A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Where are the serious Republicans?

So asks our newest columnist, Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, in "Trivial Pursuits," just posted to the home page. Here's how it starts:

Republicans were fewyou could count them on one handin our Chicago neighborhood. The one on our block, Bob ORourke, was the Republican counterpart to Ann W. OBrien, the Democratic precinct captain and my aunt. ORourke, always dressed in suit and tie (even on the hottest days), had an office job. He was invariably polite and genial, though a bit reticent around my father and his fierce Democratic loyalties. ORourke had the duty, as did my aunt, to get his voters to the pollsfew though they were. This was more time-consuming for her than for him; even so, she never failed to help him out on other precinct-captain duties, negotiating the repair of potholes, arranging garbage pick-ups, and removing fallen tree branches. Now and again, my aunt may have turned one of his voters to her own purposes by offering a very special favor (a city job). As far as we know, he never turned one of hers. He was too upright: a model Republican, full of probity and gravitasthe Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Taft of Carmen Avenue.That probity and gravitas long served as a counterweight to the transgressions and rowdiness of the Democrats. But today there are few Republican exemplars of either probity or gravitas: only Richard Lugar of Indiana comes immediately to mind. Most of his congressional colleagues are not serious about governing; too many are just, well, clownish.

Read the rest here. For more on the GOP's incredible vanishing moderates, check out E. J. Dionne's "Extreme Makeover."P.S. Don't miss Kurt Orzeck's take on California's looming elections, "Midterm Exam," also posted to the homepage, which, in case you haven't noticed, is updated regularly with new articles. Visit early and often.


Commenting Guidelines

JP: I guess accounting 101 wouldn't have been a wash-out course if Wikipedia had been around back in the last century. What's the wash-out course now? Repairing the calculator, maybe?JS: On social security ledger: what is the govt. to do with this money except invest it in the safest vehicle available (relatively speaking), treasury bonds? It can't take it out of circulation by putting it under the mattress. It can't manipulate the markets by investing.... or what am I missing here.

I've got nothing against rich people per se, but I think their sense of social responsibility is sometimes weak to zip.There was a story on the network TV news the other night about some kids from an inner city school who wrote to Captains of Industry for donations to their schools--and got them. Good on those kids for trying to build themselves a good education. Good on the Captains for shucking out what probably amounts to a nice tax write-off.But sad that the Captains didn't think of giving it themselves; when you can afford to cocoon yourself from the troubles of the world, you don't think about the troubles of the world. One of my employers likes to talk about how all of us little people should promote the college with a professional image. She gushed at all us ladies of a certain age and size about how essential her personal trainer, tarted up makeovers, and weekly mani-pedis were essential to her professional image. I'm glad the planet she lives allows her to provide jobs for cosmetologists and PTs. Charitably, I can only assume she has forgotten that what she's paying us to live on OUR planet won't pay for that stuff.(The flip side, of course, is that billionaire kid who invented Facebook who's giving a big pile of cash to a school system in New Jersey b/c he's friends with the mayor, but IMO, that's only fair for having addicted the world to social networking.)Then there's BP, which has not paid out claims to the tune of $240 million, for which they're patting themselves on the back, though the total cost of the spill is estimated to be about $9.5 billion. Meantime, for every two bucks of payout money they're disbursing, they spend about a buck on that image advertising that appears smack dab in the middle of the commercial network news programs every night.Guessing $93 million would go a long way for some folks in the Gulf. BP can spend its money as it wishes, of course. But I haven't and will not purchase BP gas for the rest of my natural life, just as I will not step foot in a Walmart because of its business practices. Maybe that's a throwing a stone against a concrete wall, but if enough of us practiced mindful spending, we might be able to make a dent.

Margaret - what money? We see it leaving our paycheck on the pay stub, but ... - The Social Security Administration is now for the first time cashing in its IOUs from Treasury just to meet its obligations, BUT Treasury doesn't have the money!!!!!!!!!!!

