VIEWS: 1 PAGES: 16 POSTED ON: 10/16/2012
38. Agitated? Aggravated? Here's your chance to comment: Overview Item 37 featured eight statements about integrity, congress, voters, and reform, with a critical slant. The answers in response item 38 (“Agitated? Aggravated?”) continued the call for critical comments. We were looking for strong opinions, not platitudes, and we succeeded! So, don’t let the dominance of negative answers below convey an impression that they reflect some balanced assessment. Number of comments that mention money in politics and campaign finance: 24 combing H and R. The categories were dreamt up post hoc by the editor. Summary by category of R: 1 positive, 12 mild etc., 12 negative, 1 negative about Democrats etc., 6 negative about Republicans, 4 structural reforms, and 6 objections. Summary by category for H: 5 positive, 26 mild etc., 54 negative, 5 negative about Democrats etc., 34 negative about Republicans, 9 suggest structural reforms, 3 objections to, or problems with, the question, and one self-interested comment. This discussion is 16 pages long, almost unreadable, so I suggest using Navigation | Browse to jump around. The editor asks your indulgence for occasionally interjecting what might be a sense of humor. Radcliffe Positive Have been member of Independence Party for about 15 years. Great respect for my local Congressman and one Senator. Mild, wistful, balanced, vague, or unclear to the editor At a fundamental level, I think people do have as much common sense as they need to make decisions about their life/survival. Their response to government comes from that observation. Obviously within this framework there will be multiple objectives and not all match what holds a nation together. For me, American democracy is a work in progress. It is far behind most other Western European and Australia/Canada. But there is time....although it is running out. Wish partisan bickering would go away in favor of a joint effort to resolve our nation's very real problems Since I am answering this question on Aug 1 when it is not clear that the debt deal will pass, I probably gave some biased answers. However I am deeply discouraged by the ignorance of Congress, politicians, and voters who do not seem to understand the role of America in the world, or the power of America. To play fast and loose with the economic system seems to me to be nuts. One thing I regret is all the emotion I wasted on politics through the years. I believe in the importance of a free press but the overwhelming amount of negative information we encounter which is primarily out there for our entertainment is very worrisome. Since my husband worked in state government, I trust, as accurate, very little that I read or hear in the news. I am upset about the polarization which exists in Congress today. I feel that things were better in the past, but then I remember the McCarthy era and wonder if we are just muddling through as we always have. Perhaps the situation will change as people see how badly we are doing as a nation having spent much money fighting two wars and generally not seeing the obvious about the environment and global warming, etc. Yes, I am very troubled by our modern-day version of politics with the revolving door lobbyist system of commanding legislators’ attention, and the inordinate power of funds raised to support media campaigns. I don't think it's any different, however, from what politics has always been. The stakes are very high today. The world is at stake. It would be great to be a powerful voice. I had thought Obama was. Oh, not so. I didn't answer about my faith in institutions. I think that governmental institutions are pretty much okay, but I fear that they may not be able to withstand the onslaughts of the far right. In the case of Congress, I fear that even many of the 'good guys' who went to Washington with a real desire to serve the public may have been overwhelmed by the hordes of lobbyists. I am alarmed by the inability of our leaders' ability to negotiate. I never thought that I'd be yearning for Lyndon Johnson. It would be nice if people understood what value we get from our taxes. I am an expatriate for more than 40 yrs. Even though I follow events on a daily basis via the International Herald Tribune and by yearly or more frequent visits, and vote (!) I don't feel qualified to relate directly. As a general statement I can say that the current situation in the USA seems very bizarre to me. Half of me is philosophic —- 'OK, so we're going through another of these periods...'; ; The other half is frustrated at the unacceptable level of acceptance among Americans of hyperbolic political spin for ends that are unrelated to the practical problems causing discontent. I am, as I assume are most Americans, frustrated and disappointed at the state of our government, which has its reflection in the state of the country generally. On the other hand, I have a great deal of optimism about the upcoming generation, which seems to be heading in good directions. We need both to do what we can and to watch what is coming. Generalizations about Americans! I think the institutions are splendid, but no system can run itself and personal involvement by citizens seems to have been left to some highly vocal and not always representative groups. In America, as in England, I have serious and rising concerns about media control by small numbers of influential people. This certainly affects public perceptions and private views. ; Likewise, the influence of money on opinion is a worry. This applies more in America than in England. Regulation is not always bad. In general, I find the balance of individual freedom and social good has swung too far towards individualism for my comfort in the US. So many things agitate and irritate me that I don't know where to start. I have become a fogy. I am not involved or informed as I should be. Part of it is because my reading is restricted by my disability and I need to save most of my energy in regard to what I read for my work. Negative The relatively new phenomenon of politicians who have no regard for the truth when they speak. Couple that with the general ignorance of the American public, and we have the current recipe for disaster. I have moved from feeling lucky to be an American to great shame for the way our government (and our citizens) have behaved in the world. Too bad it's all about the money. Our 'leaders' are so dependent on it that they can't function. Deplore the lack of civility in national politics. Deplore continued demagoguery in addressing critical issues instead of seeking answers and building for the future. We are a country run by large corporations bent only on keeping as much money to themselves as they can. Our officials are not elected, but bought. Worried. There is a great deal of ignorance even among some well-educated friends. I know good and bright people who have never voted! There's a tendency to 'turn the ....s out' when things are rough; The differences between the two major political parties are small in comparison to their joint advocacy of rule by the tiny and reactionary class of owners of the primary engines of the economy. This has become more and more evident of late. Americans are the stupidest people on the planet. I will elaborate in my class essay. I am filled with outrage and wish more people were ready to act in behalf of social justice Public values appear to have declined along with the rise of modern money politics, increasing income inequality, and the assault on social welfare programs. The Citizens United case and the attitudes that produced it have undermined democracy and self-governance and encouraged wealthy corporations and individuals to purchase public policy at the expense of the needs of the middle class and the poor. Too many people are uninformed and misinformed. Problems are complex economically and scientifically (e.g. how to deal with joblessness, is there global warming) and our educational standards have deteriorated significantly. TV news has become extraordinarily biased. Not a good basis for optimism about our democracy and its ability to address our problems effectively. I feel we face issues of great complexity and even people as educated as this cohort lack the time or necessary energy to be in command of the information required to form intelligent opinions and thus can be swept up by sloganeering: drill baby drill or death panels; too much information about too many things; wow do sound like an old fart Negative about Democrats or positive about Republicans I'm a rather conservative Republican Negative about Republicans or positive about Democrats The Republican Party has become a Religious-Right-dominated fount of ignorance, hypocrisy and bigotry. Can't fathom the extreme right. Yes. It's depressing that the most obstructionist Tea Party Congress-persons may be reflecting the perspective of their constituents. Historically, we have come out of