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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.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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So, if I have this right, one can only be "serious" if one is "moderate."' Can such a facile presumption really form the basis for a serious editorial?

No, you don't have it right. The word "moderate" doesn't appear anywhere. Ms. Steinfels wrote "serious," as in "serious about governing" as opposed to "serious about posturing" or "serious about aiding and abetting ruling-class self-pity."

Great story about Margaret's aunt - she disagreed with her counterpart yet was kind and civil - we could all learn from that.Margaret, not only is there no Republican with gravitas, there is no Democrat either - you have hit the nail on the head about "serious-mindedness" (being single-hearted) - expressing oneself passionately does not make one serious-minded - Jim Pauwels says it best by wanting to know the Catholic dimension in the discussion of political issues - what is the Church's position on funding an unjust war (should there be Catholic-sponsored protests /and where will we on this blog be if there are: talking about it or marching) - and what is the Church's view regarding moral responsibility of a nation which accumulates more debt by spending - what is the Church leadership role in all this and what is the individual Catholic's role?

In her hackneyed partisan rant Ms. Steinfels writes: "Though the Democrats are now in control of Congress, they are obstructed by the minority. The Party of No systematically thwarts Democratic efforts to extend unemployment benefits, reform the financial system, bring down health-care costs, stimulate the economy, and begin to remedy the budget deficit. At the same time, the Senate impedes the presidents ability to govern by holding up the appointment of cabinet-level administrators and federal judges. The Republicans goal: implementing the contract on America by sapping the effectiveness of government."Nonsense. The Democrat control the house by 257 to 158 Republicans, and until Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts controlled the Senate by 60 to 40 (counting two independents as Democrats).BTW, Eugene McCarraher's response to Mark Proska: No, you don't have it right. First, Steinfels article implies lack of moderation is the problem with Republicans - with moderation defined as supporting Obama's asinine liberal - left wing agenda. Second, Grant Gallicho's post - which is what Proska responded to - uses the word "moderates" and indicates Gallicho understood Steinfels article to refer the absence of moderate Republicans ("For more on the GOPs incredible vanishing moderates )

This is just one reader's opinion/suggestion: these essentially political articles would be more valuable to me if they would explore more explicitly the religious, Catholic dimensions of some of the issues named, such as war and deficit spending.

Mark P. ==This is a serious question -- what positive steps has the Republican Congressional leadership taken either to support what you think is supportable in Obama's proposals (unless you think his program is a total zilch) or to offer alternative solutions to the real problems the country faces? I'm thinking of energy policy, the infrastructive problems, the debt, economic stimulus, the wars, education, regulation of financial institutions, etc., etc., etc.?In other words what have the Republicans done for us lately? Or tried to do?

"Asinine left-liberal agenda"? From a guy who's escalated the war in Afghanistan; thrown billions Wall Street's way; delivered 40 million new customers to corporate health insurance, an enormous wing of finance capital; supported a bogus "financial regulation" bill that doesn't even begin to address the damage done by, oh yes, Larry Summers and Co., his Bolshevik cabal; ignored the stagnation of real wages for the working class (the majority of Americans, let's recall, not that amorphous "middle-class" of whom he and other politicians are so fond) -- the list could go on. Oh, and "moderate" is a word used by Grant, not Margaret Steinfels. Richard Lugar , the specific example she cites, is hardly a moderate.The sheer blindness to empirical reality -- and to English prose -- of right-wing commentators on this blog is truly astonishing.

Actually, I was describing E. J. Dionne's column, where you'll find the following, since I know some of you can't be bothered to read what you criticize:

A genial and courtly man in the manner of the elder President Bush (who held a fundraiser for him in Kennebunkport), the nine-term congressman was mourning the decline of both the conciliatory style of politics that animated his career and the moderate Republican disposition that the Tea Party is determined to destroy.

I finally read The Last Hurrah this summer. Great fun. One argument it offers is that social welfare did away with the political boss (Edwin OConnor couldn't have known about the Chicago exception, of course). That seems right to me. But, I wonder if government is actually less efficient now? Do people get the services they need?Certainly when it comes to potholes and snowplowing, I can't get anything done on my little street.