Dang it, Jean, but I'm already boycotting Citgo because it's owned by that loony Castro wannabe in Venezuela. At this rate, my only option will be to buy ethanol, but there was some scare a few years ago that ethanol subsidies to corn farmers was a disincentive for them to grow the kind of corn that people can chew and digest, and the world food supply was in danger.Back on the bicycle, I guess.

Jim S - this might be a variation on your Social Security concern: in Illinois (and in other states that are in a deep, deep hole right now), the state is obligated to fund the pensions of various government employees, notably school teachers. The state has various pension funds to which it should be contributing each year. But of course a pension fund contribution has pretty much zero short-term political payoff, whereas a porky project packs a lot of vote-attracting wallop for the politician's long-term time horizon, which extends out all the way to the next election. So for many years now, legislators of both parties have been spending the money that they should have been contributing to pension funds. The funds are now so woefully underfunded, and the state has already borrowed so much money, that a default is a real-life, no-kidding possibility.

Jim P., make jokes about your bicycle if you want, but if we're going to allow people to amass and inherit (not everybody "worked hard" for their money) vast wealth, then we need to do a better job instilling some sense of obligation in these individuals. And boycott those who don't have any. It makes me laugh to listen to some of the "I worked hard to get where I am today, and I ain't sharing with slackers!" palaver in our village (and much of it by one of the pillars of the local church), when I know some of these individuals "got where they are today" because they didn't pay people a fair wage, didn't provide health care benefits, or kept people at just below full-time in order to avoid giving them full-time benefits. What they seem to have worked hard at is rooking the people who helped them make them comfortable.I don't think knowing that you have obligations to provide fair working conditions, wages, and benefits knows party boundaries. Rather than concentrate which party is "for the working man" (because I don't think the Democrats have really had people like me in mind since the Truman administration), it might be more useful to scrutinize businesses and their practices more closely and "vote with your pocketbook" as my Gramma, who never bought undies without an ILGWU label, used to say.OK, once I start talking about Gramma's underwear, I know it's time to stop.

Ann,So what if 5% own 40% of the wealth? What makes that, in itself, a moral or political problem?Most of this wealth is not just sitting in a vault somewhere, its productive wealth. The person who owns a business may have 100 times the wealth of his employees, but that doesn't necessarily equate to 100 times the living standard or comfort.This is the typical kind of liberal, zero-sum game, economic thinking. What matters is what makes everyone better off, but since liberals maintain their power by pitting groups against each other, what matters to them is that someone else may be more well off even if everyone is better off.On the charitable giving social responsibility front - What is so impressive about Facebook Boy's donation? If anything, it makes me confident that his empire is doomed to fail given his astounding bad judgment. Newark schools already spend more than twice the national average per student. The total annual budget for the system is nearly a billion dollars a year. Money is not the problem, and giving them more money won't matter. He would have done more good giving 1000 kids scholarships to attend private schools.In another breaking story - the President's Aunt gave a two-hour interview to the local Boston station this week, in which she castigated the awful, stingy, dehumanizing system she has been living off of for nearly a decade. But it strikes me as awfully ironic that people like me, who the President and his wife have characterized as "mean" and "stingy" during the campaign have spent more on assisting his (according to his own book) much beloved aunt, than he has.Charity begins at home.

Jean - is there not a sense of obligation too for those who say they need help? - you first have to admit that there are "slackers" - it's not uncharitable to tell the truth - why should we pay for the lazy - we are called to pay for the truly poor - slackers are all around us every day,including family - and it's getting worse - they go through a paycheck faster than lightning on items such as cigarettes, lottery tickets, take-out, etc. and then worry about the electric, cable and water bill all month - the Church has done a poor job over the years to inform Catholics that debt is a distraction to spirituality - the exhausting effort and energy to pay bills could be used to pray and serve others and live in God's presence - the Church (the bishops and parish preachers) have failed in this area - the obligation is not only on the rich.

