Saturday, August 04, 2007

Where have all the checks and balances gone?

Here's a bit of disturbing news that kept me from sleeping peacefully last night. A "correction" for a real-estate market gone awry? Considering how many people's solvency depends on their home equity, I wouldn't take this lightly.

It means the American people will have that much less to pay with when the bill comes due. What bill? Well, to catch up on maintenance of the crumbling infrastructure for one thing. I won't call it a "quality of life" issue or even "investment in the future" since I imagine those are frivolous aspects of government that some feel ought to be cut off before "drowning it in the bathtub". But functioning infrastructure benefits the economy, and dependence on foreign oil is a huge national security issue. (On a related note, having a functioning healthcare and education system is a sound economic investment as well, not some evil plot by commies and freeloaders...)

The most frightening part, though, is that the president can admit to breaking the law, wipe his butt on the Constitution, and flush the U.S. economy down the toilet, and somehow impeachment is not on the table? How is that possible??? Maybe we could use some leadership?

I'd swear it was the end-times if I believed in the end times. But since I don't, I do believe it's time to start cleaning this mess up...

Normally I like to keep my topics light, and I'm sure to get flamed for this one since I'm not an economist or an expert political analyst (not to mention the fact that I currently live in Europe...). For some excellent expert analysis, look here. For the sake of the U.S. and its Constitution, I think impeachment needs to be on the table and needs to be a priority in order to start turning things around.

18 comments:

Paul said...

What you're saying sure makes sense to me, C. L. But, like you, I'm neither a political scientist nor an economist. Still, your analysis seems as sound as any I've read by the pros.

I especially agree with you that impeachment should not have been taken off the table. For one thing, it allows Bush and Cheney's actions to stand as precedent for any future president. That scares me.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Paul!!!

Exactly. That was one of the points that was explained in one of the articles I linked to above which convinced me of the importance of impeachment rather than letting the lame duck finish out his last term: He has dramatically and frighteningly expanded the power of the president far beyond what the Consitution allows, and if we don't deal with it through Constitutional means while he's still president, it will be that much more difficult to find a way to put the three branches of government back into their intended roles.

SAM said...

Hear, hear.

or is that

Here, here.

mel said...

C.L.,

I'm thrilled that you posted on the subject. So many of our so-called experts have been so wrong on subjects like these that you just have to wonder if the term "expert" has been utterly compromised by corruption.

It's up to citizens of the US and of the world like ourselves to become educated and speak-out and act-out on these subjects 'cause our agents (government, press, pundit-ocracy, etc) are clearly not up to the task to doing it for us. Nor should we have ever expected them to be.

But we've turned it all over to professional gate-keepers so that we could focus on our own greed and now it's biting us.

I don't think democracy will ever die but it sure can get sick ... as we're experiencing particularly in America.

I can only hope that the rest of the world is watching and learning.

Anonymous said...

I am in total agreement here. I am all for impeachment of the douchebag. It might restore some confidence in our Constitution and possibly help us regain some respect in the international community. Not to mention elp save lives in Iraq. When I travel overseas I'm inevitably asked for my opinion on the state of affairs. I have yet to have someone disagree with me. Oh wait, I take that back. Once, some Bushwhores (also tourists from the US) overheard me talking and came to Bush's defense. I later whispered to the foreigner, "Those are the idiots that put that man in office and are determined to keep him there." He chuckled.

I heard Bush recently signed something to make it illegal to protest against the war using violence. But what exactly is "violence"? Hmmm...

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Sam!!!

Hey Mel!!!

Like I said, I didn't really want to have to blog about this because I kept thinking somebody's going to do something. Then over the past year or so, I've kept wondering how many laws this man has to break -- and how openly -- before somebody does something. Now it's starting to look like we can't sit back and wait for "somebody" to fix things, no matter how obvious it is what needs to be done.

The constitution can only work if the people insist that the government follow it.

I agree with your post about it being an "outside context problem." Considering the state of the U.S. economy (real production, consumption, infrastructure, dependence on foreign/Chinese investment) there's a danger of a correction coming that may be a pretty rude shock to people whose whole paradigm rests on the assumption that things always keep getting bigger and better. And unfortunately a typical response to such a shock would be to grab a gun and point it at whoever your leaders and kin tell you to blame. And -- as we've learned from our adventure in Iraq -- if there's any solution guaranteed to make things worse, that's it.

Hey Anonymous!!!