Apparently Republicans are going to try their "Contract on America" trick again, this time headlined, "Pledge to America." all around...left and right; wonder where the moderates will come out on this?

Jim S. I would say my aunt was strategic (as well as civil), maybe kind of kind, but she didn't suffer fools gladly--a family trait (of which I have only a weak genetic expression). By strategic I mean she held to the idea that anyone who really understood how politics worked would be a Democrat--at least in Chicago. And the way to express that idea was to be an effective and efficient precinct captain, which she was. Even so, some would never be convinced and she treated them with respect (you never know!).For that reason my father, her brother-in-law, could never have been the precinct captain. He thought Republicans were not merely misinformed, they were dead wrong--full of culpable ignorance. That was the Catholic Teaching where I grew up--Jim Pauwels.

Margaret - was that last comment directed to anyone in particular? :-) And is that the weak genetic expression you referred to in the prior paragraph? :-)

I'm toying with the idea of going to Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. (Million Moderate March). a moderate, though, I'm not sure I feel like dealing with DC traffic. Seriously, I think maybe he's on to something: the best way to deal with all of this extremism is just to laugh at it.

Catholic witness as Chicago Democratic precinct captain - I can see that.I'm from a small town (or so it would be viewed by denizens of Manhattan or Chicago) - a place that shares with 3-4 other Northern towns the distinction of being the birthplace of the Republican Party. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are/were all Main Street Republicans (a group now known as Tea Partyers). All are/were fervent Catholics. Catholicism, to them, meant going to daily Mass, praying the rosary, and hating the Soviet Union. The Democratic Party was run by the unions, who were in bed with the Communists, who were funded by the Soviet Union. This attitude apparently didn't conflict (or maybe it did) with the union cards that several members of the family carried around in their wallets and purses.

I think the Tea Partiers are bonkers, but I have to raise a question: What's so great about "moderation"? Can you imagine, for instance, a discussion in antebellum America about "moderate" slaveholders? ("Tonight on The Lehrer Report, we speak to representatives of two opposing sides: one who argues for the retention of whipping slaves, and one who argues for more humane and benevolent treatment of slaves." Proponents of abolition would have been kept off the airwaves as "irresponsible," "extreme" -- in other words, not "moderate.") Today, advocates of "moderation" are, in effect, conservatives, even if they and others consider themselves "liberals." As Obama's servility to corporate capital demonstrates, "liberalism," for lack of a better term, is the left side of the Washington consensus. Yes, let's have the exploitative relations of capitalism, but let's all be nicer about it. Yes, let's have an empire, but let's not look like thugs. Yes, let's have debate about health care, immigration, etc., but let it be "responsible," i.e., analysis that remains within the prevailing ideological parameters. Hence, the venerable centrist two-step: "critics from the right and the left. . ." You never hear criticism from the left, the real left that is, in the mainstream media. As much as I like his work, E. J. Dionne is not on the left -- he's on the left side of the mainstream, which is not very wide.

There is no moderation as to principles, only moderation as to strategy. The Gospel clearly states what happens to the "lukewarm".

This is priceless.What happened to those tame, nice, Elks Club Republicans who we could count on to lose, or when they won do pretty much what we would have done?Guess what, a lot just became democrats, a few stayed just like you love 'em, but a whole bunch got , well . . . uppity.Seriously, how dare they rock the boat? Just who do they think they are?

Do probity and gravitas win elections, though? Consider:President Carter: enough probity and gravitas (and intelligence) for six presidents, yet a decisive majority of Americans thought his presidency failed.President Reagan: perhaps not a large dollop of genuine personal gravitas, but knew how to effortlessly project gravitas into the television cameras.President GHW Bush: probity, ok. Gravitas? His social position and record of public service say yes; but my recollection is that he didn't wear the mantle of authority very comfortably.President Clinton: I'd think most of us believe he had neither probity nor gravitas; yet he was extremely good at winning elections.President GW Bush: kinda the same as President Clinton. Seemed to be trying too hard to act presidential.President Obama: probity aplenty. Said to have considerable gravitas, but I don't think he projects it very well in his public appearances - this is, I believe, a major reason that his speeches haven't succeeded in moving public opinion.

