Middle American to put an end to Californiacation?

The Hawk Eye has a fascinating article about how the history of the filibuster and Tom Harkin’s proposal to end (via via) it:

“Today, in the age of instant news and Internet and rapid travel — you can get from anywhere to here within a day or a few hours — the initial reasons for the filibuster kind of fall by the wayside, and now it’s got into an abusive situation,” Harkin said.

He and the constitutional scholars agree that the intention was never to hold up legislation entirely.

To keep the spirit of slowing down legislation, though, Harkin’s proposal back in 1995 would have kept the 60-vote rule for the first vote but lessening the number required in subsequent votes.

He said for instance if 60 senators could not agree to end debate, it would carry on for another week or so and then the number of votes required to end debate would drop by three. Harkin said it would carry on this way until it reached a simple majority of 51 votes.

Unless the filibuster is modified, we are probably headed for 6+ years of a vocal Republican minority in the Senate bringing all federal business to a halt. I don’t think it’s unlikely that this becomes an entirely new model of action for conservatives — it goes hand-in-hand with the teabag movement. No one realistically believes that anything Republicans are doing now — firing up their dying white base with misinformation, sucking up to crackpots who frighten most voters — is likely to give them a majority anywhere at the federal level anytime soon (if the economy is bad enough, they make get one somewhere anyway). But their strategy is one that makes it easy to maintain a disciplined voting block (step out of line and the Fox goon squad comes after you), which is all you need to gum up the works in the age of the filibuster.

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76 replies
  1. 1
    dmsilev says:

    It’s a reasonable proposal. The problem is, how do we get there? The current iteration of the GOP is going to vote in lock-step against anything like this, and certain nominally-Democratic drama-queens are nearly guaranteed to do the same.

    -dms

  2. 2
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    And WOW! Three, count ’em, *THREE* presidents on Face the Nation: President Lieberman, President Nelson, and President McConnell. And Bob Schieffer is quoting extensively from President McCain. I will probably die of a surfeit.

  3. 3

    Love the title. And yes, the entire country would end up in much the same spot as California. (If it already isn’t!) Harkin is on to something here and needs to be taken seriously. Without this change in the rules of the Senate we aren’t too far away from a complete disaster.

  4. 4
    aimai says:

    Wake me up when we can change the senate rules without republican help. I daresay there is some way–replacing the parliamentarian? Going back to the ugly style of filibuster and then breaking the logjams until the REpublicans get tired of real work? But I doubt if the Democrats have the guts to do anything.

    aimai

  5. 5
    Shalimar says:

    This won’t happen while there is a Democratic majority because every single Republicans will vote against it. Wait until Republicans get the Senate Majority again, when they will all vote for it en masse (remind me again that they are supposedly the party of principle) for the short-term benefit of keeping Democrats from filibustering for a few years. If Harkin reintroduces it then and gets a dozen Dems to vote with him, we will have progress.

  6. 6
    PeakVT says:

    Hey, I linked to that last night. sniff Here’s the Senate hero or zero site again, and the roll call for the 1995 vote

  7. 7
    Davis X. Machina says:

    …we are probably headed for 6+ years of a vocal Republican minority in the Senate bringing all federal business to a halt.

    It all makes sense if you accept their premise: no Democratic administration is a legitimate administration.

    The Congressional GOP’s present position is analogous to the royalists and Bonapartists in the French assemblies of the 19th century.

    A royalist party in a parliament has no real interest in increasing its share of votes in that body, never mind cooperating with the small-r republican parties in governing. Their purpose for being is to shut parliament down, or at least neuter it, with the aim of bringing closer the restoration.

    They have no interest in the smooth functioning — any functioning — of a body whose legitimacy they fundamentally do not accept. They only want a rapid transition back to a monarchy.

    The weirdest transformation of political terminology hasn’t been what happened to the word ‘liberal’ since John Stuart Mill — it’s what happened to the word ‘republican’. It now means ‘monarchist’.

  8. 8
    DougJ says:

    Hey, I linked to that last night. sniff Here’s the Senate hero or zero site again, and the roll call for the 1995 vote

    Thanks.

  9. 9
    Napoleon says:

    @dmsilev:

    how do we get there?

    By simple majority vote. The 60% margin is not in the Constitution and the majority has a right to set the rules (seriously, it is that simple).

    DougJ at the top

    I don’t think it’s unlikely that this becomes an entirely new model of action for conservatives—

    It really has more or less how they have done things since they first brought up impeachment against Clinton. There has never been a moments doubt in my mind that the Republicans had settled on a total scorched Earth policy at that point.

    The filibuster has to go although Harkin’s suggestion is a reasonable way to do it.

  10. 10
    Irony Abounds says:

    If the economy muddles along, as almost certainly seems to be the case, and if the painful part of HCR kicks in now with the benes to follow after 2012, as also seems to be the case, I’d say there is a better than decent chance the Repubs regain control of at least one house in either 2010 or 2012, not to mention the Presidency in 2012, so your supposition that there are 6-1/2 years of Repub minority is a bit optimistic. The haters will be coming out to vote in droves next election and the disillusioned and sanctimonious liberals will not. All the makings of a train wreck to really screw up the country and put the wingnuts in control.

