Another War of Jenkins' Ear

Resist The Pointless

Posts Tagged ‘conservatives

Is the Bloc Québécois About To Fall?

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Via Matt Yglesias, stunning news from North America’s frigid third:

Jack Layton is riding high after a pair of polls show the NDP overtaking the Bloc Québécois – a change that would mark a huge transformation of the political landscape if it carried through to election day and was transformed into seats in the House of Commons.

CROP survey published Thursday in the Montreal newspaper La Presse suggests the NDP is the preferred choice for 36 per cent of Quebeckers, compared to 31 per cent for the Bloc. The Tories were at 17 per cent in that poll and the Liberals were at 13 per cent.

And an EKOS Research surveyconducted for the internet news outlet iPolitics suggests that the New Democrats have jumped 10 percentage points since just before last weeks’ leaders debates to 31.1 per cent while the Bloc has dropped to 23.7 per cent.

Meanwhile, a Nanos Research pollconducted for The Globe and Mail suggests that Mr. Layton’s New Democrats are closing in on the Liberals for second place in popular support across the country.

It wasn’t inevitable that this was going to happen now, but this was inevitable sooner or later. The Bloc is in essence a vanity party: a vote for them and secession means that you as a voter literally do not care about any other issue, just secession. And given the past 5 years globally, as well as continuous effects of a conservative governing coalition, at some point it was bound to happen that  people would vote their economic and social interests over a pure protest vote.

As I noted in my previous, lengthy post, Quebec at one point was the heart of the left in Canada. These polls indicate it might be happening again. The NDP is really center left (the liberals are left) but this literally could change everything: if the Bloc loses, then the NDP could have a governing coalition like the left used to.

What makes this really interesting, of course, is that it was the Bloc siding against Harper’s government in a no confidence vote that made this election possible.

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What’s the Deal With The Bloc Québécois?

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This week, the Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party Canadian government was voted down on a no confidence vote, and there will be an election in May. This is a good summary of the timeline that led to this specific event happening.

I was going to write a post on why Canada seems to have doomed itself to minority governments, but most of what I wanted to discuss kept coming back to the great “enigma” of Canadian politics: the rise of the Bloc Québécois over the past 20 years as a political force that has no interest in governing and is too toxic to be part of any coalition. I’m also roughly interested in the antipathy of Liberals from making a coalition with the farther left party, the New Democrat Party, but that seems like typical center-left and left squabbling that we see here in America on a daily basis. So I’ll leave that for others (eg: Canadian-balloon-juice.com).

Quebec in Blocks

I. Background

The Bloc Québécois has been accused of being on the right, on the left, and able to work with both sides. But the Bloc was only founded 20 years ago – and the Canadian Constitution Act was less than 30 years ago. Quebec did not ratify that Constitution, the only province not to do so; but the Canadian Supreme Court held Quebec was still bound by it. The previous Constitutional arrangement had allowed limited guaranteed bilingualism, but the roots of the nationalism are different: in Quebec, there is no extensive history of national Canadian institutions that we take for granted here in the states or even in elsewhere in Canada. In the 1960s, the sovereignty movement began to gain steam, but this had been simmering under the surface for quite a while.

There have been two major attempts since 1982 to remedy the Quebec issue constitutionally, both of which failed: the Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord of 1992. Arguably, both failed because the split within Canadian society on the proper role of Quebec was irresolvable; in fact the Charlotteown Accord was opposed both by Quebec politicians who wanted nothing short of independence and by westerners who did not want Quebec to be recognized as a “distinct society” within Canada.

The Bloc Québécois had not existed prior to then. This was in part because Rene Levesque, the founder of the political party that would become Parti Québécois, did not favor running pro-sovereigntists in national elections.  (Parti Québécois is a Quebec level sovereignty party that is technically separate from Bloc Québécois). One notable exception to this general rule, Roch La Salle, was an independent, but willing to be a member of government – something the Bloc refuses to do.

