OT: Thoughts on Politics in the US - Avert your Eyes!

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Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
European situation... - personal RANT

I personally was pleasantly surprised that the US chose their first Afro American President. Since then I see that his popularity has wained drastically. But how come? Did people expect too much from him? Did he raise too high expectations himself?
Obviously Obama isn't as successful as people thought he would be because of the dire economic situation that seems to be ongoing. Is half a term enough to make a difference? Still does that justify changing your vote around if you voted for Obama the first time around? What I don't understand is how whimsical/volatile public opinion can be causing the typical sine-wave of voting for Democrats -> Rebublicans -> Democrats -> Republicans with nothing in between causing this mid-term-stand-off thing causing a lack of focus and direction decision making but a lot of talking and political battles. This just results in an even slower decision making process that is actually lowering popularity of all parties involved. Why not stick it through - vote the same twice? That way the sitting government is able to be more forcefull.....
The general public is known to do something that is called 'protest voting' = voting against your regular party just to make a point instead of truly voting what you think is best. This happens a lot during mid-term elections and this causes very unpredictable elections or strange ties we are seeing in all sorts of elections all around the world. The political opponents are so similar in their plans that a 50/50 vote is bound to occur a lot of the time. Politics are a strange socio-psychological game.

The European political systems are quite different yet even here in the Netherlands with a lot of different political parties after elections a cabinet is formed out of coalition partners and the rest of the elected and parties are 'the opposition'. So basically you have a governing faction and an opposing factor. Still there is a whole plethora of political ideas even within the ruling coalition and the opposition in such a way that problems aren't viewed in a such a way that there is an almost binary approach when it comes to certain views that are expressed in terms of 'the Republican' or 'the Democrat' view.

Despite the bonuses of something like the Dutch situation with the multi party system it is very hard for an individual to change something or create a law. There's a lot of bureaucratic layers in between. That is something that is so much easier and quite a lot more accessible for US citizens to bring about.

The level of control of the US government on US citizens is actually quite minimalistic compared to European countries. Want to build an extension to your house? You got to go through planning permission first where a couple of council government employees seemingly totally arbitrarily approve or disapprove of such plans. Want to start a business? Lots of rules and regulations are in place. European local government tends to be very restrictive and bureaucratic in nature.

Then there's the amount of money people have to pay in taxes, social premiums and mandatory health care insurance.
Can you imagine having to pay up to 60% of your salary in taxes and social premiums? Well that's the case in my situation. With that said it is true that on the opposite side there's a lot of legislation protecting employees to be laid off so even in economic troublesome times people aren't easily laid of and re-hired against lower wages. If you do loose your job you're able to get unemployment benefits for quite a long time but they do require you to apply for jobs and if you are unsuccessful also apply for jobs beneath your level of qualification. If that remains unsuccessful people can get unemployment benefits for an even longer time. But there are more restrictions and less money, but still it is quite a comfortable safety-net for some. I think it is a very caring society that does something like that - caring for the less fortunate but of course this does get abused quite a bit and there is an influx of economical refugees who are unqualified and basically show up holding up their hand to get benefits.

Personally if I were to be laid of and wasn't able to get a job in the field I am qualified in I would immediately seek out something that pays - even if it is a lesser qualified position. All is better then none. When I graduated two years ago halfway November I was able to secure a nice job in the beginning of January and even though I was entitled to benefits I chose not to because there were just too many rules and regulations to adhere to, too many strings attached to it that I opted for an unpaid amount of free time for the period of a month and a half. Still it is a nice feeling that there is some sort of safety net. But the level of abusers and mis-users compared to the amount paid by the working folk is becoming ridiculous. I don't want to have to pay a ton of money for others to put up their feet and do nothing. Still I like the fact that society takes care of the not so well off.

I'm wondering how much premium a US citizen has to pay for their new health care insurance. Over here I pay 150 euros a month and some of the extra fees are collectively paid at a discount by my employer. Coverage is good although from my own personal experience with the health care systems with two ill family members recently I must say that the level of care and the continuity of care leaves a lot of be desired due to drastic cut backs. When I was in training to become a doctor the Dutch health care system provided a much better level of care and continuity of care than is the case right now.

Personally I think privatization of basic needs like: Education, Health care, public transport as has happened in the Netherlands, has led to a diminished accessibility and service on the whole. For the ones that are able to pay - which could be the case if social premiums were lowered etc but sadly they are not - there's excellent care available in privatized/commercial settings although one very specific services or care is provided.
In European countries where privatization of these needs isn't privatized or commercialized the level of care and accessibility is better. That is just a fact that is very plain to see without having to be an economist.