  11. 11
    Napoleon says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    This.

    And I think the impeachment proof made it clear that is how the Republican party intended to operate from that point forward.

  12. 12
    Kryptik says:

    @Shalimar:

    This. It’ll never pass precisely because of the instituted logjam that it’s trying to fix. Republicans realize that they don’t have to do jack shit if they can vote monolithically against everything a Democrat presents, simply because it’s a Democrat presenting it. They know they can peel away some ‘principled, bipartisan centrists’ away to make their deal with the devil, and Democrats reap the discontent of nothing ever getting done.

  13. 13
    AkaDad says:

    This is a slap in the face to Flea.

  14. 14
    Davis X. Machina says:

    There’s no doubt in my mind the entire point of impeaching Clinton’s dick was to make a joke out of impeachment. The last two times that sword had been drawn, it had been drawn against a Republican president — though in the case of Iran-Contra and St. Ronaldo da Santa Barbara, it was quickly put back in its sheath.

    Actually getting Clinton out of office would have been lagniappe — you would have wound up with President Gore, and an enraged Democratic base. The important thing was to make sure that any future use of the impeachment tool was attackable ex ante as a farce, and a party-political vendetta. It worked, and it kept impeachment off the table for Bush and Cheney. I expect them to try again, if they get one House, to drive that point home with a silly impeachment of Obama. And the teabaggers will be perfectly happy to lead the charge.

    It won’t work — they don’t actually want President Biden, or President Pelosi — but that’s not why you do it.

    With an eye on the eventual restoration of the elected GOP monarch, in the form of La Reine des neiges, it’s not so much Obama, as impeachment, that must be destroyed. It’s the last check on her power, and the only thing that stands between us and invading Botswana, or changing the national anthem to “Achy, Breaky, Heart:’

  15. 15
    Shalimar says:

    @AkaDad: Judging by his bass-playing he seems to be into slapping, so I’m not sure Flea would consider that a bad thing.

  16. 16
    Violet says:

    @Napoleon:

    There has never been a moments doubt in my mind that the Republicans had settled on a total scorched Earth policy at that point.

    The Republicans entire MO is scorched earth. They don’t care what happens to the country – they just want to make the Democrats look bad and foil the Democrats’ goals at any cost. That’s all they want to do.

    The sooner the Dems realize this and act accordingly, the better off the country will be. The Dems are idiots to think that there can be any kind of bipartisanship with these Republican scorched earthers.

  17. 17
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    Religious Intensity Remains Powerful Predictor of Politics

    PRINCETON, NJ — Americans’ religious intensity continues to be a major predictor of party identification. A new analysis of more than 29,000 interviews Gallup conducted in November finds that Republicans outnumber Democrats by 12 percentage points among Americans who are classified as highly religious, while Democrats outnumber Republicans by 30 points among those who are not religious.

    Hey, let’s encourage more people to be religious! That would make the country better off!

  18. 18
    Rick Taylor says:

    I don’t see how you modify it. Not just the Republicans, but centrist Democrats will fight any change tooth and nail. We missed our chance when Democrats were filibustering judicial appointees and the Republicans threatened the nuclear option.

  19. 19
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    @Violet:

    How dare you say that! No bill passed is legitimate unless Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins approves of it. That’s in the Constitution.

  20. 20
    mcd410x says:

    The filibuster really wouldn’t be that much of a problem if Democrats weren’t Democrats, would it?

  21. 21
    Lolis says:

    I am starting to get very scared about health care. The signs that it will not pass grow every day. Ben Nelson is now trashing the compromise he was a part of. Lieberman is still loving the glow of the spotlight and honestly I think the more he is targeted by liberals the more stubborn he will get. I am starting to think reconciliation is our only option, as horrible as it is. But will Reid go there and split the bill in two? Probably not.

  22. 22
    neill says:

    The filibuster is the shiny and effective tool that allows the Taliban of the Corporations — Dim and Repugnant alike — to serve their Corporate Masters and betray, endlessly, the citizens of this great country…

  23. 23
    Brachiator says:

    @Notorious P.A.T.:

    Religious Intensity Remains Powerful Predictor of Politics

    And despite this, Houston becomes the largest city in the US to elect an openly gay person as mayor. And note here that Houston’s mayoral candidates don’t run as representatives of any political party.

    Annise Parker, who is the current city controller is the choice of voters who are more concerned about getting control of the city’s budget deficits than they are in politicians who are in personal communication with the Baby Jesus. This may suggest more about the national mood as well.

  24. 24
    Punchy says:

    @mcd410x: You took my thought. Last time I checked, Dems had 58 plus one dependable Indy and one not-always-dependable Indy. That’s 60, so the filly shouldnt matter.

    What I find even more amazing is that should Lieberman go rogue, there’s not a single Republican at all that can be convinced to vote against their party on anything. That’s almost an unbelievable loyalty to a party instead of their country, and Reason #1 why I believe this country is basically fucked.