Very good points. I've had a fair amount of contact with foreigners from various countries pre-Bush and now, and I think a lot of Americans don't realize how much clout/prestige/goodwill the U.S. had, and how dramatically that positive image has been shattered by Bush's irresponsible and criminal behavior.

wry catcher said...

All I can say is I completely agree. I feel it more strongly by the day. I don't know what to do about it, though. I still pay plenty of taxes to the US for the privilege of being a citizen, but there is no one in that country who gives a shit what citizens think. Least of all those who live outside the US.

I find it beyond distressing to sit and watch all this happen.

JulieAnn Henneman said...

It depresses me to even go here. I've shaken my fist and voted till I'm blue in the face. But gee, if I say anything agains the w-a-r, they might seize my assets. Oh, sorry, asset.

God...

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Wry!!!

I know how you feel. Since I've moved away from the U.S. and I've posted critical things about some U.S. policies and systems (especially transportation and health care) and have written corresponding positive things about France, I'm paranoid that people will take me for some sort of turncoat. The reality is that I care about my home country and this is my idea of helpful, constructive criticism.

Actually, after my latest nude beach post I was thinking of doing another joke anthropologist one all about public urination. Just to prove that I'm not biased against America, but rather I'm willing and able to mock the French when it's warranted. ;^)

Hey Julie Ann!!!

I hate to stir up controversy on this subject myself, which is why I'm racking my brain to write a new post to put up as quickly as possible...

Rebecca said...

Thanks for that last link - I'm going to forward it to my family (half of whom are sane, and half of whom support Bush). I think a LOT of people (like me) WANT to do something, but have no idea WHAT to do. It's not like we can just get a group together and go knock on the White House door. I get so frustrated that so many things I read talk about impeachment, and how something needs to be done about Congress, and yet...what? If I knew what to do, I would do it.

aerin said...

It's just a bad situation, with no real answers. I may get flamed for this, but I don't think impeachment would help at this point. The president is a lame duck anyway. Most of his party is moving away from him on votes for things like health insurance for children (what a concept). Although I still disagree with his policies, including what's happening with the war. If he were impeached though, we'd just get Cheney, who might be even worse.

I believe some of these policies (GWB and Minn) are directly descended from Reagan (government is the enemy).

While spending taxpayer dollars wisely is important (I think everyone can agree on that) - there comes a point where I would much prefer even a 1% tax hike to crumbling roads and bridges.

On the other hand, my city is building a multi- million dollar stadium for a sports team. Will it pay for itself? We actually haven't paid off the last one. I would much rather pay for road improvements and schools - but that would be incredibly unpopular.

I don't have any answers - I will agree that we are in one heck of a mess.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

Yeah, that last link is a good one.

Hey Aerin!!!

I wasn't convinced of the importance of impeachment until I read that article (transcript, actually) that I linked to in the last paragraph of my blog entry. In a nutshell, the point is the following:

GWB has dramatically expanded the powers of the presidency -- far beyond what the president should be able to do -- and he did it by basically claiming he could do X-Y-Z, doing it, and no one stopping him. If he's not called on it and stopped while he's still in office, the next president (and all following) will inherit this new, hopelessly bent-out-of-shape role. It's hard enough for the other branches of government to say no to GWB right now, but when the next president has precedent on his side, it will be nearly impossible.

As far as the presidency going to Cheney is concerned, I'm not worried. Impeaching Bush will certainly take Cheney down with him since he has his hands in all the same pies.

ben said...

Just a couple of points.

First. I wouldn't argue too much for a Bush impeachment until we get rid of Cheney and see who Bush replaces him with. The problem is you'd never be able to get rid of both of them at the same time. Imagine, just for a moment, President Cheney. *shudder*

Second. As the Congress so willingly demonstrated on the NSA spying issue, the problem isn't solely the Bush administration. I think the entire government has started to wobble out of control. All in the name of security of course.

I'm far more worried about the slow but inevitable gap developing between the haves and the have nots. Especially when those gaps are developing in a country governed by a combination of Calvinist (only the blessed will succeed) and The Secret (wish really, really hard and you will get as rich as Oprah, if not you're not trying hard enough).

I’m not even sure the Democrats will solve the problem in two years. Nixon got elected because he claimed he would stop the war within months of being elected – in 1968. He shifted the power from Democrat to Republican. A similar shift for similar reasons will probably happen in 2008. I just hope the results work out a little better.