I know very little about economics, but my understanding has always been that when the top 1% make a huge wad of money, they invest it somewhere. Then somebody borrows it to build or upgrade a factory, which makes jobs. More money for rich people means more jobs means more money for everybody else. What's the problem? OK, my car isn't as cool as the rich person's car. But it's cooler than it would be if I didn't have a job. So I win too.If the government takes away the rich people's money, then I don't get a job, but maybe I could have a government handout. But I'd rather have a job.

Okay. As our gymn teacher used to say, 'Listen up, people.'We need to start by acknowledging that whatever money and stuff we accumulate through our hard work, dumb luck and shrewdness in choosing parents doesn't actually belong to us. It belongs to God.God doesn't want us to hoard his assets. Still less does he want us to use them to commit sin or perpeutate injustice. He wants us to use them in the service of his kingdom.Jesus taught us lessons, via saying and parables, that have been distilled into a set of teachings called, "the preferential option for the poor". Note that there is no "preferential option for the rich" in any brand of Christianity that I've been taught. Jesus seemed to think that being rich was more a handicap than an aid in getting to see him face to face: it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The rich young man apparently knew his catechism by heart, but that was just spring training: to follow Jesus, he needed to give his wealth to the poor. And he slunk off.Jesus was absolutely class-conscience. He set out to proclaim his Good News specifically to one group: the poor. Yes, some of them surely are lazy, not to mention dumb, mean, rude and dishonest. Some are grossly overweight, don't wash frequently enough, have serious substance abuse problems, and can't say "no". They're the ones to whom Jesus preached the Good News, and the ones with whom he dined. They're our brothers and sisters.Someone needs to grab the "I earned it with my hard work and ability" crowd by their collective lapels, give them a good shaking, and drag them into Sunday mass this weekend, where they will hear a parable that will surely terrify them down to the frozen core of their hard hearts.

"Most of this wealth is not just sitting in a vault somewhere, its productive wealth."Sean --Bilge. The corporations and banks are sitting on those trillions of dollars recently given them to spend to kick-start the economy. That is non-productive. Sure, in good times they take little risks with their moulah. But these people have no concept that an economic system is a functional one, that all parts in good shape are necessaryfor the whActually, I think we should distinguish *wealth* and *cash*. Cash is a kind of wealth, viz., the capital necessary for the good working of the common economic system. That's why it has a special moral place in the economy. Natural resources owned by individuals or corporations can also have such special moral status when the economic system of which it's a part needs it. For instance, to refuse to allow the mining of copper needed for the production of other things in an economy could easily become a moral issue. But huge amounts of cash sitting on the sidelines during a recession are a moral issue."What matters is what makes everyone better off,"Nonsense, I never said or implied such a thing because I don't believe such a thing.:On the charitable giving social responsibility front "You seem to equate charity with social responsibility. This is where we part company. Yes, charity (giving what isn't due) is necessary if one is a Christian. But social responsibility (giving what is needed in common) is necessary for everyone, and if that means those with more *must* give to those with less, then so be it. You seem to assume that those who have did it all by themselves. As Jean points out, too often workers are not paid decent wages by their money-grubbing employes. In those cases the employers obivously *owe* their employes what they didn't pay them before.I'm not under the illusion that is is only the super-rich are money-grubbers, nor that all of them are. I've seen housewives in my lifetime pay their maids $2. per DAY when they could have paid more. I also know that some corporations pay quite decent wages. I worked for two of them -- especially Kaiser Aluminum. But the fact remains that it is the rich/very rich/super-rich who bankroll the Congress, and in effect buy their votes. So the rich are most responsible for our system of laws that favors them exceedingly unfairly -- e.g., some of them pay NO TAXES AT ALL. You have some Romantic notions about capitalism and human nature. Yes, you cannot separate personal ownership from the common good, though sometimes it becomes more important than others.ole to work well. That they are now hoarding their gelt shows what their m.o. is: me fira, last and always. (It is only recently I've become so anti- the extremely rich. But it has only now become clear to me how selfish so many of them seem to be.)

Oops -- should have been: But these people have no concept that an economic system is a functional one, that is, all parts must be in good shape for the whole to function well long-term for everyone. .