such periods before, but living through it is no fun. Whatever became of 'reasoned discourse?' During the last few years, politics has become very polarized. There is very little middle ground or ability for discourse. Take the media, the news is now definitely always from some viewpoint or other. I am also concerned that the wealthy are able to buy elections through their ability to make campaign contributions. We need to change how we elect people to congress. In the South, where I live, the districts are drawn to polarize the races. The result is the rise of the Republicans. There are very few real races because the incumbents tend to stay. Race is still a huge, if unstated, force in Southern politics. But I am more worried about how the US will adjust to the economic crisis. A lot of the anger is due to the unconscious realization that the US is not going to keep its economic global position. The Tea party movement scares me. Polarizing political attitudes threaten to do more harm than we can imagine. Where does all this come from? Up with a liberal arts education which is threatened everywhere. I am deeply upset at Republican Congress people who take the 'no tax' pledge. Everything must be on the table to negotiate good compromises for the nation. Structural Reform Ideas I am aggravated enough to give time to my legislative district's Democrats. Over the last few weeks, I have convinced 12 people to sign up for the vote-by-mail ballots that my state permits. In the Democratic Party, we have found that among those who receive mail-in ballots, 92% vote. It is worth our while to sign up more people. Last month, I carried around petitions to force a recall election for a State Senator who is president of the State Senate and de-facto governor. I find it is best to deal with aggravation by trying to do something positive! The solution to big government is not big business, and vice versa. Big institutions mess up if they are public or private. What we need is smaller and more responsive government at all levels, do-able in the Internet age, and clearly focused private companies which may have to be smaller too. We need more people doing more to make change in our officials, in their commitment to integrity, in efforts to decrease the impact of money on public life. We need to educate our young people for meaningful careers, not send them to war. We need to be able to produce what the world wants and figure out how to do that. Objections to the questionnaire What is omitted above is the role of mass media, especially Fox News in spreading misinformation and irresponsible political criticism. You're asking this two weeks before U.S. might default. What do you expect me to say!? Re your questions, can you define integrity? The answers above are approximate; I agree more or less with those checked, but not entirely.; ; The above is a poor choice of statements. The survey buttons do not respond well at all so the survey is taking forever. Ditto the arrow to move the screen up. Maybe this is just because the software has worn out by being used so much but it is very annoying Harvard Positive >5 positive about American system, may include analytical ideas For all its warts I like our American system. Our environment of continuous public debate, plus our system of various layers of government ranging from town, county, state and federal, combined with our three separate branches of government, lead to the best possible reflection of the public will in government. It also offers an opportunity for individuals and groups to influence each other. I don’t indulge in venomous knee-jerk resentment whenever the outcome does not meet my particular wishes. I concentrated in American History. I know that things constantly change, and that it’s good. I’m actually at peace with the system, though I’m not wild about the direction we seem to be going, and I still believe it’s the best one around. I travel all over the world, but I’m always ecstatic to return to the US of A, mostly because I know that’s the place where I have my rights. It’s the best system there is. The great irony is that while voters seem to be pervasively uninformed, democracy works., and voters know when change is needed. Winston Churchill said that, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.” That remains true today. I agree with Al Smith who said, while running for President in 1928, that “the problems of democracy will be resolved by more democracy.” By that, he meant that citizens needed to get involved and stay in involved. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin “We have a republic, it is up to us to keep it.” (In 1787 after the Constitutional, a woman asked Franklin. "Well, doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" Franklin replied, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it.") Mild, wistful, neutral, balanced, vague, or unclear to editor >26 comments We have to confront the fact that our own self-interest and the good of the community are not always the same. We hope for integrity in Congress. Wouldn’t it be refreshing, and possibly even productive, if our elected officials put aside hardline points of view, actually listened and carried on intelligent conversations with one another, and worried less about how to get reelected and more about what might actually work for the country. The middle of the road is a hard place to be: you get hit from both sides. Moderation in all things. The really smart and concerned don’t end up in the proper positions The reason we have such extremes in the political, is that we lack a leadership class that can articulate and demonstrate a common purpose, both at home and abroad. The U.S. economy had a great run after WWII based on a unique set of circumstances never to be repeated, and expectations that everyone would continually get richer went way beyond the possible. The realization that we are no longer special is painful indeed and our gridlocked political situation is the result. The issue is not to reform government but to find ways that people can act individually without government intervention or intercession. We need to emphasize individual action, legally and ethically bound, and put less unexamined focus on institutions, which inevitably become corrupted, intellectually if not financially. At best, even if not corrupted, institutions entail a forced paternalism. Government should be left to do those things it has to do—external and internal defense. setting end enforcing rules for private action. and targeted assistance—and do it well. Real accountability necessary. (Editor: a government, like a corporation, is not a person. A system is corrupt only to the extent that individuals in the system are corrupt, and raise it to a systemic level. The jobs given government here still require extensive governmental intervention, and it is not clear what government should stop doing.) Stand up tall, hold your head high, believe in yourself and walk toward the sun. After all it is the provider of life’s energy and one of the keys to understanding the universe American decline is inevitable and is probably a good thing, at least for Americans, though they are going to have a terrible time accepting it. I concentrated in American History and have been reading and writing about it ever since. The more you know about the past, the less the present seems abnormally deficient. Confidence in government (and in people who serve in both elected and unelected government positions) is very important to a successful USA. The decline in confidence, some of which is justified but much of which comes from shrill attacks, is a serious national problem. Democracy is a tough form of government to manage. But it beats Autocracy! We’ve had polarization in the US since the beginning and that’s how we stay “free”. But when the S hits the F, like two economic burst bubbles, and terrorism fright, there’s lots of talk and little consensus. I feel helpless. I tried to follow our President’s advice and tell my congressman my feelings, but his web page is not operating. I’m going to walk to his office today. He had the police remove protesters from his office last week! I’m aggravated hopefully less by the trivial and more by the important. I’m disappointed that the Harvard advisors to the present administration — Summers, Geithner, et al. — haven’t been more true to what they taught and learned at Harvard. I have no direct knowledge now of the American political climate since I have lived in Italy since 1973 and have not visited the US since 1989. But I imagine that the American political climate, with voters’ lack of respect for their elected representatives, is very similar to the climate in Italy. I long ago learned to shrug my shoulders at the intelligence, integrity, and actions of those who seek and secure election. I doubt that those who reach power by other means would be preferable. I personally think that I can be far more effective