Monday, July 31, 2017

He Knows Nothing

Trump Prefers The Rich To Be In Charge Of The Economy

(This image is from The Irish Times.)

Donald Trump promised to "drain the swamp" during the presidential campaign. Once elected, he has people his cabinet with the richest people he could find -- especially in the jobs that control the economy. He has chosen corporate CEO's and Wall Street bankers for those positions. The question, of course, is are these the people who would institute policies that would be good for all Americans.

When he was asked about this, here's what he said:

“Somebody said, ‘Why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy?’

“So I said …. because that’s the kind of thinking we want… because they’re representing the country.

“These are people that are great, brilliant business minds, and that’s what we need, that’s what we have to have so the world doesn’t take advantage of us.
“We can’t have the world taking advantage of us any more. And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person.
“Does that make sense? Does that make sense?
“If you insist I’ll do it but I like it better this way, right?”
Well, it doesn't make sense to me. I have questions about the thinking he is egging in (if he's doing any thinking at all). Do the rich really understand the problems faced by working people in this country? Do they believe the Republican myth that whatever is good for the rich is also good for everyone in the country?
I can understand why someone like Trump would want rich people in charge of the economy. They are much more likely to institute economic policies that would protect rich people like him, and insure they would get even richer (even if it's at the expense of the working man/woman). 
Personally, I want a smart person to be in charge of the economy. But I don't want that smart person to be rich (at least not super-rich, like Trump's appointees). I would prefer that smart person to be a working person who needs the salary he/she makes to live on -- a person who knows what it's like to worry about paying the rent, buying the groceries, and paying for all the things his/her family needs on a salary that sometimes is not enough.
The person in charge of the economy is naturally going to support policies that benefit people like them and their friends. A rich person is going to like policies that benefit the rich. A working person is going to prefer policies that benefit working families. 
In the last few decades, the Republicans have instituted a "trickle-down" economic policy, and they have made sure that policy stays in place. But that is a policy that tilts the economic playing field to favor the rich, in the mistaken belief that what's good for the rich is good for all Americans -- and for the economy in general. But that's just not true. That's the kind of thinking that has kept the economy limping along (after causing a recession), and has kept wages stagnant for most working Americans.
Trump's question about whether we'd prefer a rich or poor person to be in charge of the economy is a false choice. Why can't we have a working person who's neither rich nor poor, but understands the problems facing most Americans trying to pay their bills and meet their obligations while inflation eats away at their salary? Wouldn't that make more sense? Wouldn't that be better for all Americans?

Military Gender ID Quiz

Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in The Sacramento Bee.

Today Is "Black Women's Equal Pay Day" In The U.S.

Today is "Black Women's Equal Pay Day". What does that mean? It means that for a Black woman in this country to equal the pay of a White man in 2016, they would have to work all of 2016 and the first seven months of 2017. In other words, it takes a Black woman 19 months to make the same pay that a White man makes in 12 months.

We know that a gender gap exists in this country in pay. Women, in general, simply don't make salaries equal to men -- but Black women do even worse than White women do when it comes to that gender gap in pay. And if you'll not the bottom chart above, Hispanic women do the worst of all, making even less than Black women.

There are those who will tell you the gaps exist because they don't work as hard, don't have the same education, or choose lower paying jobs. Those are all myths (and you can go here for a good discussion of them). The truth is that even when those are accounted for, the wage gap still exists.

Whether our leaders want to admit it or not, and wage gap exists in this country -- and it is due to gender, race, and ethnicity. It shouldn't exist, but it does -- and it's time we did something about it. Anyone who does the work should receive the same pay -- regardless of their gender, race, or ethnicity. Anything less is an abomination in a country that claims to value equality.

Trump's Dream Cabinet

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at

Public Assessment Of Trump Administration After 6 Months

The Trump administration has been in charge for over 6 months now. Has Trump kept his promises? Is he getting things done? Has he made this country "great" again?

The charts above are from a new CBS News / YouGov Poll -- done between July 26th and 28th of a random national sample of 2,334 adults, and has a margin of error of 2.7 points.

While Trump has done a lot of tweeting and complaining about how he is being treated, the public doesn't think he is accomplishing very much -- and that feeling stretches across gender, age, and racial lines.