The Bloc Québécois first ran in national elections in 1993. They only run candidates in Quebec, and have run for 75 seats in Quebec in every national election since then. This is a chart of their seats won and percentage of the popular vote in Canada and Quebec in elections since their inception:

Election Seats won % of popular vote (Canada) % of popular vote (Quebec)
1993 54 13.5% 49.3%
1997 44 10.7% 37.9%
2000 38 10.7% 39.9%
2004 54 12.4% 48.9%
2006 51 10.5% 42.1%
2008 49 10.0% 38.1%

There are four last events to review. In 1995, a Quebec referendum narrowly rejected negotiating independence, by 50.6% to 49.4%. A separatist leader blamed it on “money and the ethnic vote” but indigenous and English speaking populations are part of Quebec with the right to vote. In 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada held that there was no unilateral right to secede, but if a province expressed a “clear will” to secede, the government would have to enter negotiations. And then in 1999, the government passed the Clarity Act, establishing what that clear will would have to be: essentially some sort of supermajority, the question of which was approved prior to the referendum by Parliament; the negotiations also would have to include all provinces and indigenous groups. Additionally, the House of Commons could overrule any such vote if they feel the result was not clear.

This has made secession such a high bar that practically speaking it is impossible – there are too many English and other enclaves within Quebec for that bar to be cleared.

Lastly, in 2006, Stephen Harper introduced a resolution on the matter to declare Quebec “a nation within a united Canada”:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had introduced the surprise motion on Nov. 22, raising the ante on a Bloc Québécois motion that sought to declare Quebecers a nation without reference to Canada. The motion states: “That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.” The prime minister has said he is using the word nation in a “cultural-sociological” rather than in a legal sense. “I think tonight was an historic night,” Harper said after the vote. “Canadians across the country said ‘yes’ to Quebec, ‘yes’ to Quebecers, and Quebecers said ‘yes’ to Canada.”In politics you take risks — that’s what we did — but national unity, national reconciliation are more important than any one party or than any one individual.”

But why is the Bloc still around? It was not intended to be a permanent party – it was meant to be a temporary party. The current leader of the Bloc, Gilles Duceppe, has given a justification that sounds rather weak – in this 2010 speech he takes it as a given that since Quebec has been declared a nation that it ipso facto should be independent, nothing a few policy disagreements with the Canadian government, but really, not nearly much at all.

In the party’s early days, Mr. Bouchard had worried that the separatist contingent in Ottawa could become a sort of “insurance policy” for skittish Quebecers: They could safely cast a vote for a sovereigntist party without any danger of it actually leading to a referendum.

Mr. Duceppe said that has not occurred, and in fact the House of Commons has become a training ground for the future leaders of an independent Quebec. “I have learned in Ottawa what it means to have a country,” he said. “When the word Canada is mentioned, all MPs from all the Canadian parties, left, right, NDP, Reform, Tories, Liberals, they all rise together. And I admire that. That is strength.” On a more concrete level, Quebec politicians have gained experience in fields not present in the provincial legislature. “Quebec experience in foreign affairs is very limited. It happens in Ottawa,” he said. “Defence happens in Ottawa. We are learning things, for sure.”

Duceppe seems to be lowering the bar for success, saying politics can change on a dime and that the Bloc is not monsters:

Mr. Duceppe is more optimistic, taking comfort from the fact that the political winds can shift suddenly. “I think the need [for sovereignty] is greater now than in 1990,” he said. When he entered politics and became the first person elected under the Bloc banner, there was still a move to have Quebec sign the Constitution. The Charlottetown accord, opposed as insufficient by the Bloc, was defeated in a 1992 referendum. Now, Mr. Duceppe said, the only options for Quebecers are the status quo or separation. “Federalists tell us there is no longer a project for renewal. The fruit is not ripe, the land is not fertile. It’s impossible to change the Canadian Constitution. That is clear. Take it or leave it.”

His lengthy presence on the federal scene, with his strong performances in English-language leaders’ debates, have earned him the grudging respect of many in the rest of Canada. When he is on holiday outside the country, he said, he is often approached by English-Canadians asking to be photographed with him. “I am proud that in the rest of Canada we have shown that sovereigntists are not crazies, not extremists,” he said. “We don’t eat babies for breakfast.”

