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“The Scourge Of The Businessman Politician”: I’m No Politician, But I Can Clean Up Washington

Attentive readers will recall that among my many pet peeves (and being able to complain to a wide circle of people about your pet peeves is one of blogging’s greatest fringe benefits) is the candidate who proclaims that you should vote for him because he’s “a businessman, not a politician.” As though the fact that there are a lot of shady car mechanics out there means that when you need a new timing belt, the best person for the job would be a florist or an astronomer, because they’re not tainted by the car repair racket.

I’ve written at some length about why exactly success in business doesn’t prepare you to be a good senator or governor, but the short version is that the two realms are extremely different. So it isn’t too surprising that when businesspeople decide to run for office, most of the time they fail. They come in with a lot of money, flush it down the toilet on an overly expensive campaign, and quickly discover that there is a whole set of skills necessary for success that they don’t possess. When you try to think of business leaders who got elected, then used their business acumen to do things differently and really made a major impact, it’s hard to think of many names other than Michael Bloomberg. Here and there you’ll find someone like former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen who did pretty well, but more common is candidates like Ross Perots, or Meg Whitman, or Linda McMahon, or Al Checci (there’s a blast from the past for you political junkies). They think, “Sure I can do this better than those empty suits—I’ve made a billion dollars!” And then they lose.

Not every time, of course, but most of the time. Which is why Democrats should be pleased to hear this:

Republicans are banking on businessmen to help them retake the Senate in 2014.

A half-dozen top GOP candidates boast records as wealthy businessmen and entrepreneurs. If voters decide they’re successful job creators on Election Day, Republicans could be on their way to the six seats they need to win the upper chamber.

Now maybe these candidates are all going to turn out to be just aces. But if history is any guide, more than a few of them are likely to be terrible at running for office. For many of them it’s their first time, which is often a disaster, and it’s particularly hard to have your first run for office be a high-profile Senate race with lots of pressure and press scrutiny. (The list of highly successful politicians who had a loss in their first run for office, or one of their first runs, is a notable one. It includes Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, among many others. It seems that early loss is a highly edifying experience.)

It’s easy to see why this is happening. These candidates are attractive to party leaders because they bring their own money. Republicans have also spent years creating a cult of the businessman, trying to convince others, and no doubt convincing themselves, that those who succeed in business are the most virtuous, brilliant, and generally admirable of all human beings. And that may extend to primary voters, to a degree anyway. Which gives them a good shot to make it to the general election, and which also means that we’re going to have to endure a lot more of that “I’m no politician, so I can clean up Washington!” crap in this election. But what else is new.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 26, 2014

March 3, 2014 Posted by | Businesses, Politics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chris Christie’s Big Problem

Whether or not he lets himself be persuaded to run for president, Chris Christie needs to find some way to lose weight. Like everyone else, elected officials perform best when they are in optimal health. Christie obviously is not.

You could argue that this is none of my business, but I disagree. Christie’s problem with weight ceased being a private matter when he stepped into the public arena — and it’s not something you can fail to notice. Obesity is a national epidemic whose costs are measured not just in dollars and cents but also in lives. Christie’s weight is as legitimate an issue as the smoking habit that President Obama says he has finally kicked.

On rare occasions, Christie speaks candidly about his weight. “I’m really struggling, been struggling for a long time with it,” he told CNN’s Piers Morgan in June. “And I know that it would be better for my kids if I got it more under control, and so I do feel a sense of guilt at times about that.”

Six weeks later, the New Jersey governor was briefly hospitalized for asthma — a condition that he has had for most of his life. Researchers say that many respiratory problems, including asthma, are worsened by obesity.

As he left the hospital, Christie acknowledged the connection. He described himself as “relatively healthy by all objective indicators,” but added that “if I weighed less, I’d be healthier.”

“The weight exacerbates everything,” he said.

And it does. According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity puts people at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and gallbladder and liver disease.

The NIH estimates that nearly 34 percent of U.S. adults can be classified as “obese,” meaning they have a body mass index of more than 30. By this standard, a man who stands 5-foot-11 — Christie’s reported height — would be obese if his weight reached 215 pounds. While Christie does not disclose his weight, it appears to exceed the 286 pounds that would place him among the 5.7 percent of American adults whom NIH classifies as “extremely obese.”

I refer to obesity as an epidemic because the percentage of obese adults has doubled in the past 40 years — and childhood obesity is increasing even more rapidly. Again according to the NIH, “obesity is associated with over 112,000 excess deaths due to cardiovascular disease, over 15,000 excess deaths due to cancer, and over 35,000 excess deaths due to non-cancer, non-cardiovascular disease causes per year.”

On average, health-care costs for obese persons are 42 percent higher than costs for individuals whose weight falls into the “normal” range. It costs Medicare $1,723 more a year for an obese beneficiary than a non-obese one. For Medicaid the differential is $1,021, and for private insurers it’s $1,140. In other words, obesity is helping propel the rise in health-care costs, which are fueling the long-term rise in the national debt.

My intention is not to blame Christie for the federal government’s deficit spending — or, in fact, to blame him for his own obesity. Blame is not the point. Christie is just 49 and has four young children; politics aside, I’m sure he wants to be around to share the milestones in their lives. He prides himself on bullheaded determination and speaks often about the need for officials to display leadership. Well, Gov. Christie, lead thyself.