It's not just a dislike of Trump that's keeping his job approval numbers very low. It seems that even many who voted for him don't think he is getting much done.

Duty (Trump Version)

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Purchasing Power Of Minimum Wage Is Still Eroding

From David Cooper at the Economic Policy Institute:

This week marks the eighth anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised, from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 24, 2009. Since then, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has fallen by 12.5 percent as inflation has slowly eroded its value. However, this decline in the buying power of the minimum wage over the past eight years is not even half the overall decline in the minimum wage’s value since the late 1960s. As the figure below shows, at its high point in 1968, the federal minimum wage was equal to $9.90 in today’s dollars. That means that workers at the minimum wage today are paid roughly 27 percent less than their counterparts almost 50 years ago.

Measuring the minimum wage against changes in prices is only one way to think of where it could be today. Given growth in the economy and improvements in labor productivity over the past half century, the minimum wage could have been raised to a point considerably higher than its 1968 inflation-adjusted value. As the middle line in the figure shows, if the minimum wage had been raised since 1968 at the same growth rate as average wages of typical U.S. workers, it would be $11.62 today. (We measure wages here by changes in average hourly earnings of nonsupervisory production workers, a group that comprises roughly 80 percent of all U.S. workers and excludes highly-paid supervisors and executives.)

Prior to 1968, the federal minimum wage was raised at roughly the same pace as growth in labor productivity—i.e., the rate at which the average worker can produce income from each hour of work. This makes sense—if the economy as a whole can produce more income per hour of work, it means there’s capacity for wages across the distribution to grow at a similar rate. Had the minimum wage risen at the same pace as productivity after 1968, it would be over $19 per hour today.

No matter how you measure it, it’s clear that the federal minimum wage is overdue for an increase. If we raised it to $15 by 2024, 41 million American workers would benefit. Read more about who would benefit from raising the minimum wage.


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson.

Tired Of Winning Yet ?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Universal Religious Truths ?

Public Would Not Support The Firing Of Robert Mueller

Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from the investigation being done by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That means he could not properly fire Mueller. And it is unlikely that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein would fire Mueller, since he is the one that appointed him.

But rumors persist that Donald Trump is worried about what Mueller might find (especially if he investigates the Trump finances) -- and that he would like to fire Mueller. That's why many people believe Trump is incessantly attacking his own Attorney General. He wants to force him out of office so he can appoint a sycophant who will fire Mueller.

But that would be a bad idea. Not only is Congress opposed to doing such a thing (including a growing number of Republicans), but the general public would not like that at all -- and it would make them wonder what nefarious thing Trump is trying to hide.

The chart above is from the most recent Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between July 23rd and 25th of a random national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,282 registered voters), with a margin of error of 3.1 points.

It shows there is very little support for firing Mueller, while there is much more opposition to his firing. That even includes Republicans (although by a much thinner margin than in all other groups).

His Favorite General

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Americans Are Becoming More Socially Liberal

This chart shows the results of the latest Gallup Poll on the percentage of Americans who now define themselves as being socially liberal (being liberal on social issues). Note that in the last decade and a half that percentage has increased in every demographic group but one -- Republicans (who still want to force everyone to adopt their own prejudices). The poll was done between May 3rd and 7th of a random national sample of 1,011 adults, and has a margin of error of 4 points. This trend is a good thing for this country, and I hope it continues.

Killing The Monster

Political Cartoon is by Darrin Bell at

Plan To Fix Obamacare That Many Democrats Could Support

(Cartoon image is by Jimmy Margulies at

In their effort to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a plan of their own, the Senate Republicans (and Trump) have been telling two huge lies.

The first is that Obamacare is imploding, and if nothing is done, it will fail on its own. That is not true. While Obamacare does have some problems that should be fixed, it is NOT imploding. And the problems it does have (especially with rising insurance premiums) have been exacerbated by Republican threats to stop funding the Obamacare subsidies. This has resulted in many insurance companies rising premium costs more than necessary to protect themselves if the subsidies are stopped.

The second is that Democrats think Obamacare is fine as it is, and have no suggestions for making it better. The truth is that Democrats were locked out of the process in the Senate, while Republicans crafted their terrible plans in secret. Democrats were not asked for input, which makes it more than disingenuous for McConnell and his minions to now claim Democrats offered nothing.