  25. 25
    CalD says:

    If you ask me the biggest problem is that it’s too easy. If every filibuster had to be an actual filibuster, we’d see a lot less of this shit. If people want to be dicks about every single issue that comes before the senate let’s see if they really feel strongly enough about it to sleep in their clothes and live on take out for days at a time.

  26. 26
    Davis X. Machina says:

    That’s almost an unbelievable loyalty to a party instead of their country…

    Comrade, I find your lack of faith in the progress of History disturbing.

    A organ of the state — nay the state itself — exists to serve the Party, and not vice versa, because it is the Party, not the state, that is the Vanguard of the Revolution. It is after all the state, and not the Party, that is destined to wither away after the inevitable success of the Revolution.

    The GOP is the world’s last major Leninist parliamentary party.

    All power to the Soviets of bankers and preachers!

  27. 27

    @Irony Abounds may very well be right – not 2010, but in 2012 both houses and the presidency might be at risk. It’s going to depend on jobs first, Iraq/Afghanistan second and a bit on signature items like healthcare.

    I would not be so bold as to predict what people’s perceptions of jobs and the wars will be in 2 years, but I certainly believe that the actions of the past year have not helped as much as more bold actions could have.

    The wildcard is of course what DougJ alluded to – the Republicans. I personally do not believe that their obstructionism will be a problem for voters. But I do think that if they nominate teabagger types, talking about secession and birth certificates and socialism, then the dems will stay in power pretty much no matter what they do.

  28. 28
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    I am starting to think reconciliation is our only option, as horrible as it is.

    Why is that bad? Someone please explain this to me.

  29. 29
    Sly says:

    @Napoleon

    By simple majority vote. The 60% margin is not in the Constitution and the majority has a right to set the rules (seriously, it is that simple).

    It could. But the amendment would have to be drafted as such that Biden and/or Byrd would issue a ruling that calls the current rule unconstitutional. Then you need 51 Senators agreeing. The Republicans in 2005 thought they could make that argument with respect to judicial nominations, not the practice itself.

    At any rate, you’d have a better chance of getting Biden do that then Byrd, but that’s only because you’ll see Jesus and Mohammed slow dance to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” before Byrd every did anything like it. The guy has stood against such rule changes his entire career.

  30. 30
    Jrod says:

    The filibuster serves an important purpose. It helps provide financiers and corporations a check against the lib’rul commie hordes and their radical desire to not be mercilessly exploited, as almighty GOD intended.

    Providing a voice for the wealthy is the purpose of the Senate. This situation is, basically, what the founding fathers wanted. Sure, it’s a bit trickier now that senators are directly elected, but the super-rich are known for being resourceful.

  31. 31

    Almost slightly a little off topic, also, but I had a weird experience yesterday.

    Channel surfing, I came across CSPAN and there was Ben Nelson on the floor of the Senate (taped, I think, but anyway) making a very long soliloquy on the matter of healthcare reform.

    I listened for a good ten minutes. During that time, I strained to make sense of a even one sentence of his utterings. I could not make head or tails out of what he was saying. The man talked in strange circles and odd phrasings …. for a while there I thought maybe I was having a stroke, or had plunged into some cognitive singularity in which I lost my human language ability, and was experiencing what a dog hears when listening to television.

    It is just me, or is this guy really just incoherent? Should I call a doctor? A veterinarian?

  32. 32
    G(NO)P says:

    How about this Grand Obstructionist Party train wreck?

    Let’s run down the principles of ’94s Contract On America:

    – Fiscal Responsibility Amendment: didn’t pass. Would have made every Shrub budget illegal, barring massive domestic cuts to pay for foreign adventuring.

    – “Taking Back Our Streets”: well, we certainly succeeded in becoming the country with the largest prison population per capita anywhere. Unfortunately, being “tough on crime” is now bankrupting our states and cities. Good job.

    – “Personal Responsibility Act”: AKA “We Hate Poor People Act”. Passed, and the growing rate of food insecurity and homelessness we now see can be traced to it. Heckova job, Newt! (more info at this site)

    – Family Reinforcement Act: never passed by anybody.

    – “American Dream Restoration Act”: died in the Senate.

    – National Security Restoration Act: AKA “Fuck the UN”. Died in the Senate.

    – Senior Citizens Fairness Act: never passed by anybody.

    – Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act: the only part of this that ever got anywhere was regulation on unfunded mandates; the rest was a thinly veiled attack on the EPA that died in committee.

    – “Common Sense” Legal Reform Act: AKA “Reduce the threat of litigation for big corps”. Vetoed.

    – Citizen Legislature Act: term limit amendment. Couldn’t even muster enough votes to get out of the House. Note that a sizable fraction of the sitting Republican senators and representatives would have been forced out by this (by now), including anybody elected during the ’94 “revolution”.

  33. 33
    St. Ronnie - with us yet says:

    Funny how nobody started being concerned about deficits until January 2009 ain’t it?

