[Marxism] Paul Krugman responds to Thomas Friedman
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 29 13:09:06 MDT 2011
Even though Krugman does not mention Friedman in this op-ed piece,
it will be obvious that he had Friedman in mind.
NY Times July 28, 2011
The Centrist Cop-Out
By PAUL KRUGMAN
The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated.
Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to
undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of
government unless they get policy concessions they would never
have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats — who
would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether —
have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican
As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media
apparently can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this simple
reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent;
pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if
the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.
Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the
insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally
at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that
if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would
read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” But would that cult still
rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one
party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering
over the size of the ransom?
The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter:
The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to
the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes
always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty
for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if
all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. As you may
know, President Obama initially tried to strike a “Grand Bargain”
with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only
chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered
extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in
the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only
small revenue increases. As The Times’s Nate Silver pointed out,
Mr. Obama effectively staked out a position that was not only far
to the right of the average voter’s preferences, it was if
anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter’s
But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an
Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations?
“Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric.” A Democratic
president who bends over backward to accommodate the other side —
or, if you prefer, who leans so far to the right that he’s in
danger of falling over — is treated as being just the same as his
utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!
Which brings me to those “centrist” fantasies.
Many pundits view taking a position in the middle of the political
spectrum as a virtue in itself. I don’t. Wisdom doesn’t
necessarily reside in the middle of the road, and I want leaders
who do the right thing, not the centrist thing.
But for those who insist that the center is always the place to
be, I have an important piece of information: We already have a
centrist president. Indeed, Bruce Bartlett, who served as a policy
analyst in the Reagan administration, argues that Mr. Obama is in
practice a moderate conservative.
Mr. Bartlett has a point. The president, as we’ve seen, was
willing, even eager, to strike a budget deal that strongly favored
conservative priorities. His health reform was very similar to the
reform Mitt Romney installed in Massachusetts. Romneycare, in
turn, closely followed the outlines of a plan originally proposed
by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. And returning tax rates on
high-income Americans to their level during the Roaring Nineties
is hardly a socialist proposal.
True, Republicans insist that Mr. Obama is a leftist seeking a
government takeover of the economy, but they would, wouldn’t they?
The facts, should anyone choose to report them, say otherwise.
So what’s with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it,
it’s coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of
modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to
acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making
our system dysfunctional. And it’s not hard to guess at their
motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you
labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from
the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.
But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports
that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out —
a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with
American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re
not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.
David Brooks is off today.
NY Times July 23, 2011
Make Way for the Radical Center
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
DID I mention that I’ve signed a pledge — just like those
Republican congressmen who have signed written promises to
different political enforcers not to raise taxes or permit
same-sex marriage? My pledge is to never vote for anyone stupid
enough to sign a pledge — thereby abdicating their governing
responsibilities in a period of incredibly rapid change and
financial stress. Sorry, I’ve signed it. Nothing more I can do.
If this kind of idiocy by elected officials sends you into a
hair-pulling rage and leaves you wishing that we had more options
today than our two-party system is putting forward — for instance,
a party that would have offered a grand bargain on the deficit two
years ago, not on the eve of a Treasury default — not only are you
not alone, but help may be on the way.
Thanks to a quiet political start-up that is now ready to show its
hand, a viable, centrist, third presidential ticket, elected by an
Internet convention, is going to emerge in 2012. I know it sounds
gimmicky — an Internet convention — but an impressive group of
frustrated Democrats, Republicans and independents, called
Americans Elect, is really serious, and they have thought out this
process well. In a few days, Americans Elect will formally submit
the 1.6 million signatures it has gathered to get on the
presidential ballot in California as part of its unfolding
national effort to get on the ballots of all 50 states for 2012.
The goal of Americans Elect is to take a presidential nominating
process now monopolized by the Republican and Democratic parties,
which are beholden to their special interests, and blow it wide
open — guaranteeing that a credible third choice, nominated
independently, will not only be on the ballot in every state but
be able to take part in every presidential debate and challenge
both parties from the middle with the best ideas on how deal with
the debt, education and jobs.
“Our goal is to open up what has been an anticompetitive process
to people in the middle who are unsatisfied with the choices of
the two parties,” said Kahlil Byrd, the C.E.O. of Americans Elect,
speaking from its swank offices, financed with some serious
hedge-fund money, a stone’s throw from the White House.
As the group explains on its Web site, www.americanselect.org:
“Americans Elect is the first-ever open nominating process. We’re
using the Internet to give every single voter — Democrat,
Republican or independent — the power to nominate a presidential
ticket in 2012. The people will choose the issues. The people will
choose the candidates. And in a secure, online convention next
June, the people will make history by putting their choice on the
ballot in every state.”
Here is how it will work, explains Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq war
veteran with a Silver Star, who serves as the chief operating
officer of Americans Elect, and whose father, Peter, a successful
investor, has been a prime engine behind the group. First, anyone
interested in becoming a delegate goes to the Americans Elect Web
site and registers. As part of that process, you will be asked to
fill in a questionnaire about your political priorities:
education, foreign policy, the economy, etc. This enables
Americans Elect to put you in contact with others who share your
views so you can discuss them and organize together. Then you will
be invited to draft a candidate or support one who has already
been drafted and to contribute to the list of questions that
anyone running on the Americans Elect platform will have to answer
on the site.
“The questions, the priorities, the nominations and the rules will
all come from the community, not from two entrenched parties,”
Any presidential nominee must conform to all the Constitutional
requirements, as well as be considered someone of similar stature
to our previous presidents. That means no Lady Gaga allowed. Every
candidate will have to post in words or video his or her answers
to the platform questions produced by the Americans Elect
delegates. In April 2012, the candidate pool will be reduced to
six through three rounds of voting. The six, assuming they all
want to run, will then have to name their running mates. The only
rule is that a Democrat must run with a Republican or independent,
and a Republican with a Democrat or independent.
“Each presidential candidate has to pick a running mate outside of
their party and reaching across the divide of politics,” said
Ackerman. In June 2012, the online convention will choose who
among the six will run as the Americans Elect candidate —
automatically on the ballot in all 50 states. If President Obama
wants to run with John Boehner on the Americans Elect platform
that would be fine — provided they go through the process.
(President Obama should dump the Democrats and run as an
independent, which he is, at heart, anyway.)
Write it down: Americans Elect. What Amazon.com did to books, what
the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music,
what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do
to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political
life — remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the
incumbents and let the people in. Watch out.
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