Democrats would love to join a truly bipartisan effort to fix the problems of Obamacare -- and they do have some ideas of how to do that. Here is one suggestion for a bipartisan solution from Neera Tanden and Topher Spiro at the Center for American Progress:

First, the legislation would need to guarantee continued payments for ACA subsidies that reduce enrollees’ cost-sharing—removing the administration’s threat of sabotage. This guarantee would not actually add any costs to government spending because these subsidies are already being paid. But resolving the uncertainty would lower premiums significantly: The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that premiums would be 19 percent lower with guaranteed cost-sharing payments.
Second, the legislation would follow the model of states like Alaska and Maine that reimburse insurers for high-cost enrollees. In Alaska, this so-called reinsurance recently lowered premium increases from 40 percent to less than 10 percent. Similarly, Maine implemented a reinsurance program in 2011 for the state’s pre-ACA individual market that helped reduce premiums by 20 percent in the first year. This is not hypothetical or abstract; it is a solution that works in the real world.
If the legislation provided $15 billion to states for reinsurance, this would lower premiums by more than 14 percent. Because this funding would lower premiums, it would save money on tax credits—resulting in an overall cost of slightly more than $4 billion per year.
If the legislation provided this reinsurance for 2018 and 2019, senators working together in good faith could easily find $8 billion in savings to pay for it. CAP presents here just two options:
  • When there is a generic version of a drug, Medicare could eliminate beneficiary costs for the generic drug and increase costs for the brand drug. Congress could also speed up discounts for brand drugs for beneficiaries in the doughnut hole. These two policies would save $32 billion over 10 years, according to the CBO.
  • Reform payment for health care to pay for value and quality. For instance, when he was a member of Congress, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price sponsored legislation to reform Medicare payments for care after discharge from the hospital. Under Price’s bill, Medicare would pay a fixed rate for a bundle of services over a period of time, allowing providers to share any savings. CBO estimates that such bundled payments for post-hospital care would save about $10 billion over 10 years.
Third, the legislation could use carrots to encourage insurers to enter markets where there is a single or no insurer. With respect to counties that were underserved as of June 1, insurers that enter such counties could be exempted from the health insurance tax. The government could offer a Guaranteed Choice Plan in areas where there are not sufficient choices, particularly in rural areas. People in underserved counties could be allowed to buy into the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP). Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) have all supported the concept of filling in the gaps in underserved counties until the other stabilization policies have a chance to change market dynamics.


These policies are commonsense solutions. Insurance commissioners, actuaries, economists, the CBO, and policy experts across the political spectrum can all testify that such policies would stabilize insurance markets and lower premiums. The only barrier standing in the way of real improvement in insurance markets is the partisan rush to repeal the ACA.
Personally, I think the best fix would be to go to a single-payer system (something like a Medicare-for-all). But that would require some political courage from Congress, and that is currently not something they have much of (in either political party).

After Huffing And Puffing

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Susan B. Anthony

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Real Danger

Trump Fires Priebus As Chief of Staff At White House

(Caricature of Donald Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

The turnover in the Trump administration continues. Last week it was Spicer out and Scaramucci in. This week it's Reince Priebus (the White House Chief of Staff) that's been given his walking papers, and on Monday he'll be replaced with current Homeland Security chief John Kelly.

Priebus never really had the power a normal chief of staff enjoys. In most administrations, the chief of staff is the boss, and no one gets to the president without his approval. That was not the case for Priebus, who had no control over Jared Kushner and Ivanka, or Steve Bannon, or even Anthony Scaramucci (the new presidential hitman and designated bomb-thrower) who seems to have the ear of the president.

Will Kelly actually be given the power of a real chief of staff? It's doubtful. Kushner, Ivanka, Bannon, and probably even Scaramucci will probably still be able to bypass the chief of staff anytime they want to do so -- and that will be often. There will still be no real command structure at the White House -- just Trump and a bunch of underlings vying for power.

And the Trump administration will still be plagued by chaos. Trump may be thinking he's solved the chaos problem with his recent firings and hirings, but they were never the source of the chaos. Trump himself is the source. Trump is a narcissist, who's only concerned with his own image -- and he's prone to shift personal allegiances or political policies at the drop of a hat (and without notifying his staff). With such a leader, there is no way that chaos could not reign supreme in the White House.

