Both Democrats and Republicans Are Bad For America’s Finances

To me it’s a truism, but one that few people grasp: Both major US political parties are the same. To watch excitement over the midterm elections as a chance to “throw the bums out” in favor of the other party, when the bums are Democrats and the saviors are Republicans, is to watch irrationality in full bloom.

Don’t get me wrong. I share the frustration of those who desperately want real leadership in Washington. I knew early on that President Obama’s hope and change shtick was a load of bull, and hardly original. That “change” continues working as a campaign theme shows mostly the unchanging landscape of politics. It always stinks, which is why we always want change. It would be great if things went well so the campaign slogans could become “keep it like this forever,” but instead we’re constantly desperate for change. Now that Obama’s performance in the White House has confirmed him to be like his predecessors — even down to continuing the same useless wars he once vociferously opposed — it would be nice to see people reassess their view of politics. A simple acknowledgment of the following would be encouraging:

No matter how interesting the new package, no matter how silver the talking tongue, no matter how different from the status quo the candidate appears to be, if he or she is backed by the same money bags that backed the previous politicians who made our current mess, we’ll be no better off.

Instead of placing that view front and center, we transformed in just 18 months from a nation of voters excited to end the awful Bush era with the fresh new hope of Obama, to a nation of voters excited to end the awful trends of the Obama era with the fresh new hope of the Tea Party Republicans.

Maybe stepping away from the emotion-packed labels of Democrat and Republican will help make the irrationality of this behavior more clear.

Pretend we’re remodeling our kitchen and have two carpenters at our disposal: Deemsel and Ruprit. We go with Deemsel for the first phase, and boy does he screw it up. The cabinets are crooked, the floor is sloped, and none of the outlets work.

We promptly fire Deemsel and put Ruprit on the job. A week later, the cabinets look worse, the floor now contains holes in addition to being sloped, and the outlets are visibly smoking. Ack! What to do?

If you’re the American electorate, you get excited about the chance to replace Ruprit with Deemsel — again. Deemsel gets back in there, rips the cabinets from the wall and starts filling the floor holes with toxic chemicals. You can scarcely believe your eyes, so you throw Deemsel out the front door and quickly whistle to Ruprit. He rushes back in and starts sledge hammering the outlets. Ack! Repeat.

Get it? Deemsel and Ruprit are our only choices. They both “trained” at the same school of crooked carpentry. In the case of politicians, both Democrats and Republicans get their funding from the same special interest groups that have leeched the US Treasury dry. Just as the solution to Deemsel screwing up the kitchen was not to hire Ruprit, nor is the solution to Democrats screwing up America’s finances to elect Republicans.

They’re both the same, and they both stink.

Blogger Jeff at All Financial Matters tackled this issue last weekend. He assembled an economic history of the United States for himself because he’s “tired of the rhetoric.” He identified himself as a Republican, but believes that if “Republicans are responsible for our current mess, then I think the American people have a right to know.”

In a two-page PDF, Jeff presented the economic results and S&P 500 performance for each administration from Roosevelt to the second Bush. Some highlights:

  • Both parties spend like mad.
  • Of the nine administrations (Roosevelt and Truman are counted as one), only four grew receipts at a faster pace than outlays. Those four were: Roosevelt/Truman, Eisenhower, Carter, and Clinton.
  • The most recent 31 years of data show that the worst combination is a Democratic House and a Republican president. Jeff continues: “None, however, have been good because all of them increased the federal debt every year. The only one that came close to not growing the debt was the year 2000 when we had a Republican House and Clinton as president.”

There you have it: Deemsel and Ruprit hard at work bankrupting your nation. Despite the trend going back as long as almost any of us have been eligible to vote, we still think the answer to Deemsel screwing it up is to send Ruprit back in, or vice versa. The following 1934 editorial cartoon from the Chicago Tribune shows that the troubles we face today are not new (click to enlarge):

The only real solution is to elect a third party that swears off financing from the same gang of special interests that control the purse and puppet strings of the two major parties. That won’t happen, because without that big funding no third party stands a chance of winning elections. That leaves only campaign finance reform as a possible solution, but that will never fly because the people who would plan and enact it are the ones who are in power because of the current system of campaign finance — and their backers aren’t eager to give up influence for the good of the people.

That’s why we’ll just keep screaming for change while choosing the same people to give us the same garbage that makes us scream for change again. Deemsel’s in the White House, and some people are excited to send Ruprit in his new Tea Party hat to Washington to shake things up.

Let’s see if we can get this more accurate than Bush got it: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. My fellow American voters, how many times will we get fooled before we feel a sense of shame and finally ask why we bother to choose between Deemsel and Ruprit every couple of years?

Perhaps abstaining from voting would send the clearest message that none of the usual suspects boasts a mandate.

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47 Comments

  1. Doug DeVries
    Posted August 29, 2010 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    Lots of interesting comments so far. I might as well throw in my two cents worth.
    I didn’t vote in 2008. I live in Michigan. McCain had no chance of winning here and I live in a republican district. Local republicans always get elected in my district. Besides, I’m not a republican or a democrat. I’m not sure I will vote this year either. I know, shame on me…blah..blah…blah.

