Funding Public Programs

T.A. Barnhart

From the Oregonian, a guest editorial from David Nardone of Hillsboro on reducing partisanship over public policy by looking at proposals (and existing policy) in terms of investment, savings and effectiveness:

For too long, we have heard arguments appealing to our compassion, good will, common sense and negative emotions regarding public initiatives. Yet we citizens hold many disparate values and find it hard to support priorities other than our own. No wonder there's so much disagreement among political parties, activists and advocates. It's time to change the culture of our thinking on how we make decisions for addressing and resolving important problems that challenge the public good, especially in this time of personal and financial crises. Here's how.

First, provide evidence demonstrating the proposed solution has a higher likelihood of resulting in a good outcome as well as a reasonable financial return. If we invest, we do so to get something in return. If we are taxed, we do not. Programs for smoking cessation and generic drug purchasing are examples of good returns on investments.

I came across something similar in HuffPost this morning, on Obama's emphasis on "investment" and how that appears to be a major reason why he's winning the public's support for his program:

While the mainstream media and right-wing pundits obsessed over the word 'stimulus,' President Obama steadily pushed--and passed--an historic piece of legislation with the word 'investment' in the title: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In speech after speech leading up to the passage of the bill, TV talking heads wondered whether or not the bill would succeed in 'stimulating' the economy. Meanwhile, as that conversation was happening on DC circuit talk shows, Obama talked directly to the American people about the importance of 'investing' in new energy, infrastructure, and education. And the public heard him.

Both are well-worth reading. Half of the Obama mission as president is to change how we do politics. Focusing on what our government does as a shared, public good -- as investments and preventative care -- is a major step towards fulfilling that mission of hope and change.

  • Tom Vail (unverified)


    You have said, "Half of the Obama mission as president is to change how we do politics."

    I would argue that President Obama needs to work on this half of his 'mission.'

    In speech after speech, he calls on class envy to sell his ideas. When he asks that we tax the "rich" more or that we need to regulate and tax 'big business' more, you are asking the voting public to, as a class, vote against another class. This is politics as usual.

    In choosing his cabinet and top advisors, he chose almost exclusively from the politically entrenched cultures of Washington, D.C. and Chicago. This is politics as usual.

    In rushing a stimulus bill through Congress by saying that our Economy will be destroyed if we don't act immediately, Mr. Obama was manipulating through the use of fear. Playing the fear card is just politics as usual.

    If, in fact, half of President Obama's mission is to "change how we do politics," then he is failing miserably. I am very disappointed after the soaring rhetoric and seeming intent to make major changes. I have seen little of it.

    On the positive side, I do feel there is a serious attempt to be more transparent and to communicate better. I don't know if that will be enough.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    In speech after speech, he calls on class envy to sell his ideas. When he asks that we tax the "rich" more or that we need to regulate and tax 'big business' more, you are asking the voting public to, as a class, vote against another class.

    Nice rhetorical diversion and attack on that curious notion known as "progressive taxation". Or perhaps I'm just wrong and in fact there are no rich (sorry, "rich") people and big businesses after all. 'Scuse me. Sign me up for that flat tax!

    Excuse me, but if you want the politics of resentment--a far better term than "class envy"--than look no further than the GOP of the last 40 years, starting with Nixon's Silent Majority.

    My problem with TA's commentary is that--and surely TA would agree--both the modern GOP and the more doctrinaire libertarian types (of whom there are many in the blogosphere) are ideologically opposed to "a shared, public good." They simply do not accept the notion. Good Lord, just Wednesday John Boehner, the head of the GOP in the House of Representatives, made an absurd statement about how the GOP has a harder time selling its ideas than the Democrats, about whom he said "They’ve been offering Americans a free lunch for the last 80 years, rather successfully.” Got it? What you and I think of as tools for the common good--stuff like Social Security--the GOP considers a "free lunch".

    The GOP will not be happy until we commoners are bowing and scraping to our betters and addressing them as M'Lord and M'Lady.

    "Obama talked directly to the American people about the importance of 'investing' in new energy, infrastructure, and education." Indeed. And the GOP is ideologically opposed to precisely these investments. This isn't a partisan difference that can be papered over except in the fantasies of inside-the-Beltway pundits.

  • Areola Puffington (unverified)

    Right on, Tom. Nancy Pelosi tested the waters. She ran, appearance after tired appearance, preaching strongly that the Delay House was not how you do politics. This blog solicited funds based on an explicit "change the Delay method of running the House".

