Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bill Maher on Liberals and loonies

Bill Maher went off on... I think everyone, on Real Time Friday night. His conclusion: there is no leftist, liberal party anymore. Democrats have become a center-right party, and Republicans have fallen off the right end of the spectrum. He points out that Democrats are standing in the way of Obama's liberal efforts.

In November, when Obama won (and before this blog existed) I predicted that Obama's biggest obstacles to success would be his own party in Congress. While I think Bill is right about the political spectrum in this country being a bit skewed, I think it has more to do with Congresspeople having exactly one issue that they care about: reelection.

  • Defense cuts? No can do, that means losing jobs in my district.
  • Public option for health care? Uh oh, does that mean losing all the money I get from pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies?
  • Cap-and-trade plan or a tax on carbon? Nope, too many coal plants and big industries in my district. (The current carbon bill has been watered down to the point where it will do almost nothing.)
  • Gay rights? Ehh... It's not hugely popular in my district and I'll get slammed by religious groups and "values" groups. Sorry, can't do it.
Congresspeople have, as their primary goal, reelection. Ok, so that means that they should be doing what's best for their constituents, and that's not a bad thing, right? Unfortunately, that doesn't always hold. First, they do what's best for the constituents with the most money, not necessarily what's best for all of them. And, as an elected representative, it is your responsibility to look long-term. What is in the best interests of the country going forward? In many cases, that is not in the short-term interests of your district.

A great example of this is corn ethanol. Corn ethanol subsidies are FANTASTIC for the farmers in Iowa and Illinois. But corn ethanol is not the answer as a renewable fuel. It is very inefficient, especially compared to the sugar ethanol made in Brazil. But because of Iowa's electoral importance, nobody is willing to take on corn ethanol subsidies.

Until Congress can look past the money wielded by the special interests in their districts, they will be unwilling to do what's right for the country, and continue doing whatever they can to be reelected. And the country will continue to suffer as a result.

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