    I’ve come to realize that the whole thing is broken. In fact it’s so broken that it’s not repairable. From the lowest level of government to the highest, the corruption, stupidity and out right incompetence is staggering. Society as a whole is completely bankrupt of morals and most everyone has one basic goal. It’s bringing pleasure to me, myself and I. Yes, the American empire or the great experiment in democracy is doomed.

    Before the ink was dry on our constitution there was someone in that body of patriots who was trying to figure out a way to use the system to his benefit. Politicians have become so good at it over the last 200 plus years that now we have what we have. They love it so much that now they brag about being a full time life long politician. And we are such stupid sheeple that… just think about it…we actually choose these same people, election after election, to bend us over and continually rape us in the a**. And to add insult to injury we even let them decide how much they get paid for doing it. Is that insane or what?

    So what happens from here? Nothing very good. What happened the last time citizens tried to throw off the yoke of the Federal Government? Civil War. You can be naive and think that Beck and his merry band of tea men/women when elected will save the country or you can begin to prepare for the inevitable. It could take a year, five years or even ten.

    Our cities are a tinder box. When the match lights it watch out. Special interests have divided us into groups of people. One color of people against another and the rich against the poor. It’s all about power and money. They will tell us it’s because they care about injustice (liar, liar, pants on fire) but their bank accounts tell the real story.

    So, my advice…don’t believe anything you hear coming from Washington D.C…move out of the large urban areas if you can…stock up some food and water for a just in case scenario…buy a gun and some ammo (just for protection of your family, and learn how to use it) and begin paying off as much of your debts that you can.

    Or, just do nothing except vote in November trusting the next bunch of drunken sailors sent to Washington will miraculously fix it all.

    Enjoy the rest of the summer and thanks for the opportunity to share.

    • Posted August 30, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      A nicely worded vent, Doug. The following two videos provide more depth to your prediction that “nothing very good” happens from here.

  2. Charlie
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    If you wait for the election to make your impact, then it is too late. I attended the caucus in the 4th most populus county in Colorado, this spring. There were <100 people in attendance. If you want to make an impact, get involved early and vocally. A group of 10 motivated people in a county caucus will have an impact. A similar group in each county will alter the political spectrum for an entire state. That, in turn, will impact the nation. We get the government we deserve, and if you sit on your butt until election day, then our fate is already sealed. You want to see things change? I'll see you at the next county party meeting.

    • Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Charlie. You’re right that getting involved early in the process increases the odds of getting the candidate you want on the ballot. However, how does it get around the special-interest chokehold on the elected politician?

      You write that we “get the government we deserve,” but those who supported Obama because they believed he would turn out differently than his predecessors didn’t get who they thought they elected. Even if a person had helped steward Obama from his early days in that infamous community he organized to the Senate to the White House, they still ended up with a president who campaigned on limiting the influence of lobbyists and then expanded the lobby corps once in office.

      I think real change isn’t possible until we (A) reform campaign financing to limit the influence of special interests either through federal financing or another method and, (B) implement instant runoff voting so we give third parties a genuine chance at winning because voters know they’re not throwing away their vote by supporting the third party.

      See comments above for more on those two ideas.

      • Charlie
        Posted September 6, 2010 at 4:15 am | Permalink

        Special interest groups are the symptom, not the disease. The disease is a federal gov’t that has the power (extra-constitutional) to pick winners and losers. It manipulates the system through un-equal tax laws, subsidies, grants and “entitlements,” so the only way to win is to get the gov’t on your side through lobbying and donations. Unfortunately, I don’t see any way to go back to a constitutional gov’t without bloodshed.

  3. Posted September 3, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Jason, I know how you feel, and believe me, I get frustrated with politics also. This notion that “ALL politicians are crooks, and that is the one, big problem we have to solve” is popular but does not hold water for a couple of reasons. First, when constructing a logical argument, one must be very careful when using the words “all” or “none”. I do grant you that many or even most politicians are probably deceitful, dishonorable, etc, but I would not level those accusations at any specific politician until I had proof. Let’s say, for arguments sake you were elected to congress. How would you feel if everywhere you went, people accused you of being a crooked politician even though you know that you were serving your country with the utmost respect and honor? I’d bet you would be even more frustrated than you are now!

    The second reason that this theory has some weakness is found in the very nature of crooks. A crook will double cross you, but he will also double cross other crooks. I think you are failing to consider that all of those “big money, greedy corporations” that fund the campaigns, are often completely swindled by the politicians they sponsored. A shrewd politician may not fear losing funding as much as we might assume. In some cases, any funding put in jeapordy from a double cross has already been replaced by new sponsors in support of the new position. Sometimes the previously betrayed special interest is forced to once again support that crook just to prevent the nightmare of his opponent from the other party getting in there. In summary, buying a politician is not easy, straightforward, and never permanent.