    Reagan’s policies are held up as some sort of permanent gospel, despite having little to do with today’s economy…

    Sorry but that’s just plan wrong. Reagan’s policies have everything to do with today’s economy. We had a $990 billion dollar nat’l debt in 1981 when he came into office. It’s now $12 trillion and rising. His trickle down supply side economics never payed for themselves as promised. Republicans have pretended for decades we could have our tax cuts cake and eat it too. Now we have adults in charge again who are trying to resurrect the economy after the GOP almost deregulated us all into the poor house and suddenly the wingnuts are deficit hawks again.

    Bush and Cheney may have put the whole effort on steroids by auctioning off chunks of the government to his carpetbagger cronies but Reagan is the one who put us on that path.

  34. 34
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    and was experiencing what a dog hears when listening to television

    Haha )

    “Family Reinforcement Act”? And I thought Department of Homeland Security sounded Orwellian.

  35. 35
    Will says:

    The NYT published this Mankiw piece today arguing for more tax cuts over stimulus spending. Only they didn’t put it in the Opinion section–they put it in their Politics and Economics sections, along with the other straight news. He never identifies himself as the Republican activist that he is, and the Times tosses in that he was “an adviser to President George W. Bush” only at the close of the piece:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12.....f=politics

  36. 36
    Brachiator says:

    @St. Ronnie – with us yet:

    Funny how nobody started being concerned about deficits until January 2009 ain’t it?

    Even funnier that the GOP remedy, more tax cuts, would probably spike the deficit as much as would increased spending.

    Reagan’s policies are held up as some sort of permanent gospel, despite having little to do with today’s economy… Sorry but that’s just plan wrong. Reagan’s policies have everything to do with today’s economy. We had a $990 billion dollar nat’l debt in 1981 when he came into office. It’s now $12 trillion and rising.

    I think we had a couple of other presidents besides Reagan in between then and now, so I don’t think there is much point in invoking Ronnie overmuch for the present state of the economy.

    His trickle down supply side economics never payed for themselves as promised. Republicans have pretended for decades we could have our tax cuts cake and eat it too.

    They also conveniently ignored some tax increases that slipped in along the way. And many of the GOP’s supposedly Reaganesque ideas have nothing to do with any tax policy actually pushed by St Ronnie.

    Now we have adults in charge again who are trying to resurrect the economy after the GOP almost deregulated us all into the poor house and suddenly the wingnuts are deficit hawks again.

    The problem is that while the Republicans don’t have any ideas except their standard old stew of tax cuts and deregulation, the Democrats mainly have bad ideas (incoherent spending plans pretending to be economic stimulus).

  37. 37

    @Notorious P.A.T.:

    I love that the Republicans can rant against government, and then turn around and (a) declare that the “family” is the cornerstone of civilization, and (b) the government has the right to decide for citizens what a family can be. And if government can get away with it, such as in Uganda, go so far as to kill citizens who get out of line and break the sex police rules.

    Meanwhile, that same all-knowing government isn’t up to running a healthcare model … unless you’re a Senator, and then it’s fine for you.

    Or something.

    Arrgghh.

  38. 38
    RealNRH says:

    There is a way to eliminate the filibuster constitutionally, without reaching the 67-vote threshhold that currently exists for changing Senate rules. The Constitution states that the Congress sets its own rules. At the beginning of each session of Congress, the House establishes a completely new set of rules… though most of those rules are kept from the last session. The Senate considers itself an ongoing body, but it also adopts a resolution at the beginning of each session of Congress to declare that the rules are being carried over en masse.

    The logic is that even if the Senate considers itself an ongoing body nothing in the Constitution explicitly says it is, and one session of Congress is not allowed to control what a later session does without that later session’s consent. At the beginning of the next session of Congress in January 2011, the Democrats could with a pure majority vote opt to modify the rule establishing the filibuster and drive that vote through with a ruling from the chair that, as no rules are yet in place, the majority can do as it likes because the rule allowing the filibuster isn’t in place to let the minority filibuster the new rules. This threat has been made before, usually with regard to the filibuster. I don’t believe it’s ever been carried out, but usually because the required threshold for changing Senate rules was then reached.

  39. 39
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    I think we had a couple of other presidents besides Reagan in between then and now, so I don’t think there is much point in invoking Ronnie overmuch for the present state of the economy.

    Remember “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter”?

  40. 40
    Punchy says:

    Comrade, I find your lack of faith in the progress of History disturbing.

    You’d probably find a lot of things about me disturbing. If it isn’t history involving the Cubs, the 1985 Bears, or the Civil War, I’m gunna have to declare “uncle”.

  41. 41
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    @AngusTheGodOfMeat:

    Also, government shouldn’t tell people what to do, but it can tell them who they can marry.

  42. 42
    Napoleon says:

    @Rick Taylor:

    We missed our chance when Democrats were filibustering judicial appointees and the Republicans threatened the nuclear option.

    That is an understatement. I just wanted to cry when the Dems passed up the chance to let the Reps be the bad guy on the issue. That ranks up there with one of the top 3/4/5ish mistakes the Dems made this decade.

  43. 43
    Montysano says:

    @CalD:

    If people want to be dicks about every single issue that comes before the senate let’s see if they really feel strongly enough about it to sleep in their clothes and live on take out for days at a time.