one-on-one than by engaging in political action — or merely by embodying my intention: by being in the world the way I say I want to be. (Editor: these actions are political, though they may be perceived as personal. Just ask Gandhi: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” The media report the waves as news and rarely see the ocean currents of the underlying trends of mass behavior.) I think as we get older, we firm up our own vision of the right mix of government and become less tolerant of the views of other (younger) folks. Witness the current controversy involving the Tea Party, who perhaps correctly see that the Baby Boomers are planning a marvelous retirement at their expense. I think that there are too many congressional representatives and we need to find a way to take politics out of their decisions. It is vital that we strive to inform ourselves of both sides of an issue. My view is that neither the Democrats or Republicans—nor any other “party” has a monopoly on the “truth” or the solutions to our problems. Too many of us, including Harvard graduates, live in glass bubbles. It’s hard to disagree with any of those statements in item 37, even if they conflict. And the answers are all a matter of one’s own imperfectly informed opinion. They’re more in the nature of sounding off than of sober assessments or our political difficulties. I don’t really have the answers at all. But I think you’ve left out a major problem: the terrible and incurable influence of money on politics—probably the root cause of many of our other problems. Overly blind devotion to party over person. Puzzled perhaps. I feel that our media have made campaigning continuous and our politicians seems to think and then communicate in sound bites addressed to ill-informed partisans. I would like to see contributions curtailed, but that may not be enough. I wonder at times if everyone voting - but only a few paying thoughtful attention - is sustainable. I don’t have an answer The Congresses of the fifties and sixties, when we were young, were also deeply divided — Hubert Humphrey and Harry Byrd were in the same party and in Congress and had nothing in common. What is lacking now is a Communist menace to provide some discipline to the process, a Lyndon Johnson who could manipulate a difficult body, and a breakdown in a set of common morals that both sides could believe in. Garbage issues like abortion, gun control, gay marriage infuriate one side or another to the point that no progress can be made on important matters. All this is compounded by a weak president, and a miserable Congressional leadership (excepting John Boehner). Negative >Negative about American system (or part of it like Congress, media, corporate salaries, education), but not leaning very much pro or con on the major parties. 15 long, 49 short, total 54. Negative, longer The 99 per cent of Americans need to have more of a say in the US than the top 1 per cent of the very wealthy and the corporations. We can’t manage the country or the world for the benefit of the very rich and the ruination of the middle class and the poor. In 1972 1 child in 10 lived in poverty in the US. Today it’s 1 in 3. Families are suffering deeply from poverty and growing unemployment. Harvard itself has not helped the situation or done much to counter the trends. A very large number of its graduates have been going into the financial field, whose unchecked excesses have contributed so much to our ills. The current political gridlock in our nation is causing me to begin to question fundamental assumptions upon which our experiment in representative democracy is based. While an undergraduate I was particularly influenced by Louis Hartz and his major book, “The Liberal Tradition in America”. The notion of government “of the people” and “by the people” assumes that the people will pay attention and give careful thought to their responsibilities of citizenship. But it appears to me that our political dialogue is becoming incredibly shallow. Sound bites are mistaken for thoughtful analysis. Negative campaigning is the dominant modus operandi because it works. It would not, if our fellow citizens were paying closer attention. I am well aware that deep conflict has always been part of our political life. But I wonder if the combination of sophisticated advertising techniques and the speed of our technology driven culture is beginning to reveal fault lines in the thought that gave rise to our “experiment” in self-government. Mine are questions, not conclusions. But I am deeply disappointed. The current political gridlock in our nation is causing me to begin to question fundamental assumptions upon which our experiment in representative democracy is based. While an undergraduate I was particularly influenced by Louis Hartz and his major book, The Liberal Tradition in America. The notion of government “of the people” and “by the people” assumes that the people will pay attention and give careful thought to their responsibilities of citizenship. But it appears to me that our political dialogue is becoming incredibly shallow. Sound bites are mistaken for thoughtful analysis. Negative campaigning is the dominant modus operandi because it works. It would not, if our fellow citizens were paying closer attention. I am well aware that deep conflict has always been part of our political life. But I wonder if the combination of sophisticated advertising techniques and the speed of our technology driven culture is beginning to reveal fault lines in the thought that gave rise to our “experiment” in self-government. Mine are questions, not conclusions. But I am deeply disappointed. The fact that a significant number of Americans can’t name the three branches is worrisome. There used to be something called “civics” taught in our schools. Now there is just the rather amorphous catch- all called “social studies.” Depending on the school and the curriculum, there might be good and rigorous courses in things like American history but I expect this is the exception rather than the rule. A country with a large part of its population informed by talk radio, religious reactionaries who denigrate science and reason, and media that conflates scandal and trivia with news is headed for trouble. People are busy blaming teachers for the lamentable state of our system of education. They ought to pause and ask themselves how much of their time and energy do they put into playing an active role in the education of their children. Schools cannot compensate for parental irresponsibility. The greed and many examples of management excess in business have been extremely disappointing for me as a professional business person. We learned to be like a doctor, to treat organizations that we manage clinically, as patients needing and benefiting from excellence in management, resulting in widespread rewards for all stakeholders — employees, customers, suppliers, investors, the community, even managers who should earn rewards for influencing higher levels of esprit and financial success. That many “managers” have hijacked their boards and moved away from a professional, clinical approach to one of filling their own pockets is a growing practice, unfortunately not challenged much at all or if so, not with serious penalties or actions. Examples of greed among investment banks and how they have also forsaken integrity in the pursuit of money, particularly in the subprime crisis, add to the disappointment and sense that we have lost values and integrity in our society. The reputations that have developed for “Wall Street” firms and corporate managers (and of course in investment firms, ala Bernie Madoff and other Ponzi schemers) have certainly hurt the public good that should be the trust, integrity and values we can expect and rely on for our markets to perform, and for our society to survive its current economic problems. If we turn our backs and keep pointing to the politicians in Washington as the bad guys we do a disservice to ourselves, to our children, our grandchildren, and ultimately to our whole society. Other professions, too, such as medicine, need to re-examine their own role in the erosion of integrity and values as they, too, have all-too-often turned their professions into profit-oriented businesses over the years. The ideological divides in the country are as deep as I have seen them, different from the divides of the Civil Rights Movement or the conflicts over Vietnam. Some harkens back to the McCarthy years. The media plays a huge—and largely negative—role in public ignorance on a host of issues, and in promoting a political climate of fear. The media should be seen as a critical public, common good so that private ownership of newspapers, TV, and radio is limited and dispersed. Publically owned media should provide forums for critical and reasonable discussion and debate about critical political, economic, and social issues. The wholesale transformation of the