This Is What It Sounds Like/ When Pacyderms Cry

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The New Republic's Eve Fairbanks has a funny Friday piece about Republicans getting power pried out of their mitts last week. If you doubted that the party of Reagan had gone pathetically native:

On the floor on Friday, [Ways and Means Chairman Bill] Thomas succumbed fully to the Republican mood of anguished drama, noting darkly that some Republicans "have left willingly, some unwillingly" and weirdly suggesting that Maryland's Ben Cardin, leaving the House for the Senate, might be humming "free at last." At the end of his speech, he burst into tears and proclaimed, "Mister Speaker, I relinquish my time, forever!"

There's more like that, including this greatness: "On the first floor of Rayburn, someone has torn the Capitol office directory down from the wall and ripped it into pieces. Viciously scribbled arrows point toward Mark Foley's name."

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  1. If you doubted that the party of Reagan had gone pathetically native:

    This is presumably some reference to Reagan being an anti-government hero, right? And, therefore, must be referring to the alternate-universe Reagan who didn’t raise taxes, increase government spending, or oversee massive unaccountable and undemocratic projects like mining ports and funding terrorists, before teaming up with Brian Boitano to fight the evil robot king?

  2. It’s not just that they lost some seats; these people were firmly convinced that they were part of a permanent majority, comparable to the Democrats’ in the 1930s through the 1960s, as recently as a few months ago.

    Perhaps the rally ’round the flag effect immediately after a major terrorist attack and the beginning of a war isn’t a reliable indicator of long-term trends in the public’s political orientation.

  3. Ajay,

    Reagan indexed income taxe brackets and cut the top rates so far that they will never hit pre 1981 levels again. Yes, he raised taxes in 1982 during the recession (which was the result Volker’s much needed cure to 1970s tax and montetary policy) but they didn’t get raised as much as he cut them. Reagan also signed the 1986 tax reform which went a long ways towards a flat tax. So get off Reagan.

    That said, these people are pathetic. Please explain why in light of this kind of behavior term limits are not a good idea? Of course in two years or whenever the Democrats get kicked out of power, they will be screaming like stuck pigs as well, only rather than just crying and looking pathetic they will be screaming that its 1933 again. Absent term limits, I have really come to the conclusion that power in the Congress ought to shift between the parties every four years at a minimum and maybe more often.

  4. “It’s not just that they lost some seats; these people were firmly convinced that they were part of a permanent majority, comparable to the Democrats’ in the 1930s through the 1960s, as recently as a few months ago.”

    Yes Joe good think you haven’t convinced yourself that the Democrats are part of a perminant majority or anything.

  5. Yeah, good thing I haven’t.

    That question is very much up in the air.

  6. Why do we need an apparatus like the congress at all? How often does the need for a new law really arise? Once every fifty years or so is my guess.

  7. Correction: that should read “…need for a new law at the federal level…”

  8. Why do we need an apparatus like the congress at all? How often does the need for a new law really arise? Once every fifty years or so is my guess.

    That’s crazy talk, son. You best be careful what you say, now. There otta be a law, keep you from sayin’ dang’russ things like that.

  9. Reagan indexed income taxe brackets and cut the top rates so far that they will never hit pre 1981 levels again. Yes, he raised taxes in 1982 during the recession (which was the result Volker’s much needed cure to 1970s tax and montetary policy) but they didn’t get raised as much as he cut them. Reagan also signed the 1986 tax reform which went a long ways towards a flat tax. So get off Reagan.

    You didn’t address the “increase government spending” or “oversee massive unaccountable and undemocratic projects like mining ports and funding terrorists.” For me, I’ll get off Reagan when his support for terrorists is as famous as his “tear down this wall” speech.

  10. “Why do we need an apparatus like the congress at all? How often does the need for a new law really arise? Once every fifty years or so is my guess.”

    Duppy,

    Congress should meet once a year for 90 days. At all other times of the year the buildings should be locked up, absent a national emergency. If something can’t get done in the 90 days it either isn’t that important or not enough people agree on it. Further, states should be responsible for the care and feeding of their Senators and representatives. If the state of Georgia or New York want to be represented in Congress, they need to pay the salary and expenses of said representatives. Not one tax dollar should ever go for the benefit of a member of Congress.

  11. John, typically, you single out one of Ajay’s criticisms as if it’s the only or main point.

    Reagan deserves some heat for crushing deficit spending as well as a host of other hypocritical gestures.

    It would be nice if all of the Conservative defenders of the G.O.P. would shut the hell up and take their much-deserved spanking like adults and quit whining the ‘democrats are be worse.’

