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The Politics of Politics as Usual

Posted on Dec 24, 2009

By Ruth Marcus

Cash for Cloture! Cornhusker Kickback! Louisiana Purchase!

We are, or so we are told by conservative commentators and politicians, supposed to be indignant, outraged, horrified at the fact that lawmakers with bargaining power extracted special deals for their states in the negotiations over health care reform.

“Prostitution has been legalized in Washington, D.C.,” railed Rush Limbaugh. “Backroom deals that amount to bribes,” lamented Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Give me a break.

You may not like it. It’s certainly not pretty. But this kind of political horse-trading has been around since the dawn of politics, if not the dawn of horses. So the protestations of fury from opponents of the measure are awfully hard to take.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., obtained special treatment on Medicaid for his state before he agreed, at long last, to provide the 60th Senate vote. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., squeezed out extra Medicaid funding for her state—and proudly pointed out that the actual amount was $300 million, not a mere $100 million as had initially been reported. These are lawmakers looking out for the interests of their states, which, if I’m not mistaken, is a big part of what they were elected to do. Somewhere I hear the faint sound of Lyndon Johnson clapping. Exhortations about the common good are nice, but nothing persuades like a bridge.

If anything, the Democratic deal-making looks tame by comparison to the Republican arm-twisting in advance of—and during—the House vote on the prescription drug program for Medicare in 2003. In the most egregious example, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, offered to endorse the son of retiring Michigan Republican Nick Smith if he agreed to vote “yes” on the bill. Somehow I don’t recall the Limbaughs of the world getting the vapors over DeLay’s behavior.

In any event, there’s a huge difference between an offer that goes purely to a politician’s personal benefit and an offer of help to a lawmaker’s state (and therefore to his or her own political benefit). The first verges on the criminal. The second is part of the job description.

Granted, this is not President Barack Obama’s promised change from politics as usual. Then again, that’s just what it is: politics as usual.
Ruth Marcus’ e-mail address is marcusr(at symbol)
© 2009, Washington Post Writers Group


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By Quinty, January 3, 2010 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

Mandika -

Regarding defense:  “Its the only activity that the founders outlined that needed
to be provided for by the citizens,”  you said.

The Constitution also says something about providing “for the general welfare.”

Not to make a bid deal out of this, Clinton reduced the defense appropoiation
by a billion or two, bringing it to approx 296 or 7 billion a year. Bush more
than doubled it. Plus, there all the expenditures which show up in other
budgets. As well as the supplementals for concurrent wars. The “peace
dividend” was a dream. A drop in the bucket. And we spend more than all the
other countries in the world combined on “defense.”

Is this the cost of empire? It appears to be. We could easily “provide for the
common defense” with a much smaller budget, if “defense” were all we are
interested in. The “war on terror?” This is not a war calling for big armies,
requiring the needless invasions of third world countries.

Not to quibble, the VAT is not the only means other countries use to pay for
universal healthcare. There are other, more sensible, less regressive ways to do
it here.

Are you rich Mandinka? Why defend them so? They have, as you may know
been doing quite well in recent years. The gap, if you haven’t felt it, has grown
in recent decades. The middleclass is declining. While Wall Street is fine and Main Street suffers.

Have a good day.

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By ardee, January 3, 2010 at 10:07 am Link to this comment

cabdriver, December 30, 2009 at 2:19 am

Can you not think of two far more appropriate words for such as that sort?

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By mandinka, January 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

Quinty, how much is spent on Defense its been roughly the same for 2 decades 20%. We;ve been thru the ‘peace dividends” before that hollowed the military or eliminated our intelligence activities. Remember there is only 1 governmental activity that works that’s defense. Its the only activity that the founders outlined that needed to be provided for by the citizens.
The rest of the fed budget 80% is typical of most governments spending its too big resulting in our being over taxed. The average Fed makes $120K a year almost twice what taxpayers earned. Time to freeze pay and benefits and yet barak is adding to this dollar guzzler.
If universal healthcare is a panacea then pay for it like the other countries do a VAT that way everyone has skin in the game and no free lunches. The dem’s had a ready and easy way to pay for healthcare coverage Tort reform, but because they are the dem’s single largest donor they weren’t asked to feel the pain

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By Quinty, January 2, 2010 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment

Gentlemen -

How can anyone precisely know how much of the annual federal budget - or,
put another way, our tax dollars - goes to “defense?”

