The Party of Pragmatism

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Clauses and adjectives fly back and forth in attempts to spear opponents. Verbs are parried and thrust, aiming for the weak spot in the logical armor of the arguments of the opposite opinion. Nowhere is there an attempt to gain understanding across the chasm of ideologies. And thus we continue this bifurcation of the political spectrum, with the extremes of the right and left pulling apart the middle who does not have a voice in the cacophony of political discourse.


The silent majority of the US does not identify either as a progressive socialist liberal nor as a libertarian follower of Ayn Rand. In early 2016, before the craziness of the latest election cycle played out, fully 42% of the US voting age population identified as independent. Only 29% were self-identified Democrats, and 26% were Republicans. Obviously, the ideologies of both parties are being rejected by a plurality of the population. Neither party appeals to a broad swatch of the voting-age citizens of the US. Yet it is the ideologies of the extremes that are driving the legislative agenda of government. And it is the fear of being primaried by a fanatic of one's own party who paints an incumbent as being insufficiently ideologically pure that keeps pushing the parties further and further towards the extremes.


This skewing of the discourse towards the extremes is what is poisoning the well of civic dialogue. Of course you cannot ever dare to forge a compromise with the evil bastards of the opposition. If you do, you will be pilloried as a RINO or a cuck or some other derogatory term. We must maintain ideological purity at all costs! Who cares if the country falls down all around us, at least we kept ourselves pure.


Thus we get legislation that doesn't address real problems, but is enacted through parliamentary tricks simply because it can be done. The mental gymnastics that were used in unsuccessful attempts to repeal health care, and the similar gymnastics that were used to ram a Trojan horse tax bill through using reconciliation in the Senate laid bare the legislative charade for all to see. This time it was the Republicans who used the tools to pass legislation that is deeply unpopular with the voters of this nation. A few years ago it was the Democrats who were unsuccessful in getting Republican participation in creating the Affordable Care Act, thus forever relegating that legislation to become a perennial target for repeal. It really doesn't matter what the actual legislation is. The fact is that it has become impossible to work in a bipartisan fashion, because the power structure in both political parties has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.


As this trend towards political extremism lurches forward, the side effects are becoming more and more toxic. The Republican party entered this year with majorities in both houses of Congress, and a (nominally) Republican President. Yet due to the constant pull towards the right, they were unsuccessful in passing any sort of repeal of the Affordable Care Act. What passed the House with its fermented tea influence was too extreme for the Senate to take up. What came out of the Senate still found enough disfavor with the shriveled moderate wing of the party, and the result was a series of embarrassing failures. All because the power in the Republican party did not accept the possibility of developing a truly bipartisan piece of legislation by working with Democrats.


The only success that Republicans had legislatively in 2017 came when they finally acknowledged the necessity to kiss the ring of their potentate, and accept a tax reform proposal whose only reform was to cut corporate rates, and sprinkle a little paycheck dust on the working class, while bestowing outsized largesse upon the donor class who keep greasing the gears of politics. The display of toadying that accompanied the celebration at the White House after passage was outside of my experience. The sound of sucking up heard on the White House steps rivaled only the sound of jobs being sucked down to Mexico after the NAFTA treaty (according to Ross Perot).


So what is it that the middle of the nation would like to see? What is it that those of us who are not party activists want from our elected officials going into the future? I can only speak for myself, but I can enumerate several items that I think would truly move this country forward again, instead of subjecting ourselves to bashing our heads repeatedly into concrete blocks like we're doing now.


I'd like to see a real effort made to put the Social Security system on sound actuarial footing. A part of that would come from raising the earnings subjected to Social Security. A part might come from a small increase in the tax withholdings (say from 6.2% to 6.5%, increased by no more than 0.05% per year.) A part should come from examining the Social Security Disability system, since it has become a de facto welfare system that is rife with corruption (See Eastern Kentucky), and is the epitome of a debilitating system for those whose ambition in life is to draw a check. But I'd also like to see a new option added to Social Security, one where a fraction of a person's withholdings would go toward purchasing an equity-based product, with the aim that eventually when a person retired, they would have an equity share in the nation's economy that could either be converted into an annuity (Social Security Plus) or turned over to the control of the retiree. What would be better than to have equity ownership and the virtues of capitalism shared across the entire nation, instead of just the investor class. By the way, such a combination plan (partial privatization coupled with tax increases) just might find bipartisan favor, if someone had the guts to propose this.