    The dems still have a ways to go to outdo the massive fuck-ups, moral lapses and general state of pointless antagonims by the Republicans over the past 4 years.

  12. The dems still have a ways to go to outdo the massive fuck-ups, moral lapses and general state of pointless antagonims by the Republicans over the past 4 years.

    In my mind, the Dems still have a long way to go to make up for the massive fuck-ups, moral lapses and general state of pointless antagonims by earlier democrats over the past 6 decades.

    Certainly not to defend said recent apalling Republican behavior.

  13. “Reagan deserves some heat for crushing deficit spending as well as a host of other hypocritical gestures”

    Reagan ushered in what has been 25 years of 3 to 4 percent growth interrupted by two very mild recessions. The 1970s we had very small deficits, lousy growth and high inflation. I will take the deficits thank you.

  14. I won’t argue that, db. But if Republicans want any acendancy in the future, it will start by shutting up and doing some serious soul searching – by both politicians AND the people.

    Simply put, lay off the religious and social issues and focus on cutting taxes and government spending. Lay off the belligerence and anti-global prickishness and focus on defense and free trade. Drop the drug war and leave my civil liberties alone.

  15. Yes, term limits: one term in office followed by one term in jail!

  16. -Lord Puppy

    You know I have been thinking about that recently, as a matter o’ fact. The ‘do nothing congress’ is supposed to a pejorative phrase, but actually its kind of a complement in my book.

    In terms of a super hero, which is what everything boils down too, congress should be more like Captain Planet. Existing primarily in some non-material nether region of Gaia,or as lawyers, summoned only when needed. As for the gay little planeteers, I guess that would be the states. As for Duke Nukem, well he would be gay marriage of course.

  17. Lord Duppy: Why do we need an apparatus like the congress at all? How often does the need for a new law at the federal level really arise? Once every fifty years or so is my guess.

    John: Congress should meet once a year for 90 days.

    Another approach, which I think I prefer, would be a Constitutional amendment establishing an expiration date for all laws. That way, (A) Every law would have to be re-debated every few years, and (B) Congress could occupy themselves re-passing the actually necessary laws, rather than having to pass meddlesome new laws in order to feel like their job is important.

  18. madpad,

    agreed. The BS social/religious aspect of the republicans is rotten.

    We can cast this problem in the same setting as cable TV channel lineups, an issue that Reason has addressed at some point. The two-party system is obviously like the current system of bundling. You get way more than you want, much of which is either useless or harmful, but you have to buy it and put up with it. You can’t even “block the channels,” and there sure as hell isn’t any “off” switch.

    I know Reason (can’t remember the author) came out in favor of bundling because the collective nature of funds distribution allows for more, not less, niche interests to be served by the large cable companies. Unfortunately, that is exactly the opposite of what is good in government.

    It would be nice if government were a la carte.

  19. Reagan ushered in what has been 25 years of 3 to 4 percent growth interrupted by two very mild recessions.

    And the terrorists, John! Don’t forget those terro– I mean, “Freedom Fighters,” of course.

  20. It would be nice if government were a la carte.

    Interesting concept. As a corrolary (sp?), government intrusion in one’s life would be based on the amount of services one initates from the government.

  21. It’s sounding like the Republicans are now convinced that they’ve ushered in a permanent majority…for the Democrats.

  22. I continue to believe (without any supporting data) that term limits are an inherently bad idea. To me, they guarantee that politicians will follow a career path that encourages more, not less, interest-based behavior. Also, they guarantee that any decent politician, like perhaps Ron Paul, will get tossed out on his ass along with the dorks.

    I think that one way to discourage the asshats is to not pay them in any way, including no pensions, no lifetime tax breaks, no lifetime Secret Service guards, none of it. Leave it open for their political parties to pay them and any staff, if they wish, but no tax money or tax breaks.

    Better would be a Constitutional amendment that forbade Congress from interfering in commerce, but that is even more of an unrealistic fantasy than my “don’t pay the bastards” one.

  23. My thought on term limits is that they would usher in an era of true bureaucracy, in which the elected representatives would be at the mercy of the unelected aidesa and congressional staff. I realize that this happens anyway, but term limits (at least short ones) would almost certainly shift true power from the elected representatives to the careerists with poli sci degrees.

  24. I agree with db on that one. Regulation is regulation. You can’t be libertarian and want term limits.

    I’d rather have more transparency than term limits.

  25. db,

    That’s certainly how it’s gone in California, except you forgot to mention lobbyists. Yes, it’s already true to some degree, but I’ve come around to the sense that term limits definitely exacerbates this sort of thing.

