Paul Krugman Speaks For Me

4 comments August 31st, 2009at 08:52pm Posted by Eli

It is a very telling indictment of our present-day political system that Richard Nixon was probably to the left of many Democrats:

[T]he Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.

As many people have pointed out, Nixon’s proposal for health care reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger….


We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.

And now that this system exists, reform of any kind has become extremely difficult. That’s especially true for health care, where growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon’s day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

That spending fuels debates that otherwise seem incomprehensible. Why are “centrist” Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota so opposed to letting a public plan, in which Americans can buy their insurance directly from the government, compete with private insurers? Never mind their often incoherent arguments; what it comes down to is the money.


Every desperately needed reform I can think of, from controlling greenhouse gases to restoring fiscal balance, will have to run the same gantlet of lobbying and lies.

I’m not saying that reformers should give up. They do, however, have to realize what they’re up against. There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a “transformational” president — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.

In other words, both Republicans and Democrats used to be animated more by their competing visions of what was best for America than by blind loyalty to their corporate campaign donors.  The institutionalized corruption has become so deep and so pervasive that Congress is now almost totally incapable of putting the country, the Constitution, or even the planet ahead of the corporations.  And the results are as predictable as they are disastrous.

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Healthcare,Media,Politics,Wankers


  • 1. julia  |  August 31st, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Nah. The really depressing thing is that Nelson Rockefeller was significantly to the left of what we have now. After all, Nixon could go to China. Rockefeller had to get by the ACU.

    I’d feel a little better if what we have now hadn’t run as a progressive.

  • 2. Eli  |  August 31st, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I suspect there were rather a lot of Republicans back then who would well to the left of today’s Blue Dogs. Lowell Weicker, anyone?

  • 3. Bill  |  August 31st, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Hunter S. Thomspon’s comment about the 2004 election was that if Nixon were running, he’d be teh liberal candidate and Thompson would vote for him.

  • 4. Eli  |  August 31st, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Nixon is still a dick, but as both parties get more and more dickish, Dick looks better and better by comparison.

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