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Campaigning begins at home

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I really enjoy campaigning, engaging with individual voters at county fairs and such. For one thing, that’s when I most feel like a part of the community, filling my humble role in the democratic circus.

However, that does tend to take away from other things, such as the fam. So, the main “campaign stop” for Sunday was my brother’s house in Connersville for a little spot of time with the nephew and nieces that I hadn’t talked to for awhile.

Turns out they were all intrigued with this campaigning and politics. They wanted to hear all about this election stuff. Indeed, my beloved 10 year old Ashtyn, who proudly proclaims me to be her “meanest favorite” drew me a special campaign picture:

Getting back to basics is generally a good idea, and explaining the federal government to ten year olds makes a good opportunity to do just that. So I tried to give them a basic five minute version of what the US government is supposed to be.

We have a basic document that explains what the parts of the US government are, and what they are supposed to do. It’s called the US Constitution.

According to the US Constitution, there are three separate branches that divide up the power and get things done. On is the executive branch, which is headed by the president, who is elected by the whole country. Another branch is the judiciary branch, headed by the Supreme Court. They are the top judges in the in the land. There are nine of them, and they are picked by the president.

Finally, there is the legislative branch, which is generally the most powerful and important part. They mostly make the laws, set the taxes, and spend the money. Congress is the legislative branch, and has two parts, a House of Representatives and a Senate. The house has several hundred members elected by the people in separate small districts across the country. The senate (for which I am running) has 100 total members, two from each state. For most things, both the house and senate have to agree on something for it to become law.

Now, for all this setup, the whole US federal government has one main job under the constitution: stop people from coming in and killing us. According to the US Constitution, national defense is the main thing the federal government is supposed to do. There are also some smaller jobs specified as well, such as printing money and setting copyright laws.

Other than that, most everything else is supposed to be left for the state or local governments, or -mostly- left for people to deal with themselves.

This explanation seemed to go over pretty well. It might would be a bit much for a Democrat or Republican to digest. They often seem to think that having so much as pricked their finger means a call to Uncle Sam. Schoolchildren, however, seem perfectly capable of understanding the basic gist of the deal.

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  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    What exactly was Ashtyn attempting to draw in the upper-right of her picture? A circumcision? :-P

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    I believe that would be the Liberty Bell- though she did put the crack in the wrong place.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Where’s the Girl Scout beret?

  • boomcrashbaby

    Al, I enjoyed this post. It is good to hear about future generations being interested in politics and the government.

    I’d like to point out that as a Democrat, I have never once called on Uncle Sam for anything, personally. Here in the last 4 years, I’ve actually been pretty busy trying to fend off Uncle Sam.

    One question though, since I know you are a devout capitalist. You mention that Republicans and Democrats can’t live without Big Brother saving them from a pinprick. And that government should be small and mostly defense. Can you comment on corporate lobbying, and how government has swelled to mammoth proportions, largely due to industry and the work force/labor? Do you think that most of big government today is because of individuals across America needing someone to cater to their every whim as you imply, or do you think that government is as big as it is today because of corporations, lobbying, and the financial and economic power of the capitalistic elite?

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Boom- I’m sure Al will get respond to your question, but I’d like to chime in too, as a devout capitalist myself, and fellow Hoosier Libertarian.

    It’s not that people can’t live without government today, per se. They could, but it would be a shock to their systems. After 110 years or so of ever increasing government involvement in the lives of Americans, people are used to it. It’s hard for many to fathom life without omnipresent government.

    I think that big business is a huge contributor to the swelling of business, but by no means the only cause. The change in climate over the years has made it so that the big business mindset is of ‘having to’ participate in the big government game- lobbying, throwing money at candidates, etc. There was a time in US history that the best of the big businesses resented government, and very often it was lesser competitors who sought unnatural advantage who lobbied the Congress most vigorously. That time, of course, is long past.

    I have no problem with lobbyists in and of themselves. If I were a legislator, I’d give them time at the table, they could ask me for the moon, and I would say, “Hmm, No.” Problem is, there are 100 Senators and 435 Congresspersons, and the vast majority of them are inclined to say, “why, sure!” My 12-year-old son knows he can ask me for anything, but if he hears ‘no’, it’s a dead issue. Lobbyists know that if they hear ‘no’ from members of one party, they might hear ‘yes’ from the other, and that a ‘no’ can be converted into a ‘kind of’ as a rider or a compromise bill.

