Tag Archives: Romney

A U.S. Parliament: Imagine All the Parties

The State Coffers

The State Coffers

If grandma had wheels she’d be a bus. If Eleanor Roosevelt could fly she would have bombed Dresden. And if the U.S. had a Parliamentary System, like most of the world’s democracies, it would have seven viable parties. Or at least that’s my best guess. In a Parliamentary System, the legislature chooses the prime minister, thus the executive and legislative bodies are intertwined; for better or worse. I’m on the “better” right now.

A Parliamentary System just ain’t going to happen in the U.S., but imagining it, illuminates the forces and fragments that shape American politics today. It also reminds us how inadequately the Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative, and Democrat-Republican dichotomies reflect the thinking of average Americans about politics.

The effort here to sketch a more accurate political map of the U.S. has serious limitations; but,  it’s a start, as much as can be done in a 1000 word essay. My seven imaginary U.S. Parliamentary Parties don’t include numerous likely Splinter Parties;  perhaps the Anti Common Core Union; the anti GMO Food Alliance; and so on.

My best (educated) guess is that no more than two thirds of the current U.S. electorate would actively identify with one of these seven parties. The rest are independents, swing voters, non participants, marginally attached, or splinter party voters. Also, I don’t include an Independent Party among the seven. Take a look at this good PEW article, decomposing the political universe a different way, but with good survey based numbers.

Here is the list of the seven main, viable parties in my imaginary U.S. Parliament, not in order of (suspected) popularity:

1. Nationalist Party. Akin to Tea Party, with populist core. Leader(s): Cruz,
Santorum.

2. Business Party. A.K.A., Corporatist Party; includes current “establishment” R’s.
Leaders (s): Bush, Romney, Fiorina.

3. Family Values Party. Main line, solid social conservatives, evangelicals, religious
voters. Leaders (s): Huckabee.

4. Freedom Party. Akin to Libertarian Party; Ayn Rand is their philosopher queen.
Leaders (s): Rand Paul, Paul Ryan.

6. Social Democrat Party. Essentially the Warren-Sanders Democrat Wing:
Leader (s): Warren, DeBlasio, Sanders.

7. Green Party. Intense and active greeners and environmentalists. Leader (s): Jerry
Brown. (He’s tried making California an international leader everything Green).

There is of course a lot of overlap among the first four parties, And also within the last three. By “viable,” I mean these seven parties would consistently earn enough support, at least 3%-5% of the vote in most elections, a common threshold for holding seats in a parliament. Perhaps three or four would emerge as perennial competitors with large pluralities (maybe 15% to 35%).

After the election (of the legislators), if no party has more than a majority of seats in Congress, they try to form a (stable) coalition to select a Prime Minster. That’s where the real fun begins. There are countless possibilities. Here is one of many:

Barrack Obama (or Hillary Clinton) as head of the Center-Left Party in 2012, would have invited the Social Democrats and Green Partiers to join a governing coalition. If that was not enough to hit 51%, (not an implausible scenario), the Business Party (of establishment Republicans) might have been played ball with them. Stranger things have happened. That would have amounted to the Grand Bargain around budget, revenues, and maybe even immigration, that eluded Boehner and Obama. It would have driven the Tea Partiers crazy. The possibilities are endless.

The first four parties in the list represent factions, wings, segments of the current Republican Party, people who identify themselves as “conservative,” and some of today’s independents who tend to vote Republican (if they vote at all).

The last three parties on the list are, for the most part, factions of the current U.S. Democratic Party, people who identify themselves as “liberals” or “progressives.”  The Center-Left party imagined here is a lot larger than the other (Warren-Sanders) segment of today’s Democrats – what I here call the Social-Democrats. That’s based on real data.

But if Social Democrats had their own party, identity, and profile, they might draw a lot more from the Center-Left, which I take to include many closet Social Democrats who are pragmatists; they know they couldn’t win if they threw caution to the wind.

Notice that I don’t include a Center-Right party in my list, though the Business Party in this typology comes close. Republicans are a lot more fragmented and intense than Democrats. In a multi party system, they’re not as likely to have a broad based, big tent umbrella counterpart to the Center-Left Party; again, the Business Party may qualify.

Short of endorsing the Parliamentary over the Presidential system, we can say this: government shutdowns, brinkmanship on paying the Federal debt, and (arbitrary, ill considered) sequestrations (automatic budget cuts) would have likely been averted with a U.S. Parliament.

See you at the next constitutional convention to adopt amendments to overturning Citizens United; and, if there is time, perhaps creating a U.S. Parliament. If you want to read more about pros and cons of adopting a Parliamentary System in the U.S., read here, here, and here.

 

 

 

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OK, So We All Agree Inequality Has Gotten Out of Hand: What Next?

No one said anything last night about black smith wages

No one said anything last night about black smith wages

Almost everybody now agrees we have an acute problem (in the U.S. and in most advanced economies) around income inequality, wage stagnation, and the disappearance of the middle class.  President Obama made these issues the centerpiece of yesterday’s State of the Union message. The other day, the President’s 2008 opponent, Mitt Romney, said he may run for President again because he wants to help the poor, the disadvantaged, workers, and the beleaguered middle class.  Mitt was a “severe conservative” before he became a severe liberal.  Go Mitt!

Here is the best single chart — heretofore called, “The Chart” —  I’ve seen depicting the inequality and wage stagnation problem.  (Thank you to my friend and colleague Kurt Lightfoot for sharing  this).

Workers’ Hourly Compensation Versus Productivity

The upper line tracks “productivity” in the U.S. economy since 1948.  Productivity represents the combined effects of technology and harder/better work to (potentially) raise prosperity and the standard of living.  The lower line shows the trend in the compensation of workers. The two lines tracked perfectly from the end of World War II to the mid 1970s. Since then, workers haven’t shared in the prosperity.  You can see full analysis and discussion here.

So, what might Mitt do if he becomes President?  Am afraid the things which need to be done are anathema to Mr. Romney’s party and even to many (a majority?) of Americans, at this point in time.  Mitt and his party will support their usual remedies for greater prosperity (and for any other ailment):  lower taxes on the rich and corporations, less regulation, and more “freedom” for all. Of course, not all of that is bad. But is there any evidence it works?  Maybe giving lip service to wage stagnation is a step forward; but it can just as easily be a bait and switch.

Obama’s State of the Union address proposed other remedies, which could help move the lower line on The Chart a little higher, like a raise in the minimum wage and better access to education, but those won’t (and really can’t) by themselves get us back to the trend of shared prosperity.

If we want compensation to track closely again with productivity, It will take reviving organized labor (with reforms), tempering the effects of “free trade,” genuinely repairing an unfair tax system, and seriously containing health care costs (so that some of employers’ premium costs can move to the wage column).

Regarding “free trade,” the President last night championed the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (some call it NAFTA on steroids). Those agreements, which Democrats supported as heartily as Republicans, have contributed greatly to the dismal trend in wages.

As this blog has voiced many times, we need a new paradigm and intellectual basis for “free trade” agreements,  which doesn’t make them bobsled vehicles for race to the bottom.  That said, this blog doesn’t champion “protectionism,” nor yearn for Smoot-Hawley II.