is willing to listen to the best business minds in the world and adjust to create jobs. One who’s interest is not about outsourcing and putting the emphasis on made in America and tightening assistance to companies who rely on product and employees beyond our country, and is willing to balance the ratios in our favor between imports and exports.

    Attempting to police the world and mandate the laws and actions of other countries will never work, or trying to change cultures older than our country to satisfy the White House is money we can not afford to spend. How can you tell the world they are wrong when we are not right on any level at this time.

  7. avatar Bonnie O says:

    The WOW question of the week will be, IMO, one of the primary subjects of debate during the 2012 campaign.

    This forum, however, may not produce the rhetoric that leads opponents to reach for compromise legislation.  Is wowowow a micromsm of the nation?  Are there no compromises to be reached?
    If not, then David Brooks is perhaps more right in his assessment of the polical parites than I thought.

    The ballot is a mighty club.  However, an entitlement check might prove to be stronger.  If so,
    then I shall join the ranks of the pessimists and fear for the continued health and prosperity of our nation.

  8. avatar D C says:

    The vast majority of US citizens have the misconception that who they elect to hold the title of president really matters.  The president has absolutely no power to get anything done.  He/She only has the power to stop things from getting done with the Veto.  If we cannot elect a congress and senate that will work together with the president and all agree on a good direction for our country, then we will continue to go down the tubes toward the idiocracy that awaits us (assuming we aren’t already there). 

    I HATE politics.  I hate talking about it.  I hate thinking about it.  I am an “art person” for lack of a better thing to call it at this moment in time, and the constant NOISE of our political landscape makes me nauseated.  Combine that with the fact I am married to a man over 50 (just this past month) — and we all know men of a certain age cannot seem to talk about anything else — and many days I just want to drink Tequila and turn up the tunes and zone out.

    I agree with Joan — term limits would be a good place to start.  And maybe the introduction of a kindergarten teacher to teach all these idiots how to get along!  And take away the perks so that the incentive is not to “get that great healthcare package that lasts forever” among other things.  People who give a good damn about their country and want to keep it a great place and who will promise (and mean it) to go in and do the hard work it takes to come to a compromise that is for the good of all, and stop playing the STUPID power games….

    I’m exhausted.  Again.  I.  HATE. POLITCIS.

    • avatar D C says:

      Hate it so much I can’t even spell it correctly!

      • avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

        Dear D C––you are a pip––so funny, I love that you spelled politics incorrectly–-you write emotionally. You may hate politics, but it’s what makes the world go round, locally, nationally, and internationally. I think what you are saying is that all this claptrap and fol-de-rol of candidates that believe they have the answer to Nirvana and all these pundits that blather on much too long is driving you nuts. I suggest you do drink that Tequila and turn up the tunes and zone out. I once went on a vacation void of TEEVEE and lo and behold the world did not stop.