    This.

    When did “threat of filibuster” come to = “actual filibuster”? I must have missed the memo.

  44. 44

    @Notorious P.A.T.:

    Sure, because as Lewis Black points out (by far my favorite comedian these days), every time a gay couple marries, a nice white heterosexual young couple just trying to start their family gets fucked up the ass. The queers are just lurking and waiting for the opportunity to strike.

  45. 45
    Brachiator says:

    @Notorious P.A.T.:

    RE; I think we had a couple of other presidents besides Reagan in between then and now, so I don’t think there is much point in invoking Ronnie overmuch for the present state of the economy.

    Remember “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter”?

    As others have pointed out here, the GOP only care about deficits when the Democrats are in power. When Reagan was bankrupting the country in order to defeat the Evil Empire, the GOP didn’t care. When Bush ran up the deficit to fund his stupid war on terrorism, the GOP and their pundit enablers sagely lectured the Americonned peoples about how deficits weren’t really deficits at all if you squinted real hard and prayed to the baby Jesus.

    Still, as I recall, during the Clinton Administration, the economy was in pretty good shape. So again, there is not any real connection between the state of the economy during Reagan’s term and the state of the economy today.

  46. 46
    Sly says:

    There are some tax reductions that work in times of recession, and Obama is pursuing most (if not all) of them. Accelerating depreciation for certain items for small businesses (a lot of them relate to energy, so are generally considered under that rubric instead of taxes) is probably the biggest one that never gets mentioned. Indirect aid to states, like the tuition credit, also helps a lot.

    Republicans have a problem with these measures because they prefer non-targeted measures. There’s a variety of reasons for this, really. They can sell massive cuts for corporations and individuals in the top marginal rate as a universal cut, so there’s marketing appeal. But the big reason, I think, is that targeted measures (instead of general cuts that are mired in exemptions) are more resistant to tax fraud.

  47. 47
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    My “favorite” Greg Mankiw quote:

    Put simply, the healthcare reform bill would make the United States more like western Europe. That may mean more security about healthcare, but it also means that future generations of Americans will likely spend more time enjoying leisure.

    http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com.....deoff.html

    the horror. . . the horror. . .

  48. 48
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    @Brachiator:

    I pretty much agree with you. What I was trying, clumsily, to say is that our current economic woes came about from people who acted out Reagan’s playbook. So he can reasonably take some of the blame. The quote I posted was Dick “Dick” Cheney explaining why it was alright to slash taxes for the wealthy during a time of war.

    Speaking of reading out of a playbook and failing, I wonder if the Lions are on TV today.

  49. 49
    AhabTRuler says:

    that future generations of Americans will likely spend more time enjoying leisure.

    By which he means unemployment.

    That said, I’d like to hit Mankiw in the junk with his fucking textbook.

  50. 50
    danimal says:

    There is one potential motivator for Republican senators that actually care: institutional power. With all important matters blocked through obstructionist tricks like the filibuster, eventually the executive (and perhaps the judicial branch) will start to implement new policies outside of the legislative process.

    As the senate marginalizes itself, the prima donnas no longer are the kingmakers. You can see this playing out with the cap and trade debate. The EPA is using the threat of making new rules for greenhouse gas emissions as a club to motivate congress to act on major climate change legislation.

  51. 51
    PeakVT says:

    @Punchy: Not entirely true. See my post above. It turns out Feingold has voted against cloture just as often as Snowe so far this session (though the bills and reasoning probably differ).

  52. 52
    mk3872 says:

    You can BET that when Republicans take control of the Senate in 2010, they WILL repeal the right to fillibuster certain bills & actions, such as confirming judges.

  53. 53
    Jrod says:

    @Notorious P.A.T.: It’d be truly sad if Americans no longer lived up the example of hard work and clean living set by Greg “I’m-too-stupid-to-realize-that-being-tied-down-and-slowly-drowned-is-torture-unless-I-try-it-myself” Mankiw.

  54. 54
    jcricket says:

    @Brachiator: It’s not entirely true. It’s not just about the filibuster, or deficits, per se. It’s deeper than that.

    GOP wants to play double-Santa. High services, low taxes. They once even glommed on to a napkin-based idea supposedly offering proof their idea wouldn’t bankrupt the nation. Of course within a couple of years that nearly happened and they raised taxes, but never abandoned the two Santa idea.

    Of course the people love this – more benefits and lower taxes for me? Sign me up.

    Combine with a 40-year campaign from Republicans to de-legitimize the entire function/purpose of government (“government is the problem”) and you get our current state of affairs. You see this when people are continually convinced that like 50% of the government’s budget is “fat” and that without raising taxes the government should be able to do ever more things (gov’t should also pay it’s own overpaid workers less, and get rid of gov’t pensions, benefits, etc. b/c none of the rest of society has that stuff).

    In other countries you don’t see this. There is argument about the level and method of taxation, sure. There are people claiming the welfare offered by the state is “too high”. But no one seriously argues that you can lower taxes and keep or raise service levels.