From Kurt Orzek's piece on the California elections, "Midterm exam," linked above: "The embodiment of corporate culture, Fiorina fired more than thirty thousand employees, and exported jobsall while earning a $100 million salarybefore being dismissed in 2005. Flaunting her business acumen, she said in a September 1 debate with Boxer that HP shareholders "benefitted from my time there"not mentioning that the company's stock jumped when she was ousted."30,000 people fired! Okay Jim P. Is that Catholic teaching?

JP: On your probity/gravitas meter. Can we agree that getting elected and actually governing require different talents, and not every president possesses both--though some do; about who we probably don't agree?And then, I may be in the minority of Americans that thought Jimmy Carter was a good president with a lot of bad choices to be made. But his human rights policies embedded the importance of respect for all humankind in our foreign policy--not that it's sufficiently observed.

Gene, I think E.J.'s point is rather simple, and dovetails with Peggy's: there used to be Republicans and Democrats who worked together to get (certain) things done in Washington. Elected officials who recognized the necessity of compromise in cobbling together passable legislation. Today it seems there are fewer and fewer Republicans who show any interest in the business of governing--doing what they were elected to do.

Ann--It's difficult for the minority party to have a national theme in a non-presidential election cycle, but my sense is that the Republican positive theme is lower tax rates, better economy, more tax revenue, lower deficits. Hey, it worked for JFKand Ronald Reaganand GW Bushseems like a plan. In the interregnum, I think all they could do was try to control the runaway spending in the last 2 years (which is even worse than under Bush).

Who are politicians working for? My mind turns to this question from time to time. We would like to think that they are working for the people who elected them and for the common good. My aunt's was not an elected official, but I think that was the spirit in which she operated, as, I think, did Bob O'Rourke, the Republican precinct captain. Today that seems a naive assumption though there are certainly politicians who operate that way (I mentioned Lugar in the column; among Dems, Leahy and Durbin seem to be honest pols). Others? When they are not in the iron cage of lobbyists and industries, I often feel they are working for themselves. Nothing wrong with making a living, of course, but you have to wonder at the post-elective life of politicians (and by the way, military officers) who very quickly end up working for the people who lobbied them, or for the corporations that supplied military goods. Or am I being too cynical?

"JP: On your probity/gravitas meter. Can we agree that getting elected and actually governing require different talents, and not every president possesses boththough some do; about who we probably dont agree?"Yep.Thought fleeting by as I trudged out to the curb to haul in the recycling bins today: if you're familiar with the boyfriend/husband dichotomy of 'what-do-you-look-for-in-a-man' dicussions (not that I normally have those discussions, but I've got to read *something* in the dentist's waiting room): we want a president who is a boyfriend on the campaign trail, and a husband once s/he is in office.

Sean Hannaway: What's truly "priceless" is that white, upper-income Tea Partiers think themselves oppressed and beleaguered, and that they have enough fools lower down on the class scale to cater to their self-pity. (The "uppity" is a nice, faux-populist touch.) Grant: My remarks on "moderation" address precisely the "things done in Washington." I think Peggy and E. J. idealize "bi-partisanship." Obviously, people have to compromise both to "accomplish something" and avoid violence -- agreed. My worry and lament is that compromise itself gets elevated to the status of a principle. Look at how single-payer health care was never seriously considered, let alone rejected. There was never a serious discussion of health care options; the impulse was to find ways of accommodating corporate business. Who gave us the Rube Goldberg reform that we have? "Moderates" like Baucus, Nelson, etc. As far as "doing what they were elected to do," there's an argument to be made that Congress does precisely what they were elected to do. If they're not serious, it's either because the people who elected them aren't serious, or that Americans -- of both parties, I should add -- don't have any coherent sense of what the hell they want.