nation’s principal economic drivers from productive industrial enterprises managed for long-term stability and competitive continuous modernization to speculative financial activities has wrought havoc with the American dream. Deregulation of the banking industry, plus other remarkable public policy changes, such as the Supremes” decision last year on campaign financing, will result in increased economic mayhem for much of the nation’s population. Continuous consolidation of businesses into a relatively small, extremely powerful number of corporations in each sector of the national economy is creating mega-sized international conglomerates whose leaderships are totally removed from contact with the “people.” Malefactors of great wealth and power are ascendant, and they are accomplishing things that damaged the civil society’s efforts to achieve stability for all. I feel ignored. When I write to politicians I get form letters that address issues unrelated to my comments and suggestions. In 2008-9 I submitted remedies in writing to correct our National Housing bubble and national Great Recession to Summers, Geithner and Bernanke and various Senators and received no replies. I worked at the  in 1974 that created the first Mortgaged Back Security for Bank of America and I helped create that first package in a team with other people in our firm. We knew the potential for harm in 1974 and saw the desperate situation of the banks and savings and loans after Nixon delinked the dollar from Gold and inflation blossomed. Bill Simon left our trading floor and joined Nixon’s team. Government debt was off to the races, interest rates reached new heights, and stocks collapsed. Let’s not do it again ! The 70”s were awful ! As to moral values and integrity, I hope we have reached the nadir and will start moving back up the scale of integrity, but then I have always been an idealist and positive thinker. We need better informed voters (one of my projects: a layman’s look at getting involved in the process). We need to restrict government. We need to enforce existing laws, NOT write new redundant or conflicting ones - i.e., re: car phone use - since autos have been on the road there have been laws in every state prohibiting distracted driving - enforce them! NO need for new laws for phones, any more than for eating a sandwich or writing notes on paper. We should not respond to every “politically correct” sentiment by changing laws which affect the moral fiber of the country - i.e., Gay “Marriage” (an oxymoron), etc. Being a “child of the “60s” (such as I remember.-), “America” has always meant a place where everyone has an opportunity, and things have/should improve over time. In reality, it appears that our political system is race between justice and hypocritical lunacy, with the Supreme Court of late, and tragically, representing the latter. I am beginning to wonder what government means anymore, not that there shouldn’t be a strong and consistent effort to “promote the general welfare, and assure the blessings of liberty for us and our prosperity.” However, I have more hope in technological and scientific advances to save us from ourselves, lost as we are in an ideological wilderness of our own devising. Besides, there’s China out there, so America’s little passion play of “superiority” may soon come to a close. My local congressman does not deserve reelection! Forget which party—he has been caught lying and in doing what his big contributors want (I understand I am not supposed to say “corruption”). More generally, we are dealing with a full-scale collapse of America, and fascist dictatorship is now certain unless there is a major change. What we are seeing is a huge outbreak of hate. People are not looking out for themselves. they are actually hurting themselves just to hurt others worse. Nothing else can explain the working class voting for big-money candidates, the young refusing to vote at all, the whole fight over who can cut services more, and above all the onslaught on the environment. Quote from my report:. “You try to make positive change that benefits all segments of society. You work to elect to leadership positions those who you are convinced can bring about that change. You spend a lot of personal and professional energy to reduce barriers that prevent people, through no fault of their own, from reaching the limits of their capabilities, and perhaps even exceeding them. What do you get? You get increasing economic and social inequality. You get policies based not on economic and scientific realities but on ideologies infused by religious distortions. You get exploitation of the fears and anxieties of large segments of the population to benefit much smaller segments. And you get the looming destruction of the social compact that has promoted opportunity for everyone and kept this country strong. We have no effective political leadership, and those few who might aspire to that position do so at enormous political and, indeed, personal risk. This is not the legacy I wanted for my children and our new grandson. It leaves me feeling cynical and disheartened.” And yet. “if we can’t have an impact on the big picture, at least we can try to have smaller influences for the better.” I grew up in (), although I have never regarded myself even slightly as a Southerner. Up until the mid-1960s the South was still segregated, but as a 15-year old (in 1956) I had little to say on the matter. I spent two of my graduate years in New Zealand and Australia (1965-66 and 1966-67), and in the former country for the first time I experienced a truly integrated society. In the second I celebrated my 26th birthday, an important event in those days when one’s draft status was under concern. In retrospect there is no question whatsoever that our involvement in the Vietnamese Civil War was a hideously disastrous mistake. As almost all writers on the subject - including Robert McNamara - now admit, the USA was fighting a totally imaginary enemy. The Vietnamese were and are fiercely independent, and within three years of the end of their civil war in 1975 there was a brief war between China and Vietnam. The idea of fighting the Vietnamese People’s Army to prevent the Chinese from expanding into Southeast Asia was absurd beyond belief. The Vietnamese People’s Army, in fact, proved to be the leading bulwark to preventing the expansion of Chinese forces into SE Asia, that is assuming that the Chinese really wanted to expand into that region (highly unlikely). The USA administration thought, of course, that it was at war with “International Communism”, but that concept had ceased to exist by the beginning of the 1960s if not significantly earlier. A lot of this came to a head in 1968, a year we should all remember. Two major assassinations, the Tet offensive, Johnson’s resignation, race riots, etc. At Harvard there was the famous occupation of University Hall, and Nathan Pusey’s premature resignation as president. I voted for LBJ in 1964, but by 1968 I came to loathe almost everything he stood for. In 1972, of course, I voted for George McGovern, although I felt that his domestic program was hopelessly unrealistic. Actually I have not followed at all a politically activist life. My interest is almost totally on foreign affairs, and I pay almost no attention to local politics. I certainly do not wish to get involved in it myself. As noted previously my career at () University was basically a pleasant one, and I am still well regarded there. I do note one disturbing tendency, however. Student skills in mathematics and basic science are less than what they were 25 years ago. The decline in the teaching of mathematics and science in American secondary skills is obvious, and there will be serious consequences for us unless this is brought to a halt in the near future. Although raised as a liberal Protestant, I find myself more of a classical Agnostic these days. Such a person (note the Greek roots) believes that the existence of a personal God, life after death, etc., is essentially unknowable, and so why worry? Most certainly I do not believe in the concept of Original Sin. I get along well with religious persons, but I do find myself at odds with all forms of religious fundamentalism. I have been involved with the Creationism issue, but of these only a minority - a very noisy minority - are the so-called Young Earth Creationists. Nonetheless it is utterly absurd in the 21st century that anyone could openly assert that the universe is only 6000 - 10,000 years old. Fortunately the First Amendment protects us from such lunacy in the public schools, but that doesn’t rule out home schoolers and others. Rather than rant forever, let me list the issues that “concern” me:. (1) the increasing role of corporate money in influencing the political process. (2) the growing inequality of income and (related), opportunity and influence on the process. (3) the lack of long-term strategic thinking. the inability