    We’re deeply and truly fucked until Democrats find a way to convince people that we need to raise taxes to cover the services we’re already failing to provide, stay in power, and then convince people we need to raise taxes some more to cover services we should, but aren’t, providing (see middle class, disappearing).

    Until then, California here we come.

  55. 55
    Napoleon says:

    @danimal:

    Correct, but there is a quicker way to make them feel it. Reid makes it clear to them that if they obstruct then they get no earmarks or any goodies in the budget. If they don’t obstruct (even if they vote en-mass against the Dem proposals on the merits but not to block them from coming to a vote) they are allowed their 2/3 on the dollar that goes to a Dem or whatever the deal is now, if they don’t they get $0 in total.

  56. 56
    AlanDean says:

    I wonder how many times the filibuster is dangled just to inflate already overgrown Senatorial egos. Lieberman near the start of the HCR debate threatened to stop something and made the comment “… now I feel relevant…”

    Ya, Joe, I got your relevance right here.

  57. 57

    @Notorious P.A.T.:

    Why is that [reconciliation] bad? Someone please explain this to me.

    It won’t pass. That’s what’s bad about it. Going reconciliation would probably produce less reform than using the regular process. Blame your favorite Democratic Senator who likes having his own personal veto points.

  58. 58

    @Montysano:

    When did “threat of filibuster” come to = “actual filibuster”? I must have missed the memo.

    1975. That’s when the Senate changed the rules in a way that made it almost impossible to force a filibuster talkathon.

  59. 59

    @Napoleon:

    That is an understatement. I just wanted to cry when the Dems passed up the chance to let the Reps be the bad guy on the issue. That ranks up there with one of the top 3/4/5ish mistakes the Dems made this decade.

    There’s some misremembering of history going on here. The Republicans never threatened that filibuster as a whole. They threatened to rule that filibustering Presidential nominations was unconstitutional. Allowing them to have their way at that point would have done nothing to prevent the legislative filibuster that is plaguing us now.

  60. 60

    @Napoleon:

    Correct, but there is a quicker way to make them feel it. Reid makes it clear to them that if they obstruct then they get no earmarks or any goodies in the budget. If they don’t obstruct (even if they vote en-mass against the Dem proposals on the merits but not to block them from coming to a vote) they are allowed their 2/3 on the dollar that goes to a Dem or whatever the deal is now, if they don’t they get $0 in total.

    I’d be in favor of this, but it isn’t something Reid can credibly threaten. It’s not just him. There are too many Democrats who like the perks of being a Senator, which include being able to dispense pork even when in the minority. They’d never carry through on it.

    It’s an interesting dynamic. Both parties damage themselves through the way they view the future. Republicans seem to think that they’ll never be out of the majority again, and behave in ways that hasten that eventuality. Democrats are terrified that they’ll end up in the minority again, and do the same thing.

  61. 61
    mogden says:

    Since almost everything the government does is an utter disaster, the filibuster requirement should be raised.

  62. 62
    Napoleon says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    There’s some misremembering of history going on here.

    I remember perfectly well and although you are right about what the Republican threat was the fact is either you have a filibuster or you do not. There never was one filibuster for judicial nominations and another for everything else. It was the exact same rule. When the Dems came into power they could have said with a straight face and passed a lie detector test while maintaining that the filibuster had been abolished by the Republicans.

  63. 63
    Napoleon says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    You nailed it.

  64. 64
    AhabTRuler says:

    @J. Michael Neal: It’s also that the Senate is very wary of making changes that affect individuals Senator’s prerogatives; party politics and parliamentary procedure sure, but anonymous holds, earmarks, &c. are, by “unanimous consent”, verboten.

  65. 65
    Brachiator says:

    @jcricket:

    We’re deeply and truly fucked until Democrats find a way to convince people that we need to raise taxes to cover the services we’re already failing to provide, stay in power, and then convince people we need to raise taxes some more to cover services we should, but aren’t, providing (see middle class, disappearing).

    Until then, California here we come.

    Problem number one is that the “services” that government provides are perceived by many citizens as being inferior or irrelevant.

    However, the biggest problem, and one that many Democrats and almost all so-called progressives fail to understand, is that you cannot raise taxes in a declining economy.

    Hell, some progressives can’t even grasp the idea of an economy. Instead, they have this simple world view of the wealthy, who magically got and have lots of stuff, the poor who have nothing, and union workers and soon-to-be unionized workers, who are our only hope. The middle class doesn’t really count or exist. Here, all you have to do is tax the wealthy, fund the government, and universal happiness ensues.

    People keep invoking California without understanding what has been happening here. The tax base is declining as the middle class declines and the state economy shrinks and unemployment increases. You can’t raise taxes on people who don’t have jobs. And you could impose a 90% tax on the wealthy and still not make a difference because the California budget is also plagued by a structural deficit.

    In Pasadena, where people are struggling to keep their homes, it was recently projected that in order to meet a school district deficit, the property taxes would have to be raised $300 a homeowner. And even here, teachers would still be laid off and programs cut back.

    In other words, a $300 property tax increase and services still reduced. What the hell is the point in that?