Margaret - how do we determine who is working for the common good - we can only make a judgment based on our own life experience and observing/listening to them - with all due respect, I get this sick feeling every time I see Durbin or Leahy - gete the same feeling about GW Bush and ObamPaul Ryan is interesting, probably because of his energy, intelligence and demeanor - looking to the past, I liked Eugene McCarthy and Ronald Reagan, two opposites. How do we figure this out!Eugene Mccarraher - Tea Partiers see liberals the way you see them - is there any issue they address that makes sense to you??? And why add the "white " Tea Partiers"??

hit it by accident - add the " a" to Obama and a dash after that

"President Obama: probity aplenty. Said to have considerable gravitas, but I dont think he projects it very well in his public appearances this is, I believe, a major reason that his speeches havent succeeded in moving public opinion."Jim P. --Probably right. I suspect that one reason his speeches don't hit home is because there are too many network, nationwide speeches. They've become routine events, so people don't pay too much attention to them. FDR spoke relatively rarely, but people hung on his words. He could also be a rather snarky, which Obama never is, and this is perhaps perceived as weakness rather than moderation. Obama just *looks* like plain bread. I don't think he actually is. Rather he is extremely patient and, contrary to initial appearances, he's rather conservative about economics. He wants to spread the wealth more equitably, but realizes that you can't change the direction of this economic system overnight.He finally seems to have learned that you don't invite the foxes in to police the foxholes. Summers had to go. But are there any rather conservative economists who are willing to police the financial institutions? That as I see it is the big problem right now. For instance, the administration has not forced the banks to lend more of that money we gave them, so job recovery has been slow.

Jim S. -- I added "white Tea Partiers" because, well, most of them are white. But that "white" is inseparable from "upper-income." A lot of whites are truly oppressed and downtrodden -- namely, white working-class people whose real wages have been stagnant since the 1970s. It's appalling to see and hear white upper-income Tea Partiers whine on about how tyrannized they are by Big Government, especially when they benefit from so many of Big Bad Leviathan's services. I don't see liberals as Tea Partiers see them. I'm a socialist -- liberals are basically centrists, in my view. (Equating liberalism with socialism is a sign of political illiteracy.) To the extent that liberals soften the sharp and rough edges of the capitalist system through regulation, re-distribution of wealth, social services, etc., God bless them. (I don't differ with liberals about bailing out Wall Street, by the way, as much as I hated watching it. What was the alternative? The complete collapse of the financial system?) But they do all those things, let's recall, because they want to maintain and expand the processes of accumulation. The Tea Partiers can't see that. They appear to want to return to some small-town form of capitalism that was definitely not, in my view, the Good Old Days. If the Tea Partiers who are angry about government bailouts of Wall Street want to prevent it from happening again, they're going to have to realize that the origins of that problem lie in the capitalist system itself, not in the machinations of secret Bolsheviks called liberals.

Eugene,You are proving my point.The arrogance of progressives seems to know no bounds. If regular folks disagree with their nostrums, which every truly intelligent person knows are good for them, they must be dupes, or blinded by irrational fear, or bigots or something else that isn't a rational human being making up his or her own mind.Grant,This idea of the Golden Age of Compromise, is exactly what a lot of the "tea partiers" reject. The Dems and the GOP got along because they were satisfying all of the same interests and rent seekers to retain power. They just swapped favors.

Ann: I thought Mr. Summers was a fox in the hen house! What next? A genetically fixed fox, twice as big and twice as foxy?

"30,000 people fired! Okay Jim P. Is that Catholic teaching?"I dunno - what does the church say about laying off workers? It can't ever be done? It must always be done? It's okay in some situations but not others? Is this one of those situations?Who were the workers - hourly-wage assembly plant and cube farm workers? Highly qualified engineers and professionals? Execs with golden parachutes? All of the above?If they were given severence packages and outplacement assistance, does that mitigate the company's culpability?Did anyone starve, or get foreclosed, or commit suicide, as a result?My observation of large-scale layoffs by Silicon Valley behemoths is that it is done in tandem with large-scale creation of new jobs in the developing world somewhere. That sounds like the kind of thing the church would applaud.It's not simple to analyze.

Serious Republicans? Now THAT is an oxymoron.