But how come so many political parties seem to strive for increased privatization/commercialism yet at the same time don't allow for healthy competition by enforcing many restrictions and also want to cut spending in those areas that are important for society as a whole:
- public safety, cleaning services
- police forces (can you imagine a commercial police force?)
- libraries
- infrastructure as a whole
- public pools
- parks
- children's play areas
Never have I seen so much dilapidation, ill looked after parks, totally awful roads and highways, libraries shutting down, public transport links disappearing as I have seen in the past decade. Am I just getting old? Is this point of view something that happens to a thirty something/forty something? Am I going through a mid-life crisis?

I just don't get it. I think I am just some sort of (a-political) psychiatrist-bastard who is just too social and friendly and wants people to care about one another. The sense of entitlement a lot of people feel in today's society and the sheer rudeness that some have really bugs me. How wrong can society be when the parents of children who clearly misbehave themselves in schools beat up or threaten to sue to poor teacher trying to educate their kids that they themselves don't raise properly?
Only Yesterday did I read a little article in the paper of two 9-year olds and an 8 year old being placed in foster care because they were terrorizing the elderly in their neighborhood: stealing from them etc. That's just friggin' insane. What were the parents thinking?
Another article in the paper about the accidental death of a young car driver who crashed his car severely injuring two of his friends. Not a word about the total lack of judgement this kid and his friends had as he was two years underage for his driver's license (18 in the Netherlands) and was driving without a license intoxicated. The total lack of judgment of these kids is not addressed. A sense of normality that somehow creeps into this quite disturbing tale.

Arghh.... I shut up now. As this is also a bit OFF-T. :P

TripHamer's picture
Joined: 07/31/2010
It's a good thing.

Our government is designed to work slowly....so now that one party is not solely in power, they'll have to work together to get anything passed.

That's a good thing....unless they all conspire to screw us over, of course.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
The problem with those

The problem with those mega-corporation parties is the corruption. Look at how much money they squandered on stupid ads, mailings (the ecological damage--I shudder to think), television commercials, etc. What is it all for? Not a single ad I watched or received had anything substantial to say at all. Just soundbites and silly attacks. I would grade each one a strict F due to lack of concrete evidence or even the remotest sign of a well-reasoned argument.

Case in point--it was painful watching Obama on The Daily Show. I didn't expect much, granted, but this was nothing but posturing and pandering. Out comes the same old, worn-out sound bites. Yawn. He does nothing but tow the party line, with all the baggage that entails, yet we're supposed to believe he's out there with a bullwhip driving the money lenders from the temple or some such nonsense. The one issue that mattered (the government option) got "compromised," and only the insurance companies are happy with these "health care reforms." Good job! Feeling suckered yet?

What angers me more than anything is how these two "parties" have rigged the debates. They've rigged it so that no one since Ross Perot has been able to engage them. Of course, they have long ago decided to play by the rules, asking only questions, only raising certain points. They can't talk about lots of major issues because BOTH parties have cheated us and cheated us good. Naturally they don't raise those points, because that would make them both look bad.

Anytime there has been a serious threat to one of these parties and business as usual, oops--somebody got assassinated, either figuratively (Perot) or literally (Huey P. Long). The whole thing just disgusts me.

No matter what you're told, this country is run by the billionaires and aristocrats who put on these shows mostly as a distraction, similar to the "bread and circuses" of Roman times. Anyone stupid enough to think that any of them care about "Joe Plumber" deserves what he gets.

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
Agreed, Bill.
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I think the "sides" thing is key, Matt. I doubt anyone's beliefs fit anywhere near 100% in either the official Democrat or Republican ideology, but that's how we're basically forced to vote and that's how our so-called representatives are basically forced to act. Again, we should vote for the candidate who appeals to the most things we believe in, not the fact that the person is part of party x or y, and said candidate should act accordingly because then he'd be reflecting the will of the people who voted him or her in.

I'll paraphrase one of my favorite comedians, Chris Rock, in one of his comedy concerts, on this subject:

"No one is liberal or conservative on everything. On crime, I'm conservative. On prostitution, I'M LIBERAL!!"

The audience roared with laughter (as did I), because it reflected what pretty much most of the population thinks about "either-or" politics. To vote for one party or another, you're pretty much voting WHOLE HOG for their entire agenda. Are you a fiscal conservative, but social liberal? Or the opposite? Good luck choosing a party to vote for in America! Most people, like you said, are liberal on some issues, conservative on others, and pragmatic ("let's find a middle road") in even others.