“I weigh too much because I eat too much,” he said after his hospitalization this summer, “and I eat some bad things, too.”

If only it were that simple. Yes, the basic arithmetic of calories ingested vs. calories expended is inescapable. But the science of weight control now takes into account the role that genetics might play, along with psychological factors that lie outside our conscious control. There are new options, including gastric surgery, beyond the dieting roller coaster — lose 40 pounds, gain it all back — that Christie says he has been riding for years.

Those who have lost weight and kept it off for extended periods, including former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, say they have succeeded by making proper diet and exercise part of their lives — not just unpleasant chores that have to be endured.

Politically, I disagree with Christie on almost everything. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to tell him why. Today, I’d just like to offer him a bit of unsolicited, nonpartisan, sincere advice: Eat a salad and take a walk.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 29, 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Medicaid, Medicare, Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recall Elections Enhance Democracy: Wisconsinites Are Holding Their Elected Officials Accountable

It’s true that the recall election was never intended to replace our representative form of government, and it’s most certainly not a tool to be used lightly. However, when elected officials subvert the will of those they represent, enacting a radical agenda that seeks to concentrate power in the hands of the very few and jeopardizing the livelihoods of the people they are supposed to protect, the exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed right to force a recall election is a just and proper tool to hold those elected officials accountable for their actions.

And, although the use of the recall election is an appropriate expression of voter outrage, the fact remains that the actual undertaking of a recall election is an incredibly daunting task that requires collecting a great amount of signatures in a relatively short period of time. Here in Wisconsin, the number of valid signatures required to trigger a recall election is equal to 25 percent of the number of persons who voted in the last election for the office of governor within the electoral district of the officer sought to be recalled. Even more of a challenge, these signatures, numbering in the thousands, or possibly even hundreds of thousands, must be collected in a mere 60 days.

These requirements are incredibly stringent, and in being so, protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that the recall election is not used to undermine representative democracy. Prior to the historic recall filings of the past few weeks, Wisconsin has only had four recalls of state officials, dating back to 1926, when, at the very heart of the Progressive movement, the Wisconsin Constitution was amended to provide for the recall of elected officials. Two of those four were successful.

The unprecedented efforts of thousands of engaged citizens only serve to illustrate the significance of the events of recent weeks, where the tremendous momentum against Republican legislators who enabled Gov. Scott Walker’s extreme power grab continues unabated, and where Wisconsinites continue to express their outrage over record cuts to education, healthcare, and support for our seniors and the most vulnerable, while granting tax cuts for the very rich.

It’s clear that the tide is turning in Wisconsin. The people have sent an unmistakable signal to an intransigent governor and his rubber-stamp legislature that their divisive methods and preference for placing narrow and partisan corporate interests over the people they represent have been rejected, and there is no choice now but to know that the voices of thousands of working Wisconsin families will be heard.

The actions of the Republican legislators facing recall are extreme, dangerous, and way out of step with Wisconsin values. Through the power of their ballots in recall elections, Wisconsinites have the opportunity to hold their elected officials accountable and effect immediate change so they are no longer subject to the will of politicians more concerned with promoting the agenda of their party bosses than with keeping their promises to represent the will of their constituents.

Recall elections send a direct message to elected officials—that they will be held responsible for the promises they make to the people they represent, and if they fail to keep those promises, they risk drawing the ire of the electorate.

Recall is undoubtedly a powerful tool, but it does not weaken democracy. If anything, it enhances it.

By: Mike Tate, U. S. News and World Report, May 10, 2011

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Constitution, Corporations, Democracy, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Lawmakers, Liberty, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Martial Law Now A Reality In Michigan:The Voter’s Voice Doesn’t Really Matter Anymore

Last week saw the layoff of every public school teacher in Detroit, and the initial fruition of the highly-contested bill that allows emergency financial managers to have unconditional control over a city in a financial emergency. The city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, declared to be in a financial emergency by Governor Rick Snyder, now knows that, according to Snyder, the voter’s voice doesn’t really matter anymore.
 
Joseph Harris, the city’s new Emergency Financial Manager (EFM), dismantled the entire government, only allowing city boards and commissions to call a meeting to order, approve of meeting minutes and adjourn a meeting.
 
The law that allows Harris to “exercise any power or authority of any office, employee, department, board, commission, or similar entity of the City, whether elected or appointed,” was passed in March after the urging of Gov. Snyder, and despite thousands of protesters who came to the Lansing capitol throughout February and March.
 
Michigan AFL-CIO released a press release in response to Benton Harbor: “This is sad news for democracy in Michigan. It comes after the announcement of Robert Bobb in Detroit ordering layoff of every single public school teacher in the Detroit Public School system,” says Mark Gaffney, President of Michigan AFL-CIO. “With the stripping of all power of duly elected officials in Benton harbor and the attack on Detroit school teachers, we can now see the true nature of the Emergency Manager system.”
 
Earlier in the week, TMP Muckraker reported that the Detroit Public Schools’ EFM, Robert Bobb, sent 5,466 unionized teachers layoff notices “in anticipation of a workforce reduction to match the district’s declining student enrollment.” The notices are a part of the Detroit Teachers Federation collective-bargaining contract. TPM also reported that “Non-Renewal notices have also been sent to 248 administrators, and the layoffs would go into effect by July 29.”

By: Jennifer Page, Center for Media and Democracy, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Education, Elections, GOP, Government, Governors, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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