    She has failed to make the choices she promised, at every turn doing things EXACTLY how Tawdry Tom would have. After the elections, the Democratic Party could have done something about that. Their position, though, is that it would send the wrong message and, by the way, she got away with it. Party faithful still courtsey to Madame Speaker. Obama is a Democratic Party pol, first. You only get so much change, and systemic change ain't in the cards. The Dems have become with process the way southern republicans are with federalism. Both preach loudly, but are actually strong proponents of the opposite, unless it prevents them from acting as usual on a pet issue. Southerners vote to take states' rights away at every turn, until there's one issue they disagree with, then are willing to go to war over the exception. Dems hate the way Reps do business, when they're on the short end of the stick. It seems a lot more necessary when they're winning.

    Look at the budget puzzle post. Kari's attitude towards MP demonstrates precisely the party's philosophy. We're hope and change; make proposals within the framework of the assumptions that we are willing to accept. MP keeps saying that the framework isn't acceptable; it doesn't get the job done. Dem op keeps coming back, "that's reality; that's what we have to work with; pick from what's on the table; do you have anything positive to contribute"? Meanwhile, like the title of the other post noted, the pieces aren't all there. Realists keep saying that it isn't good enough. Party ops keep saying, that's what you're getting for hope and change; get with the program. Are you trying to make us fail?

    Obviously, T.A. gets this, on some level. The Huffington Post makes BO look like the musings one finds above the urinal. How 'bout a manifesto type post that lays out the process ways that Dems are different from Reps, make it objective and measurable, stick with it and you'll gain a lot of credibility. This "doing the right things with the Reps wrong methods" is not succeeding on any level, though it seems impossible to get that point across, at least at the moment.

    Let's be real. If the gov were transparent, they would all be voted out promptly. We would have a constitutional congress. By definition, everyone in Washington got there by working the system as it is. They don't really want to change that systemically; just change the "desktop theme".

  • Tom Vail (unverified)


    I like your term "the politics of resentment."

    I'm sorry if I communicated poorly, as your comments would indicate.

    The intent of my comment was to indicate that, IMO, Mr. Obama is failing at the "Half of the Obama mission" that T.A. describes as changing how we do politics.

    I gave, admittedly general, examples of politics as usual. I avoided making this a non-productive Dems vs. Reps argument as you appear to want to do. I was hoping to give constructive criticism, that, if followed, IMO, would increase Mr. Obama's chances of successfully carrying out his duties.

    I admire that Mr. Obama understands that the public loathes "politics as usual" and has promised to address this issue. I am disappointed that his actions, contrary to his promise of change, speak far louder than his words.

  • (Show?)


    i don't think Obama's failing at anything. as with anything he does, what seems like failure in the short-term turns out to be success. just ask Hillary. he won't be at 70% approval by the end of the year, but his program will be working and he'll have sufficient support to head into 2010 with a strong program and a chance to solidify support in Congress -- including from some non-wingnutty Rs.

  • Tom Vail (unverified)


    I appreciate that we disagree on Mr. Obama's level of success in changing politics as usual.

    However, for us to learn from the discussion, we have to address each other's arguments.

    I hope that through honest discussion, we can both become better aware of the issues and therefore better citizens. I actually think much of your post is worth considering. I think the cost/benefit approach is a good one. I like the idea of investment over emotion.

    What I disagreed with was your single statement about politics as usual. Instead of trying to convince me of the value of your argument, you seem to have purposely avoided the discussion. As a result, I have no reason to change my view. Mr. Obama is failing at changing politics as usual.

  • (Show?)

    Tom, all i said is it's too early to say Obama has failed at anything. i don't agree with you -- and that's not addressing your argument?

  • Mayor Breedlove (unverified)

    [Off-topic comment removed. -editor]

  • Ole Barn (unverified)

    The preamble to the Constitution of the United States begins "We the people." About 100 years later the Supreme Court granted corporate personhood. Corporations are not people.

    When it comes to discussing public policy we find ourselves arguing from positions rather than interests. The intractability of positions does not allow for the seeking of common ground. Our elected representatives in the Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, have forgotten how to pursue good public policy.

    President Obama has merely suggested legislation for the public interest rather than legislation to support a position either right or left. We cannot survive as a nation when our only loyalty is to the corporation. We must consider the survival of the capitalist way of life without destroying the fundamental human structure that our forefathers created for us. We must not let the deep pockets of the self-serving profit before people greedy corporate structures do away with the infrastructure that has made our country great.

    This brings me to a rather important question. How beholden are our elected officials to the greedy corporate structure? We must figure a way to wean our public officials from such influence. Until we do we are compelled to repeat the mistakes of the recent past as well as those from the 1920s and 30s.

  • Kathy (unverified)
    <h2>The GOP and Republicans in general want everyone to prosper. The demonizing of their platform points out just how jealous, ignorant and petty Democrats are.</h2>

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