to plan “big things” and to understand and act on commitments to past, current and future generations. (4) the lack of critical thinking skills among a large fraction of our population (vivified in my case from watching the decline in such skills among students, many who attended elite institutions). (5) among academic and research institutions: the decrease in opportunity and increase in difficulty in funding projects of scale leads to undue focus on the near-term and the safe. (6) the increasing likelihood that the environment will be sacrificed for short-term gain. (7) the growing anti-science movement, and more generally, the lack of scientific or numerate literacy (never mind understanding risk/benefit analysis and statistics) is frightening. Shall I go on? Or is this level of grouchiness bordering on despair “normal” for someone rapidly approaching 70? I’ve subscribed to the Washington Post for perhaps 45 years, the Sunday NYT almost that long, the Economist for 20+ years, and now also the Financial Times. The Congress is remarkably corrupt, due to: (a) the role of money in elections, (b) gerrymandered districts, (c) incredible ignorance on the part of most Americans, due largely to (d) appalling media. I’d recommend Michael Grant’s The Fall of the Roman Empire (and this link from one of my blogs: http://farmuse.info/?p=31) for anyone who cares. The rise in inequality in America (as happened in late Rome) is second only to global warming as the major problem we and our descendants face in 2011. Negative, shorter If you mean about politics (and I am a political scientist, who is now spending quite a bit of his time studying American political institutions), I am, basically, quietly despairing. Economic and social problems are too complex to be solved effectively through democracy, particularly one as decentralized as the USA”s. We do not want to give up democracy, but we really should adjust our institutions — though unfortunately this is unlikely, given conflicting vested interests. I’m as displeased with voters as I am with elected officials. The root of the problem is the way we finance elections and allow Big Money to influence incumbents. Voters, on the other hand, expect miracles from elected officials. and, when there is a real chance to effect positive change, they are exceedingly busy doing something else. I am agitated about ideological brinkmanship in Washington and an unwillingness to lead Americans into ten years of financial and fiscal discipline, but we are much further along than we were one year ago. I give the Republicans some credit for this. But we all know that George W. Bush destroyed balanced budgets by cutting taxes, expanding Medicare benefits, and getting us into Iraq. His father raised taxes, lost the election and set up Clinton’s surpluses. Upset about the overemphasis on competition in every phase of life (my truck is bigger than yours, my football team can beat yours, etc.) There are some things people must cooperate to do, but meaningless “wedge” issues get in the way. Also, as much as I enjoy using the internet and related media, I am very leery of custom-tailored news that feeds users only news that supports what they already believe. I am frustrated and disappointed in the polarization in our national political system and hope a viable third party forms in time for the 2012 elections. In the past, effective third party movements have brought our political parties back toward the middle and I think this may be another time in our history when that happens. it is sorely needed. I think we are declining rapidly as a nation. The integrity of our leaders and institutions has declined. We are also becoming overweight and lazy. We have been the leading nation for the past 100 years but given present trends, this is unlikely to last more than 20 years or so. I think we’re gravely at risk as a result of the ideological conflict. I’m constantly amazed at how people embrace ideologies and policies that don’t even serve their own interests. The decline in our educational systems aggravates the problem. I’m just thankful that I no longer have to live in the U.S. It is human nature for people to want more government spending on programs that benefit or are congenial to them, and at the same time want lower taxes. For most of US history a middle ground and spirit of compromise emerged in which such inconsistent preferences could be worked out. What is troubling about recent years (or decades) is that strong ideologies and hard positions have taken over from the middle ground and spirit of compromise. There is a deficit of true leadership. Many congressmen/women (especially Republicans) act like we did 50 years ago at Harvard-Yale games. Isn’t it time they grew up? My complaint with Congress and state legislators generally is their rigid ideologies, and their refusal to prioritize issues and compromise. Our nation has historically succeeded and moved forward as a result of negotiations. “Sausage making” has and does work. Our political system has been seized by those for whom money is the only thing that matters, with disastrous results for those who are not so fixated. Harvard, I fear, has contributed more than its share of the thieves who continue to rip us off. Our political system has evolved such that those who are direct and candid have little chance of being elected. Most of those who are successful candidates have reasonably good intentions, but they get caught up in the system. Most of today’s challenges can be dealt with, but the electorate doesn’t yet want to deal with reality, so they support those who tell them what they want to hear. Consequently, things will have to get worse before they get better, but we are close to the tipping point. People should be educated to the point where they can discuss even emotion-laden topics rationally and dispassionately. Our educational system is failing this challenge miserably. A contributing cause is that we confuse training and education. Too much of the former goes on in American colleges and graduate schools, and too little of the latter. Politics has always required compromise in the best interest of the country or other political body. Today partisan politics trumps compromise than inhibits the political body doing what is best for the country. We need our politicians to put petty politics aside and work on solving the problems of the country together. We also need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and quit trying to be the world’s policeman. That would help our fiscal situation a great deal. Sadly, the influence of special interests, the military-industrial-financial-medical complex, conflict- driven press and TV, gerrymandering and departure of “grown-ups” from politics has overwhelmed the brilliance of our Constitution. the combination of selfishness, shameless greed, and intellectual dishonesty in our upper classes has reached such an extent that it is destroying both capitalism and the wonderful (but as we now see, fragile) political democracy we have built on it. Very sad to live through. The country has never been in such a sorry state. The elevated volume of public rhetoric on the economy stems from industry’s violation of a basic compact with labor: “ We’ll give you jobs and you’ll buy our stuff”. Then industry turned around and said “We can make it cheaper offshore, but we still expect you to buy it”. This is unsustainable, and we will not recover until worldwide standards of living rise to the level we (used to) have. How many generations will that take? The Members of Congress, with a handful of individual exceptions, have abandoned any pretense of commitment to contributing to the legitimate and woefully needed governance of this country. I am disgusted with Congress” abject failure to act responsibly and responsively. The political parties have let the country down. While ethics may be difficult to define, neither party qua party has an honest bone in its soul. The political polarization in this country, within the U.S. Congress, between Congress and the Obama administration, and within the American public, is very upsetting and discouraging. The result is that too little gets done, especially at the federal level. Congress seems paralyzed, and President Obama too often does not exercise strong and effective leadership. The power of large corporations to influence governmental decision-making has made a mockery of our democratic ideals. Two opinions: 1. A corporation that is “too big to fail” is too big to exist. 