This is all well and good, but it’s not very persuasive. In this speech he conceded the current alignment just entrenches the Conservative Party in power, but in a minority government.

II: Implications

So what we’re left with is that the Bloc Québécois isn’t a majority party even in Quebec – they just split the vote between liberals and conservatives and are a plurality group themselves with majority representation.  And even by their own words, most of what they disagree with from Canada is policy oriented (it’s certainly no more a disconnect than indigenous groups), and that they are their own nation.

This assessment gives three main reasons for Quebec independence: that economic development within Canada is unequal, that Canada does not consider itself a multinational state, and that Quebec cannot chose its legal status. The first can be remedied through existing political processes. The second could arguably be remedied by the 2006 resolution. By the latter, it is meant that Quebec alone cannot amend or negotiate to its satisfaction the legal process. But they still cannot generate a sufficient popular support to even govern Quebec at the provincial level, and yet they refuse to negotiate or compromise on their demands. And there’s no way they can be part of a coalition – they want to secede. That’s toxic for either party.

There are 308 seats in the House of Commons in Canada. If you give the Bloc 37 seats (one less than their lowest number ever) it mean that any other party would need to win 155 seats out of 271 to have a majority – and that’s a robust 57%. The Conservatives are the only party with enough appeal to approach that number, but in order to do so need to win districts that are extreme long shots. There’s a sort of resignation within this article of Stephen Harper making that sort of appeal.

So the residual (but not overly wide even within Quebec) desire for independence is inevitably going to lead to chronic government instability.

On the other hand, this sort of vanity project – committing an entire region to not being part of government – is going to be less and less important the more important national deliberations become. It’s at the point where demands of the Bloc are ignored because the Bloc demands them, even if Quebec federalists agree with them on the matter.

In essence, the Bloc has had just enough success to stay in existence and make all of Canadian politics completely fragile, but just enough failure to make this a Don Quixote type exercise for them. In this day and age issues are increasingly global, not local. Anne-Marie Slaughter has done some impressive research on this. The key decisions being made regarding the financial crisis are probably at the Basel Convention. Quebec trying to insulate itself and sacrificing political capital to do so is political madness.

There are defenses of the Bloc’s existence, but they tend to be that the Bloc is still relatively popular – and they are! But there’s no clear path to achieving their goals. Indeed, as time goes on, they’ve lost power and decisions. Even if they achieve another referendum, the House of Commons has complete control over what is on the referendum and what to do afterwards; and there’s still not nearly enough support in Quebec to get the supermajority of support that would be necessary to trigger negotiations.

And so Canada is left with an unstable system; Quebec is left with negotiating completely from weakness, since their representatives are toxic; it is meant to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the end, I don’t see this stalemate changing unless there is an abrubt change in circumstances; if it was not brought on by the financial crisis, it’s hard to say what would bring it on. But there’s two forces pushing towards a stalemate: the Bloc reduces Quebec’s power, increasing marginally desire for independence; on the other side, integration leads towards acceptance. (As well as blaming the Bloc for being relatively powerless.).

In short, I feel for my Canadian friends. They’re sort of doomed to political instability.

III. Broader Context

But the bright side for my Canadian friends is that Quebec can do this because the stakes are so low. If Stephen Harper ran Canada off the rails like George W. Bush did America, I doubt that the Bloc would get as many votes as they do in the present. Voting for Quebec sovereignty is important for a plurality of people in the province, but they also have single-payer health care, gay marriage and a reasonable foreign policy all things considered:things Americans mostly dream of. So the left can let Harper fool around – if he tries to take away anything they consider core to their existence, they can vote otherwise.

So we’re left with two political standards: achievements and stability. American is remarkably stable but achieving even small things is deathly difficult. Canada has little political stability but a great many political achievements.  (If anyone in Canada wants to dispute this, name a policy problem in Canada that the government could solve that is not worse in America. That can’t be a long list.)

I’m not going to trade my citizenship, but I do have a little Canadian envy of that.

That is, red with envy; not blue.

Image from here, used under a Creative Commons License.

The Argument Versus The Delivery

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I think in large part the left and right are arguing past each other – but that is not to say that they are morally equivalent. Allow me to explain.

