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A Formula for Failure

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My colleague Arthur Brooks from the American Enterprise Institute makes the crucial point that you win in politics by fighting for people, not fighting for things or abstractions.

In the wreckage left behind by the government shutdown, Republicans need to embrace this lesson and convince America that they aren’t just against big government, but they’re for the well-being of ordinary people. In many areas, that well-being demands a smaller government; at other times, it requires a reformed, more effective government.

But the ultimate goal must remain in focus: we want to make America stronger, not weaker, and we intend to help people, not hinder their progress. During the shutdown fiasco, the public witnessed discomfort and disruption for many of their fellow citizens with no apparent gain for the nation at large.

That’s a formula for failure, inevitably.

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  1. Scott Drum  •  Oct 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Where you and Mr. Brooks are wrong is this.

    The conservative argument: History has shown that the best thing you can do for PEOPLE is to promote economic growth. You, I and Mr. Brooks are all agreed on that. Most real economists are in agreement also.

    The trouble is that this argument requires more than 30 seconds of logical thought, of which most of the American public is incapable.

    Now here’s the liberal argument. Hand people more money. Or better yet, get government to pick someone else’s pocket to hand them more money. The people who get it will feel good. You’ll feel good. Even righteous. And the best part is that the people you give it to don’t really need to be actually better off afterward.

    The liberal argument is much more appealing and intuitive, albeit false. Which one do you think wins?

  2. miles coleman  •  Oct 18, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    All we conservatives have to do is explain in 20 words or less why the liberal way leads to a lower standard of living and less freedom for everyone. Unfortunately that’s a tall order. John Stuart Mill did an admirable job toward the end of his essay “On Liberty” in one sentence of maybe 120 words. Any self-respecting liberal would be asleep.

    • Scott Drum  •  Oct 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Have you ever tried to explain to a nine-year-old that the family would be better off in the long run if, instead of going to Disneyland, they paid down their debt?

  3. jguy  •  Oct 20, 2013 at 4:18 am

    “A formula for failure” is to present yourself as being against massive medical
    system reform. Our current medical aristocracy and resulting legalese places
    medical care out of the reach of the average person without paying ever increasing
    insurance costs to protect oneself from the medical aristocracy. By resisting the
    current flawed attempt at medical reform republicans have placed themselves in
    favor of excluding persons with “preexisting conditions” from receiving insured care,
    expanding youth coverage, making coverage available to previously uninsured to mention
    a few….. The republicans offer little or no alternative and are horrified that US citizens
    might need medical cost controls accompanied by socialized medicine rather than our

    current capitalized medical system. Our current systems drives massive amounts of people
    into financial ruin and marital ruin should they need medical care and have not been blessed
    with a job poviding coverage. Obamacare is massively flawed since it works within our “insurance” frame work rather than nationalize the entire system like much of the rest of
    the world….. A “formula for failure” is to not realize that socialization of medicine is inevitable in the US since it will require government intervention to forge some kind of social
    contract between the “people” and a medical/legal aristocracy gone wild.

  4. Chad  •  Oct 21, 2013 at 1:32 am

    I think the problem is the republican party isn’t offering any alternatives to healthcare reform. They have put all their time into repealing the Affordable Care Act, but haven’t addressed the issues that were making healthcare reform a major debate and the primary platform of the democratic party. Debt from medical bills accounted for over 50% of this countries bankruptcies leading up to the reform debate, healthcare insurance costs were rising year-after-year, from 2000 to 2011 there was a decline every year in the amount of employer sponsored healthcare benefits, and, all the while, the health insurance industry continued making a fortune off on immoral and unethical practices. I have attempted to debate with people several times about the Affordable Care Act, but I find every debate ends up degrading into death panels, entitlements, and whatever the republican talking point for the day is. I’m not overjoyed with the Affordable Care Act but, for me, it comes down to the basic question of would I rather have “Obamacare” or nothing at all. I say nothing at all because this is what the republican party is offering as the alternative and this country is in desperate need of closing the practices of the health insurance companies denying for pre-existing conditions and the practice of dropping the insured when they get seriously ill.

    • Bernard Wolff  •  Oct 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      Chad

      I agree with your statement. Where is the Republican alternative? Dr Benjamin Carson gave an excellent alternative, explained in 1 sentence during Brunch with Obama. All within the private market, not huge bureaucracy, no $900 Billion/year cost.

      The Republicans ignored this alternative – a gift– because they, like the democrats, are more attuned to Washington versus private individuals & enterprises competing to advance their self interests.

  5. Mike A  •  Oct 21, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I agree with this statement, and note that it trancends political affiliation:

    “But the ultimate goal must remain in focus: we want to make America stronger, not weaker, and we intend to help people, not hinder their progress.”

    When it comes to the word “help”, the Republican party has done a good job convincing Republican voters that what Democrats mean by “help” is simply punishing the rich with more taxes and spreading it around to as many people as possible – such that they’ll vote Democrat.

