Finding the middle way….

 

In 1999, at the urging of others, Bill Clinton singed the bill that overturned  Glass-Steagall.  As a

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Image by rawEarth via Flickr

historian, I know Glass-Steagall was created after the crash of 1929. The law existed to prevent banks from gambling with people’s savings as banks had done before the 1929 crash. Bill Moyers, a fellow historian, has been hosting a series examining what went wrong with our economy in the past decade and the repeal of Glass-Steagall may be the biggest culprit in the mystery. Last night in program #3, Bill hosted John Reed formerly of CitiGroup and Byron Dorgan, former Senator (D-ND).

Become informed and follow the link below to this program and the first two episodes at:  http://billmoyers.com/segment/john-reed-on-big-banks-power-and-influence/

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I know it is difficult to get your mind around the problem of what went wrong with the economy, or to work up the energy to care, but as concerned citizens who want our children to have good future, we must pay attention to political issues. The downside of people fighting with each other over party affiliations and elections is that they are distracted from how those with loud voices and lots of money bend the ears of our elected officials no matter what their party affiliation.  Both political parties have erred in the past.  As Tom Sightings wrote yesterday, forget most of what appears on Fox and MSNBC, many of their programs represent strident biased views.

It does no good to condemn a whole group of people.  Take OWS for example, these kids are on to something when they say the banks and Wall Street were at fault in the recent meltdown.  Sure, OWS is mostly an inchoate group of youngsters who seem to be interested in “whatever.” But they have a point somewhere…many of the big banks did not play fair.  

The TEA party folks are better organized, and they managed to get a number of individuals elected to office in the last mid-term election.  No matter how much you might disagree with them, the TEA folks are on to something too. We do need to evaluate all of our spending and determine what is good, and working and what is not. The Simpson-Bowles Commission did this and came up with a pretty good compromise.  Sure it has issues.  All compromises have issues for someone, but they often work because they find a middle way.

The difference between OWS and TEA is that one is working within the system (TEA) and the other is trying to work from outside the system (OWS).  Because I lean conservative, I tend to have more sympathy with those who work within the system, no matter what their politics. This is the democratic way.  It does not mean that I think we should turn a blind eye to unfairness and disenfranchisement. On the contrary, I think we must a tackle problems, but do it in a pragmatic fashion with certain results in mind.

Take any issue or problem you can imagine.  There is often a middle way that will please a few and be disliked by many but accomplish the goal. I am speaking of compromise of course. The “my way or the highway” mentality usually accomplishes nothing but disaster. A good example of finding the middle way are ranchers and farmers who work with environmentalists to restore clean water. Another is hunters who work with environmentalists to protect endangered species.  It can be done. 

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"Ruins in Richmond" Damage to Richmo...

Richmond VA in 1864 – Wikipedia

Lately, I have been reading about the US Civil War.  Barf. I had not intended to read about it, but to get to the Gilded Age one must begin with the period before the Civil War.  My book, Yankee Leviathan, is not about land or sea battles, but about the political economy of the United States before, during and after the Civil War.  The book explains the origins of the US federal government as we know it today.  Our current government was formed in the crucible of war and differs substantially from the Republic formed at the end of the eighteenth century…and for good reason.

Much of the regulation we recognize today associated with the federal government can be traced back to the Civil War. The excesses that occurred during and after that war led to reform and regulation. Like your car brakes, regulation is the brake that allows the ship of state to move safely.  Beware of those who speak in generalities about getting rid of regulation. Glass-Steagall regulated the banks for over 70 years and proved a success at preventing another Depression because it reined in greedy bankers.

Regulation can be stupid too. We need to carefully choose which regulations to keep and which to change or reform. Reform is a never-ending job. As Thomas Jefferson said, eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty.  Don’t be overwhelmed by rhetoric or the heat of the moment. Think things through, carefully, be pragmatic. Above all, look for solutions not quick fixes.

  

14 thoughts on “Finding the middle way….

  1. I support your “middle way” for sure. I hate to admit it but I think I’m more like Ginnie — I used to keep up with politics but now find that they annoy me more than anything else. That’s not to say I don’t care about the issues. I think they’re important. They’re interesting. But it seems that politicians don’t really want to address issues and solve problems, they want to exploit them either for their own personal gain or else to push their own special agenda.

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  2. We have shared previously about how scary economic policies are in Europe as well as the States. I enjoy reading what you have to say, though I confess I don’t always understand all the background. What I want is to be able to contribute sensibly and wisely to the debate on how to share wealth and encourage reward for hard work. Every Blessing

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    • Freda, I know it is especially scary for all of you in Europe. I keep track of the European Union and all your ups and downs. Unfortunately, unscrupulous bankers have poisoned the well for all of us. I wish I could say something cheerful, but I can’t.

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  3. I used to keep up with politics but find, in my old age, that it annoys me more than feeds me. I think the original founders would do a lot of turning in their graves if they were aware of what we are like today.
    I don’t always agree with him but I truly feel that President Obama is one of the few statesmen that we’ve had in government in years. Where did they all go?

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    • Ginnie, perhaps I will find politics boring someday. Don’t know, hard to predict. My parents were fairly political and their parents before them. I suppose it is in my genes or something. David is just as interested in politics as me so we have much to discuss.

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  4. Guess I am more like Kay about politics. I listen to bytes, ignoring the chance to delve deeper. I realize no one party or person is going to solve all my issues so I just vote for the one who comes closest and will sometimes write a congressman or woman on a particular interest. Pretty passive I fear.

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  5. I’m afraid most people merely listen to the news bites or is it bytes, whatever is most sensational. It’s too difficult to get into all the specifics in 3 minutes which is about all the time most people can stand to give. I often fall into that group which I agree is bad! My husband tells me that all the time. He sits at the kitchen table reading the morning paper for an hour or two getting upset. Then he tells me about it which gets me upset. Sigh…

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  6. I believe this is the best of your posts I’ve read. The heated rhetoric from extremists on the left and right does very little to solve our nation’s problems. It just gets in the way of thorough understanding of the issues, which is necessary to form the basis for proper analysis and problem solving. However, we should listen to the basic messages of protesters to help define problems and judge how serious they are.

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  7. This is a very intelligent way of looking at the economy, politics, and history. I don’t read the books you read or watch the programs you watch, so I do appreciate your blog for the heads up, Dianne. I have always been an independent, voting for both Republicans and Democrats. I am not wealthy and definitely could have more in savings, but we do live well, anyhow. Will socialized medicine work in this country? Should we keep Social Security and Medicare as is? Should we raise the retirement age? Questions galore. I am inclined to vote for Democrats this year.

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    • I suppose I am a polical junkie, but I do find politics more interesting than most anything else. We too have voted for people from either party depending on the election.

      The new health care law could work, but it will require some reform. A bill that long is bound to have some issues. Glass-Steagal was only 37 pages long, compared to several thousand pages in the health care law.

      Social Security is a fine program and definitely should be continued. Despite the rhetoric, SS is not the problem. Medicare is a problem and needs changes.

      I would rather have a pragmatic and rational solution to health care needs than a free-for-all in our emergency rooms. We just need to make it work.

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