January 29, 2010

Broken Government

It's broken. Our government, that is.

Paul Krugman thinks it comes from the dysfunctional political culture.

James Fallows points to the broken political system and the consequences for having essentially a gangrenous government that is sucking the life blood out of our country. But he notes that the dream of less government which the conservatives proclaim devolves into a Mad Max world where nothing works (including the private sector) and that is to be avoided.

Nevertheless we are at a terrible crossroads as it becomes evident that we no longer can solve our problems through our government.

A major reason our government is so bad today is the Senate and it's requirement to have 60 votes to do anything. One thing that makes the Senate so bad is the complete misallocation of power to the empty spaces in our country. The fact is that a Senator from a small state has significantly more power than our founders would have imagined. And then we have the entrenched interests that can buy themselves whatever they want. Which the Supreme Court made even worse last week.

Recognizing that our country and the form of government bequeathed to us has been so badly broken has been a source of profound sadness for me.

Posted by Mary at January 29, 2010 01:44 AM | US Politics | Technorati links |

A senator from a small state has no more power than a senator from a large state. The founders of this country knew what they were doing. The only thing they didn't take into consideration is what the country would do if an idiot was elected president. They also couldn't have envisioned affirmative action and what a disasterous effect it would have on this country.

Posted by: AllenS at January 29, 2010 04:29 AM

Finally, I read something that connects. As a progressive and a liberal, to have lost faith so completely in the government feels like a betrayal. I am, as well, profoundly sad.

But I am also becoming more adamant, when discussing politics with friends, in insisting that CHANGE comes from the PEOPLE. The government, corporations, and powers-that-be will not change their tune until we demand it! Why would any senator--liberal, conservative, independent--actually change anything grand? They are all paid handsomely to maintain the status quo! These "entrenched interests" can pay more than the common person to any senator willing to do their bidding. And they do.

I am scared, hurt, and disillusioned for the future. I am a woman without a party. What to do?

Posted by: Elizabeth Hunter at January 29, 2010 11:14 AM

Check the table at the bottom of that article more carefully, AllenS. It shows that, theoretically, the states whose combined population is only one sixth of America's are theoretically able to pass legislation. Also note that states whose combined population are only a ninth of the total can block legislation via filibuster.

Smaller rural states tend to be Republican. This has given the Republicans power out of all proportion to the population they represent.

Yes, the Founders knew what they were doing. They had to get thirteen states, which had all been operating as independent political entities, to sign on to become one country. That required compromises like the Senate, which allowed small, rural states (particularly slave-holding states) to have some control over their destiny in the new government. Those concerns don't apply as they once did.

Posted by: Cujo359 at January 29, 2010 02:03 PM

AllenS - Your knowledge about how the Senate works is just as faulty as your knowledge about how affirmative action has contributed to one of the finest aspects of our country. Without women, people of color and immigrants from all over the world, this country would have never been able to get the benefits of innovation, creativity and sheer exuberance that has been our hallmark. Everyone benefits when opportunity is available for all.

Posted by: Mary at January 30, 2010 12:07 PM

Not everyone gets a voice. Some can restrict or ban free expression of ideas via their "owned" or "controlled" sites. Amazing how those that say they're for the little guy can so easily ban those voices on their sites. I know this argument gets stale easily to those of a liberal bent. It doesn't do the honor of all those who fought for our freedoms and rights...the new use of the delete button. It's that easy to prevent free speech these days.

One can take the nice rant, "You've been had. You've been took. You've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok." and turn it 180 degrees, point the finger at yourselves. Liberals have been doing the hoodwinking, bamboozling, leading people astray. Jon Stewart had it right the other day. Democrats, with their large majorities can't lead, nor govern...just a bunch of cats.

Change is coming...again in November. Started in Massachusetts, to continue in the many places once thought secure. The wave of change will surprise the many in November in places like Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, and California. Get ready for a new Speaker and majority leader for the 112th Congress and future super majorities in the 113th and 114th Congress's.

This years Census will bring on re-apportionment for the 112th Congress. So many "blue" states losing districts, so many of those fly over states gaining districts.

Talking of small states, Mary, it seems Teddy Kennedy came from one as well as his brother John. They had such great an effect on our country. One can wonder of their entrenched interest. Ted always seemed to not want wind turbines located off the southern coast of his state. His voice always seemed to overwhelm that of all the little people needing that green energy.

Maybe we should give states like Texas and Florida more representation. They seem to be growing, with a much lower unemployment rates than the national average. It was nice to see former President Bush at the White House again.

Posted by: peter at January 30, 2010 04:04 PM

Geez. Didn't anyone ever take a class on American government in high school?

Alan is closer to being correct than most of you, at least in his first sentence. "A senator from a small state has no more power than a senator from a large state." It's obviously true that the magnitude of an individual senator's power does not correspond to either the size or the population of his state. But then that's what Mary and some of these comments are complaining about.

"The founders of this country knew what they were doing." Indeed (too bad Alan contradicts himself in his next sentence). That's why they established both the Senate and the House. The concept was that Congress should represent all of the following: the population of this country, the union of the states, and all our resources. So House districts should be drawn up to represent the people based on population. The Senate represents the country by representing each state government and by representing more equitably the resources (i.e. land). Thus a state like Alaska gets two senators to represent all that land with billions of dollars worth of resources; but it gets only one guy to represent it in the House whereas a state like New York gets around 30 representatives.

For those of you who absolutely flunked out of high school, this was called a system of checks and balances. It extended also to creating three branches of government, the legislative (congress), executive (president), and the judicial. The founding fathers thought of the latter, among other reasons, because they were concerned about what might happen to the country if some idiot became President.

Posted by: Flo at February 4, 2010 01:18 PM

Civic lesson aside, what the founders did NOT plan for was what would happen if most or all of those branches became corrupt or ineffectual in some way. Nor did they plan what to do in the event that most voters lost the ability to hear relatively unbiased news. That's what this blog post actually discusses, and what should make all of us who are capable of understanding it profoundly sad as well.

Posted by: Flo at February 4, 2010 01:25 PM