Jim P - I hope I did not give the impression that I think many of the poor are dumb, mean rude, and honest - we can all be those too, including the rich - my point is that some are poor because they have made themselves poor - we need to stop making excuses for their spending behavior - I was struck the other day at Mass by the Proverbs reading (Proverbs 30:5-9): "Put falsehood and lying far from me,give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need;Lest being full, I deny you,saying 'Who is the Lord?'Or, being in want, I steal,and profane the name of the Lord."We always wonder if we would think the same if we had riches ("Lest being full, I deny you")!! Is it the lack of riches that keeps us humble and far from temptation? It must be tempting to be rich.

getting distracted in my old age - please place a comma after "mean" and put the "dis" in front of "honest" - my apologies

"... my understanding has always been that when the top 1% make a huge wad of money, they invest it somewhere."Felapton --That is generally true, but right now the banks are sitting on the money given to them by Congress to kick=start the economy. They ordinarily would lend it, but times are tough and they don't want to risk "their" money. Sheesh. Too often people believe the myth that only the rich can stimulate jobs by investing their money in new companies. Not true. The government can also spend money on things like the infra-structure, education, helping start-up energy companies to develop new sources of energy, etc., etc. , money which when put in people's pockets is used to buy stuff, thus stimulating business to produce more, which causes them to hire more people to produce it. This is the "government spending" that so many rich folks hate, and it's the reason they hate Keynesian economics. Keynes figured out that, no, we don't always need the rich to get us out of a ditch. The covernment can do it with the taxes it made the rich folks pay. Read Heilbroner's "The Worldly Philosophers". He's a *conservative* economist who explains the economic basics beautifully. (He even made me understand some. You can get a used copy at Amazon for $2.90.

Ann,Double bilge. They are sitting on cash because they don't know what this crazy administartion is going to do next, or what unintended consequences are going to flow from their attempt to rewicker everything. Believe me, anyone with a lick of economic sense does not "sit on" cash if he or she can productively and reasonably invest it. And you have some romantic notions about the benign nature of the state. Remember, the contributions you so glowingly call everyone's responsibility ultimately rely on violence to be effective.This whole discussion reminds me of an old Soviet era joke.A Commissar is trying to explain socialism to a famer.The Commissar says. "From each according to his ability to each according to his need."The farmer asks, "How does that work?"The Commissar says, "If a man's neighbor has two tractors and he has none, the state will take one of the neighbor's tractors and give it to the man who has none.""I see," said the farmer. "That's a very just arrangement, very humane.""And if a man has two cows," continued the Commissar, "the state will take one and give it to a man who has none.""What a marvelously moral system," said the farmer, "it must surely lead to great communal harmony."The Commissar continues, "It is and it will, and if a man has two chickens and his neighbor has none, the state will have that man surrender one chicken to his less fortunate neightbor in the interests of justice.""What!" Shouts the farmer. "That is the most insane idea I have ever heard!""But you just told me what a just and moral system this is!" retorts the Commissar. "Why have you changed your mind?"To which the farmer cries, "I HAVE TWO CHICKENS!"

Well on the road for three hours and Jim P has written his Sunday sermon! Sorry I can't be there. Catholic teaching certainly has it that the earth and all thereof is from the creator. We humans being the steward (and stewardesses) of creation have the responsibility to use creation for the common good and for our own well-being and our children and neighbors, etc. "What's mine is mine" is a kindergarten ploy that too many adults cling too. "How much land does a (wo)man need?" Tolstoy??? Enuf to be buried in!

