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February 04, 2009

Comments

//There should not be two sets of rules, one for people who have to pay their taxes and one for people who don't. Nor should there be two sets of rules, one for people who have to take responsibility for their mistakes and one for people who don't. I'm glad that Obama ended up rejecting both double standards.//

My tenant Norman doesn't pay taxes. Though able bodied, he doesn't work. He lives on the dole and sells drugs on the side. He makes all kinds of mistakes. The rule for him is that the government pays him to continue his lifestyle.

I pay taxes; enough for me and you and him and those ones over there. When I make mistakes I take responsibility for them. Sometimes my mistakes cost money. When they do, I pay it. Sometimes Norman's mistakes cost me money which Norman does not pay. The rule for me is different than the rule for Norman.

I am so glad that Obama recognizes this disparity and is going to remove it.

Nor should there be two sets of rules, one for people who have to take responsibility for their mistakes and one for people who don't.

It does not appear that the Obama Administration believes this principle when it comes to the banking community.

Your tenant Norman pays you rent, does he not? His ability to pay you rent is predicated on the assistance that you're complaining about, no?

"there's just something in the water in Washington DC that makes people turn into corrupt insincere spinmeisters whose words are worthless and who wouldn't recognize honor if it sat down next to them on the bus

lead.

ddddave, are you saying that the unfairness here is that the gov't won't pay you to sit around and deal drugs? Surely there's a grant for that somewhere . . ..

LMNOP
Yes, Norman pays rent and yes it comes from the assistance. Obviously your point is that I get some benefit from the assistance which I have essentially paid out of my own taxes. As if that should make it all better.

First, the point is that there ARE two sets of rules and Obama intends to put them even more firmly in place.

Second, I would make more money if Norman leaves than if he stays. He has driven down the rent I can get for all of the units adjacent to him as well as the unit he is in. There is no question that Norman costs me money even netting out all the benefits.

Look at the situation any which way you want. There is no good that comes from Norman. [Except in God's eyes, of course, which makes him a precious flower that we should nurture. Only half-hearted sarcasm here because Norman is one of God's creatures and therefore he should be mine].

Dan S[pinmeister]

You know what I'm talking about. And I never used the word unfair. What is fair anyway? Every person is different. Every life history is different. There is no possible twisting that can be done to make 'fair' happen. Forget fair. It is not a useful concept.

Unless fair means 'having a light skin tone'. That type of fair exists. But some would say it is the basis of unfair which is a real paradox.


d'd'd'dave,

I get the feeling that renting to Norman was one of your mistakes, which you assure us that you do make. Will you own up to that, as you also assure us you do?

And, what steps (aside from drawing grand conclusions about politics and telling us about them) have you taken to rectify your own mistake?

--TP

Let's grant that there should not be two sets of rules. Yay, granted.

Isn't the immediate next question: "What should the common rules be?" I certainly don't want it to be the case that if I make a tax error, not only do I have to pay back taxes plus penalties, but I lose my job, or even a job in government.

Of course, by and large, whether I've made an error in my taxes doesn't affect my job performance at all. It's completely irrelevant. One could argue, sensibly, that this is not the case for Daschle. Further, except for the chance to make history, Daschle is not materially harmed by the loss of this job. If the US doesn't get good universal health care/health care reform, or it gets crappy care/reform and that would have been avoided by having Daschle in the position, then it was stupid to dump him.

If the distraction of his taxes (etc.) would have produced crappier care/reform than we'll get now, then it was smart to dump him.

I feel some reformist impulse, i.e., that the good of taking a stand here will have general benefits in the future, but, c'mon. Gingrich taking out Jim Wright did nothing to further good government (far from it!). Bill Clinton's impeachment...nuff said.

There's no evidence at all that I see that the Republican party or its associated movement is remotely interested in policy or in good government except as a means to produce bad policy and bad government. It's a bit like their voter fraud bullshit.

Can I get whatever deal Norman has that when I walk into a store, they know not to charge me sales tax?

Anyway, folks, don't be led down the rabbit hole by dave, here. He's trying to argue from a premise that doesn't exist -- i.e., that there are two sets of rules, one that exists for Norman and one for him.

Except that there aren't: He said that Norman doesn't work. Ergo, he has no income; ergo, he owes no taxes. If he did work, he would have to pay his taxes just like dave does.