And I offer my apologies to Matt, who essentially (in my view) tossed his vote into the trash can by voting "Green," which really doesn't figure in mathematically into the whole picture (although arguably skewing the vote tally Republican by subtracting from the "progressive" Democrat candidate). Although arguably, neither does my singular vote for one of the dominant parties in the overall picture.

I don't have any facts or quotes to offer in evidence off-hand, but I recall reading that our (American) first President, George Washington, warned against political parties. Perhaps this is what he (allegedly) was thinking in what is happening today, with the "Us versus Them, take it or leave it" style of partisanship. Maybe he hoped that every district and state would vote for candidates that best represented their area's views, and from there the national governance would commence.

Obviously, it hasn't worked out that way. If you vote Democrat or Republican, you're voting for essentially EVERYTHING in the party platform's positions: national defense, taxes, social services, legal and moral welfare, etc. Let's say that You're AGAINST legalized abortion but FOR gay marriage. You're FOR cap-and-trade environmental policies, but AGAINST universal health care . What now??? Which side do you choose?

That having been said, other democracies, particularly European and Japan, have a "multi-party" system that only seems to add to the confusion. For example: in several countries, we have the "Pirate" party. The Pirate party?!?!?! Seriously!!??!?! If the "Pirate" party were to assume control of a nation, that nation would become essentially a rogue nation. What other country would want to do business with a country that doesn't respect intellectual property rights? Yes, I get the general gist of these "Pirate" parties (freedom, I guess), but it still seems "unpragmatic" at best (and crazy at worst) to me. Maybe it's because of my American sensibilities.

The multi-party system always seems to lead to "coalition" governments. Whether that's an improvement or not over our "two-party-dominated" system is open to debate, but those left out of the "coalition" are essentially left with zero say in whatever administration is in power at the given moment.

Back to the subject of this (American) election season... I think the idea that Obama is finished if the (expected as of this writing) Republican takeover of Congress occurs is overstated. Pretty much the exact same scenario happened during the Clinton administration, but the Clinton administration is regarded by many as a successful one. Clinton was faced with the exact same scenario in his administration (the opposing side taking control of Congress), but it allowed him to be pulled back to the "center." Arguably, his governance was the better for it. If it weren't for his personal scandals, he might be regarded even higher today.

Ok, I've droned on long enough (FOR NOW!!!!). It's only fair to say that I skew fiscally conservative, but socially liberal. But I also see many issues as shades of gray, with no easy answers. No matter what direction you choose, somebody's toes are going to get stepped on. I'm willing to compromise and cut deals. I guess I'm a MODERATE. I don't think people should be forced to walk around covered head-to-toe in public, but I don't think people should be allowed to walk around naked either! "Hey, I want to walk around naked, and if you don't like it, UP YOURS! You're infringing on my freedom!!!" Let's get real... a functioning society needs norms, lines, and allowances. Where those lines are drawn is where the real debate begins. But I don't think things are THAT bad, socially, but I DO think things are THAT bad, fiscally.

Ok, that's it for now. I would say "Don't even get me started on politics," but you already have. :-) I do lament the lack of respect and civility in modern debate. Just because we disagree on some issues is no reason for me to think you're an idiot, or for you to think I am. It is an intellectual debate... why so much emotional baggage? Why "Us" versus "Them?" Why not some love, compassion, and respect for those we disagree with? Heck, with enough intellectual persuasion, you may convert me to your side of an issue!

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
I think the "sides" thing is

I think the "sides" thing is key, Matt. I doubt anyone's beliefs fit anywhere near 100% in either the official Democrat or Republican ideology, but that's how we're basically forced to vote and that's how our so-called representatives are basically forced to act. Again, we should vote for the candidate who appeals to the most things we believe in, not the fact that the person is part of party x or y, and said candidate should act accordingly because then he'd be reflecting the will of the people who voted him or her in.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
I've never been a Democrat or

I've never been a Democrat or a Republican. When I registered to vote, I chose the Green Party because I liked Ralph Nader (wonder what ever happened to him?) I agree 100% about the ridiculous two party (I say two mega-corporation) system. It angers me to the point of revolution that those two mega-corporations have such a choke hold on the political process, shutting out anyone who doesn't conform.

A good analogy is if you were you forced to a diet consisting solely of McDonalds and Burger King, and your only choice was to shift between the two as their advertising rhetoric affected you. The point is that NEITHER of those options is healthy for you. Our political system is exactly like that; just a choice of which evil is preferable at the moment (Big Mac or Whopper), just junk food without any hope of a healthy diet. Indeed, both "sides" are just that; sides, like a big box of french fries. Sure it might be cheap and taste good, but in the long run, you're going to die of an obesity-related illness.


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