I came across* Jonah Goldberg saying this yesterday: “If I had to bet, we won’t hear a lot about how opposing Obamacare is necessarily racist or evil from Weigel.”

Now, as a liberal who supported “Obamacare” I don’t think that anyone who opposes Obamacare is racist or evil or a number of other over the top arguments. Perhaps they just oppose it on the merits.

But that’s not the charge that I think conservatives should be responding to. The argument from the left (and Obama made a version of this point in his address to the GOP caucus) is that the over the top response from TV pundits and conservative movement leaders incites racism and violence. This is the entire rationale behind the Stopbeck movement. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John Whitehouse

April 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Facts About the Tea Party Movement

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It seems that there is lack of clarity – even in the Tea Party itself! – about what it is the Tea Party is and what it stands for. I’m here to clean that up ass much as possible. Here’s some facts about Tea Parties and tea party speakers:

We have tea party demographics: To quote Matt Yglesias, the Tea Party movement is “disproportionately composed of individuals who have higher-than-average incomes. It’s also disproportionately composed of men. And disproportionately composed of white people. And disproportionately composed of self-identified conservatives.”

A speaker at a Washington State tea party called for Sen. Patty Murray to be lynched.

Roy Moore, a speaker at the Tea Party Convention had previously called for homosexuals to be executed. Another speaker at the convention got rousing applause for speaking against gays and lesbians.

There is a large number of birthers in the Tea Party movement, including the birther-in-chief as well as the birther general; Redstate.com has enough integrity to ban them. Popular Politicians who align themselves with the Tea Party movement? Not so much. That dirty work is left for the likes of Andrew Breitbart.

The Tea Party movement is roughly as popular as the movement to legalize marijuana, and at least 20-25% less popular than the movement to let gays serve in the military (or 40%, if you look at other polls).

Most are not aware that the stimulus plan included a tax cut.

There’s a predilection towards the stars and bars at some Tea Party rallies.

Prominent conservative pundits realize that the solutions proposed by the Tea Party are, at best, incoherent.

A Republican House candidate in Indiana is running as a Tea Party conservative, but does not mention that he was the choice of the establishment in the 1992 primary that he lost … to an upstart. And then blamed the party boss for. “Beers thought he had found another young talent in 1992 in law student Phil Troyer. While Troyer went to school downstate, a renegade named Chuck Pierson campaigned at gun and knife shows and won a shocking upset. In a burst of election night angst, the schoolboy candidate blasted Beers for the defeat. When I told the old chairman what the upstart Troyer had said, Beers was incredulous. “He really said that?”” (Indianapolis Star, 11/2/01, Lexis)

A tea party candidate in South Carolina (see also Herald-Journal of Spartanburg who is a college professor was fired as House historian by Newt Gingrich after only two weeks for arguing that Nazi views were not fairly represented in a class for 8th and 9th graders; she still says her remarks were taken out of context.

A tea party candidate had the former job of “government and industry relations communications consultant” for Wells Fargo. Reminder: these Tea Parties first spring up in response to TARP, which was money to the banks to preserve the financial system. She was also a former staffer for Christopher Cox, best known as the the SEC Chairman that nobody liked during the crisis.

A Tea Party activist was arrested for stockpiling weapons in preparation for martial law.

A Tea Party candidate running to be Texas Governor was exposed as being open to the fact that the US government had a role in 9/11 – or in common parlance, is a truther. SHe was not fringe either; just before saying that, she was actually leading in the polls.

Alex Jones, a speaker at the national Tea Party Convention, has a documentary arguing that the Obama Administration is a plot by the “New World Order” to “con the American people into accepting global slavery.”  The endgame is a worldwide dictatorship run out of the UN headquarters.

The tea party movement is grounded in paranoia and unrealistic fears.

Another speaker at the Convention argued that liberals intentionally caused the crash to destroy the dollar and to create an alternative currency called the Amero, that also includes worrying about the North American Union.

The Tea Party in South Carolina flat out merged with the Republican Party in the state.