I understand Ms. Steinfels' intended point in using the anecdote of her old Chicago neighborhood - in other words, to illustrate the probity and gravitas lacking in the inchoate rage that seems to inhabit much of the political right today. But I wonder if it was an example that will recommend itself to those quarters. Conservatives might not be able to help but feel that Bob O'Rourke really *is* her beau ideal of Republicans: a rarity, and an ineffectual (however genial) rarity at that. Sean Hannaway's question about "Elks Club Republicans" was surely snark, but it's one a lot of conservatives might have.But I think we are all for more civility if we can come by it. It's not my place to wade in any deeper to this political discussion, but I would like to second Jim P's suggestion up above: "This is just one readers opinion/suggestion: these essentially political articles would be more valuable to me if they would explore more explicitly the religious, Catholic dimensions of some of the issues named, such as war and deficit spending." Straight up political commentary I can get by the spadeful everywhere on the net - I cant even seem to get away from it - but I think Commentary could serve a useful purpose by focusing more on the dimensions of Catholic teaching on all this if it is going to talk politics. Commonweal is certainly no stranger to that kind of analysis.

Typo: I meant "Commonweal," not Commentary. Quite a difference there!

Not sure what Catholic teaching might be on deficit spending (live within your means or give everything away to the poor?). But if the CHURCH ITSELF is any example, I sometimes wonder if they have even figured out double-entry book-keeping. Doe the CHURCH ITSELF know a deficit when it sees one?

Good heavens I grow weary of the talk of the "rage"and irrationality on the right.If you want to know what is behind a lot of the disgust and anger - not rage. It is exactly this attitude. These people who you deride are serious, but you choose to treat them as if they are not. That more than anything is causing the backlash that seems to have progressives soiling their undies.There is enough incivility going around on both sides. Civility requires that you listen to the other side. When you dismiss them a possessed by rage, or bigotry, or greed, you don't have to address their arguments. That, to me, is uncivil.

Margaret, I'm pretty sure it was a man of the church who invented double-entry bookkeeping :-). Or that's what they taught us in Accounting 201 at Water Towers Campus (aka the equivalent of Biology 101 on Lake Shore Campus - the 'weed-out' course!)

"Not sure what Catholic teaching might be on deficit spending (live within your means or give everything away to the poor?)."Catholic teaching is that God has ordained that humans be governed by legitimate governments. It seems a corollary that governments steward their treasure (which also, ultimately, belongs to God) wisely.

Double entry bookkeeping? Okay got me, who invented it? Not Thomas Aquinas. William of Occahm? A Medici? Catholics invent all sorts of wonderful things, but THE THE CHURCH doesn't always notice, or so it seems to me. Okay, I'm being silly.But deficit spending seems a necessity in governance as in business, does it not? Does that make it part of the "natural order" of things.... When the deficit rises because of unjust wars, I would guess that's another story.

He wants to spread the wealth more equitably, but realizes that you cant change the direction of this economic system overnight.Ann: What exactly is it that gives Obama the "right" to "spread the wealth more equitably"? Equitable by whose definition? (Otherwise known as, "Who gets to define "equitable"?) Although our socialist blogger Eugene Mccarraher would like Obama to "spread the wealth more equitably", the people who worked hard to produce that wealth might object. But of course, we can send them to reeducation camps to pesuade them of their errors...

Ms. S. ---Yes, there were some Catholic 16-17th century Dominicans and Jesuits who began in earnest to consider economic theory. The expansion of world trade seems to have been the impetus to such thinking.Check out the Wikipedia article on the School of Salamanca, the sections beginning with "antecedents". don't know how accurate it is, but it's quite interesting. Even Peter Schumpeter, the great 20th century Austrian economist, read some of the people and was greatly influenced by them.