Many are the sources, many are the blind spots, much is the uncertainty and
lack of knowledge.

As for imposing a value added tax to fund national healthcare.

    One, such a 7% tax is extremely digressive.

    And two, why not take a hundred or two hundred billion from “defense”
when clearly we could spend it in a better, more sensible way? If the Muslim
hordes intend to hide under my bed at night in order to slit my throat while I
sleep tanks, aircraft carriers, advanced weapons systems, hundreds of
thousands of troops and numerous senseless wars will probably not help me.

    But I digress. And why not tax the rich to provide for national healthcare?
They have done quite well in recent decades. Their revenue sources have not
been so well protected since the days of laissez faire. Not since McKinley and
the Gilded Age has their ostentatious wealth met with as much government
and public approval. So why not tax the rich?

    What else are they good for?

    ( -: }}

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By mandinka, December 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm Link to this comment

ardee, I really think that you have a severe learning disability. Did you READ your own source?? They qualified the numbers and only used 1 small segment of the budget.
As usual you FAILED

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By ardee, December 30, 2009 at 4:25 am Link to this comment

mandinka, December 29 at 2:58 pm

Why of course you diminish the fact I posted, even if clumsily trying to do so by disparaging the source. You claim to cite GAO figures, but, like in every one of your distortions and out right lies, you fail to link to such.

I used that source because it was the first in the list of “googled” sites, and can be easily verified, even by such as you.

Heres yet another such:

Of course this one only claims a thirty percent figure, still, far, far above your own, unverified figure.

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By cabdriver, December 29, 2009 at 10:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Two words, “mandinka”: Jack Abramoff.

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By 9circlesofhell, December 29, 2009 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So, there is no “common good” and the states are obligated to be states unto
themselves first and United States at some other time? 

Oh my, cutting those high school civic classes surely has damned me to
misinterpret -and misrepresent- my own country.

A more apt title for this piece may well be, “The whoring of whores as usual.”

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By mandinka, December 29, 2009 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

ardee that’s a creditable source “war resistors” please why not the workers daily as a site. My data comes from the GAO and its is also reported by the Treasury.
Time for you to sign off unless you can act like an adult and site creditable sources. You look more childless with every post

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By ardee, December 29, 2009 at 4:15 am Link to this comment

Mandinka, consistency in all things. You seem incapable of posting any truth whatsoever. Currently our defense budget is 36% of all spending, not 20% , another “fact” you pull out your ass.

Further you mouth breathing moron, I am not a democrat. But then again you are not even clever.

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By mandinka, December 28, 2009 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment

Ardee running for cover since your crooked Dem Party is using taxpayer $$ blatantly for partisan politics?? Markus is a Obama Momma and even she feels a little quizy but not enough to be honest
Quinty tax the rich, with abomination in charge were quickly running out of anyone to tax right now 50% don’t pay any taxes.
Since your so in love with single payer why not do what the Brits do a 7% VAT just to pay for healthcare. That way those who do nothing for this country can feel a little pain. As for Defense only 20% of the fed budget goes for defense, makes sense that we go after the other 80% that according to the constitution isn’t the citizens responsibility to pay for

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By Quinty, December 28, 2009 at 4:57 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi -

How to pay for Medicaid - or Medicare - for all?

(Can’t the assist Nebraska got be seen as expanding federal aid to the states?
Shouldn’t they all be assisted in the same way? Universal single payer, Medicare
for all?)

Okay. How do we pay for it?

Tax the rich! (What else are the rich good for?  -:}  )

And cut a hundred or two hundred billion from “defense” for universal healthcare.

That seems simple enough to me. But, apparently, we have different priorities.

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By ardee, December 26, 2009 at 3:48 pm Link to this comment

The authors point seems to be that its ok because republicans do it too.