So, I'm not sure what solution, exactly, dave would like Obama to come up with, outside of a law requiring all able-bodied persons to have jobs. Is that really the level of control dave wants the government to have over people's lives?

Also, dave, could you remind me where you live? If you're aware Norman is selling drugs, and letting him do so from your property, I can ensure that the local police can relieve you of both this burdensome tenant, and the property from which you allow him to sell drugs, posthaste. It can probably be boarded up by the end of the day if you give me your ZIP code and everything. Might want to get in touch with your attorney, though.

My tenant Norman doesn't pay taxes.

He grows all his own food and makes all his own clothes with cloth and thread he also makes himself from his own sheep/goats and his own cotton field?

D'd'd'dave, when does this busy, busy guy have time to deal drugs?

Also, Norman's got enough land to grow food and cotton and pasture sheep or goats and, presumably, his cash crop of marijuana - and you're complaining?

Or are you just forgetting about the sales taxes?

There should not be two sets of rules, one for people who have to pay their taxes and one for people who don't. Nor should there be two sets of rules, one for people who have to take responsibility for their mistakes and one for people who don't. I'm glad that Obama ended up rejecting both double standards.

Well, I guess someone has to play the role of the cynic you mentioned… And as you raised the point of lobbyists I don’t feel this is OT.

It sends a clear signal IMO when you create a rule (lobbyists) and then waive it 17 times in your first 14 days - there is a class of people for whom the rules just don’t apply – even a rule you imposed yourself.

Seems like business as usual to me – look at what I say, not what I do…

And there is no way that the vetting team wasn’t aware of the tax issues, with all of them. I say that because they paid up during vetting. They just didn’t believe a little thing like that would matter to the public. No big deal because anyone should be able to see that these were great choices, elites all. These people were just too smart/good/connected to hold them to the same standard as average Americans.

I will however credit him for saying “I screwed up” and not blaming it on staffers (as happened so often during the campaign). It’s refreshing to see a president accept responsibility for a mistake. I applaud that. But as long as he keeps waiving his own lobbyist rule for “special” appointees then IMO either he is fine with double standards or just blind to them.

Oh and to pre-empt – I know that Daschle was not technically a “registered” lobbyist. He was “a special policy adviser for the lobbying law firm Alston & Bird. And in his three years there, the firm has earned more than $16 million representing some of the health care industry’s most powerful interests before the department he’s in line to lead.”

And you could quibble with the list of 17 – this one was just outside the 2 year window, that one hasn’t lobbied since 2006, etc. But certainly these appointments violate the spirit if not the letter of his own rule.

If he doesn't earn his own money, he's not paying taxes, other taxpayers are paying his taxes for him. They may be doing it indirectly, but they're doing it, not him.

If you think otherwise, just do this thought experiment: If we raised Norman's dole to Bill Gates levels, and levied enough taxes on him to pay the entire budget, would everybody else be able to stop paying taxes? No, of course not: Because the government's expenses would go up by exactly the same amount.

People on the dole 'paying taxes' is just an accounting gimmick, nothing more, administratively simpler than paying them less dole, and not charging them taxs. But it's just the government paying the government, at the taxpayer's expense.

It sends a clear signal IMO when you create a rule (lobbyists) and then waive it 17 times in your first 14 days - there is a class of people for whom the rules just don’t apply – even a rule you imposed yourself.

Sorry, OC, but I'd like to know how many positions there are before I hyperventilate over 17.

Also, the cite, via Morrissey, is really fishy. It is from a website called Indiadaily.com, (Morrisey claims that it is from the Times of India). Yet looking at the page, while the bollywood and sports sections are Indian based, the other sections are filled with people who don't identify themselves and who don't come up in Google. The writer of the story you mention, Adrian Nathan, doesn't seem to have any other articles. I suspect the enterprise to be a collection of freelance articles, so it is like an exotic species of astroturf.

For a more fact filled rundown, the NYT has this

Some who worked as lobbyists have found places in the administration, including Mark Patterson, who represented Goldman Sachs and is now chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. William V. Corr, who lobbied for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, has been selected as deputy health and human services secretary.

Obama advisers said that the exceptions were minimal given the thousands to be hired and that appointees would be barred from work on issues they lobbied on in the last two years. The exceptions, they said, were needed for particular skills and experience.