I'd like to see a real effort made to increase the portion of the gross domestic product that is applied to maintain and improve our infrastructure. I'd like it to be set up for at least a 5 year period so that the private companies who will be doing the work will gain the confidence to invest in equipment and labor and training to ensure that we don't get in a boom and bust cycle, which is a very inefficient way to spend money. The money for this infrastructure work should be local, state and Federally based, but the majority should be Federal funds. Perhaps an imaginative program could be made where local and state governments borrow excess Social Security funds and pay back at a lower rate than the bond market, but pay Social Security more than Treasury rates. And the money would be put to work, instead of sitting in a lockbox doing nothing (we should have done this 15 years ago).


I'd like a real attempt made to control medical costs. If someone were to design the most inefficient medical system possible, you may not top the one we've cobbled together. We apply costs to the companies providing benefits, hobbling their competitiveness, while begrudgingly providing one step up from charity care with Medicaid. Meanwhile, a relatively efficient Medicare system goes on but doesn't ever become a model for expansion. I'd like to see medical coverage decoupled from employer provision, and a basic medical provision be made through the government. Insurance providers should serve as they do in Medicare, by providing supplemental coverage. They seem to do right well at that, given the volume of ads aimed at convincing seniors of their benefits. If you freed companies from paying and administering medical benefits, you really could unleash the competitiveness of the private sector. And someone needs to really look at the pharmaceutical industry since their costs keep growing exponentially in our current system.


I'd like to see a real effort made to reform the safety net. Not with the goal of eliminating it willy-nilly, but in making it more efficient with less administrative overhead, and making it family-friendly instead of placing barriers in the way of encouraging families and marriage. You want people to be encouraged to work, instead of causing them to avoid working to avoid losing some of their benefits. What we have now does not work well.


I'd like to see public school education valued instead of becoming the punching bag for every dissatisfied interest group in the nation. I'd like to see academic achievement placed on an equal standing with athletic achievement, and I'd like to see the culture shift towards making it cool to be smart. Something to yearn for instead of being the target of bullying.


I'd like to see a real review of our military and its mission and its financial needs. Some of the revisions sought by the President may be valuable and worthwhile, but his methods of bullying our allies while supporting the strongmen of the world is the wrong way to go. But do we really need military bases in so many places, supporting who knows what missions? The first time years ago I heard that we had an Africa Command I wondered who authorized this, and what is it doing? And while we're at it, I believe diplomacy is more valuable than military might, so I'd like this evisceration of the diplomatic function to cease immediately.


Now, I know that this list (and it's only a partial list) will be assailed as being agin' the Constitution. So be it. My interpretation of the Constitution under the general welfare clause allows for functions to be undertaken without being specifically enumerated within a clause of the document. The world is a far different place than it was 230 years ago when the Constitution was written. If we are going to exist with our neighbors and our adversaries without going to armed conflict, then we need to adapt to the realities of the world today. We cannot afford to be ideological purists like we could when we were building this nation in the 1800's. And besides, it seems like ideological purity caused our greatest internal conflict back about 1861. No, instead of a Tea Party reverting to original principles that won't work in today's world, we need a Pragmatic Party, working to deal with real problems in a way that allows for them to be solved while still allowing for regional and state differences in approaches. Who's with me?