    As James Carville once noted, “it’s the economy, stupid!” It still is. People voted Obama in because they believed that he could use the power of the government to get the economy working again, after the dismal failure of the Republicans. This is not quite the same thing as raising taxes to provide government services, which might be desirable, but which cannot be done adequately if economic prosperity is not first restored.

  66. 66
    Montysano says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    1975. That’s when the Senate changed the rules in a way that made it almost impossible to force a filibuster talkathon.

    [monty back after doing some reading] Thanks. I was not at all up to speed on this.

    So, if I understand correctly, the amount of votes needed for cloture could bounce back and forth between 51 and 60, depending on which precedent is in force at the moment?

  67. 67
    jcricket says:

    @Brachiator: I dunno – from everything I’ve read corporations and wealthy individuals pay a lower share of taxes than basically any time in the last 100 years. I’m not suggesting we crank all taxes to 100% tomorrow and call it good. You could go a long way towards some revenue sanity by returning to Clintonian or Bush (the elder) level of taxations, once the economy returns. Just start the new tax rates in 2011 or whatever.

    And you’re right – people perceive a lot of the government functions as irrelevant – usually the ones that don’t apply to them (old people and schools, young people and nursing homes, rural coots and city parks). No one believes that their issue/thing/service is being subsidized, despite the fact that’s the way central government always works. The same way that all the red staters perceive city folk to be suckling on the state/federal teat when in fact it’s the other way around. This was my point. Until Democrats get people on board with the whole “you want these services, and we need taxes” the actual conversation (which taxes, what level of services) is basically impossible. Right now people believe they can have services and not pay, or when the government does eliminate services it’s because of incompetence, not structural revenue/deficits.

    Yes, at some point in the future we’re going to have to raise taxes on pretty much everyone. Hopefully we do this gradually, and during good times, and then save some aside so we don’t have to cut everything during the next recession (Norway has done this successfully using a combination of high taxes and their sovereign wealth/oil fund).

    But we have to start somewhere. I think the ultra-wealthy seem to be doing fine, and would continue to do fine, even if we raised taxes tomorrow.

  68. 68
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    It won’t pass. That’s what’s bad about it. Going reconciliation would probably produce less reform than using the regular process.

    I still don’t understand what you mean. It won’t pass? They’d only need 51 votes, not this Olympian hurdle of 60. Sure they couldn’t pass as much, but it would be a start.

    I dunno – from everything I’ve read corporations and wealthy individuals pay a lower share of taxes than basically any time in the last 100 years.

    That’s for sure. The richest 1% have half the money, so don’t tell me that raising taxes on them won’t bring in any revenue.

  69. 69
    Nellcote says:

    @Notorious P.A.T.:

    My understanding is that things passed via reconciliation are time limited. It’s why Bush’s tax cuts end next year unless they’re reauthorized.

  70. 70
    bernard says:

    that whole sacrosant issue of taxing the rich.

    that should NEVER be spoken, acknowledged or inferred.

    to do so would allow these “targeted” classes who own 90% of all wealth to have to pay for those less fortunate. the less fortunate who aren’t able to buy Senators, Reps or Governors.

    we don’t want to go there!!! We must never bring up class. NEVER NEVER EVER

    it’s the poor fault anyway. they don’t own Congress, why give them a shot at the game.

    Unfair attack on the Rich!!! Penalty Box for those who dare insinuate the Rich aren’t paying their fair share.

  71. 71
    Brachiator says:

    @jcricket:

    from everything I’ve read corporations and wealthy individuals pay a lower share of taxes than basically any time in the last 100 years.

    This is true, but not as meaningful as people think. To slightly oversimplify, you can have relatively high taxes, even run a sizable deficit, when the economy is robust and there are lots of jobs and income mobility. Things are more difficult, especially at the state level, when an economy is stagnant and especially when there is high unemployment and low wages, which is where we are now.

    You could go a long way towards some revenue sanity by returning to Clintonian or Bush (the elder) level of taxations, once the economy returns. Just start the new tax rates in 2011 or whatever.

    We are already doing this. And despite GOP lies, Obama’s tax policies result in a significant tax decrease for many people. Problem is, these policies are not helping the economy, especially job growth.

    And you’re right – people perceive a lot of the government functions as irrelevant – usually the ones that don’t apply to them (old people and schools, young people and nursing homes, rural coots and city parks).

    None of this is directly funded by the federal government. But on the local level, old people care as much about schools as anyone else. In California, more school bond issues have passed than have failed. People get tired of school systems rationalizing their failures while demanding more money.

    No one believes that their issue/thing/service is being subsidized, despite the fact that’s the way central government always works.

    The point is that government has to work better and smarter. Simply saying “we always do it this way” no longer works.

    This was my point. Until Democrats get people on board with the whole “you want these services, and we need taxes” the actual conversation (which taxes, what level of services) is basically impossible. Right now people believe they can have services and not pay, or when the government does eliminate services it’s because of incompetence, not structural revenue/deficits.

