What to do about gerrymandered elections?

An issue for election day:  One of the problems in our political system today is that Congressional districts have been drawn up to ensure that each one is a “safe seat” for the incumbent and a particular political party.  That means that voters almost never have competitive elections with genuine choices–unless, that is, the incumbent has a primary rival from the same party.  This makes for ideological polarization, say many observers, as well as thwarting the basic processes of democracy. [Read more...]

Congress stops default & ends shutdown

Cutting it close as usual, on the day before the government would run out of money, Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling and end the 16-day partial government shutdown.  Basically, both sides dropped their demands and kicked the can down the road.  The government will be funded until January 15, and the debt limit will rise until February 7.  In the meantime, a commission will be appointed to try to resolve the controversies. [Read more...]

Democrats up the ante on default bill

It looked like Congress was close to an agreement on funding the government and avoiding default on Thursday, but negotiations fell apart yesterday.  And as Republicans abandoned their insistence on defunding Obamacare, Democrats made demands of their own, insisting that Republicans agree to end the sequester, the across-the-board cuts from last time we were about to go over the fiscal cliff that have actually worked to curb government spending. [Read more...]

Defund Obamacare or shut down the government

Republicans in Congress say they will agree to stop the impending shutdown of the federal government only if Democrats agree to defund Obamacare.  Does this strike you as a disastrous strategy? [Read more...]

Obama will ask Congress before attacking Syria

President Obama has agreed to ask  Congress for authorization before he attacks Syria.  I salute that, since the Constitution requires Congress to approve going to war.  However, I predict that a coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans will vote the proposal down.  What do you think Congress should do?  What do you think Congress will do? [Read more...]

The government efficiency argument

Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein  says that “How government is run, more than what exactly it does, seems set to be the main battleground of American politics in coming years.”  He then cites articles from the New America Foundation that say the government’s approach is to build a  kludge (“a clumsy, inelegant, difficult to extend, hard to maintain yet effective and quick solution to a problem”) and to function like “a giant coupon machine.”  Explains Klein:  “Think clunky Obamacare versus streamlined single-payer health care, or government’s tendency to deliver benefits via the tax code, through deductions, credits and exclusions, rather than by direct payments.”

Do you see where this is going?  But is there a valid point here? [Read more...]