Tea Party candidates are opposing Ron Paul because he doesn’t take enough federal aid and doesn’t support wars overseas. There is substantial evidence that social conservatism is the  driving force of the movement. Included in that evidence is that “divine intervention” is a serious plank in the pplan of the Tea Party’s preferred candidate.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, in addressing the tea party convention, called for some sort of literacy or citizenship test for people to be able to vote. That did not go over well with people familiar with the history of the racist usage of such tests.

There is official Tea Party jewelry.

The Tea party Convention was too sketchy for Michelle Bachmann. Yes, Michelle Bechmann.

Ana Puig thinks that Obama is turning America into a Banana Republic and that Obama is also a Marxist dictator.

Randy Hultgren, a tea party candidate in Illinois won the Republican primary. He has previously argued against hospitals providing information about contraceptives to rape victims (Chicago Daily Herald, 10/23/04, Lexis), On th other hand, Hultgren has stated in the past that he voted against state buget proposals because not enough money was provided for children. “Hultgren said another reason he voted against the budget was because it didn’t have enough money for children and families.  ‘If we can’t find money out of a $50 billion budget for our children, we should all be fired,’ he said.” (Chicago Daily Herald, 10/1/02, Lexis). Regarding the health care proposal, Hultgren was even more blunt, saying “Literally, I promise you, it will kill people. … It will cost lives. That is not the America that I want to live in.” (Chicago Daily Herald, 11/16/09, Lexis).

A tea party candidate in Indiana threatened that “if we don’t see new faces [in Congress after the 2010 elections], I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show.”

Secessionists and extreme states rights advocates are regulars.

A tea party candidate in Nevada is unknown even among other members of the tea party, to the point of worrying that the entire thing is a scheme by Harry Reid.

A tea party wanted to burn a Representative in effigy (don’t worry, they cancelled it).

Someone renown for holding up a sign with the N-word on it is treated as a serious Tea Party leader by the Wasshington Times, while being slammed by a tea party group in Houston.

A tea party strategy memo indicated disruption of town hall meetings was the goal.

Alan Keyes is involved.

Angela McGlowan spoke at the National Tea Party Conference and elsewhere in the Tea Party movement. She’s a regulator contributor to Fox, but the low point of her tenure there was endorsing the push polling that Bush did against McCain in South Carolina in 2000 in real time. Following the Republican debate, Mcglowan stated on The Edge with Paula Zahn:

“Well, I think to answer about the debate, the winner was clearly Alan Keyes. When he made the comment that each candidate should stay on message, both Bush and McCain broke Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment, and that was dealing with negative campaigning. But at the end of the day, there are four dynamics in politics. That’s money, message, momentum and messenger. Bush clearly has the money, which will help him with push polling, which will help him create the message. Then he can do more campaign ads. But John McCain has momentum. And he’s the greatest messenger. People like him because he comes across as a straight shooter. He has not won the Miss Congeniality contest in Washington, DC. But that make him more authentic and more against the status quo. Dick Morris put it best. And I think it was in the “New York Post” today that historically the front-runner will be the nominee. And Bush is clearly the front-runner. So at the end of the day, Bush is going to win South Carolina.” (The Edge with Paula Zahn, 2/15/00, Lexis).

My point is not to impugn anyone associated with the Tea Party movement. (Indeed, I know some good people involved, and in doing research came across a number of others whose intentions seemed well enough.)

I have two separate points. First, the Tea Party movement is a magnet for extreme views; some libertarian, some social conservative, some complete crackpot (truthers, North American Union people, people firing a dictatorship or martial law, etc.). Second, that no other movement of comparable size or popularity would be able to maintain basic public credibility despite the above incidents. Barack Obama attended one meeting in the house of Bill Ayers and was smeared for an entire campaign; all of these incidents have surfaced mostly in the past month with almost no repercussions nationally. In fact, at some point, something similar to all of these has become a major political issue over the past 15-20 years. Yet one movement contains all of this and is still portrayed largely as “regular America”. It’s absurd and wrong. (Of course, if David Gregory takes the legalize pot movement as serious as the Tea Party movement, that would undermine my entire point. Please send me proof of that if it exists. I’m not expecting imminent email on it.)