Some advocates said the rules were still more significant than any previously imposed. “This is a direct attack on the culture of Washington and in an extremely powerful way,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, an advocacy group.

So one of the tainted appointees is someone who lobbied for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a site whose top page says

Working to expose Big Tobacco's lies, the Campaign reveals the truth about the deadly effects of smoking...

seems a bit much.

Brett --

If it would cost more to imprison him for the crimes he would almost certainly commit if he were desperate and starving than it costs to continue his dole, the taxpayers get a bargain.

And that is almost certainly the case.

imprison him for the crimes he would almost certainly commit if he were desperate and starving than it costs to continue his dole,

ah, but you're forgetting to account for two things: the pleasure people take in giving punishment; and the dismay people suffer when giving handouts.

once you figure in the cost accrued in the form of self-righteous anger over handouts, and the gain taken in the form of self-righteous vengeance, the taxpayer could very well come out on top by waiting for the crime.

This is Change we can believe in and yet GOP pundits are stating this Administration has not changed, because they do not want change.

The GOP pretend to care so deeply about the stimulus, when it is patently obvious and a derelict of their duty to the public, that the GOP are working furiously for the next elections and not the peoples' economic crisis looming so large at this time. Some Republican Pundits charged with this task, call the Stimulus a stinking corpse, before it is even born, instead of what it is -- a valuable work in progress for this country. Like any creation, in the early stages, it is chaos and not fully formed, such as a fetus, a painting, any work of art, and yet the artist ploughs on knowing the beauty to be eventually created. Why in the world, would some Pundits criticize the early form instead of giving support, is beyond the pale, especially when they know to publically criticize it is to get the ball rolling to derail it. May be they do not love this country more than their party affiliation! These pundits sit in their high-paying jobs, so lofty, and pick apart every little thing someone says or does, Wears...., with nothing good to say, like their word is God or gold -- as they no longer report the news but give their Opinions about the news. There was a time when we were taught as Americans, if you have nothing good to say about anyone, say nothing at all. We have lost that. These Pundits are a part of the problem and not the solution.

At this critical stage in our rapidly-crumbling economy, it would seem that the Republican Senators would do everything they can to do something, to tell the American people, I am on your side, and not always to quickly say no to the middle class and the little people; no to schools, education, infra structure, green jobs, all of which have too long been denied and neglected and Yet, always yes to the Special Interest Groups, to wars, to big oil and their tax breaks.

It is a sad fact that for average American citizens, the GOP is becoming the party of NO! We can not depend on the GOP to help us, they never have. In 2010, we will know what to do.

This "off with their heads" sanctimony sure feels good, don't it? Topped only by the trivial Norman in Apt 4-E riff.

But it is foolish and self-defeating, unless of course you don't want major change in health care and a host of other issues. Do you suppose there is a happier constituency over this withdrawal than insurance company executives? Does Obama have so little cred with you already that you think he would have picked Daschle if Daschle was totally in the tank for the industry?

The question is not whether or not Tom Daschle's tax problem was acceptable. Of course it wasn't. That's why there are big penalties. The question is whether or not he is therefore irredeemable for any other purpose. Should they not have confirmed Eric Holder because of the Mark Rich pardon? Should we not accept the possibility that, as he said, the experience made him better? This carping reminds me of the people who would exclude someone from being a judge because s/he once smoked dope. Same absolutism. Same intolerance. Just a different angle.

The "there are plenty of others" to do the job line is cavalier. No one who understands this gargantuan problem and industry is going to meet your tests. And when you are satisfied, the opponents of reform will use your high-mindedness against that nominee.

This unwillingness to give Obama the benefit of the doubt when we have elected him to deal with the biggest crap storm the nation has faced in any of our lifetimes risks setting him up for ineffectiveness and failure. He and we deserve better. But his virtue will be intact by your reckoning and that's all that counts, right?
Tell that to the uninsured woman who's kid has an ear infection.

I think I agree with OCSteve, it's hard to see the nomination and withdrawal of Daschle as some sort of virtue. He had tax problems, they knew (or should have known, though there was a report that sounded like he didn't tell them until after he was nominated that I linked in another thread), they nominated him anyway, the tax problems came out, they tried to weather the storm, they couldn't, they withdrew the nomination and said "oops".

