The Two Political Parties Are Remarkably Far Apart on Basic Issues

By David Morris, Institute for Local Self Reliance, June 18, 2013 – The following content was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website [2]. posted on Alternet,org

Excerpt

The gridlock that plagues Washington leads many, fairly or unfairly, to lump together the two parties and declare a pox on both their houses.  But most state governments are not gridlocked. Just the opposite.  In almost two thirds one party controls both legislative houses (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature) and the governorship:  Republicans 20, Democrats 13. In these states, parties can translate ideology into policies virtually unimpeded.  An examination of these policies allows us to get behind the name-calling and 30-second sound bites and discover the remarkable difference between the two parties on fundamental issues.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is not on the size of government but the purpose and goals of government.  Both parties believe in taxing heavily and spending lavishly when it comes to protecting our nation from external attack.  Both parties fervently embrace the Declaration of Independence’s insistence that among our “unalienable rights” are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  But their conceptions of security and liberty differ radically…What Democrats see as steps to enhance security Republicans view as steps that restrict libertyIt is important to note that these Republican actions often result less in a tax reduction than in a tax shift from income taxes to sales or property taxes that burden lower income households most heavily…One could hope that in 2014 the stark evidence emerging from state capitols about the difference between the parties can lay the foundation for a nationwide debate on the purpose of government and the ends to which collective authority should aspire that goes beyond the are-you-for-it-or-against-it attitude that contaminates and diminishes that debate.

Full text

The gridlock that plagues Washington leads many, fairly or unfairly, to lump together the two parties and declare a pox on both their houses.  But most state governments are not gridlocked. Just the opposite.  In almost two thirds one party controls both legislative houses (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature) and the governorship:  Republicans 20, Democrats 13.

In these states, parties can translate ideology into policies virtually unimpeded.  An examination of these policies allows us to get behind the name-calling and 30-second sound bites and discover the remarkable difference between the two parties on fundamental issues.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is not on the size of government but the purpose and goals of government.  Both parties believe in taxing heavily and spending lavishly when it comes to protecting our nation from external attack.  Both parties fervently embrace the Declaration of Independence’s insistence that among our “unalienable rights” are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  But their conceptions of security and liberty differ radically.

Democrats believe that governments should not only secure our borders but also advance our personal security.  As reflected in recently enacted state laws, that belief translates into policies extending health care access to as many as possible, raising the minimum wage and expanding unemployment insurance. Republicans vigorously oppose this use of government.  They insist we should not be compelled to be our brothers’ keeper. Of the 13 states that so far have refused the federal government’s offer to pay 100 percent of the costs of expanding health care coverage to millions of their residents, for example, Republicans dominate 12.  All six of the states that are leaning that way are Republican controlled.

What Democrats see as steps to enhance security Republicans view as steps that restrict liberty.  They assert that government-created health exchanges interfere with the right of insurance companies to manage their own affairs while the requirement that everyone have health insurance constitutes an act of tyranny.  Minimum wage laws interfere with the economic liberty of business and the freedom of the marketplace.

Republicans argue that taxes, especially those that tax the rich at higher rates than the poor, interfere with our liberty to pursue happiness by amassing unrestrained wealth.   In the last legislative session Democrat-controlled California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota raised the income tax rate on millionaires while in the last two legislative sessions, Republican-controlled Kansas reduced such rates by 75 percent and legislators in Kansas as well as in North Carolina and Nebraska are openly pushing for the complete elimination of the income tax.

It is important to note that these Republican actions often result less in a tax reduction than in a tax shift from income taxes to sales or property taxes that burden lower income households most heavily.

When it comes to personal liberty, however, Republicans believe in big government. As former Republican Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum observed, “The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire.”  Even if their wants or passions do not harm others.

This legislative session Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota joined 9 other states and the District of Columbia in extending the freedom to marry to include those of the same sex. Meanwhile, of the 25 states with constitutional prohibitions on same sex marriage, 22 are completely controlled by Republicans.  None are Democrat dominant.

Of the 17 states that have enacted medical marijuana laws, 10 are Democratic and only two are Republican. (The rest are not controlled by a single party.) As if to put an exclamation point on this difference, the same day last November that voters in Washington and Colorado approved the legalization of marijuana, voters in Arkansas handily defeated a proposal to allow the drug to be used for medicinal purposes with a doctor’s prescription.

Gun control is an issue that for Republicans and Democrats affects both liberty and security. For Republicans the ability to own unlimited numbers of guns and carry them whenever and wherever one wants with a minimum of government oversight, constitutes an essential part of freedom while allowing the owner to protect herself from physical harm.  For Democrats widespread gun ownership significantly contributes to physical violence inside and outside the gun owner’s household; thus in this case unrestrained liberty must give way to regulation.