Where should we go from here? Just stop giving people credit for a label they attach to a group – that only legitimizes everyone under that. Instead, let’s judge ideas and issue groups for what they are. Say what you will about Grover Norquist, for instance, at least you know exactly what he stands for. I didn’t like liberals just shouting at Bush in the last decade either; what was useful were constructive ideas, or at least focused rage (I don’t know what the answer is to X problem, but I’m damn sure upset about it!) Instead, the movement has degenerated into a means for bad ideas to become legitimized. It’s time for that to end. Forward this list; I’m sure I left things out – leave notes in the comments and I’ll add them.

Written by John Whitehouse

February 18, 2010 at 4:22 am

Posted in Economics, Politics

Tagged with ,

Answers!

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So, apparently Glenn Beck has questions. No link provided: take my word for it. In response, I’m giving some answers, to make the questions better ones. I’ve culled the following questions from a Beckwit, for which I shall again provide no link. I’m a bit feisty today.

Here they are:

– We are in so much debt, why spend more borrowed money on cap-and-trade and healthcare programs before we stop the flow of red-ink?

These are actually a number of different questions.

First, how much money do cap and trade and health care reform cost? That’s a really interesting question that no one really agrees on for health care. However, everyone agrees that cap and trade would actually raise money – that’s why it’s being attacked from the right as an energy tax. It’s not. Health care reform cost varies on what is included, but there’s also the problem of health care costs if not dealt with spiraling out of control.

The bigger question is this: can we solve the debt problem without doing some sort of health care reform? It’s the biggest reason we’re in debt in the first place (aside from the Bush tax cuts being overly broad – remember the days of a surplus?). These are highly technical questions that the CBO and OMB are going over meticulously. But there’s no easy answer for the right or the left on this one.

– The stimulus package funneled billions of dollars to ACORN. How does giving billions of dollars to ACORN stimulate the economy?

Where did it do that? I just searched the text of the bill, and ACORN was not listed. There are a number of places where someone who is not verssed in how bills are written could terribly misunderstand something. But there is that seriously gives billions to ACORN.

Fact: this is not a question, but a lie phrased as a question. It’s akin to someone hypothetically asking the question: How does Glenn Beck kidnapping and feeding homeless people to his secret lizard army benefit society?

This is putting aside any discussion of what ACORN actually does. Groups like ACORN and Habitat for Humanity are being demonized .. and in many cases falsely. I’d agree that I’m not a fan of their voter registration methods… but beyond that, what’s the big deal? If you’re going to ask a question about ACORN, you can’t assume everyone will agree with you that they’re bad … unless, again that your intention is not to ask questions, but rather to rile up your base.

– If it was so important for congress to pass the stimulus bill before they even had time to read it why has only a fraction of the stimulus money been spent 6 months later?

I doubt that no one read the bill. As I’ve explained before, time is precious, and a congressional staff should read the bill and issue reports to the congressman or woman.

Moreover, the stimulus was certainly available to read before it was passed. Versions of it were circulating on the internet before it was signed.

Furthermore, these two assertions have nothing to do with each other. It was not a secret bill. It was two thirds of what was originally planned, and if you actually read any part of the bill, you can note the procurement process is intricate and in very few cases immediate. (This process is described in great deal on the Apollo Alliance website, ironically enough.) The procurement policy runs according to the basic principles of administrative law. It’s a good class, I took it last year.

– Bush said he had to abandon free market principles in order to save them, how exactly does that work?

This is really, really easy to answer.

John Maynard Keynes. Google him one day. Basic theory: governmental debt spending can spark demand, which is the current problem.

Let’s examine two hypotheticals: one, the government spends in a depression, the other it cuts back. (No one is arguing for keeping things the same, I think we all agree).

If the government cuts back, the depression will spiral down and get worse. People that had relied upon the government as a safety net will be completely cut off. And states which relied on the government will also be cut off, and have to trim their budgets, which again will only end up hurting people – education and prison money, for instance, was already spread thin. And if we want to cut back, you’d have to cut defense spending too. No one wants to do that, except of course the Defense Department.