"Double bilge. They are sitting on cash because they dont know what this crazy administartion is going to do next, or what unintended consequences are going to flow from their attempt to rewicker everything. Believe me, anyone with a lick of economic sense does not sit on cash if he or she can productively and reasonably invest it."Sean =-Let's see now. The banks mismanage their businesses for 10-15 years by lending money to terrible risks. To save them from bankruptcy (remember fall, 2008) the government steps in and gives them cash to save them and their stockholders. So what do the banks do? They sit on it, as if the purpose of that money was simply to bail them out. No, it's not illegal, but it was an inadequate law. Do you mean to tell me that the banks are under no moral obligation to start lending again? Granted, not for terribly risky ventures, but small businesses are aching for capital. Do you mean that self-preservation of the banks will be served by NOT lending the money to support the economy?Whose money do you think that is, anyway? I grant that it was a stupid law -- the banks should have been made agents of the government and *forced* to start lending that cash or they wouldn't be allowed to do business with the Federal Reserve, or something drastic like that. (No, I really don't know what I'm talking about at this point, but it is obvious that the law should have somehow required action on the banks part.)Your position seems to be, OK, the banks were a bit reckless before, but, see, for once the government actually *gave* them some cash. It follows they have every right to hoard it. It's theirs pure and simple. They have no obligation to do anything but to protect it for their stockholders -- in spite of the fact that by hoarding it they are risking something much, much worse -- a depression in which their stockholders could lose everything.)I"m a depression baby, Sean. I remember it well. it lasted until WW II, for 15 years of so . If you have any economic understanding you'll pray the bankers stop sitting on that cash and the rich start taking some well-placed risks.

Margaret - I'm not actually scheduled to preach this weekend (that would be a hanging slider down the middle - I had last week, that parable of the dishonest steward that nobody can make heads or tails of). But I think I'm reaching the point where it's the only genre I can write in. If I had lived in the 18th century, that would be respectable :-)

"Jim P I hope I did not give the impression that I think many of the poor are dumb, mean rude, and dishonest we can all be those too, including the rich my point is that some are poor because they have made themselves poor we need to stop making excuses for their spending behavior"Hi, Jim S - I agree that we need to call the poor to responsible behavior, and I'm a fan of programs that teach, encourage and reward it, rather than simply make transfer payments. For example, the interfaith council in my town provides housing to families that are homeless, and as part of the program, provides mentors (volunteer parishioners) to teach them how to be responsible stewards of a household.It's easier for a private agency to discriminate in this fashion (using "discriminate" in its non-pejorative sense) than a government agency, which is bound by all sorts of laws and regulations. Section 8 housing in my community has a waiting list of something like two years. Then folks wonder why all those homeless people are living in the forest preserve all summer :-( (Forest preserves are kinda like state or county parks).

This thread is going faster than I can keep up.I don't think anything I said denied that there were slackers, or that people who ask for help ought to be truly in need. I know people claim that welfare recipients know how to "work" the system, but having applied for public assistance myself, I'm durned if I can figure out how they do it. Highever, I would include in my definition of "slacker" the guy who inherits a lot of money and screws his employees to make more. Sorry, capitalists don't get a pass on ethical and moral behavior just cuz they've got a lot of money and put it in unspecified "productive investments."And ditto everything Ann said.

Back to the main theme of this thread:Serious Republicans know that Democrats are, correctly, bracing for a rough one this year. No matter what the MSM talking heads think, or the snide remarks they make about tea-bagging, racism etc., a surprising share of the great unwashed masses Republicans, Libertarians and even some Independents have hit the Democrat party hard with the labels of socialist and ideologue, and with charges of being weak and morally limp wrested (at best), and of course that Democrats are almost genetically irresponsible with public funds, and a lot if that is sticking.Also, for better or worse, President Obama has not helped Democrat Congress critters at all. His attitude during the health care reform effort was quite lame, and his team of academics playing around with the economy something few if any of them have actually engaged in real life has at best, been unimpressive. President Obamas foreign policy and international efforts do not even bear mentioning, except to say that overall they have hurt congressional Democrats chances of re-election. Time and again the President has asked congressional Democrats to walk the plank, and now they will pay the political price.Nostalgia aside, and regardless of Time magazines cover caricaturing Mr. Obama as FDR, or proclaiming that we are all socialists now; people do not want an FDR or a return to the 1930s.Even Republican establishment types the ones the Left generally likes are a bit peeved and even mystified, by the great rabble on the Right this year.This November will be great fun throw the bums out!:-)