opher goodwin Added Jan 2, 2018 - 12:23pm
Politics has become so partisan and emotional that there is no debate. The country is hopelessly divided. It is the same in Britain with Brexit.
I'm not really able to comment on what is the best way forward in the USA but I would suggest ditching Trump might be a good start and then a bipartisan approach to solving the major problems like health, education and foreign policy.
Trump and the Tea Party are so divisive. The world needs a more compassionate approach.
Dino Manalis Added Jan 2, 2018 - 12:28pm
Pragmatism is realism and combines the best ideas from all directions and adopts or borrows them as its own to unite people.
George N Romey Added Jan 2, 2018 - 12:47pm
Politics are now of the extreme. Those controlling politics are for the most part status quo but with lower taxes. If you happen to be of the ,5% life has never been better. You have no need for better job opportunities, accessible and affordable healthcare, decent public schools and so on. You just don’t understand the brew haha but know you want things to stay the same. And so the extremes shout and point the finger while the powerful and influential get what they want.
Dan Paragine Added Jan 2, 2018 - 2:06pm
Enter your comment here...yes and yes, the rich and powerful get what THEY want. Unfortunately our national state of altruism is in decline. Including our coveted standard of living. There are world players influencing our government, perhaps it is their own version of a new world order. 
From attempts to destabilize the Euro with Brexit to our own Citizens United. Wealth transfer is the name of the game. Unfortunately most Americans will not benefit in the long term, particularly our children.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Jan 2, 2018 - 3:02pm
I have a question: How does the left-wing base call its rinos, cucks, traitors? I mean how do leftists call their representatives in rage when they make again a compromise, selling their most important issue out?
Let's say Governor x announces that he is happy to forbid previously legalized drugs again in exchange to building more child care facilities. How do the potheads call him?
Oh, wait, when was actually the last time a LEFTIST made a compromise? Isn't a compromise that the left gets again what they want while the right gets nothing in return?
Could somebody source a mainstream op-ed that calls a leftist a hardliner for not giving up the wishes of his constituents? Just one or two examples. Thank you.
Dave Volek Added Jan 2, 2018 - 3:04pm
I agree with you up until the last point: forming a new party. In my opinion, that would be a waste of time for this new party will eventually become like the other parties: more concerning with attaining and maintaining power influence than the betterment of society.
And you already know I'm on a different road.
Flying Junior Added Jan 2, 2018 - 3:19pm
I like your idea of taking a second look at this idea of employer-provided health insurance.  I remember when Bill and Hillary affirmed that this would be the keystone of our healthcare system so many decades ago.  I didn't like the idea then.  I don't like it now.
You would think that conservatives would be excited about freeing businesses from paying high health insurance premiums.  Then we really could see a free market.  I guess it was just easier to cut their taxes in half.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 2, 2018 - 3:23pm
Are we to measure success in terms of legislative achievements? Let us consider for a moment what this actually translates to. What is legislation but the process whereby the law is produced? And thus is it's fruit labeled.
Are we to accept that compromise for the sake of being able to say that something was passed is the most desirable outcome? Do not misunderstand me to say that one ought never compromise; that is folly. Still we should ask ourselves, do we need more laws? We don't have enough already? Really? Yet every "legislative achievement" (new law) is to be heralded as some measure of progress.
We dont need more laws. The people writing and enforcing (or not enforcing, as the case may be) the laws do not abide by any existing laws now. Why should one think that any new legislation should prove any different? So who are these laws made for then? Rhetorical question....
john kirk Added Jan 2, 2018 - 3:37pm
the democrats did not want to work with anyone , for them it was, do what we say or the highway .  you fulfil these verses 
1 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
except you worship each other 
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 5:43pm
Opher, I sometimes despair due to the political climate not only in this nation, but across the globe. Just as we obtain the tools to unite civilization, it seems we are intent on dividing it into smaller and smaller tribes. I marvel on my own blog site at the different countries where I am read. Not all that many, but today it was Ireland and Libya. Yet we seem intent on division instead of unity. Sad!
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 5:44pm
Dino, I agree with your statement. Still would be interested in seeing a post from you.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 5:46pm
George, I believe that many on the political extremes cannot identify with the humanity of those who have an opposing political opinion. We seem to have lost the trait of empathy. Certainly that is one of my main complaints about Donald Trump is that he seems devoid of any form of empathy.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 5:47pm
Dan - I definitely agree with your sentiments. Thanks for your response.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 5:51pm