    Even if Al is to become one of the US Senators, the other 99 are still going to be inclined to do business the way they have been, but it damn sure will help to alter the dynamics of the game to have him way out there as the radical for capitalism.

    You used the right word when describing the big business elite as ‘capitalistic’. They are not capitalists if they are looking for any shifting of wealth from anyone to themselves by means other than voluntary trade. In a purely capitalistic society, which we’ve never been, property rights are absolute. Property includes income and any assets of any kind. The politicians who assist in crony capitalism are the ones I have the most contempt for in the arena. I can grudgingly respect the socialist who is plain about his aims.

  • Eric Olsen

    I see it as a big mobile, that once you start tinkering with, you have to keep tinkering with to maintain balance, which seems like it should be easy to predict but often just comes down to trial and error. And if you’re going to use capitalism, and I don’t think human nature honestly allows any other system of economics, then you have to regulate it because it sure as hell isn’t self-regulating. The pure selfish energy that drives it also leads to cheating so the tinkering and balancing goes on, as it does in every other arena in which the government puts its fingers. It’s an endless balancing act.

  • Shark

    re: Eric’s analogy…

    …which makes Al Barger sort of yer Alexander Calder with a chain saw.

    Yeah. I get it.

    BTW: Great drawing! (And apparenly your niece also thinks you look like Moqtada al-Sadr)

  • Shark

    Boomcrash on Libertarian philosophy: “…Can you comment on corporate lobbying…” etc etc etc.

    Yeah.

    And how ’bout highways, dams, water systems, possible viral pandemics (CDC), fire departments, libraries…

    um… um…

    jees, there are sooooo many things we Pinkos need from the government…

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Bravo, Shark! Identify the things the average Libertarian actually supports as the things the Libertarian office holder would assail! Missed it by, oh, completely.

    Libertarians believe in the basics, but the basics include infrastructure and safety and defense services. Let’s see:

    Highways? Infrastructure. Gov’t.
    Dams? Infrastructure. Gov’t.
    Water Systems? Infrastructure. Gov’t.
    CDC? Safety. Gov’t.
    Fire Departments? Safety. Gov’t.
    Libraries? Hey- there’s one that could be done better privately.

    Nice job, Duane Kuiper. You are batting .143!

    You could, unlike Democrats and Republicans, expect Libertarians to work towards eliminating corporate welfare. You pinkos seem to like corporate welfare just fine, otherwise you would have done something to reduce it yourselves.

  • boomcrashbaby

    Mike, in regards to comment 5, I think you might make a good politician too, because you can give an answer that makes sense and doesn’t make sense at the same time.

    IF I’m understanding, then you and Al feel that Republicans and Democrats need big government to pamper to their every whim, (or pinpricked finger), and this is bad, but big business throwing millions of dollars at lawmakers (which at least one of you’d like to be), in order to get laws and agenda’s passed in a way that the little guy could never do, is just part of the game and okay.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    I’ll take the ‘compliment’. Cough. Let me clarify: Republicans and Democrats want big government.

    If the little guy can’t get his word in, look at the elected officials. They are the ones who set the terms of engagement. If I am ever elected to office, I will set the terms of engagement in my office, which means that lobbyists and constituents alike would be welcome to come to me with a conversation at any time, but it doesn’t mean they get what they ask for from me.

    Right now, when lobbyists go to lawmakers, they tend to get what they want. What is the solution? To ban lobbyists? Won’t that take us to more outright bribery? I think the solution is to hold our lawmakers to a higher standard.

    Look, if my 12-year-old son asks for the car keys and an 8-ball of crack, my answer is ‘no’. If he counters that he’ll be glad to take a six-pack of beer instead and will cut the grass still meets with the response ‘no’. In today’s Congress, that latter is the responsible approach taken by moderates of both parties.

    Who gave the store away, the person making the request or the gatekeeper who agreed to the request?

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    The Republicans have managed to turn the discussion to be about the size of the government, but I don’t think the size is as important as what the government is doing. With this administration, governance in the country has become “of corporations, by corporations, for corporations” far more than ever before.

    At one time, the 535 in the Senate and House represented the people in their districts. Now, they represent themselves. They need campaign contributions and in most cases that results in selling out your interests to large donors.

    That’s non-partisan, but.

