Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fire This Clown

I've long been concerned that Doug Elmendorf has been a less than fair referee on health care reform, but what he said about global warming makes it clear that he's a clown unfit to fill Peter Orszag's shoes: "Most of the economy involves activities that are not likely to be directly affected by changes in climate." Check out this Truthout article for a more complete description of why this claim is bogus, but you don't really need much more than an elementary understanding of the anthropogenic global warming trend to know that it spells doom for the U.S. economy as well as ever other economy on the planet. I understand that Elmendorf is trained in the narrow thinking of short term cost-benefit analyses, but as Congress' accountant he should figure out a way to accurately express the economic conclusions of climate science or he should resign.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"A Cancer Growing Inside the World's Greatest Deliberative Body"

This weekend's House vote to pass historic health care reform legislation sends President Obama's central domestic policy priority sailing towards the legislative end zone. In addition, the House passed major energy/environment legislation earlier this year, another major Obama agenda item. Both bills now await consideration on the floor of the United States Senate. As we work to push our Senators to do the right thing on both bills, it would be wise to keep the recent comments offered by Chris Hayes in mind:
The filibuster has become a cancer growing inside the world's greatest deliberative body. What was once a rarely invoked procedural mechanism has metastasized and turned into a de facto supermajority requirement for any legislation. In the 103rd Congress (1993-94) there were forty-six votes on "cloture," the motion to override a filibuster and allow something to be considered on the floor. In the last Congress, the 110th, the first one in which Republicans were in the minority, there were a record 112. Even without the filibuster, our system already has more choke points where legislation can die than almost any other liberal democracy. It's rare for one party to control both houses of Congress and the White House, and to have as solid a majority as the Democrats currently do. But the filibuster confers such power on an obstinate minority that it distorts the relationship between elections and governance in a way that dangerously attenuates democracy itself.

Right wing obstructionists be warned: the progressive movement that elected President Obama and substantial majorities in both national legislative bodies will not be abide the subversion of democracy by an entrenched minority.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Politics as Sport

Imagine that politics is baseball. Following from that, political junkies are baseball fans. And elections are the World Series (debates are the play-offs). But here's where the metaphor gets tricky. Baseball fans expect that they will get to watch the World Series every fall. After the mother of all elections last fall which created innumerable new political junkies, we now expect that same kind of annual fix that baseball fans have come to rightly expect.

Yesterday was a special election. The political world treated it like it was this year's political World Series. But it wasn't. It had serious consequences for the state of New Jersey and the state of Virginia. It had conventional consequences for New York City. It had minor consequences for the United States House of Representatives, which is now slightly but measurably more progressive than it used to be. The election NY-23 may have affected the internal politics of the Republican Party in a serious way. And of course, it had consequences for the gay population of Maine, who have been tragically deprived of some of their human rights.

But that's all. A little drama, a little comedy, a little tragedy. It was not this year's political World Series. This year, the political World Series is not an election. It's what happens with health care. But don't be a spectator. Go and play a little hardball.