In this legislative session while Democratic states like New York and Connecticut and Maryland tightened gun laws, more than a dozen GOP states scaled back their already minimal gun laws. Statistician Nate Silver insists, “Whether someone owns a gun is a more powerful predictor of a person’s political party than her gender, whether she identifies as gay or lesbian, whether she is Hispanic (or) whether she lives in the south…”

For both Democrats and Republicans liberty means being able to participate in influencing the political decisions that affect our lives and futures.  But here again their conception of liberty differs significantly. For Republicans it means the liberty of money, allowing individuals to spend unlimited amounts to elect candidates and lobby legislators while restricting the liberty of people by making voter access more difficult.  For Democrats it means the opposite.

Recently Colorado, Delaware and Maryland have enacted laws making it easier for people to register and vote while Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Virginia have made it harder. Nine of ten states that have voter photo ID laws are Republican dominated.

One could hope that in 2014 the stark evidence emerging from state capitols about the difference between the parties can lay the foundation for a nationwide debate on the purpose of government and the ends to which collective authority should aspire that goes beyond the are-you-for-it-or-against-it attitude that contaminates and diminishes that debate.

 

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/democrats-and-republicans-differ-drastically-liberty-and-security

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/david-morris
[2] http://www.ilsr.org/liberty-security-democrats-republicans-differ/:
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/arkansas
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/candidate-position
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/colorado
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/connecticut
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/declaration-independence
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/delaware-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/democratic-party
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/district-columbia
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/indiana
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/institute-local-self-reliance
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/kansas
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/maryland
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/massachusetts-0
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/minnesota
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nate-silver
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nebraska
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/new-york
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/north-carolina
[21] http://www.alternet.org/tags/person-career
[22] http://www.alternet.org/tags/person-location
[23] http://www.alternet.org/tags/political-parties-united-states
[24] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-0
[25] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-party
[26] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-senator
[27] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rhode-island
[28] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rick-santorum-0
[29] http://www.alternet.org/tags/statistician
[30] http://www.alternet.org/tags/tennessee
[31] http://www.alternet.org/tags/virginia-0
[32] http://www.alternet.org/tags/washington-0
[33] http://www.alternet.org/tags/candidate
[34] http://www.alternet.org/tags/federal-government
[35] http://www.alternet.org/tags/health-insurance
[36] http://www.alternet.org/tags/insurance-0
[37] http://www.alternet.org/tags/unemployment-insurance-0
[38] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

The Republican party acts like it’s 1999

By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, June 4, 2013

Excerpt

… House Republicans have shelved a serious legislative agenda this year in favor of 24/7 investigations….A good indication of House Republicans’ mind-set came last week, when Rep. John Boehner’s spokesman wrote on the House speaker’s official blog that a speech by Obama on student loans was an attempt “to change the subject from its growing list of scandals.” It’s telling that the GOP leadership would view a student loan event as a distraction from scandals but wouldn’t see the obsession with scandals as a distraction from pocketbook issues…One of the few things that unite them is the investigation of scandals…Republicans, after fighting Obama’s economic policies for four years, may have no better option than to focus on scandal now that the economy is rebounding.…The problem for Republicans is that they appear to be following not the facts but rather their own theories…

Full text

It’s beginning to feel like the late ’90s all over again.

Then, congressional Republicans howled themselves hoarse about Clinton administration scandals. But the indicators kept pointing to a booming economy, and support for President Bill Clinton climbed steeply through 1998 as House Republicans marched toward impeaching him.

Now, after a long economic winter, green shoots are everywhere: The stock market is booming, housing prices are rebounding and mortgage providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, long demonized by Republicans, are returning profits to the Treasury. Job growth has accelerated and consumer confidence has reached its highest level in almost six years. Health-care cost increases are slowing, Medicare’s prospects are improving — in part because of President Obama’s health-care reforms — and gasoline prices are forecast to decline. Long-term fiscal problems remain, but the federal deficit is shrinking, putting off Washington’s debt-ceiling standoff until late fall .

Yet House Republicans have shelved a serious legislative agenda this year in favor of 24/7 investigations. On Tuesday morning alone, they held two hearings probing alleged wrongdoing in the Obama administration. At a House education committee hearing in the Rayburn building, several Republicans grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over her fundraising for a nonprofit that works to enroll people in new health-insurance programs. (Similar activities were undertaken by officials in the George W. Bush administration.)