2. According to the 14th amendment, corporations are not “persons” and therefore have no right to claim “equal protection of the laws”. Somehow, 150 years of judicial precedent has perverted the status corporations into exactly what Jefferson feared. Jefferson was right! Troubled by the increasingly harsh, mean spirited and self-centered themes in much of the public discourse in our country these days. Unfortunately, our democratic system & open press have pushed us towards accepting those who can stand the pain of open surgery on their personal lives. These are not necessarily the most qualified or astute folks we could find. So we’ve evolved into a political system of mediocrity at a time in the world when we need the “best & the brightest” - again. Not optimistic where this is leading us. Vote them all out. Term limits would be good. We are living in a time of almost comic stalemate. I trust that as the economic crisis develops the country will become more sensible. We are not just disappointed in, we are now beginning to tear down our institutions of government. Sad, ironic - because these are what sets America apart historically from others. We deplore the partisan impasse in Washington and particularly with the belligerence and irrationality of extremist inflexibility. We’re in a precipitous decline, brought about by our ignorance and naiveté. With the end of universal conscription, the once great mixer of the American people,. society has fractionated into multiple single-interest groups, fed by the media, that have become the progenitors of our legislators. Credible, experienced leadership at the national level can overcome this. Unfortunately, the last leader was Reagan. written July30th, the day after another round of dreadful proposals for resolving the stalemate have been beaten down and there is still no hope. Both parties AND the administration are responsible for large losses of money for ALL citizens, both now and for some time to come Aggravated about what. Congress? If so, pissed off is a better description in that politicians have gone from “weekend patriots” to twelve-term assholes who pander to the public in order to retain their power, the thrill of running for office having been replaced by the lust to hold onto it, doing the wrong thing while full knowing what the right thing is to do. Sad to say, that many Harvard graduates and/or academics have poisoned the public wells with their conceit that they know what’s best for all of us. They don’t know. Am unhappy about our country’s inability to get its act together. It’s not just political gridlock either. Our national psyche refuses to accept that we are no longer God’s gift to the world, and unless we develop completely different ways of thinking about both our domestic and foreign obligations, we will simply sink further into the hole. The failures of our educational system , especially in primary and secondary schools, is as much as anything at fault here. American society has not come together and is currently in rapid decline in terms of justice and quality of life. Americans have short attention spans, lack historical perspective, and show little tolerance for long- term forward thinking and solutions. Those factors have tended to define how elected officials determine their messages back to the voters. Because communications are so cheap and ubiquitous, and can be narrowly-channeled to like-minded constituents, the messages have become more strident and vitriolic. Apoplectic. Despairing. Scared. Disgusted. CEO salaries now 250x average worker’s, up from 13x in 1970. This discrepancy is going to come a cropper. People again believe, like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon that all property is theft. The embryonic demonstrations in NYC will grow and grow. It’s wrong for rich people to own so many planes, yachts and fancy cars because it rubs too many others the wrong way. Obama has the right idea, but gives away the store before getting down into the trenches. He turned out to be a weak leader who has lost the support of a great many like me who had great hopes for the dawn of a new era when we elected him. Corporate capitalism is a lead bad actor. Currently the Executive and Legislative (Congress) branches of the US government are ineffective, at times embarrassing and, in many cases, incompetent. My enthusiasm for the current President has waned a great deal: disappointment describes it best. Fear about the present and the future quality of life for ourselves and future generations stimulates looking for simplistic understandings and responses: extreme irrational perceptions of the challenges (“God is punishing us”), and extreme irrational solutions to the challenges (scapegoating). “Financial capitalism”, a distortion of free enterprise, is destroying jobs, increasing inequalities and corrupting the political system. Theodore Roosevelt understood the need for strict regulation. We have forgotten a lot, Greed seems to be the major value of far too many people. I think this is due in part to the loss of any overarching narrative that might bind the country together and protect us from our worst desires and actions. I am appalled by the general level of political and public discourse in the country and the shallowness, ignorance of much of the media, including “mainstream” media I fear for this country. No politician has any guts to even SAY what needs to be done. The Old-Boy network is named “Greed” and is composed of the triumvirate of business, government, and the military. I have always been an optimist about our political system in class reports through the years. But the gridlock, willful ignorance, lack of civility and social/political polarization make me more pessimistic than at any time in my adult life, and I am very sad to report that , for me, very depressing impression. I increasingly fear that Plato may have been correct about his opinions about democracy as he expressed them in the Republic. I left the US in 1962 and became an Australian citizen, giving up my US citizenship, in 1972. While Americans can now hold dual citizenships, I have felt no desire to renew my US citizenship. I read daily about the political situation. As a strong, liberal Democrat, I am puzzled by the apparent incapacity of so many Americans to see things my way. We Class of “62ers, however, have been hearing all our lives that America and its government are going to Hell, so I’ve concluded this is the normal state of our nation. And, really, the world. Negative about Democrats or positive about Republicans >Includes broadly related persons and policies, 5 comments I am concerned that the current Obama administration’s push to expand government, over-regulate business, and favor unions will do extreme damage to the economy and overall employment. I’m holding my breath and hoping Obama is smarter than he looks Obama makes me sick. Forgot the tea party you libs (The commenter assumes that, in item 37 last part, the tea party was forgotten, rather than considered not to be, a citizen reform group. The commenter may not like libs.) Why did you not include the Tea Party in the last description? They have had more success that all the others you listed! (Your editor disagrees, both as to success and as to reform.) Negative about Republicans or positive about Democrats >Includes broadly related persons and policies such as far right, Tea Party, Fox News, 34 comments here and one under structural reform Our political system has disintegrated over the past 20 years. Under Reagan, whatever the partisan divides, people talked across party lines. Clinton’s deficit reduction package (the key to 8 years of prosperity and 22 million new jobs) received not a single Republican vote. Health care under Obama received not a single Republican vote. Partisans on both sides, but especially Republicans, have lost a sense of responsibility for the common good. I agree with Krugman — a big problem is the centrism of the media. They act like both sides are equally to blame for the Debt Ceiling fiasco. But we didn’t have showdowns like this before the Tea Party republicans arrived in early 2011, except for the government closing in 1995 which also was caused by Republican intransigence and unwillingness to compromise. I am annoyed at the media questionnaires that report a lack of confidence in Congress without specifying the responsibility for the present blockage of positive action, which is the fault of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party and the Congressional leadership of the Republican Party dating back to Gingrich and Hastert, but very much including Boehner and McConnell. Relentless propaganda on the talk shows, e.g., Rush Limbaugh, is causing more and more people to give up critical thinking. I have been politically active for more than 50 years (starting in college with the founding of Tocsin to oppose above ground nuclear testing—perhaps the first spark of politics at Harvard after the silent 50s). I have NEVER been more depressed about the future of politics in the U.S. or the future of the world. The Bush administration was by far the worst in all of American history. The attack on Obama is racist at its core. The degree of selfishness and shortsightedness is beyond anything I would have imagined. I have come to loathe the far right in this country, and the media which pander to it and promote