    Similarly, the Democratic party has done a fairly good job convincing Democratic voters that what Republicans mean by “help”, is passing legislation which favors their wealthy supporters – such that they’ll use not only their votes but their wealth-based power to keep Republicans in office.

    In other words, each side has convinced large swaths of their supporters and voters that the other side is only trying to “help” themselves get elected or re-elected. Democrats allegedly do this by pandering to the poor (and our sense of sympathy), and Republicans do it by pandering to the rich (and our sense of liberty).

    My observation is that the current Congressional schism will be eased over the next 10-15 years or so, due to the retirement of quite a few long-entrenched members who reflect the psychology of an outgoing generation. Like elderly family members who still hate one another because of something that happened 40 years ago, the outgoing generation never really resolved the severe differences that were magnified during the 60’s, and into the 70’s. Once they go not-so-gently into that goodnight, I suspect the newer generation of elected leaders will display a greater ability to discuss, debate, compromise, etc. And I suspect their consitutents will increasingly demand it.

  6. Tino Abudagher  •  Oct 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    This Cruz guy was right and all of you who disagree with him are just wrong. In another time, Mr. Brooks, but not today, and everyone that views what we just went through as no more than “…wreckage left behind by the government shutdown” is dead wrong. There is nothing to fight for, no cause to champion, no negotiating, no compromise, no re-grouping, no re-defining the republican party. The republican party is not the problem, Obamacare is not the problem, entitlements are not the problem, etc. No single program is the problem. Federal government is the problem. The train of government left the station of common sense long ago and all that this guy Cruz was trying to tell America is that its engine that we know as the federal government has not only left the rails, it is catapulting into the abyss. And, it will drag every state in the nation into the abyss with it if we don’t uncouple, and “cut the cord.” There is no way to fix/save our current form of government. When the leader of this nation states that he will not negotiate, or compromise, that it’s his way, or default, you have a dictator. This is no longer government of the people, by the people, for the people. Why can’t you see that this government is broken and there is no fix, quick or otherwise? Unfortunately, what is wrong with America is the same problem of human nature that our founding fathers identified in our declaration of independence, “…and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” America has lost its courage to live up to its creed and the form of government that was originally established. We are at the point that our founding fathers also found themselves in, not everyone wanted to fight the British, some just wanted to go home and take care of the farm. I can hear them now, “…the redcoats ain’t that bad and sure King George is a jerk but all monarchs are.” Ben Franklin had to remind them, “if we don’t hang together in this, we will all hang separately.” We are at the point where we need to come together as a nation and shut down this government and start all over. Wake up America! We are facing a 17 trillion dollar debt. Our government leaders should have fixed this when we hit one trillion, but they didn’t. As I see it, they have had sixteen chances to fix our runaway government spending, but they didn’t. The politics of our current government will not change and I predict that in four years we will be at 34 trillion dollar national debt. How do you pay off a 34 trillion dollar national debt? First the government will have to sell off its national assets. We will start with stuff like Yellowstone park, Lincoln memorial, war ships, etc. Very quietly without causing too much of a stir we will have to use as collateral other government assets like the Marine Corp, FBI, CIA, etc., who will be given as collateral to these nations and international conglomerates that hold our debt. But, that will just be a drop in the bucket in paying off our 34 trillion dollar debt. Our government will have to nationalize private business. We will start with the large corporations, big oil, auto makers, Microsoft, Intel, Walmart, restaurant and supermarket chains, etc. But that won’t be enough either, so all small businesses will have to be nationalized. Oh…forgot tot tell you…there is really no way to pay off a 34 trillion dollar debt. We will become a nation of indentured servants, if you are a business owner, and slaves, if you are labor. Government shut down is the only alternative. We gotta start over just like our founding fathers did. Cruzolution or slavery?

    • jguy  •  Oct 23, 2013 at 2:10 am

      Some things that would help solve the budget crisis is to go positive rather than
      destroy the good that is America for much of the world.
      1. Get rid of income tax and develop a flat tax that could be adjusted to the current
      economy and would be augmented by a consumption tax on purchases rather than
      income. Vigorously prosecute tax evaders rather than make deals to allow them to
      skate out of paying their share…
      2. Tax purchases made on the internet with a higher tax on items coming into the US from
      foreign countries.
      3. levy a fee on all merchandise coming to the US from other countries to equal the amount
      that is lost by these items not being manufactured in the US.. (this was an Obama
      suggestion that was ignored)
      4. Institute a national lottery that is specifically for the elimination of the debt. The tickets
      for this lottery could be sold by the Post Office and administered by existing lottery offices. This lottery would have small….about a million dollar….payout and would create
      many winners rather than few…and the winnings would be subject to state local and federal
      taxes.
      The US needs to revamp our governments ability to take in the money
      to pay down the debt rather than to concentrate on destroying the govenment
      to the detriment to us all.

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