I suppose that, when compared to Mandinka who simply refuses to see that this is bipartisan, instead using his usual clumsiness and hamhanded hammer, Ms. Marcus comes off a bit more rational.

Nevertheless, corrupt is corrupt.

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By KDelphi, December 26, 2009 at 3:48 pm Link to this comment

“Granted, this is not President Barack Obama’s promised change from politics as usual. Then again, that’s just what it is: politics as usual”

WTF?????Ok…so thats good??

Quinty—How in hell do you suggest that other states pay for the dramatic increase of 15 million more people on Medicaid? Their Senators shouldve screamed for more “pork”? Someone so “for states rights” should be a Republican..come to think of it, they are. There is no difference…Are you of the false assumption that Medicaid is a “public” program?? Not since Clinton privatized it a…they are almost all run by PRIVATE HMOs now…they take millions right off the top…only a little better than private insurance, which will now be relegated to ‘only taking 20% off the top”!Bravo!!

Thats what I call access—forced! What a great deal Unless youre too poor, then you can opt out…that would be laughable if it werent so sad..if someone is too poor to BUY private insurance, they can opt to not buy the only access to care…shame..

John Ellis—-excellent post, among many others.

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By ahw, December 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

Perhaps you should exit the DC beltway, Ms. Marcus, and mingle with the people who put this administration into office.  We too are indignant, outraged, horrified - and more - that the promises made to us for change have become more-of-the-same-politics-as usual.  You had a chance to enlighten your readers regarding how and why these politicians were able to achieve politics-as-usual rather than to chide us for not accepting same-old, same-old.

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By California, December 26, 2009 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Perhaps you should exit the DC beltway, Ms. Marcus, and mingle with the people who put this administration into office.  We too are indignant, outraged, horrified - and more - that the promises made to us for change have become more-of-the-same-politics-as-usual.  You had a chance to enlighten your readers regarding how and why these politicians were able to achieve politics-as-usual rather than chide us for not accepting same-old, same-old!

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By Quinty, December 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

I go with Ms. Marcus on this…..

There earmarks and there earmarks, pork and pork. Some of it good, some of it

A rep’s job is to obtain funding for a needed project in his district or state.
When the money goes to a “bridge to nowhere” that’s another matter.

We could use street signs here in this New England town? At times a newcomer
can find himself seated in his car at an empty intersection wondering where he
is. Street signs would help.

Can the town pay for such a project? Not at this time. Not even the state.
Providing funding for such a project may create a few jobs, bring some money
into the state. Make life better for its citizens, who at least, when they’re in
town, will know where they are. (If they lack a map in their car.)

Want to be angry. Medicare parts C and D are something to get mad about.
Pure give aways of taxpayers’ money to the healthcare industry. Subsidizing
this industry with our tax dollars is a crime because they put profit first. Not
our health. But that’s another story.

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By omygodnotagain, December 26, 2009 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

With every passing day this country becomes less democratic and more corrupt. No justification Ms Marcus

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By keepittrue, December 25, 2009 at 9:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When Bush was pushing the deal for the pharmaceutical companies benefit it was warfare. The top republicans threatened and blackmailed their republican members to support the giveaway to the drug companies. If we get this health care reform passed it is all worth it especially if we get the Public Option and more of what the House put in their bill.

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By Shift, December 25, 2009 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment

A riches to rags transformation confronts us and you look to Obama?  Look higher!

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By mandinka, December 25, 2009 at 8:05 pm Link to this comment

For the author to even hit that this deal was normal and constitutional is the reason why we have such problems today. Even a 5 year old would tell you what just happened was blatantly immoral. No wonder the libs want any talk of religion banned in the schools, they want the kids to be taught to lie cheat and steal

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McTN's avatar

By McTN, December 25, 2009 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

Ms Marcus, what if you’d led with your last line—change we can believe in.

Vote for Obama, and we’ll finally have change we can believe in.

I have a feeling that “yes, we can” and “change we can believe in” might have the same consequences as George Bush I’s “read my lips, no new taxes.”

And deservedly so.

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By Anarcissie, December 24, 2009 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

See, this is what you get.  After they rob you, they treat you with utter contempt.