[Off topic snark - Bill Moyers was Lyndon B. "Vietnam is a domino" Johnson's press secretary. I wonder if in 30 years we'll be greeting Dana Perino as one of the premier American journalists. At least she's cuter.]

To be honest CL. I don't worry about the end of times. I do however wonder what date historians will use as the start of the second dark ages. I wonder if the Roman's saw their bridges collapsing and thought WTF?!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Ben!!!

For #1, I think Bush and Cheney could be impeached together and/or that a Bush impeachment would bring Cheney down as well. The worst case scenario ("President Cheney") is not significantly worse than the status quo because Cheney already has a huge amount of power and he'd come in as a lame duck with not much time left. The benefits of impeachment strongly outweigh this risk.

For #2, it's true that the entire government has started to wobble out of control. That's the whole reason impeachment is so critical. It's a way of saying "Remember that crazy little thing we had called the Constitution? Maybe we could go back to using that, hmmm...?"

I agree with you on the fundamental problems caused by increasing gaps between rich and poor in a country where financial success is seen as a sign of virtue and righteousness. It's possible we may be at the start of a new dark ages. But that doesn't mean one should just roll over and give up...

ben said...

C.L.,
You literally can't impeach both together because, evidence or not, you'd never get the votes.

To impeach both would mean getting enough Republican votes to give the presidency to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They won't do that. Republicans, constitutionally irritated or not, would never willingly give the presidency to the Democratic party.

And believe me, you do not want a Cheney presidency. While he does have a lot of power, there are still people like Rice in the cabinet giving a moderate amount of balance. I doubt you'd see that under Cheney - he would replace her and find an excuse to expand the war greatly. After all. why fight two wars, Iraq and Afganistan, when you can combine them into a wonderful, regional conflict by connecting the dots in Iran?

Like I tried to say, the best way forward would be to find a way to get rid of Cheney first and force Bush to replace him with a moderate. If you manage that, things would be far better. Bush is stubborn, incompetent and blind to reality, but without the Cheney machine to keep him propped up, I doubt he would have nearly as much power.

hm-uk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hm-uk said...

I agree with your position in this post, CL, because I sense that the way the US government is moving further and further away from the transparency that is 'supposed' to be guaranteed by the system of checks and balances. Political analysis is so filled with political-speak (which is then mired in economic-speak, strategy-speak and defense-speak) that the average American who tries to voice an opinion is accused of not fully understanding the issues. Subsequently, they're afraid to speak out any further, believing themselves to be in the hands of leaders who understand and act in the public's best interests. This rhetoric and bluster seems to keep the incumbent party (Repubs and Dems alike) from having to truthfully and simplistically address the public and answer questions about policy. The parties depend on this complicity to stay in power. It's a corrupted system.

I know that corruption and crony-ism has always been around in politics - hell, you have to have 'deep pockets' in order to run for any office higher than a magistrate judge, or be funded by people who have their own agendas. I am going out on a limb by publicly acknowledging my disdain for the current American government and whether my votes were counted, or not, the Republicans are still the current representatives of the country of my birth. I do fear backlash for voicing my anger at the incompetence, but perhaps not as much now that GWB is on his way out, hence my reluctance to speak out before now. I may be singing a different tune if another Republican president is sworn into office in 2008!

I hope, for all of the American people who still truly believe that they deserve a better government than the one that's been in place for the past 8 years, that one is elected for them, and for the rest of the world's sake. I voted by postal ballot in the past two elections and the election was conceded well before the overseas votes were in. Alas, I will vote again, and again and pretend that my vote matters, as did the rest of the American public in the last two elections.

Is there any real steam behind a call for impeachment of Bush? If so, where do I sign up?

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Ben!!!

That's a good point. Of course we're kind of entering the realm of speculation: there are a lot of things that might happen, and we can't know in advance what will happen. I am completely serious when I say that I am convinced that an impeachment would do major political damage to Cheney and it would strengthen the Constitution's checks and balances (and increase people's expectation of having to follow the Constitution, maybe even persuade some of these slackers in Congress to grow a backbone), and that all of that would tie Cheney's hands and prevent him from further illegal actions.

But you're right that I can't be sure that would be the effect, and there is a real possibility that after a Bush impeachment Cheney could potentially have the opportunity to do some serious harm.

Hey Hm-Uk!!!

Exactly. That's a very good point about making ordinary people feel like they're not qualified to have an opinion on economic, constitutional, and foreign policy issues. That may be one of the reasons there's so much emphasis on simpler issues like gay marriage.