Next door in the Longworth building, the Ways and Means Committee hosted tea party groups complaining that their rights had been violated by the administration. (Investigators have yet to find a link to the White House or to Obama’s political appointees.) Instead of working on tax reform, Ways and Means is one of three House committees holding hearings this week on the Internal Revenue Service abuses. This sounds like a lot — until you consider that five committees are reportedly investigating the administration’s handling of September’s attack on U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya.

A good indication of House Republicans’ mind-set came last week, when Rep. John Boehner’s spokesman wrote on the House speaker’s official blog that a speech by Obama on student loans was an attempt “to change the subject from its growing list of scandals.” It’s telling that the GOP leadership would view a student loan event as a distraction from scandals but wouldn’t see the obsession with scandals as a distraction from pocketbook issues.

As The Post’s Paul Kane reported Tuesday, House Republicans haven’t passed much ambitious legislation this year after they “disintegrated into squabbling factions, no longer able to agree on — much less execute — some of the most basic government functions.” One of the few things that unite them is the investigation of scandals. A few weeks ago, Heritage Action for America, an influential conservative group, suggested that House Republicans focus on investigations and avoid legislation that could divide them.

To be sure, there are real issues involved in the probes, particularly the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups and the Justice Department’s intimidation of journalists. And, with economic troubles remaining in much of the world, there’s no guarantee of a 1990s-style boom. But in terms of scandal, House Republicans so far have significantly less to work with than they did in 1998, when the president lied about sex acts with an intern.

Republicans, after fighting Obama’s economic policies for four years, may have no better option than to focus on scandal now that the economy is rebounding. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters Tuesday morning that Republicans would simultaneously be “emphasizing working families” while investigating the administration “in a deliberative, thoughtful manner, allowing the facts to speak for themselves.”

Reporters asked whether this thoughtfulness was consistent with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, calling the White House press secretary a “paid liar” and describing Obama as Nixonian. Cantor declined to disavow Issa’s statements.

The problem for Republicans is that they appear to be following not the facts but rather their own theories — perhaps best illustrated by the illogical claim from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) last week that the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi were caused not just by actions before and during the attacks but also by “the subsequent political coverup.”

As my colleague Greg Sargent noted, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) may have revealed too much about GOP motives when he said “the trouble here isn’t even the individual specific scandals” but “this pattern of deception administration-wide.”

Will Americans find compelling this hunt for a pattern among accusations that even the accusers regard as unimportant? Or will they be “distracted” by the passel of indicators showing accelerating economic growth and improved government finances?

For those who remember the 1990s, the answer is obvious.

Twitter: @Milbank

Read more from Dana Milbank’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Read more on this topic: Ruth Marcus: IRS, AP, Libya scandals are a trifecta with little payout E.J. Dionne Jr.: Facts sacrificed to the false god of ‘narrative’ Greg Sargent: Washington’s contradictory Obama narrative George Will: Obama’s shrinking presidency

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-party-like-its-1999/2013/06/04/086bcb40-cd42-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story_1.html

Who Can Take Republicans Seriously?

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times,  May 12, 2013

It is time for President Obama to abandon his hopes of reaching a grand budget bargain with Republicans.

At every opportunity since they took over the House in 2011, Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in reaching a compromise with the White House. For two years, they held sham negotiations with Democrats that only dragged down the economy with cuts; this year, they are refusing even to sit down at the table.

Mr. Obama hasn’t given up inviting the Republicans to join him in making the hard choices of governing, but he has been rebuffed each time. This year, in hopes of getting some support for modest tax increases on the rich, he even proposed a reduction in the cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients. The events of the last few weeks should make it clear to him why that offer should be pulled from the table immediately. Consider:

Shortly after Mr. Obama presented this idea to Republicans, more than a half-dozen of them began trashing it as too “draconian” and a “shocking attack on seniors.” For years, the party has demanded entitlement cuts, but the moment the president actually offered one, he was attacked. Then last Tuesday, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, said that no grand bargain is possible because Democrats aren’t willing to make significant cuts to spending and entitlement programs. The Social Security cost-of-living change, he said, did not go far enough.

Senate and House Republicans are refusing to meet with Democrats to negotiate over the budgets passed by each chamber. Four times in the last two weeks, Senate leaders have proposed beginning a conference committee to hash out a federal budget; four times they have been blocked by Republicans. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said they were afraid the committee might reach an agreement to raise both taxes on the rich and the debt ceiling, which are, of course, the Democrats’ stated goals. Knowing that their positions would be deeply unpopular among the public if their stubbornness were exposed in an open committee, Republicans would simply prefer not to talk at all.