Benjamin, I don't think the left has formulated derogatory terms aimed at those who lack ideological purity. The right has taken over the language for these terms through their long-term use of talk radio. They developed the terms as short hand for a set of defining characteristics. For the left, it has only been since the emergence of the Sanders wing of the party that you had an ideological litmus test with the exception of the issue of Roe v Wade.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 5:55pm
FJ - the very first post I had on Writerbeat was a satirical piece where there was a discussion between a true believer and a disembodied voice providing the voice of reason and logic. I detailed how much of a tax break is given to businesses and people due to employer based health coverage. For an average worker, the tax writeoffs are just about equal to the subsidy given through the ACA. Yet I keep hearing that those who have employer coverage are much more virtuous and moral than those who get coverage from government, because they have earned their coverage and aren't taking anything away from the government. Fooey!
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 5:59pm
Burghal, here you go messing up a perfectly good concept by digging up the whole issue of doubting the need for any additional laws. That in and of itself is a topic that is worthy of further discussion. You can add regulations in support of legislation as being one of the things that should be included.
It would be good if we could write laws and regulations so that they made sense instead of being written in legalese and ensuring full employment of lawyers, but alas, that is not to be.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 6:01pm
John, I'm not certain exactly where you are going with your inclusion of scripture to create an analogy between Democrats and the worship of Baal. Therefore I am ignoring it.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 6:14pm
Dave - missed your comment. Yes, I'm familiar with your proposal on a different form of government, and if the nature of humans was better, then we might migrate to such a system. I doubt that a party can emerge from the middle, but if we continue to waddle towards complete incompetence in the legislative and administrative wings of government, who knows?
My own thoughts are that both parties in the US are well down their moral decline and decadence curve, and the need for a new party has never been clearer. The hurdles against a new party gaining steam are huge, though. If I were to bet, I would bet that a schism in the Republicans would happen first, with the Tea Party wing striking off on their own before anyone would be motivated enough to lead from the middle of the political spectrum.
opher goodwin Added Jan 2, 2018 - 6:15pm
Dino - I agree with you - listening and compromise is the way to pragmatic solutions.
opher goodwin Added Jan 2, 2018 - 6:16pm
EABC - yes this division is being stoked for political purposes. It is creating much unhappiness and distress. I think it is time for a new consensus to arise.
George N Romey Added Jan 2, 2018 - 7:38pm
Change will come when enough of the developed world becomes undeveloped again. Too many people think it’s all to do about nothing.
Doug Plumb Added Jan 2, 2018 - 8:22pm
I read William James. Many people think pragmatism is a philosophy, I do not. It is rudderless and therefore cannot be used to give any direction or provide any precepts besides the utilitarian perspective which has been thoroughly discredited as a philosophy.
James Watson Added Jan 2, 2018 - 9:19pm
You yanks need to stop bashing Trump. Regardless of the benefits of free trade, there must come a point where your own industries could be destroyed. Is it better to pay a little more for goods to maintain your industries, in competition with child labour at minuscule rates of pay? 
I am not saying that ALL free trade is bad. All I am saying is that it does not follow that cheaper goods are always beneficial. It depends upon the circumstances. 
There is a role for protection, especially if the providers of goods and services are living in squalor so as to charge low prices. 
That is the really important problem.
Tubularsock Added Jan 3, 2018 - 12:40am
Well when you are dealing with a population that is just satisfied with the latest piece of shit iPhone and the next video game and reality-TV-show becoming awake is tough. Dump is the best thing to happen to this country. He is on a rip it apart program that will make living in the country environmental dangerous.
Pipe lines pouring thousands of gallons of shit over the landscape without any control, offshore drilling without regard to safety!
It is way better than chicken-shit Bush, Bummer, and Witch! Their solutions were sweeping it all under the rug and grab the wealth calling out how they love the displaced.
Dump is all out front with FUCK YOU I'll get mine to even care.
Soon all we'll have to do is groove on the rubble. RIGHT ON! 
And this is Tubularsock's positive view. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 3, 2018 - 1:42am
EABC -  Sorry to piss in the cornflakes, but thanks for acknowledging that it is a matter of concern.
I do agree that pragmatism is not a philosophy. Philosophy is what you would do if you could. Pragmatism is what can actually be accomplished
wsucram15 Added Jan 3, 2018 - 1:50am
Another good one..really. I agree with Tubularsock (above).
But I have many more questions than you..AND we are in an ELECTION year..whoopee!   "Love the way you lie"- It is how we vote now, the lies we like best.
I have protests and calls on issues through February.