its values. Better education for all seems to be beyond our reach, or willingness, and without it, Palin, Bachmann, Beck & Co. continue to attract followers who are largely ignorant. From 1860 to 1914,the British Parliament ought to have been discussing that Germany was surpassing Britain. Instead it discussed how to rule Ireland. From 1980 to 2012 the American Congress ought to have discussed how China was surpassing America. Instead it discussed abortion and marriage. Neg rep I was originally a Republican. Now I think that being a Republican is a mental health condition. In accusing the Right of blind bias, I have to question my own objectivity. Still, I believe that on the whole Democrats represent the better interests of many, and Republicans those of a few. I’m frustrated at the inability of President Obama and of Democratic leaders to render this truth more self-evident. It appears that a growing number of Americans are interested in politicians who will not provide health care to those who need it, who will not improve education, who do not want to raise taxes, particularly on the rich, who do not want to help the poor. In other words, selfishness among voters seems to be on the rise. Whatever happened to “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” Like many voters, the incivility and bombastic certainty of many of our political class is an enormous turn-off. And as a liberal, I am appalled/incredulous at the anti-science, anti-intellectual and anti- compassion stand of a very large segment of our population Many Republicans, particularly Tea Party members, have foolishly come to invest their political opinions with the fervor and intensity of belief formerly associated only with religious beliefs. Their unwillingness to compromise and their portrayal of opponents as evil is inconsistent with the ideas and ideals that underlie the founding fathers, intentions for the functioning of our federal government. Much of what passes for political discourse is posturing. The airwaves (blogosphere etc.) are too filled with invective and animosity. so taking the talk of politicians and those who purport to be interested in politics is difficult. That said, I’d rather have Obama as President that either of the Bushes or Reagan so elections DO MATTER and I always vote and even get involving in campaigning for the “good guys.” My seventh and eighth grade civics class knew more about U.S. Government institutions than most of today’s high school alums and lots of supposedly educated college graduates. Many powerful right wing and/or greedy business interests want to keep it this way. they profit from the dumb mistakes of the ignorant. Look no farther than Wall Street and Banana Republican opposition to protecting consumers from being defrauded (legally) by predatory financial institutions. The Banana Republicans, since 1981, have been slowly, skillfully leading us down their new version of the road to serfdom. Obviously, the tea party is on a roll (I’m writing this in the midst of the debt limit struggle). Politicians love to (a) give benefits and (b) cut taxes, neither of which fits in with the growing debt. I’d like to live in a happier, more prosperous country, without the current stalemate in Congress. Our parents paid for WWII as it happened and for some time after. We refuse to pay for two concurrent wars, leaving the debt to our children and theirs. I cannot understand our willingness to do that, just as I can’t understand the interest of some to shrink services for the common good instead of asking the wealthiest among us to pay the level of taxes their parents paid. Question: Are Republican Congress persons venal or stupid? It would be better if they were venal. Unfortunately, that is probably not the case. The country is turning into a banana republic, with Congress, the executive branch and the Supreme Court dedicated for the most part toward widening the gap between the haves and have nots. The gap between the rich and poor is far, far too large. Government is far too influenced by money, not by what is best for the general good. This powerful recession is corroding good public policy, leading people to become far too conservative in their voting. Think the Republican party has been taken over by conservatives. My personal beliefs are more moderate than either party. Tend to favor the Democratic party. Strongly disagree with Citizens United decision. (Editor: “Conservative” has wildly different definitions—social-religious moralists, Libertarians, neo cons, anti-interventionists, too-big-to-fail recipients of federal largesse, anti-corporate populists, low tax/high debt anti-taxers, and historic tax/low debt conservatives, the last of which no longer exists in the GOP. The Democratic Party, by contrast, is highly divided.) To maintain sanity I think it’s important to view American politics as entertainment. The system is rigged to make the rich richer. The average congressman/woman, I’ve heard, spends half his time raising money for the next election. Is this a useful way for him to spend his time? It is my belief that the Republican view of the world tends to be extreme and impractical on a number of fronts. I’m always relieved when I agree with something a Republican says. I wish it would happen more often. Very worried about the state of the U.S. government. (Note that I’m writing this about a week before Congress will/won’t raise the U.S. Debt limit. Failure to do so (a) will illustrate massive ignorance by the U.S. Congress. and (b) will probably greatly depress the already poor state of the U.S. economy. More generally, it appears to me that U.S. affairs have been largely organized for the benefit of the extremely wealthy (top 1-3%) and frankly to the considerable disadvantage of most other citizens. Things in Canada are somewhat better, but won’t be if the U.S. really stumbles over the debt limit. (Editor: Congress is not monolithic. The problem was created by the GOP Reps.) We have seen some lousy times, notably the Vietnam War, 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, bursting bubbles and recessions too numerous to mention, but few things are more disturbing to me than the current standoff in Congress over raising the debt ceiling, cutting taxes for the super-rich, reducing social services while doing nothing to alleviate unemployment - were these people asleep in Econ 101? And I don’t even want to get into oil consumption, global warming and the environment. The national stranglehold on health care progress is scandalous. Also, the Republicans willingness to be the champions of ignorance (e.g., Perry, Bachmann, the Alaska person) hideously shames not only themselves, but, in the contagious way of shame, all of us. Grover Norquist —the Koch brothers and their ilk — poor, scary fools. As Goethe said, “There is nothing more frightening than ignorance in action.” Amen. I am distressed by the ignorance and ideological rigidity of so much of the public. It is shocking to me that there is so much political support for denying science (teaching creationism in schools), for imposing narrow sectarian “moral” standards on the public (limiting abortion rights, denying marriage equality), for shredding the social safety net (cutting funding for social programs and refusing to permit universal single-payer health care), for intolerance toward marginalized groups (American Muslims), for limiting constitutional rights (intrusive government “surveillance” in the name of “security”), for militaristic adventurism abroad, etc. etc. etc. I fear that in many ways the fanatics have taken over. If letters to editors, comment boards, and the like are any indication, the populace by and large seems not to be very good at either facts (whether knowledge or understanding) or reasoning. The same applies to many politicians, though in many cases perhaps the weirdly uncorseted assertions and claims of politicians are aimed at scoring purely political points and are not a true indication of lunacy or silliness, e.g., asserting that lowering taxes results in increased revenue, or that the Social Security Trust Fund consists of “worthless IOUs”. Sen. Tom Coburn, whom I do not admire in any case, recently came out of some sort of huddle with fellow Republicans saying that “everyone in that room knows that we’ll never make any progress on the deficit without revenue enhancements, but nobody is willing to say so in public”. (One cheer.) It’s hard to be optimistic about the future of a country when such a large percentage of the population claims to ignore or distrust the findings of science, or think that Obama was born in Kenya, or think that the Reagan and GW Bush years were periods of uncommon prosperity. Money has too much influence on elections. GOP is trying to make it harder for students, youth, and minorities to vote than it will be for White middle class and higher income people to vote. Foreign policy is controlled by something other than