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By TAO Walker, December 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment

People’ve been robbing banks since there’ve been banks, too….or, wait-a-minute, maybe this Old Indian meant that the other way around.  That indisputable historical fact might not wash, though, as a courtroom defense….except, of course, when offered on behalf of banks.  It rings pretty hollow, too, in Ruth Marcus’ gratuitous vicarious apology for members of “....America’s only native criminal class,” as Mark Twain so pungently described Congress.

If she’d instead offered her ‘take’ as a diagnosis of a socio-political pathology now become so widespread as to be CONsidered “normal,” Ms. Marcus might’ve been onto something.  As it is, she only reveals her own stock-in-trade to be the beating of dead horses….which, come to think about it, is all there is to most of what passes for “journalism” these days.

Don’t take any wooden Indians.


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By FRTothus, December 24, 2009 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

““Prostitution has been legalized in Washington, D.C.”

Damn right it has.

“Backroom deals that amount to bribes.”

That about says it.

The wealthy play their insider games, buying and selling the rest of us as chattle with our own money (to add insult to compund the injury), pawns in their manipulative “Grand Game”.
It’s not that we are ““supposed” to be indignant, outraged, horrified at the fact that lawmakers with bargaining power extracted special deals for their states in the negotiations over health care reform.”  There is nothing “supposed” about it. We absolutely ARE.  The mythology that these venal “bargains” engaged in equally by the majority of BOTH factions of the Business party, the corporate whores called politicians (of every office) and their lackeys in the corporate press, all crawling for the same attentions of the same wealthy Johns, the same access to the goldmine of access to tax revenue, is somehow justifiable because it can be argued (without valid foundation, however) that they compromise morality, decency, honest dealing, and the welfare of the majority for the chimera of their State, that it’s “their job” to rob the poor to support the wealthy, is believed only by the naive or those whose salary depends on them believing it. Such is exactly the opposite of what they were elected to do, no matter what one is employed to say.

“A tiny portion of the population controls the lion’s share of the wealth and most of the command positions of state, manufacturing, banking, investment, publishing, higher education, philanthropy, and media… these individuals exercise a preponderant influence over what is passed off as public information and democratic discourse.”
(Michael Parenti)

The media serve the interests of state and corporate power, which are closely interlinked, framing their reporting and analysis in a manner supportive of established privilege and limiting debate and discussion accordingly.”
(Noam Chomsky)

“[U.S.] domestic policy ... has focused on creating a massive welfare state for corporations even as the minimal welfare state benefiting the majority of the people was dismantled.”
(Lawrence Shoup)

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
(Joseph Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda, 1933-1945)

“This country is in the grip of ...thugs in suits who care nothing about human life abroad or here, who care nothing about freedom abroad or here, who care nothing about what happens to the earth… The so-called war on terrorism is not only a war on innocent people in other countries, but it is also a war on the people of the United States: a war on our liberties, a war on our standard of living. The wealth of the country is being stolen from the people and handed over to the superrich. The lives of our young are being stolen. And the thieves are in the White House.”
(Howard Zinn)

“We are the only advanced nation without a national system of subsidized health care.”
(Elliott Currie, Crime and Punishment in America)

“The corporate media and pundit class increasingly function as press agents for whoever is in power.”
(Adolph L. Reed. Jr., The Progressive magazine, November 2001, p18)

“The American press, with a very few exceptions, is a kept press. Kept by the big corporations the way a whore is kept by a rich man.”
(Theodore Dreiser)

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By DaveZx3, December 24, 2009 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

All this may be true Ms. Marcus, but it may be a first that one of the most significant bills in history had to be rammed through without one non-partisan vote, without majority approval of the population, on Christmas Eve morning, without anyone having read it in full, with complete disagreement as to whether it would add to the deficit, and having to buy majority party votes on top of all that. 

I hope they are not popping champagne corks, because there is nothing to celebrate.  A really good bill could have been crafted, given the time and public discourse to do so.  The public would have warmed up to a reasonable bill that would help everyone. 

No one is against true healthcare reform, but few are for partial health insurance reform. 

If this is the way our government works, then maybe we should reform our government first, then reform our healthcare system.

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