john kirk Added Jan 3, 2018 - 5:52am
Love that great leader Trump   :-) 
john kirk Added Jan 3, 2018 - 5:58am
three cheers for fox news
watch the movie Hillary's American and find out about the history of democrats or read the book " 
'The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left'
the truth is clear 
Doug Plumb Added Jan 3, 2018 - 8:10am
re "I do agree that pragmatism is not a philosophy. " So that is two of us now. Great !!!
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 3, 2018 - 8:38am
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:10am
OK, so pragmatism is not a philosophy. Neither are Democrat nor Republican stand-alone philosophies. And I agree that there needs to be a better name for the movement than the Pragmatics. That will never motivate someone to take one for the cause. So all suggestions for a name for this nascent movement are welcome.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:23am
James - you make a good point about identifying those industries that are truly needed from a strategic perspective. Where I think the antipathy comes towards trade agreements is more from the power that these agreements seem to give to multi-national corporations. After all, they are the ones that are moving jobs around by changing their supply chain logistics. The problem with Trump's approach is that he's throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and by framing all trade as a win/lose paradigm, he's guaranteeing that he'll end up losing more than he wins.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:23am
Oh! Its a movement?! Da-yum! 
What about libertarian? or constitutional ?How about the stop making so damned many rules and live by the same laws you pass dont sell state favors for personal gain stop pissing on my leg and telling me its raining party? 
Too wordy?
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:25am
Tube - you have the ability to cut through the BS and provide the essence of the argument. Bread and circuses are capable of pacifying the largest number of people for the longest period of time.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:27am
Jeannie - thanks for being an activist. Most of my activism is limited to speaking in this public forum. Bad knees will cut back on the marching that I can do.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:29am
John Kirk - thanks for the clarification. I now know exactly where you stand on the issues. A mindless automaton parroting bullet points provided by your masters at Fox. Ever try to think for yourself? You might just find it interesting.
opher goodwin Added Jan 3, 2018 - 10:38am
How about 'The Sensibles'?
john kirk Added Jan 3, 2018 - 1:35pm
Even A Broken Clock...thanks for the joy you give me 
The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its actions are evil.
john kirk Added Jan 3, 2018 - 1:35pm
john kirk Added Jan 3, 2018 - 1:46pm
the laws and lawyers in Washington and fake news I say this 
Mat 23:2  "The scribes and the Pharisees administer the authority of Moses, 
Mat 23:3  So do whatever they tell you and follow it, but stop doing what they do, because they don't do what they say. 
Mat 23:4  They tie up burdens that are heavy and unbearable and lay them on people's shoulders, but they refuse to lift a finger to remove them. 
Dan Paragine Added Jan 3, 2018 - 7:36pm
Who's truth does "pragmatism " speak to?
the lobbyists, corporations or the people?
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 4, 2018 - 4:07pm
Dan, I would hope that it is the people who have been deprived of a voice by those who hold the reins of power. Certainly the lobbyists for the corporations, and the massive donor class are guiding the direction right now, and those just don't seem to be working.
We will have to see if we can reclaim government of the People, by the People, and for the People.
Ari Silverstein Added Jan 5, 2018 - 1:08pm
Just because someone claims to be an independent doesn’t mean one is an independent.  Don’t believe me, take a look at the polling results of any election and you will find that close to 100% of the electorate voted for either a Republican or Democrat.  Only those that occasionally vote for a Republican and occasionally vote for a Democrat, would I call an “Independent.”  However, even then, people that cross party lines probably only do so for insignificant elections.  When it comes to voting for POTUS or Senator or Governor they probably tow the party line in election after election.  So there really are very few independents out there. 
I agree things have only gotten more partisan over time, however I don’t think that means everyone has a vested interest in the status quo.  If that were true, the Democrats would have never passed Obamacare and the Republicans would have never repealed the individual mandate. 
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 5, 2018 - 3:28pm
You are correct, Ari, that most who are registered as independents do lean either to Republican or Democrat positions. That being said, I think that the growth of those willing to register as independents shows an increasing dissatisfaction in the agendas of either party. Sometimes registering as an independent is strictly a tactical decision, since in many states it allows you to declare that you wish either party's ballot in a primary election.
It would be interesting if more states followed California's example and allowed for open primaries where the top two vote-getters in the primary faced each other in the general election, regardless of party. I take that to be one of the experiments that is running at the state level and more power to them.

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