Bob Schwarz -It constantly amazes me how "the people who worked hard to produce that wealth" are content to let the wealthiest 2-5 percent of the population get a surreal proportion of the benefits of that production. I'm terrible with numbers, but as I remember some recent numbers something like 5 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the wealth of this country, and top managers now make something like 100-200 times the salaries of the little guys. This has got to be outrageously unfair. How do I know? Well, if you thought wealth and wages were fair 40 years ago, just compare them with the situation now -- the richest have become obscenely rich, but the little guys have gotten poorer. So either it was unfair 40 years ago when the little guys got more (which nobody seems to argue) or the richest now have a humongously unfair proportion of the wealth. This justifies -- no necessitates -- a re=distribution of wealth through taxation.YEs, there *are* a few people who deserve to be outlandish rich -- I mean, for example, the inventors who have given us huge labor saving devices at relatiively small cost, such as the Gateses and Jobses of this world. But they are extremely rare. They can have billions and billions as far as I care, and in fact I thank them for their efforts.But you tell me why a pencil pusher in Manhattan who happens to know Bayesian theory (which he didn't invent) is entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars a year pushing a ponzi scheme which is totally non-productive and just rips off people who bought houses in good faith because they trusted their much too friendly neighborhood banker? The recurrent theoretical problem is to figure out just what a just price is. The philosophers at Salamanca started to try to answer that back in the 15th century, but didn't get very far, and now it seems that the philosophers and even the economists have given up. Keynes tried, but abandoned the question. (Tell me -- why do so many middle class people hate Keynes? Is it because they stupidly think he's a socialist?? Why this love of the rich over the proper love of oneself?(I just don't get people who would rather be shafted than use their brains or who prefer blaming the politicians rather than the excessively rich who have bought the politicians' votes. Why do you blame the politicians but not the ones who bought them????

" Hey, it worked for JFKand Ronald Reaganand GW Bushseems like a plan."Mark P. ==What makes you think that condiitions are the same now as when JFK and Reagan were president? And what makes you think GW Bush was successful??Economic conditions vary as the factors that operate in them vary. For instance, when labor is plentiful and capital is scarce, then higher taxes very probably won't result in more jobs, but if capital becomes easily available, higher taxes could have an expansive effect in the job market, but only if the capitalists/corporations are willing to risk that capital. (I also wonder if there is a big different between money held by individual capitalists and money held by corporations -- whether their investment psychologies are more different than generally assumed.) Also, taxes on different sectors of the tax-paying public have different effects depending on how other factors stand.So you can't just say, 'It worked then, it will work now", That's not the nature of economic systems.

"(Equating liberalism with socialism is a sign of political illiteracy.)"Yay, McCarraraher! This is one of the most destructive myths current in our society.

Ms. S. --I'm not exactly sure what I meant by the fox and foxhole metaphor either. I think I meant that Summers is really a protector of the mine-is-absolutely-mine school of capitalism, so he's not the one to put in charge of policing similar capitalists. (I'm also not sure what a mine-is-absolutely-mine capitalist is either.) About eliminating jobs -- there's a saying that goes 'If nobody ever lost their jobs, we'd all still be digging potatoes'. Hmm. There's wisdom there, I think.

Not surprisingly, Wikipedia has a lengthy article on double-entry bookkeeping. It would have covered at least a week's worth of material in Accounting 201. In what is no doubt an insertion by someone who recalls President Obama's Cairo speech, it indicates that there is evidence that Muslim merchants utilized some form of double-entry bookkeeping back in the 12th century. The article also reports that "Luca Pacioli, a monk and collaborator of Leonardo da Vinci, first codified the system in a mathematics textbook of 1494. Pacioli is often called the "father of accounting" because he was the first to publish a detailed description of the double-entry system, thus enabling others to study and use it."Much more fascinating stuff (yes, I'm being ironic) on double-entry bookkeeping here. finally, let us give thanks that this conversation allows us to type the word "bookkeeping", which is notable for having three consecutive occurrences of double letters.

The Potato Diggers left those jobs for ditch digging in America...more dependable income.

There are more examples of the rich ($100 million dollars to Newark schools yesterday) spending their money for good than being greedy. There are more examples of those who are poor who need welfare and food stamps than those who rip off the government. With that said, the biggest Ponzi scheme is by the United States government (our leaders whom we elect) who steal from social security and everywhere else that has led to the coffers being trillions of dollars down. Our government is far more greedy than any private sector - the banks come close - but then again they were bailed out by the government - two peas in a pod.

Jim Pauwels - speaking of double bookkeeping, government statistics do not even show the withdrawals of money (which isn't there) from social security on its ledger; it only shows the invisible (money isn't there) deposits.

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!:-)

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