Government spending during an economic crisis, by contrast, can save the economy by stimulating demand – just look at the Great Depression. By creating large social programs, you create demand for products that actually can have ripple effects through the entire economy. The guy paving the road needs to by furniture for his house, while the furniture salesman needs to by a car, while the car salesman needs to buy milk, while the farmer needs to send his child to school, etc. The more money we have circulating through the economy, the stronger that is. Depression economics just makes that more direct than normal.

– Why won’t members of Congress read the bills before they vote on them?

Most of the time, they do. But on extra long ones, it makes sense to have staff members read them and report on them. Also, there’s a strong financial incentive to trust party negotiations – if the stimulus bill was an intricate compromise in the Senate, can a House member really do anything about it? Probably not. Any move to do so would only infuriate donors and House leadership, and cost them any chance of seniority.

These are basic principles of how legislation gets passed. Losers complain about not reading the bills. For both the Patriot Act for liberals and the Stimulus bill for conservatives, there are and were plenty of people offering critiques at the time. The question as Beck writes it is solely about obstructionism. Nothing else.

– Why are citizens mocked and laughed at when they ask their congressman to read the bills before they vote on them?

Because they tend to do so while shouting at the top of their lungs and just after saying Obama was born in Kenya? Just a thought.

Seriously, though, conservatives like Beck should read the story of the boy who cried Wolf. When you say crazy things over and over, eventually no one will take you seriously. It’s your own fault conservatives. Take yourself more seriously.

– Was the cash-for-clunkers program meant to save the earth or the economy? Did it accomplish either?

A bit of both (the program alone couldn’t “save” anything) and probably neither. There are reasonable critiques on the program from the left too. I heard one on NPR, on Diane Rehm’s show. A fair question, actually. See what I just wrote above: By hiding this question among a bunch of louder and sillier ones, it’s going to get lost. Well done, Glenny boy.

– How did Van Jones, a self-proclaimed communist become a special advisor to the president?

Van Jones was as much of a communist as Ronald Reagan was: they both were attracted to it in their youth after a tragedy (Great Depression for Reagan, Rodney King for Jones) and eventually outgrew it when they realized it was just stupid.

“Happened after he got to Hollywood. Reagan got carried away by stories of the Communist Party helping the unemployed, the homeless, the dispossessed. Some of his friends, people he respected, were Party members. So he turned to them. Said he wanted to become a communist… Said he was determined to join. They discussed it with the local Party leader, who asked around, and word came back that Reagan was a flake… They said Reagan couldn’t be trusted with a political opinion for more than 20 minutes. So the decision was taken to prevent him from joining, but to use him as a friend of the Party.” – Howard Fast

Jones had since clearly disavowed those types of views – look at his own words and acts since then. Hell, he was in Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded. I know Friedman is a liberal, but no one thinks HE is a communist, right?

Lastly, this is not really about Van Jones’ beliefs. It’s about Jones’ connection to Color of Change.

– Did President Obama know of Van Jones’ radical political beliefs when he named him special advisor?

I imagine he did know of his past, but there’s no indication he’s a communist now. Beck insinuates in his question that he still is a communist. is it like being born a Jew? Once a communist, always a communist?

Also, what is the Obama administration doing that indicates anyone from the communist party has any sway? A stimulus bill? Debt spending? FDR did these much more in the 30s, so that alone can’t be enough. Communism is the seizing of private businesses to be run by the government. Has that happened at all? Some on the right would say the car companies, but in that case, they – the CEOS – flew to DC to beg for help. So that can’t be it.

Lastly, i just want to reprint the first sentence of what the Wall Street Journal – now Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal – printed when Jones was hired: “Van Jones will join the Obama administration, but not as any sort of czar.”

Ahem.

– The Apollo Alliance claimed credit for writing the stimulus bill—why was this group allowed to write any portion of this bill?

Where did they take credit for writing it?

And if we want lobbyists to stop writing bills, we’re going to have to go way, way past the stimulus. How about the Energy Bill a couple years ago? Or the bankruptcy “reforms”?

Lobbyists regularly write bills. This is annoying. But it happens because of the financial aspect of elections, and because it’s easy to walk up to a congressman or woman and say “You want to do X, we want to do X, here’s a bill that does X. And by the way we can give your reelection campaign millions of dollars.”