The Turtle Is Flipped

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.

The Real Heroes Of The Moment - Murkowski & Collins

 I watched the final Senate vote on repealing Obamacare Thursday night. And the moment that John McCain looked Mitch McConnell right in the eye and turned his thumb down (indicating that he voted NO on the final GOP plan to repeal) was dramatic and historic -- and I was proud that he chose to do the right thing for the American people instead of just toeing the party line. He deserves the credit he has received for defeating that odious bill.

But McCain did not do that alone. In fact, he could not have done it at all if not for two other Republicans who fought for sanity in the repeal effort from the very start of the process. Those two made it clear from the start that they would not vote for any plan that took insurance away from the people in their own states or in the country as a whole. And because of that politically courageous stand, they endured massive pressure from the White House and Republican leadership.

Those two Republicans are Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (pictured above left) and Susan Collins of Maine (pictured above right). Without their courageous and passionate stand for doing the right thing, McCain's historic moment would have been meaningless. For me, they are the true heroes of this moment.

I do not normally support these two Republican senators. While they are not in the teabagger-trumpista insane wing of the Republican Party, they are conservatives and normally vote for a conservative agenda. But I have to admire their political bravery regarding the health care issue.


Political Cartoon is by Marian Kamensky at

Trump Jr's Meeting With Russians "Business As Usual" ?

The chart above reflects the views of the public on Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russians (who he believed represented the Russian government). About two-thirds (67%) believe that meeting was at least inappropriate -- and 37% believe it was probably illegal (violating U.S. election law).

But amazingly, a third of the public (33%) say it was just business as usual. I don't understand that. How could meeting with people representing a foreign government (which most people view as an enemy) to get information to help you win an American election be considered normal behavior? If you don't draw the line at colluding with a foreign government, then where do you draw the line? Is there anything (either unethical or illegal) that your candidate could do that you would not approve of?

In January of 2016, Donald Trump said:

"I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." 

I think this 33% are the people he was talking about. There is literally nothing their "hero" could do that they couldn't justify in their own minds.

The chart above uses information in a new Harvard / Harris Poll -- done between July 19th and 24th of a random national sample of 2,032 registered voters. (No margin of error was given.)

Jekyll And Hyde

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.

Trump (& Supporters) Would Take The U.S. back To 1950's

Trump has said he wants to "Make America Great Again". Some wonder what he means by that. But his followers know. They (and their hero) want an America like the one that existed in the 1950's -- where white males ruled the country, and everyone else knew their place (in the kitchen, in the back of the bus, or in the closet). An America where corporations were unquestioned and the rich were idolized. An America where the government was not questioned, where christianity was king (and non-christians were demonized), and where pollution was not a worry.

The trumpistas (and their leader) look at the 1950's as a time of American perfection, and believe the country started going downhill in the 1960's, when those 50's values were questioned and changed.

Leonard Steinhorn has written a great article on this for Moyers And Company. I urge you to read it to help you better understand the real Donald Trump. Here is much of that article:

Donald Trump and his supporters may be waging battles against the press, immigrants, voting rights, the environment, science, social welfare programs, Planned Parenthood and what they label political correctness and the deep state.
But to them these are mere skirmishes in a much larger conflict. The president has essentially declared an all-out war on the American 1960s.
What he and his followers hope to do is not necessarily turn back the clock to the 1950s, but rather restore a social order, value system and “real America” that they believe was hijacked by the liberal culture, politics, thought leaders and policy priorities that emerged from the ’60s.
An October 2016 PRRI survey found close to three-fourths of Trump voters and white evangelical Christians bemoaning an American society and way of life that to them has changed for the worse since the 1950s. Donald Trump has become their cultural and political reset button.
To be sure, no immigration policy or insistence on saying Merry Christmas will reinstate the 1950s in America. A nation that was 87 percent non-Hispanic white in 1950 will be 47 percent in 2050. Seven in 10 Americans claimed church membership during the ’50s, but now just 20 percent of millennials say churchgoing is important and almost 40 percent say they have no religious affiliation at all.
But while the president and his supporters can’t reverse demography, they are trying through rhetoric, symbolism, policy and politics to resurrect an iconic post-World War II Norman Rockwell version of what it means to be authentically American.
To them, the ’60s undermined what was good and virtuous in America. In their sepia-toned view of our history, it was a triumphant military, a white working class and a Father Knows Best conception of nuclear families, moral values and suburban bliss that made America great.
In this America we saluted the flag, revered the police, attended church, trusted authority, respected tradition and venerated sturdy, stoic, upstanding lunch pail heroes who earned their American dream without griping or government assistance.
It’s not that religious and ethnic minorities are absent from this history — they gave America character, after all and we all need to show our melting pot tolerance. But how nice it was that they knew their place, didn’t get too uppity and honored the primacy of Christians and whites who, the story goes, steadied and built the United States.
America was much more of a community before the agitators caused all the problems, wasn’t it?
Then came the 1960s. And it was then that the so-called agitators pointed out that those charming Levittown havens — just like the Trump apartment complexes — had no welcome mat for blacks and those good middle-class occupations excluded women.
It was a generation that questioned God, fled the church, disparaged conformity, upended gender roles, asserted black power and criticized the military for Vietnam and the police for brutalizing civil rights workers, killing African-Americans and bullying antiwar protesters.
It also was a singular moment in our history that codified into law personal privacy rights and a woman’s right to control her own fate. It would begin our long cultural march to rethink masculinity and lift the taboo from same sex relations. It also launched an environmental movement that said yes to the Earth and no to the smokestack.
In the ’60s our moral compass pivoted from judgmental scrutiny of our private lives to an examination of our collective and individual capacity for prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. Minorities, previously considered America’s outliers, became central to our historical narrative. We passed civil rights and immigration laws that changed the complexion of mainstream America and who showed up to vote. White men would no longer control America’s storyline. . . .
The ’60s bent the river of American history and now Donald Trump and his own “silent majority” are doing everything in their power to bend it back. . . .
It’s often said that Trump is fixated on undoing everything President Obama accomplished. But in truth it’s not the Obama legacy he’s undoing. It’s the 1960s.

Mount Rushmore Addition

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

How Can Republicans Look At Themselves In A Mirror ?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Repeal Of Obamacare Dies In The Senate At 1:30am EST

(This photo image is from C-SPAN.)

At about 1:30 in the morning (EST), the effort to repeal Obamacare (at least part of it) died in the U.S. Senate. Majority Leader McConnell tried to float his "skinny repeal", but it was defeated on a 49 to 51 vote. Forty-nine Republicans voted for repeal, while three Republicans -- McCain (Arizona), Collins (Maine), Murkowski (Alaska) -- joined all forty-six Democrats and the two Independents to vote against repeal.

This is a victory for millions of Americans, who will get to keep their health insurance. But Obamacare is not perfect. It has problems. Will the Republicans now cooperate with Democrats to fix Obamacare? Or will they, along with Trump, try to make the situation even worse by refusing to properly fund the insurance subsidy program and Medicaid? It would not surprise me if they tried that -- continuing to disrupt insurance programs.

The "repeal and replace" effort might not be completely dead. This zombie monster will probably rise again in the future, and we can only guess what form it will take then. But for now we can breathe a sign of relief -- and hope that Republicans will join in an attempt to fix Obamacare, instead of continuing their effort to destroy it.

The Wrapper

2018 Democratic House Candidates Has Risen Sharply

Most polls show that Americans would prefer Democrats over Republicans in a generic poll. But that preference means nothing if Democrats don't field candidates to challenge sitting Republicans. The good news is that, thanks to Trump being in the White House and the GOP-controlled Congress being totally dysfunctional, there are a lot of candidates who want to run for office on the Democratic ticket in 2018.

At this time in 2015, only 44 Democrats had filed with the FEC to run (and had raised at least $5000). This year that number has jumped to 209 candidates.

That doesn't mean they will automatically be elected, of course. And it doesn't mean the Congress will automatically flip to Democratic control. But it does mean that a lot more Republicans will have Democratic challengers next year, and you can't win any seat you don't have a candidate running for.

We need even more good candidates willing to challenge a Republican, but this is a very good start -- and it should give Democrats some hope that 2018 could be a good year.

