In a December 8 speech, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized both parties, saying that partisan bickering is a key factor holding back the economy.
In a December 7 commentary, New America Foundation fellow Michael Lind argued that many of the negative economic and political trends we witness result from the decline of broad-based membership, fraternal and charitable organizations. These include labor unions, political parties and civic groups. In their place are elite groups that exist mainly to raise money from a small number of rich people. The result is that most Americans are now disengaged from such institutions and alienated from society itself.
On December 6, Gallup released a poll comparing the popularity of former presidents over time. John F. Kennedy is the most popular recent president, Richard Nixon the least.
Also on December 6, Princeton sociologist Paul Starr posted a commentary discussing the apparently contradictory behavior of senior citizens in the recent congressional elections. They voted heavily for Republicans who favor massive cuts in Social Security and Medicare--programs that primarily benefit seniors.
In a December 2 debate with Rep. Paul Ryan, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks accused Republicans of having an all-or-nothing philosophy: “My problem with the Republican Party right now, including Paul, is that if you offered them 80-20, they say no. If you offered them 90-10, they’d say no. If you offered them 99-1 they’d say no.”
In what was billed as a major address to the Detroit Economic Club on November 29, House Republican Conference chairman Mike Pence endorsed ideas that have been popular with Republicans for decades but have never come close to enactment, such as a flat rate income tax, the gold standard and a constitutional amendment limiting federal spending to 20 percent of GDP. (Note: the latter is ridiculously unenforceable because terms like GDP and even spending have no legal meaning and there’s no practical way for the courts to enjoin Congress from violating the limit.)
Also on November 29, Marist College released a poll in which voters were asked whether Republicans should compromise with Democrats to get things done or stick to their positions regardless of the consequences. Almost three-fourths favored the former position, including half of Republicans. However, only 28 percent of voters think Republicans will actually compromise, with 64 percent saying they won’t.
In a November 27 blog post, political scientist Jonathan Bernstein raised questions about those who claim to be strict constitutionalists: “If you're only a believer in your own, clearly false, version of American history, a version designed in order to make contemporary political points, then you don't really respect the Constitution. If you only believe in One True interpretation, you don't really respect the Constitution. And one should add: if you support half a dozen or more Constitutional amendments, odds are you don't really respect the Constitution.”
On November 16, the Center for American Progress published a study recommending that President Obama avoid pursuing a legislative agenda, given congressional hostility to his program, and instead utilize the power of his office to advance his program. This would include issuing executive orders, agency rulemaking, commanding the armed forces, and diplomacy.
I last posted items on this topic on November 26.
Bruce Bartlett is an American historian and columnist who focuses on the intersection between politics and economics. He blogs daily and writes a weekly column at The Fiscal Times. Read his most recent column here . Bartlett has written for Forbes Magazine and Creators Syndicate, and his work is informed by many years in government, including as a senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House. He is the author of seven books including the New York Times best-seller, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy (Doubleday, 2006).