electoral politics. Whereas racial and gender justice has increased, class justice has decreased. The greedy amongst the rich have been creating advantages for people like them for the past many years. Maybe the Occupy Wall Street movement will motivate some change. Seeing Black people as biologically inferior is over, but the situation of Black people as resulting almost only from Black culture and personality continues. Creating racial fairness in criminal justice is a critical next step for creating moral country. The greatest threat to the United States is that, because of excessive political partisanship, our nation has lost the ability to take collective action in timely fashion to deal with major national issues. As the distribution of our national wealth has become increasingly skewed in favor of the most wealthy, low- information (and often low-income) voters who would benefit from governmental efforts in areas such as health and education have been misled, under the guise of opposing socialism, etc., into supporting reductions of the very programs that could help them. We have two opposed ideologies, one which sees government as a force for good, the other sees government as a necessary evil which should be limited in its size and scope. Setting policy in the USA is largely a matter of steering a middle course between these two ideologies. Therefore a willingness and an ability to compromise are essential in our elected officials. Personally, I would like to move more in a progressive direction, with robust government programs, effective regulation of the private sector, and strong efforts to level the playing field — for all of which I am willing to pay higher taxes. After a lifetime with same Party, the debt-ceiling fiasco of Summer, 2011, caused me to change my registration to not be enrolled in any party. America (after it was stolen from the Indians) was started as a plutocracy. Since 1973 the rich have reaped great benefits from their bribes (campaign contributions, etc.) so that we now have the greatest wealth inequality since 1929, with CEO”s making hundreds or thousands of times more than their lowest salaried workers. The tax structure favors the rich. The rich are not patriotic enough and/or are not concerned enough about their children’s future to stop this calamity. The ship of state is foundering. This is not the time to restrict capital, but the same party that got us into this mess is willing to do so to prevent the President from having any success. They should be ashamed. Angry at the obstinacy and hypocrisy of the Republican Party and at the influence of BIG Money on Congress generally and at Obama’s failure to lead. As a centrist, I am dismayed to see that one of our two major parties has totally abandoned the middle to move so far right that they are unwilling to compromise even when the nation’s health is at stake. Our system is corrupt, with most elected legislators more concerned with raising money for the next election than in actually working to solve the challenges we face. I am very pessimistic for the future of the country’s political process, especially since at least two generations of Americans believe that sound bites represent solutions. Disgusted with Republicans Have always been an independent. Right now, in 2011, I see the problem as 75-25 Republicans” fault. Might be the obverse next year, but that’s how I see it this year. Structural reform ideas >Nine comments recommending structural (procedural changes affecting many issues) reforms, shown underlined. The current problem is stalemate due to ideological intransigence. This may be fixed via election rules, such as open (party-free) primaries and “blind” (i.e. via computer) redistricting. I don’t think term- limits will help in Congress. Somehow, the power of corporations and rich interest groups needs to be greatly reduced. The increasing requirement for “super-majorities” in the legislatures (esp. the senate) and the amount of power individual senators or united minorities exercise leads to “the tyranny of the minority.” Senate rules cannot be changed by legislation or executive action and will not be changed by constitutional amendment. The increased mixing of religion and government is casting doubt over matters that appeared to be settled by the enlightenment centuries ago and is a world-wide reaction against rationalism, science, modernity, and secular humanism. Trends affecting Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Intolerance is on the way up again, reversing trends. The extreme polarization of political opinion with separated sources of “information” and opinions is leading to a dangerous paralysis and a breakdown of democratic values and respect for deliberation and compromise. The US political is hopelessly broken because:. (a) electing representatives in single-member districts via “winner-take-all” generates beauty contests rather than debates over policy preferences that happen in proportional representation systems, where people vote for a party. (b) the legislature does not select the executive or meaningfully have the power to remove the executive, as in parliamentary systems. (c) it is, as Machiavelli wrote, in the interests of those who are in power to maintain the system that keeps them in power. Therefore the system will not correct the corrupting influences of too much money and the antiquated features of the electoral college and a Senate that gives Wyoming the same vote as California. See Levinson, Our Undemocratic Constitution. The Washington gridlock is discouraging, and makes one think that maybe a parliamentary system might be best. Although I am a lifelong Democrat, it is only in the last few years that I’ve come to regard the Republican party as a whole as morally bankrupt and willing to put its ideological and political agenda ahead of the clearly recognized needs of the country as a whole. I see this as the foremost problem now. On a deeper level, I believe that the most important cause of the polarization and dysfunction is the ideological hardening of the House of Representatives, which I believe is due primarily to gerrymandering which has created safe and ideologically uniform districts, thereby making primaries more important than the general election. I can’t blame only the Republicans for this. We are certainly guilty of this in Maryland, where Democrats are in control, and where Congressional districts often have spaghetti shapes. I would like to see states pass laws requiring that Congressional districts either follow established geographic districting such as county lines, or be compact in the sense that the largest dimension be no more than (say) 1.5 times the smallest dimension. The Senate is also a problem since the filibuster is now applied to every issue. I don’t believe the government can function if a 60% majority is necessary for every decision. I don’t want to see the filibuster, and individual senator privileges, eliminated entirely, but I would like to see the rules changed to make it much more difficult, so it is only used for the most important issues. (Editor: Also counted with negative about Republicans) Few people of integrity and intelligence are willing to submit themselves to the cash-driven political process. Without meaningful campaign financing reform we will continue to be stuck with mediocre politicians who are largely incompetent and who are in it for personal gain rather than to serve the best interests of the electorate. Most politicians primary goal is to remain in office. Term Limits and a four year term for Representatives would be helpful. Two six year terms max for a Senator and three four year terms max for a Representative. Need public election funding, and only 6 weeks for campaigns. Popular universal vote. No corporate contributions. At present politician’s primary goal is re-election, not government. (Editor: seriously mischaracterizes reasons for seeking reelection.) Start insisting on term limits. make government employees” benefits programs the same as private industry.no special retirement/health plans. Objection! >Three objected to question 37 itself, but did not offer better choices. I hope the creators of this survey do not have an agenda that allows them to use these restricted responses (in house) for public game playing. (Editor: My goodness!) Too many multiple or unvalidated assumptions in many of your questions above (below, too.). Very few things are that simple. (Editor: Good heavens!) This questionnaire is only suitable for people with small families and very simple lives. The political choices are also overly simple and restrictive and in some cases very tendentious. (Editor: Commenter manages to insult both the survey and those who answered it.) Self-interested >Comment by person who wrote the survey and is trying to disguise his identity by calling himself “the editor.” Really good choices, thanks.
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