The chart above is from the Brookings Institute.

Jr. Meets The Russians

Political Cartoon is by Signe Wilkinson at

Senate Dems Refuse To Be Tricked By Fake GOP Vote

(This photo of the U.S. Senate is from C-SPAN.)

The Republicans are in trouble when it comes to doing something about health care. For the last seven years they had whined and moaned about Obamacare -- and they promised to repeal it and replace it with something better if the voters put them in power. Well, they now have that power (controlling both houses of Congress and the White House), but they haven't got a clue about what to do.

They've painted themselves into a corner with their several years of political theater. If they don't repeal Obamacare, they will face the ire of their own party base in the next election -- and if they do repeal it without replacing it with something better, they will face the ire of most other voters in 2018. And that have not been able to come up with something that would be an improvement over Obamacare. Every plan they've suggested will take health insurance away from millions of Americans while raising insurance premiums for those who still have insurance.

In short, they now own the health care issue, whether they repeal Obamacare or not. And that issue is going to hurt them in the next election, because the public has seen that they have nothing but overblown rhetoric to offer on the issue.

One Republican senator came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. He introduced an amendment that would substitute a single-payer system for the current Trumpcare bill being considered. He assured his fellow Republicans that he would not vote for his own amendment, and the GOP had enough votes to make sure it didn't pass. The amendment was just to trick Democrats into voting for "socialized medicine", and that could then be used against them (especially in red states) to mitigate the Republican failure on health care.

His devious plan failed miserably. Not a single Democrat voted for the silly amendment. The amendment failed on a 0 to 57 vote. All 52 Republicans voted against it, and were joined by four red state Democrats -- Manchin (W. Virginia), Tester (Montana), Heitkamp (N. Dakota), and Donnelly (Indiana). Independent Senator King (Maine) also voted no. The other 43 senators (42 Democrats and 1 Independent) voted "present". In other words, they refused to fall for the GOP's trick.

This means the Republicans still "own" the health care issue (regardless of what they do or fail to do about it) -- and that's not going to be good for them in 2018.

Flinging Poo

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at

More People Are Paying Attention To Politics This Year

This chart was made using information in a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. It was done between June 27th and July 9th of a random national sample of 2,505 adults, with a margin of error of 2.2 points.

A significant portion of the population (about 52%) say they are paying more attention to politics since the election of Donald Trump. I'm sure some are doing so to keep up with how their "hero" is doing in the White House. But I suspect that most are paying more attention because Trump scares the hell out of them, and they want to know immediately what kind of crazy thing he is doing or proposing. And then there's a third group -- those of us who enjoy seeing the Trump administration shoot itself in the foot repeatedly and come apart at the seams.

Whatever the reason, my hope is that this translates into a larger than normal turnout in the 2018 off-year election. Turnout is usually low in off-year elections, but Democrats need to have a large turnout to flip Congress.

Mirror, Mirror

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Senator McCain Chastises The Senators Of Both Parties

(This photo of Senator McCain addressing the Senate last Tuesday is from

I am not a big fan of Senator John McCain (R-Arizona). His beliefs and policies are far too conservative for me. But upon his return to the Senate last Tuesday, he gave a very good speech (and even as a die-hard left-winger, I agreed with much of what he said).

In that speech, he chastised his fellow senators (of both political parties) for engaging in purely partisan politics and refusing to work together to find compromises that would benefit the people of this country. Here is most of that speech:

I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest.

But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively. Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.

That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.

I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous eras either. But I’m sure there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.

Our deliberations today – not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities – authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role – are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.

Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours. 

Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.

Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth.  It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’ 

I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires. . . .

What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.

The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it happen many times. And the times when I was involved even in a modest way with working out a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat are the proudest moments of my career, and by far the most satisfying.

This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our cooperation are important. Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public passions of the hour.

We are an important check on the powers of the Executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and in many respects to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!

As his responsibilities are onerous, many and powerful, so are ours.  And we play a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, and the cabinet, in planning and supporting foreign and domestic policies. Our success in meeting all these awesome constitutional obligations depends on cooperation among ourselves. 

The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America. This country – this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good and magnificent country – needs us to help it thrive. That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliations. . . .

What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.

Scary Trip For Scouts

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.