    This is a losing argument. People who are losing their jobs and in fear of losing their homes don’t give a rat’s ass about arguments about funding government services.

    Yes, at some point in the future we’re going to have to raise taxes on pretty much everyone.

    Really? Why? Based on what?

    Hopefully we do this gradually, and during good times, and then save some aside so we don’t have to cut everything during the next recession (Norway has done this successfully using a combination of high taxes and their sovereign wealth/oil fund).

    We don’t have anything like Norway’s funded social services system and state ownership of some industrial sectors. I don’t see how Norway is a model for the US.

    But we have to start somewhere. I think the ultra-wealthy seem to be doing fine, and would continue to do fine, even if we raised taxes tomorrow.

    I have no problem with tax increases when they are necessary. But wouldn’t it be better to increase taxes on the wealthy not just because they are doing fine, but because it is part of some rational economic plan?

  72. 72
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    However, the biggest problem, and one that many Democrats and almost all so-called progressives fail to understand, is that you cannot raise taxes in a declining economy.

    FDR raised them his first year in office — the 1932-33 top tax rate went from 25% to 63% — and that was with 30% unemployment. Why, exactly, can we not do the same thing now with only 10% unemployment?

  73. 73
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    I have no problem with tax increases when they are necessary. But wouldn’t it be better to increase taxes on the wealthy not just because they are doing fine, but because it is part of some rational economic plan?

    The “rational economic plan” is, frankly, because allowing people to hoard wealth rather than encouraging them to put it back into the economy through either spending or taxes is detrimental to our economy as a whole. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we had a strong middle class when the top marginal tax rates were high and a declining one when the top marginal tax rates are low.

    I know that we’ve been fed a line for 30 years that low taxes are automatically a public good that feeds the economy, but it just ain’t so.

  74. 74
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    RE: However, the biggest problem, and one that many Democrats and almost all so-called progressives fail to understand, is that you cannot raise taxes in a declining economy.

    FDR raised them his first year in office—the 1932-33 top tax rate went from 25% to 63%—and that was with 30% unemployment. Why, exactly, can we not do the same thing now with only 10% unemployment?

    The tax hike actually came in with Hoover, not FDR. Roosevelt maintained them, and there are all kinds of arguments over the merits of this (at least before WW II related tax increases).

    Also, let’s add some perspective here. In 1931, the top marginal rate was 25% on incomes over $100,000. After 1932, the top marginal rate was 63% on incomes over $1,000,000.

    The “rational economic plan” is, frankly, because allowing people to hoard wealth rather than encouraging them to put it back into the economy through either spending or taxes is detrimental to our economy as a whole.

    Spending and taxes alone does not put money back into the economy. The recent spending plans certainly have not resulted in a sustained growth of new jobs and businesses.

    By the way, I also have big problems with leftover GOP tax policy, such as the huge bonus depreciation ideas. Business income has declined so much that few have been able to benefit from this, nor does it do much to spur employment.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we had a strong middle class when the top marginal tax rates were high and a declining one when the top marginal tax rates are low.

    Huh? I haven’t seen any rigorously look at wages, employment, GDP growth, income mobility and taxes (not just income, but sales and excise taxes, and estate taxes), and the rise of the middle class. But the idea that high marginal tax rates correlates with a strong middle class strikes me as a very unlikely myth of “reverse trickle down.”

  75. 75

    You know, it’s a funny thing. The Tea Party movement has worried me from the start, and I’ve had a hard time putting my finger on why. Or rather, I’ve understood why. This is how democracies fail — by extreme, out of control polarization. We’ve got it. Then I considered what form democratic failure takes and whether I was worried.

    Anti-democratic party winning the election and destroying democracy from within? Nope.

    Military coup? Nope.

    Civil war? Nope.

    Those are how democracies usually fail and none of them seemed in the cards. But this, I think, is what we do realistically have to fear. Californication.

  76. 76
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    Also, let’s add some perspective here. In 1931, the top marginal rate was 25% on incomes over $100,000. After 1932, the top marginal rate was 63% on incomes over $1,000,000.

    Right now, our top marginal tax rate is 35%. That’s the third lowest since 1931. Are you arguing that having such a low marginal tax rate has no effect on our federal tax revenues and our ability to fund employment projects like, say, the WPA and the Conservation Corps?

    Spending and taxes alone does not put money back into the economy. The recent spending plans certainly have not resulted in a sustained growth of new jobs and businesses.

    You mean the stimulus bill that was passed less than a year ago and has spent less than half the money allotted to it hasn’t completely solved the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? Gee, that’s a shocker. I guess we’d better shut it down the way conservatives want us to.

    But the idea that high marginal tax rates correlates with a strong middle class strikes me as a very unlikely myth of “reverse trickle down.”

    It’s a pretty clear correlation — as the top marginal rate has gone down, the middle class has shrunk. Visualizing Economics has an interesting graph showing the top marginal tax rate vs. the share of national income going to the top 0.1% (not the top 1%, the top 0.1%).

    Now, correlation =/= causation as we all know, but shouldn’t someone at least look into it the way they looked into the Laffer curve and found that it’s 90% bullshit?

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