Friday, January 14, 2011

olding Hands

Paul Krugman observes

On Wednesday, President Obama called on Americans to “expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.” Those were beautiful words; they spoke to our desire for reconciliation.

But the truth is that we are a deeply divided nation and are likely to remain one for a long time. By all means, let’s listen to each other more carefully; but what we’ll discover, I fear, is how far apart we are. For the great divide in our politics isn’t really about pragmatic issues, about which policies work best; it’s about differences in those very moral imaginations Mr. Obama urges us to expand, about divergent beliefs over what constitutes justice.

And the real challenge we face is not how to resolve our differences — something that won’t happen any time soon — but how to keep the expression of those differences within bounds.

What are the differences I’m talking about?

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

The President had explained

our discourse has become so sharply polarized - at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do - it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

We now have learned how members of Congress will end polarization and "talk with eac hother in a way that heals, not a way that wounds." The Washington Post has found

A plan that would have Republicans and Democrats sit side-by-side during this month's State of the Union address has picked up support from nearly one-fifth of the Senate as well as a handful of House members, including a top House Republican.

Seventeen senators have co-signed a letter drafted by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to congressional leaders urging them to back the idea of members of both parties sitting next to each other rather than at opposite ends of the House chamber during President Obama's Jan. 25 address....

The bipartisan seating plan was originally proposed by the centrist Democratic group Third Way in a letter to congressional leaders this week.

Rancor will cease in the wake of bipartisan cooperation. The Affordable Care Act will be amended by Congress,thereby guaranteeing health care for all, reduction of premiums for every family, and an improvement in the doctor-patient relationship. Congress will enact a fair and equitable solution to immigration, ensuring national security, securing the jobs of American citizens, and providing a clear path to citizenship for all. Energy independence will be achieved, to the satisfaction of both consumers and oil producers. Free-trade agreements which open the world to American goods and increase domestic employment will be enacted. And the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end, leaving in their wake democratic, pro-western governments. World peace will prevail.

If not world peace, at least cynicism on this blog. It is, as Jed Lewison suggests on Daily Kos, "feel-good navel gazing." Udall's letter argues (though that term would probably be offensive to the signers) "Perhaps by sitting with each other for one night we will begin to rekindle that common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good."

There is no rule determining where members sit; the partisan format merely is custom. One would have thought that, being adults, they could simply sit where they wish, without being prompted by a letter or by directive. Instead, those taking this initiative would rather mimic children at the neighborhood school. Making a show of where they sit is window-dressing, an attempt to wish away the actual, legitimate differences of ideology identified by Krugman.

Lewison believes " if you believe that the problem in Washington, DC is that members of Congress don't sit in bipartisan fashion, then you are out of your gourd." There are at least eighteen United States Senators who hope you are.

1 comment:

Just Jake said...

Last time I looked, we are all being taxed megamillions to support the "defense" budget to resolve differences, er ... or impose American hegemony, in a blatantly violent manner.

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