Instead of negotiation, Republicans cling to their strategy of extorting budget demands by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. On Thursday, the House passed a stunningly dangerous bill that would allow foreign and domestic bondholders to be paid if Republicans forced a government default, while cutting off all other government payments except Social Security benefits. The bill has no possibility of becoming law, but its passage was a deliberate thumb in the eye to Mr. Obama, business leaders and those who say the debt ceiling should not be used for political leverage.

Republican lawmakers have become reflexive in rejecting every extended hand from the administration, even if the ideas were ones that they themselves once welcomed. Under the circumstances, Mr. Obama would be best advised to stop making peace offerings. Only when the Republican Party feels public pressure to become a serious partner can the real work of governing begin.

Meet The New York Times’s Editorial Board »

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/who-can-take-republicans-seriously-on-the-budget.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130513&_r=0

Obstruct and Exploit by Paul Krugman

New York Times, September 9, 2012

 

Does anyone remember the American Jobs Act? A year ago President Obama proposed boosting the economy with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases, aimed in particular at sustaining state and local government employment. Independent analysts reacted favorably. For example, the consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimated that the act would add 1.3 million jobs by the end of 2012.

There were good reasons for these positive assessments. Although you’d never know it from political debate, worldwide experience since the financial crisis struck in 2008 has overwhelmingly confirmed the proposition that fiscal policy “works,” that temporary increases in spending boost employment in a depressed economy (and that spending cuts increase unemployment). The Jobs Act would have been just what the doctor ordered.

But the bill went nowhere, of course, blocked by Republicans in Congress. And now, having prevented Mr. Obama from implementing any of his policies, those same Republicans are pointing to disappointing job numbers and declaring that the president’s policies have failed.

Think of it as a two-part strategy. First, obstruct any and all efforts to strengthen the economy, then exploit the economy’s weakness for political gain. If this strategy sounds cynical, that’s because it is. Yet it’s the G.O.P.’s best chance for victory in November.

But are Republicans really playing that cynical a game?

You could argue that we’re having a genuine debate about economic policy, in which Republicans sincerely believe that the things Mr. Obama proposes would actually hurt, not help, job creation. However, even if that were true, the fact is that the economy we have right now doesn’t reflect the policies the president wanted.

Anyway, do Republicans really believe that government spending is bad for the economy? No.

Right now Mitt Romney has an advertising blitz under way in which he attacks Mr. Obama for possible cuts in defense spending — cuts, by the way, that were mandated by an agreement forced on the president by House Republicans last year. And why is Mr. Romney denouncing these cuts? Because, he says, they would cost jobs!

This is classic “weaponized Keynesianism” — the claim that government spending can’t create jobs unless the money goes to defense contractors, in which case it’s the lifeblood of the economy. And no, it doesn’t make any sense.

What about the argument, which I hear all the time, that Mr. Obama should have fixed the economy long ago? The claim goes like this: during his first two years in office Mr. Obama had a majority in Congress that would have let him do anything he wanted, so he’s had his chance.

The short answer is, you’ve got to be kidding.

As anyone who was paying attention knows, the period during which Democrats controlled both houses of Congress was marked by unprecedented obstructionism in the Senate. The filibuster, formerly a tactic reserved for rare occasions, became standard operating procedure; in practice, it became impossible to pass anything without 60 votes. And Democrats had those 60 votes for only a few months. Should they have tried to push through a major new economic program during that narrow window? In retrospect, yes — but that doesn’t change the reality that for most of Mr. Obama’s time in office U.S. fiscal policy has been defined not by the president’s plans but by Republican stonewalling.

The most important consequence of that stonewalling, I’d argue, has been the failure to extend much-needed aid to state and local governments. Lacking that aid, these governments have been forced to lay off hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers and other workers, and those layoffs are a major reason the job numbers have been disappointing. Since bottoming out a year after Mr. Obama took office, private-sector employment has risen by 4.6 million; but government employment, which normally rises more or less in line with population growth, has instead fallen by 571,000.

Put it this way: When Republicans took control of the House, they declared that their economic philosophy was “cut and grow” — cut government, and the economy will prosper. And thanks to their scorched-earth tactics, we’ve actually had the cuts they wanted. But the promised growth has failed to materialize — and they want to make that failure Mr. Obama’s fault.

Now, all of this puts the White House in a difficult bind. Making a big deal of Republican obstructionism could all too easily come across as whining. Yet this obstructionism is real, and arguably is the biggest single reason for our ongoing economic weakness.

And what happens if the strategy of obstruct-and-exploit succeeds? Is this the shape of politics to come? If so, Americawill have gone a long way toward becoming an ungovernable banana republic.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/opinion/krugman-obstruct-and-exploit.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120910