    The “but” is that this administration is the worst example of stuffing foxes into slots overseeing the henhouse that I’ve seen in the last 40 years. For instance, they have appointed more than 100 former industry lobbyists and lawyers to oversee the industries they lobbied for, and sure enough – most still act as if they were working for those industries (will blog more details next week).

    So how do you fix the problem?

    I would like to replace everyone in the White House, Senate and House (with a few Senate and House exceptions).

    That’s unrealistic, so another approach is to try to see which single action would do the most good. Then look for the remaining “single best move” and do that. Etc.

    Right now, the single best move – with the most positive potential and highest likelihood of success – is to change the occupants of the White House.

    With that, we could remove the big business lobbyists and lawyers who have hijacked the country and the neocons who hijacked foreign policy.

    It could work.

    Because it may be working in California – Democrat Governor Davis absolutely, positively had to be dumped and he was.

    Republican Tom McClintock, a fiscal conservative, would have done a far better job than Schwarzenegger (who so far has managed to borrow $15 billion, and will probably have to borrow another $20 billion over the next two years, and in other areas is kind of a “girlie-man”), but at least it eased the Democrat’s grip.

    Now we need to work on getting some balance in the Democrat-controlled state senate (the leader is being term-limited out so we have a chance) and the state assembly.

    Guys like Nader and Camejo (he ran for Cal. governor, too) are jokes – they don’t have a hope in hell of getting elected so it’s just a waste of time. (Camejo was particularly so – his solution to every single problem in California was: “Tax the rich.”)

    But we do have to decide if we all want to be subjects of AgriBusiness, Big Pharma and the Faux-Free-Traders.

    I think the time is now. What do you think?

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Hal- I get what you are saying. Ironically, while the so-called campaign finance reform has made it imminently more difficult to turn out an incumbent from the Congress, the one place an incumbent can be turned out is in the Presidency. Turning out the President can send a signal to the Congress that another tone is being set.

    Do you have any sense that a Kerry Administration will really lead to any kind of substantive change? Will the ‘foxes’ you refer to really be replaced with others that are not cronies beholden to pet Democratic interests, some of which are corporate, too? I see no good reason to expect anything different.

    I would love to see this sort of change! Sadly, I have no faith that the American people really want it. If they are against one set of entrenched big interests, they tend to be for another set- Big unions, outright protectionists, the like.

    Sure, the time is now, but the premises must be challenged, and I don’t see that happening with Democratic or Republican voters. I’ll settle for gridlock as damage control.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Mike: the one place an incumbent can be turned out is in the Presidency. Turning out the President can send a signal to the Congress that another tone is being set. Do you have any sense that a Kerry Administration will really lead to any kind of substantive change? I’ll settle for gridlock as damage control.

    I think you have to start in a place where you stand a chance to begin change, and at the moment I see that as the presidency.

    The big problem right now is that we do not even have gridlock, and have not had, in Congress, since the Newt Gingrichians took over in 1994. They have pretty much steam-rolled anything they wanted since then.

    Clinton may have stopped a few things, but he was sympathetic to the DLC gang (which include Joseph Lieberman, Senator Evan Bayh, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, etc.). They call themselves the “Democratic Leadership Council” but essentially they’re really mini-me-Republicans, who happen to support abortion. These guys are as corporation-owned as any Republican, so we need to stay away from them.

    Kerry is not one of them, so with him we would have a head-start on fixing things like what the Republicans call “free trade” but is execute as protectionism (do a search for ‘Zoellich’ and ‘trade agreement’).

    Kerry will also get rid of the neoconservatives who have hijacked foreign policy. This will do more to improve American security than all the troops and guns and bombs in Iraq. That unilateralist neocon invasion simply roiled up the hornets’ nest and made radical Islamists even more determined to harm America, while wasting resources and lives “there” that could have been used to protect us “here.”

    Think about it, any neocons reading this: if we were to send another 50,000 troops to Iraq, or invade Iran or Syria or Pakistan or North Korea, exactly how would that make us safer at home? Would it provide better inspection of port and plane cargoes? Better control on the Canadian and Mexican borders? More security for reservoirs, chemical factories, nuclear power plants?

    With Kerry as Command-In-Chief, we will have a chance to disengage “there” and focus on the real problems “here.” Additionally, Kerry would attack terrorism in a manner that has a chance of working: cooperatively with the rest of the world.