There’s no possibility with all the intricate compromises and negotiations over the stimulus that some random lobbyist wrote all of it. None.
– If politicians aren’t writing the bills and aren’t reading the bills, do they have any idea what these 1000 page plus bills actually impose on the American people?

Gosh, that would be some conundrum if it were true. But it’s not. They clearly have a good idea of what they do. Down to the letter? No. But they certainly understand what bills do much more than, say, any pundit on TV.

– If the ‘public option’ health care plan is so good why won’t politicians agree to have that as their plan?

Technically, it would be what they already have – government provided health care. Same with the military.You don’t think regular Americans deserve the same health care delivery systems as the military, Glenn?

But the public option would be imposed on no one – not even Congressman. If it’s so bad, why not offer it as a choice? The theory behind the public option is that health insurance companies are not providing a meaningful service, and the market is attempting to go around it – cut off the middleman. The government would be available to provide the same service (if people wanted) at a much lower cost, allowing more people to get medical coverage. This isn’t rocket science, nor is it some governmental take over. The current system is like Medicare Part C: 20% more expensive for no meaningful reason.

– If town hall meetings are intended for the politicians to learn what’s on our mind—why do they spend so much time talking instead of listening?

Because it’s also a chance for the people to learn more. Believe it or not, television today isn’t very good at conveying meaningful details and educating the populace – TV either demagogues around silliness (cough, Glenn, cough) or it just attacks the opposition (eg, MSNBC). Hearing from the primary sources is very meaningful – just try writing a good history book without looking at any primary sources.

Also, politicians need to get reelected. And it’s not very efficient to get lectured at for hours on end by a handful of people.

– Politicians are refusing to attend town hall meetings complaining, without evidence, that they are scripted. Does that mean we shouldn’t come out and vote for you since every campaign stop, baby kiss and speech you give is scripted?

Umm, sure. I think that’s a quite reasonable trade-off. After all, people generally don’t go see politicians on the trail to be persuaded – they go because they’re already part of the fan base. Real persuasion is of fundraisers in small rooms. No one wants to get rid of those.
– Why would you want to overwhelm the system?

I really am not sure what -exactly- this refers to. So I’m not going to make assumptions. But if you want to ask questions that change people’s minds, I’d ask that you provide more context in the future, Glenn. If I can’t make sense of it, how can anyone else? Or, perhaps, is that the point?

– Is using the economic crises to rush legislation through congress what Rahm Emanuel meant when he talked about “not letting a crises go to waste”?

You don’t want to rush to help people? You don’t think the economic crisis is a serious one? You don’t think any reform or change is needed? That the Bush years were the golden age of America? Really, Glenn?

You don’t think that and nor do most people. But the fact is that if a strong majority believe that certain legislation is needed, they will rush to achieve it, within reason. Liberals and conservatives alike. In legislation, delay is equivalent to defeat, and nothing short of that. If a Republican Congress and White House existed tomorrow with these same numbers, they would try to rush things through too. It’s just the ature of the Congressional calendar.

– What are the czars paid? What is the budget for their staffs/offices?

Gosh, this is easy to find out. Here you go. Some people are not listed – Van Jones for instance was not hired until March. But he would have to be added by the next year. As you can see across the board, no one is getting rich on their salary at the White House.

But constitutionally, the key thing is that Obama or any president can add as many special advisers as they want. But that doesn’t give them any more power to implement policy. If Jones was doing something unconstitutional, the Supreme Court would have no trouble at all to take a case on it and overturn it.

The bottom line is that Beck asks a bunch of meaningless questions meant to rile up his base. The answers are mostly either readily available or completely irrelevant. But I’m sure he’ll attack someone – if not me than someone else like me – for calling him names, or something else ridiculous. Let’s have a serious discussion of the issues. In a span of my lifetime, we’ve gone from William F. Buckley on the right to Glenn Beck. Thank god Buckley doesn’t have to live to see what is being done to the movement he began. I can only imagine how Beck would insult Buckley’s vocabulary.

Written by John Whitehouse

August 30, 2009 at 2:18 am