    I apologize for not offering any solutions, but this post is getting longer than I wanted so I will leave it at that.

    • Posted September 3, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Eric.

      It would actually be easier to solve the problem if politicians were all crooks. Notice that the discussion here didn’t make that case. We just noted the history of Ds and Rs walking the nation down the same road to financial ruin. We can grant that individuals show up to their political posts with the best of intentions, but they get waylaid by a system that has transferred leadership pressure from the voters to the funders. That’s why campaigns focus on the voters, but politicians focus on the funders. Hence Obama’s campaign promise to change the way Washington works, then his expansion of the lobbying corps once in office. Even Obama must take care of his backers.

      Also, please note that the article did not single out “big money, greedy corporations.” Those were your words. I used “special interests” because that includes such corporations but also includes unions and other groups responsible for sucking the Treasury dry.

      From Financially Stupid People Are Everywhere:

      “In these pages, you and I are not concerned with whether Republicans or Democrats are better, or with our own opinions on issues like health care, oil, and military spending. We’re not really even looking at whether politicians are good or bad people. We can grant that presidents try to improve life for Americans. Let’s say they set out with the best of intentions and work as hard as they can in the best ways they know how. Fine, but nothing changes. Before new presidents know which number to dial for the White House kitchen, their glorious campaign vision is hog-tied by special interest groups who know their way around Washington better than any politician. Want to know a great place to eat or get free tickets to a concert in Washington? Ask a lobbyist, not a leader.

      “The salient point for us is that the political system was built for and is run by people whose interests are not necessarily aligned with ours.”

      Finally, don’t feel bad for not offering solutions. There aren’t any this side of a reset, violent or otherwise. The solution is campaign finance reform combined with instant runoff voting (see above for more on each), but neither will ever get enacted from within the current system because the people who would enact them are controlled by interests that don’t want them. Why? Because campaign finance reform and instant runoff voting would loosen the grip of special interests.

  4. sikofdumdems
    Posted March 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe the psycho worship of Instant Runoff Voting by a bunch of imbeciles who are completely oblivious to the massive corruption it invites. I just witnessed a revolting nutjob get elected because she and her best friend invited 5 other friends to all run in an election against a pretty popular and more experienced candidate. The 2 women who started the collusion – and that’s what it is – are well-known businesswoman plus one is a minority, and very active in community affairs that support her particular minority group. Between the 2 of them with business and ethnic support, it was assumed they’d do ok in the election but not win. However, when they got their 5 friends in, the ballgame changed. Each of the friends had a certain amount of influence in a sector of their city. Again, none was hugely popular but enough that they’d get decent amount of votes. But the arrangement they made was simple, and they were very public about it – each of these 7 candidates asked their supporters to vote for them, of course. But then they chose one woman – the businesswoman – to be the designated recipient of each candidate’s #2 choice. While no one, or even two, candidates would ever have received enough votes to beat the popular & experienced candidated, having the ability to lump all 7 candidates’ votes into one box was enough to beat him by about 100 votes.

    This lesson in collusion didn’t go unnoticed by my Tea Party cousin. She’s prepping for the next election with a full scale plan of attack: She’s so far wrangled 19 people to run for mayor in a small city that uses rank. They are deliberately lining up people in a wide range of occupations – one is a teacher, one owns a restaurant, one’s an attorney, and so on. But the real estate agent that used to be a beauty queen is the one they’ve selected to actually win. Though they have 19 people already, the plan is to have at least 30 people run. If each can get 500- 1000 friends and family to vote for them, ranking Miss Real Estate USA as their #2 gives her 15,000 – 30,000 votes. Of course the Green Party will be aghast at this idea; after all, it’s THEIR idea and I bet it never occurred to them anyone else would’ve been smart enough to steal it. The Green Party has been shoving this easily manipulated, unconstitutional form of extortion down the throats of the US since Steven Hill bought voting machine stock a decade ago. Your a bunch of idiots for supporting it. I’m livid that majority rule has been so easily stolen from the United States and its citizens, all becuase a bunch of idiots disguised as liberals thought it’d be really cool – idiots.

  5. sickof both parties
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    I think this country ought to get rid of both parties and get 2 new ones. Just because they have both been around since the 1800′s doesn’t mean that we should keep them. Extreme liberalism and extreme conservatism are both like extreme cold and extreme heat – niether one of them is good. Democrats let people abuse welfare which is stupid and Republicans are against all taxes which is stupid too. People wonder why I never vote for either one of them. Well, this is why. Maybe we should fill up the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House with cats and dogs because at this point, I don’t think cats and dogs could mess up the country any worse than the people we have in both parties. What the Dems and Reps did a few weeks ago with the debt ceiling argument was the ultimate worst. I’m glad to know that there are other people who feel the same way about both parties as I do. Just remember, there is strength in numbers and the moderates of this country need to get together and demand a more middle of the road philosophy. The moderates are the only ones who have any sense at all.

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