    Electing Kerry will certainly not cure all this country’s ills, but the above is more than enough for me to support him. Once we get headed in the right direction on trade, terrorism and foreign policy, we can start on the other issues.

    I have no idea what Nader and Camejo’s policies are on anything (aside from “Tax the rich”). They could truly have the best ideas for dealing with everything, but it doesn’t matter to me. They won’t be elected so they won’t be able to make any changes.

    And we need to make changes. Now.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “There was a time in US history that the best of the big businesses resented government, and very often it was lesser competitors who sought unnatural advantage who lobbied the Congress most vigorously. That time, of course, is long past.”

    Er…Microsoft vs. its rivals?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    I meant that as supporting evidence, not as a rebuttal…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Well, supporting evidence that it HAPPENED, but also evidence that it still HAPPENS. :)

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “The big problem right now is that we do not even have gridlock, and have not had, in Congress, since the Newt Gingrichians took over in 1994. They have pretty much steam-rolled anything they wanted since then.”

    This is, frankly, insane.

    The Dems in the Senate have blocked nearly every major reform Bush has proposed.

    Now, you might disagree with the Bush proposals, and therefore think of this fact as a good thing.

    But it is hardly indicative of the Republicans being able to “steamrol” whatever the hell they want into law. That simply isn’t true.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    In the broad picture, RJ, the broad picture – don’t go berserk on me here.

    They got NAFTA.

    They got the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.

    They got the invasion of Iraq.

    They got the Medicare Act to pay off their Big Pharma buddies (and made it illegal for Medicare to negotiate prices).

    And huge subsidies for AgriBusiness and all kinds of corporate welfare and tax cuts (Wachovia made a $3 billion profit and paid no taxes). And environmental reforms that permit pollution, leave MTBE alone and increase mercury in the air and water.

    And in the House use the Republican Rules Committee (chaired by “my” representative Richard Dreier) to prevent Democrats from adding amendments to or even debating bills.

    Etc. Etc. Etc.

    But do tell me about those “Bush reforms” that were blocked. I’ve largely being paying attention to those that weren’t.

    Links to sources would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Really, you’re acting as if there were such big differences between the Republicans and Democrats. They in fact are in about 95% agreement about policy. They both believe in a big, welfare state government, and they’re both heavily on the corporate take.

    The “gridlock” comes not from significant differences between the parties in policy goals mostly, but simply from wanting to be the one holding power, or not wanting to give the opposite party president a win.

    I’m all with Hal on condemning the Republicans for all kinds of dumb corporate welfare- but of course the Democrats are AT LEAST as bad. For starters, please nail both Massachusetts senators specifically even just for the ridiculous multi-bazillion dollar Big Dig.

    CLINTON pushed through NAFTA- it was not forced on him, which the Republican presidents previously hadn’t been able to. That was probably one of Clinton’s couple of most effective policy accomplishments.

    Of course, there’s no Republican going to please Hal. Bush created a HUGE new liberal entitlement program. If Clinton had managed to do this, you’d be proclaiming it a great day for the old folks, and that this proved he was up there with Lincoln and Roosevelt.

    I, of course, am opposed to the new drug benefit plan for starters on grounds that the federal government has absolutely no legitimate legal authority to create such a thing.

    Leastways, Ashytyn and I can’t find anything in the US Constitution that said that the feds are supposed to be our doctors and pharmacists. Army and cops is definitely there, doctoring in any form doesn’t seem to be. Maybe we just weren’t reading close enough.

  • Dan

    Also, Clinton got welfare reform. Kennedy was the first to realize tax cuts expanded the economy, and Republicans own civil rights legislation. Those are all positives btw.

  • Dan

    “Maybe we just weren’t reading close enough.”

    I’ve heard that if you focus on the part of the constitution that say’s “for the common good”, relax your eyes a bit, eventually the words “free drugs” pop out at you 3-dimensionally.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    That’s not true, Al, pay attention:

    #12: Republican Tom McClintock, a fiscal conservative, would have done a far better job than Schwarzenegger … but at least it eased the Democrat’s grip.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    No, Al, I’m not acting as if there were such big differences between the Republicans and Democrats.

    I’m acting as if we had huge problems and needed to find a way to solve the biggest ones first and fast.

    At the moment, that seems to be to replace the current White House incumbents.

