Oh, If Only Washington Were More Authoritarian!
Thomas Friedman, who is turning his dictatorship fetish into something approaching a regular beat, is back at it again.
This time he’s leaning on Francis Fukayama, who joins him in bemoaning the fact that rulemaking in Washington is not frictionless:
“There is a crisis of authority, and we’re not prepared to think about it in these terms,” said Fukuyama. “When Americans think about the problem of government, it is always about constraining the government and limiting its scope.” That dates back to our founding political culture. The rule of law, regular democratic rotations in power and human rights protections were all put in place to create obstacles to overbearing, overly centralized government. “But we forget,” Fukuyama added, “that government was also created to act and make decisions.”
That is being lost at the federal level. A system with as many checks and balances built into it as ours assumes — indeed requires — a certain minimum level of cooperation on major issues between the two parties, despite ideological differences. Unfortunately, since the end of the cold war, which was a hugely powerful force compelling compromise between the parties, several factors are combining to paralyze our whole system.
For starters, we’ve added more checks and balances to make decision-making even more difficult — such as senatorial holds now being used to block any appointments by the executive branch or the Senate filibuster rule, effectively requiring a 60-vote majority to pass any major piece of legislation, rather than 51 votes….
“If we are to get out of our present paralysis, we need not only strong leadership, but changes in institutional rules,” argues Fukuyama. These would include eliminating senatorial holds and the filibuster for routine legislation and having budgets drawn up by a much smaller supercommittee of legislators — like those that handle military base closings — with “heavy technocratic input from a nonpartisan agency like the Congressional Budget Office,” insulated from interest-group pressures and put before Congress in a single, unamendable, up-or-down vote.
I know what you’re thinking: “That will never happen.” And do you know what I’m thinking? “Then we will never be a great country again, no matter who is elected.” We can’t be great as long as we remain a vetocracy rather than a democracy.
In short, he’s gone from wanting us to be “China for a day” to wanting us to be China until the heat-death of the universe. Heavy technocratic influence, without all that messy democracy — that’s the way you get things done!
What’s especially funny about this? Friedman got started on this kick in late 2009. Oddly — well, not so oddly — he wasn’t beating the drum for less gridlock and more executive power back when the Oval Office was being occupied by a certain George W.
This is pretty typical, and not just of Friedman. Look up debates about the Senate filibuster, and you will find shameless inconsistency on every side:
Yet this month Republicans tried to filibuster David Hamilton’s nomination to a federal appeals court, backing up a threat the GOP caucus made earlier this year in a letter to the White House — a letter The New York Times deemed “outrageous” for its hypocrisy. Of course it was — if intellectual consistency is the yardstick by which such things ought to be measured.
But if intellectual consistency is the yardstick, then The Times, too, is equally outrageous.
Years ago, when Sen. Phil Gramm threatened to block a Clinton nominee for surgeon general, The Times condemned the move as a “desperate bid.” But three years later, when the GOP tried to stop another nominee with a bill rider, The Times urged Democrats to filibuster the measure.
Now, of course, The Times once again considers the filibuster an egregious, democracy-destroying tool of the devil. And it finally has come up with explanation for its flip-flopping: “Senate Democrats used the filibuster very selectively against Bush nominees who were true extremists … .Republican senators, by contrast, are unreasonably opposing good nominees who are well within the mainstream.”
So I figure Friedman’s authoritarianism fetish won’t last forever. It will probably come to an end either in late 2012, or in late 2016 — depending on which party seizes control of the White House.
The Price of GOP Hypocrisy Comes Out of Your Pocket
Friday’s column about Tea-Party pols’ enthusiasm for pork-barrel projects goes into the gory deets. A preview:
The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste has detailed the more than $1 billion in earmarks sought by members of the so-called Tea Party caucus. South Carolina’s Tim Scott sought $300 million for harbor dredging. Jon Runyan of New Jersey fought for federal beach-replenishment funds. The examples pile up to heights of ridiculous redundancy.
The Tea Party’s proletariat is not pleased. “It’s pretty disturbing,” Judson Phillips, co-founder of Tea Party Nation, tells Newsweek.
But grounds for disillusionment don’t end there. Republicans routinely utter shibboleths about the free market. Yet in practice they often substitute government’s hand for the invisible one.
Take Rick Perry. He sings the praises of “the free-market enterprise [system] I grew up with.” But in Texas, his Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund have shoveled nearly $650 million of the taxpayers’ money into the pockets of private corporations, either by purchasing equity stakes or simply by giving companies cash to relocate. Conservative groups have called the programs “slush funds” and termed Perry “more pro-business than he is pro-free markets.”
You could say the same about a lot of GOP governors, including Virginia’s own Bob McDonnell. This year he cut funds for public broadcasting, and was right to do so. But he also has ladled out lots of money from his Opportunity Fund to companies setting up shop in the Old Dominion. And he’s happily giving millions to Steven Spielberg, who is shooting a Lincoln biopic here.
Friday Column: Immigration Hypocrisy
Remember when liberals were citing the doctrine of federal supremacy in Arizona? Er, never mind! Remember when conservatives opposed government permission slips? Never mind that, too.
The Obama administration’s pursuit of illegal aliens through the Secure Communities program has alarmed good progressives everywhere. . . The New York Times has expressed its displeasure that the administration will not only “stick with Secure Communities … but force it down the throats of state and local leaders… . No one can opt out. It’s non-negotiable.”
Yikes! Having the federal government order people around without their consent like that is just terrible, is it not? It sure is! Unless it’s forcing them to buy health insurance. Then, you know, it’s social justice… .
[T]he conservative movement is filled with people who praise the virtues of free-market economics in one breath – and in the next, denounce the free movement of labor across arbitrary political borders.
One minute conservatives are organizing Lemonade Freedom Day to protest recent incidents in which heavy-handed bureaucrats have shut down children’s lemonade stands for operating without proper permits. The next, they’re cheering on the federal e-Verify program, which provides “instant verification of work authorization.”
Think Tank Covers for Shadowy Billionaire!!!
Get this: The evil Koch Brothers recently used a loophole in the new financial-regulation law to shield their operations from government scrutiny — and a Koch-funded think tank is helping them do it!
As it turns out, it’s George Soros who is exploiting a loophole in the new Dodd-Frank law. Fortunately ThinkProgress, an arm of the Soros-Funded Center for American Progress, is all over this story — right?
ThinkProgress has been all over the Murdoch tabloid scandal, and has correctly upbraided Murdoch-owned Fox for covering for Murdoch instead of covering the story:
And, of course, it remains strangely obsessed with the Koch Brothers’ influence:
And it rags on those who take Koch money without disclosing their ties:
And yet, ThinkProgress often fails to disclose its own ties to Soros, even as it fails to report on a story that, if it concerned Murdoch or the Koch Brothers, it would be screaming about.
Too precious for words!
Too Rich for Words (Well … almost.)
… here’s [Lee] Fang [of the Center for American Progress] decrying “secret money” on the right:
“Of course, the disclosed foundation funds noted here may only be a fraction of the money received by the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute. Both organizations accept secret donations from individuals and corporations.”
Fang’s on such a high horse here he must be getting acrophobic. You know who else accepts “secret donations from individuals and corporations”? That’s right — the Center for American Progress. So unless Fang is prepared to provide a list of all the people responsible for paying his salary, he should probably keep his mouth shut.