    Rimfax, I agree with your first paragraph, but leaving everything to the party or someone else to pay sounds like 1) a way to make things even worse for third parties, and prevent any breakdown of the two party system (Unlike now, how? I know.) 2) a recipe for even more overt corruption in the Congress (somehow I think if you’re not getting paid, you’ll somehow be more amenable to bribery).

  26. John,

    “Reagan ushered in what has been 25 years of 3 to 4 percent growth interrupted by two very mild recessions.”

    Coinciding, by some weird twist of fate, with a huge and continuing spike in the national debt.

  27. “Regulation is regulation. You can’t be libertarian and want term limits.”

    madpad

    What is the Bill of Rights if not a bundle of regulations? Tax Cuts are passed as legislation. Regulating or restricting government, if it must exist, can be libertarian, in my view.

  28. “That’s certainly how it’s gone in California, except you forgot to mention lobbyists. Yes, it’s already true to some degree, but I’ve come around to the sense that term limits definitely exacerbates this sort of thing.”

    Michigan, too. The lobbyists are even worse and now we’ve got state reps not only running for reelection but running for a new position while they’re supposed to be working.

    My compromise is ending term limits, but abolishing the state senate, but no one else seems to be in favor of those two things.

  29. Jesus, Weigal[sic]; it’s “pachyderm” with an “haitch!” Apparently “obsolete zoological terminology and the proper spelling therof” was an elective at whatever fly-by-night journalism diploma mill you attended.

  30. What is the Bill of Rights if not a bundle of regulations?

    No…the Bill of Rights are the first 10 ammendments to the U.S. Constitution. It is a list of a U.S. Citizen’s individual rights the government is tasked with protecting. The other 17 ratified amendments are a mixed bag of rights and a handful of regulations.

    Regulating or restricting government, if it must exist, can be libertarian, in my view.

    We’re talking specifically about Term Limits. Term limits DO NOT restrict or regulate government, per se.

    Term limits restrict or regulate a person’s ability to hold elective office. By extension, Term limits restrict or regulate citizens’ voices in selecting the person they desire as a representative.

    So (much like campaign finance laws) a good argument can be made that Term Limits are a First Ammendment issue.

  31. madpad

    Just to illustrate what I meant by citing the Bill of Rights as an example of the regulation of government:

    First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law…”

    So the amendment is there to restrict the abilities of government. To me, that’s a regulation.

    I suppose term limits are somewhat different though, in that they restrict or regulate elected persons, rather than government as an entity. Still, some regulations (Balanced Budget Amendment?) are in line with libertarian principles, to my eyes.

  32. Cerro,

    Anyone who knows my posts here will tell you I’m not the anti-regulation stalwart some of my confreres here are (you there, randian?). Yes, regulation is not a bad thing in and of itself.

    I have been known to be forgiving of some environmental laws and other laws where market-based solutions seem inadequate or non-existent.

    And I understand your point regarding the Bill Of Rights, although we can split hairs on that one all night and a martini is looking much more attractive.

    But regarding Term Limits, in absolute terms I suppose it can fall in either or both camps – limiting government or limiting free speech.

    For me, as I said before, if you’re gonna regulate, I say regulate to make the enterprise more open and transparent and the issues stoking the Term Limits fire will likely take care of themselves.

  33. Isn’t it spelled “pachyderm”?

  34. We could make it real simple and call ’em ‘Elephants’.

  35. If that thing about the directory is true, then one needs to concerned of the GOP will learn anything from this past election, if they think the reason they got booted was because of Foley.

  36. Reagan indexed income tax brackets and cut the top rates so far that they will never hit pre 1981 levels again.

    What, never?
    No, never.
    What, never?
    Well, not unless another government raises them, which it is perfectly able to do. It’s not like Reagan oversaw a constitutional amendment capping the top rate or anything.

    Yes, he raised taxes in 1982 during the recession (which was the result Volker’s much needed cure to 1970s tax and montetary policy) but they didn’t get raised as much as he cut them.

    Oh, so he was for tax cuts before he was against them. Right.

    Reagan also signed the 1986 tax reform which went a long ways towards a flat tax.

    Which, er, doesn’t exist yet, does it?

    And, as other commenters note – isn’t it a bit un-libertarian to oversee massive deficit-funded increases in public spending? To lie and deceive in order to fund the killing of civilians by terrorist groups with the proceeds of illegal arms sales to another country which is sponsoring terrorists who are killing your own civilians? And to restrict free trade by mining the ports of countries with which one is not at war?

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