    I’d vote for anyone who stood a chance of getting elected irrespective of political party. At the moment, it’s Kerry.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    CLINTON pushed through NAFTA- it was not forced on him, which the Republican presidents previously hadn’t been able to. That was probably one of Clinton’s couple of most effective policy accomplishments.

    On this one, you’re closer to the truth :-) The truth is that he actually signed a couple of hundred trade deals, all of which weren’t necessarily in the best interests of the Democrat’s constituency.

    It becomes clear why he did this when you remember that he was a former chariman of the Democratic Leadership Council. At the time, they were all acting as mini-me-Republicans. They had decided that big business had all the money, and they wanted some – why should the Republicans get all the gelt? – so they reached as far as they could into the pockets of AgriBusiness, Big Pharma and other multi-nationals.

    Since then, things have fractured somewhat for the DLC and some members are actually starting to remember that they are not Republicans.

    And even during Clinton’s tenure, he was only the president and most legislation was actually created and driven by the Republican majority (think Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott).

    I agree that both parties carry blame, but still feel that the quickest start on a fix is the change the contents of the White House (I have a bi-partisan list for lesser issues later).

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Hal, perhaps the silliest one dumb excuse for an idea that I’ve heard in politics is voting for “change.” Ross Perot, for example, was all about “change,” which also apparently meant “cleaning out the barn.”

    What does any of that mean? What exactly do you think that Kerry will do differently and better than Bush? By the way, what’s his policy on Iraq this week?

    I know of no real answers to any of that, good or bad. He’s just not Bush.

    Even if he makes “changes,” they might be changes for the worse. Change in itself is no sure virtue.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    I thought I had already told you, Al, but maybe that was in some other threads.

    Kerry will change foreigh policy, trade policy and tax policy.

    Check Kerry’s site and various press reports over the last few months for details.

    Keeping ideological blinders on isn’t any too smart with this country and the world in the shape they’re in. Following an idée fixe isn’t going to fix anything.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Kerry has demonized the Bush administration for “going to war because of an over-reliance on foreign oil” even though he says (now) that he supported the war, and even though he voted AGAINST increased oil exploration here in the US.

    The Dems blocked Bush’s energy plan. It would have increased domestic energy production, added thousands of high-paying unions jobs, prevented large-scale black-outs by making the power-grid more connected on a national level, and would have offered big-time federal bucks for research on fuel-cell technology.

    Democrats, including Kerry, apparently care more about Arctic Caribou than they do Americans…

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Kerry did not vote to invade Iraq, and did not say that he would vote to invade “knowing what he knows now.” [Bush Flopped On Terrorism And Security, Kerry Didn’t Flip]

    As for the vaunted energy bill:

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the energy subsidies a “shameless scam” to benefit the oil and gas industries and other energy interests.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    I also found an article on the energy bill that you and several fellow-travelers will probably trust, RJ – it’s from the Heritage Foundation:

    Energy Bill Still Too Pork-Heavy

    WASHINGTON, MARCH 18, 2004—Even trimmed to less than half its original size, the energy legislation moving through Congress remains laden with pork, budget gimmicks, corporate welfare and misguided investments, says a new paper from The Heritage Foundation.

    Senators cut the 10-year price tag on the bill from the $31.1 billion agreed to in a House-Senate conference committee to $14 billion. But large agribusinesses would continue to profit from lucrative ethanol subsidies, the coal industry still would receive $2 billion in taxpayer money, and unnecessary research—such as studying ways to convert car trips to bicycle trips and a $50 million project to study transit buses—still would go forward as usual.

    “It may be less bloated than the original, but federal spending will continue to increase,” says Charli Coon, Heritage energy expert and author of the paper. Worse, Coon argues, the bill fails to take the steps necessary to improve and secure the energy America needs. [Heritage Foundation]

    What do you think?

  • JR

    The Dems blocked Bush’s energy plan. It would have increased domestic energy production, added thousands of high-paying unions jobs, prevented large-scale black-outs by making the power-grid more connected on a national level, and would have offered big-time federal bucks for research on fuel-cell technology.

    If I remember correctly, those federal bucks would depend on income from ANWR – no drilling, no research funding. If Cheney, et al were so selflessly concerned about our future, why the hitch?

    And it’s the connectedness that causes large-scale blackouts. Preventing blackouts is probably impossible. If the administration was claiming otherwise, they were lying again.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Hal- I think that if the Dems blocked this energy bill, they should be thanked!

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    I’m with you on this one, Mike.

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