True virtue would have been, I think, not to nominate him in the first place.

LJ: I don’t think it’s the number as a percentage (although an average of more than one per day doesn’t look good) as much as the positions. But let’s try a different source

President Obama promised during his campaign that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House."

So far, though, at least a dozen former lobbyists have found top jobs in his administration, according to an analysis done by Republican sources and corroborated by Politico.

“top jobs”…

“It would be more honest if they admitted they made a mistake and came up with a narrower rule,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Obviously, they can’t live with the rule, which is why they keep waving the magic wand and making exceptions. They’re saying one thing and doing another. It’s why the public is skeptical about politicians.”

And yes, there is disagreement about the scope of the problem:

“Any good set of ethics rules has the opportunity for waivers, but if the waivers become the rule, rather than the exception, then you have to look at whether the waivers are being sought too frequently or whether there’s a problem with the rule,” McGehee said. “I don’t think we’re at that point yet.”

Politico’s list (emphasis mine):

Eric Holder, attorney general nominee, was registered to lobby until 2004 on behalf of clients including Global Crossing, a bankrupt telecommunications firm.

Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year on behalf of the National Education Association.

William Lynn, deputy defense secretary nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for defense contractor Raytheon, where he was a top executive.

William Corr, deputy health and human services secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until last year for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a non-profit that pushes to limit tobacco use.

David Hayes, deputy interior secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until 2006 for clients, including the regional utility San Diego Gas & Electric.

Mark Patterson, chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for financial giant Goldman Sachs.

Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was registered to lobby until 2005 for clients, including the Coalition for Asbestos Resolution, U.S. Airways, Airborne Express and drug-maker ImClone.

Mona Sutphen, deputy White House chief of staff, was registered to lobby for clients, including Angliss International in 2003.

Melody Barnes, domestic policy council director, lobbied in 2003 and 2004 for liberal advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the American Constitution Society and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Cecilia Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, was a lobbyist as recently as last yearfor the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.

Patrick Gaspard, White House political affairs director, was a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union.

Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff to the president’s assistant for intergovernmental relations, lobbied for the American Association of Justice from 2001 until 2005.

Some of those are “technically” within the new rules. But some are clearly (IMO) problematic.

Holder is the classic “revolving door” case. From the Justice Dept. to Global Crossing lobbyist (where he helped Global Crossing clear regulatory hurdles on the Singapore deal) now back to Justice as the AG.

Last year’s Raytheon lobbyist is this year’s Deputy Defense Secretary?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s chief of staff was a Goldman Sachs lobbyist last year, leading up to the mess we are in now?

When you’re handing out waivers like that it kind of makes the “rule” a little suspect IMO. And IMO it demonstrates that rules, even your own, are for some other class of people – not the DC elite.

And let’s not forget the “not a registered lobbyist” lobbyists. Daschle: Health care lobbying company to HHS Secretary. Mitchell - heading a company doing work for ME clients to ME Peace Envoy…

Should you be able to go from representing the interest of ME countries and the leader of Dubai to ME Peace Envoy? Exactly how will Mitchell recuse himself from issues having to do with a host of ME countries? Wouldn’t that make it tough to actually do the job? I guess he doesn’t have to as he did not “register” as a lobbyist?

True virtue would have been, I think, not to nominate him in the first place.

I think it takes a much bigger cynic than I to imagine that Daschle was a deliberate sacrifice, though. I tend to think that instead, Obama and his team were caught up in the hopeychanginess of the moment, and got ahead of the vetting process.

Last year’s Raytheon lobbyist is this year’s Deputy Defense Secretary?

I don't like that any more than Raytheon would like to have a former LockMart or Boeing lobbyist in that position.

OC makes good points. Obama is finding out that running for president and actually being president are two entirely different things. It's one thing to say 'no lobbyists in my house!' and excoriate McCain for hiring lobbyist despite his own anti-lobbyist pledge, but then quite another to live up to the pledge.

It's also valid to note that Obama stood by Daschle after the tax revelations were fully in play.

The only difference is that Obama admitted, quickly, that he'd made mistakes. This is new and it's somewhat refreshing.

" Though able bodied, he doesn't work.'

Is he able-minded? Does he have a mental illness? Or is he just an exploiter and a crook? do you know?

Would society be better off if he lived on the street?

"And IMO it demonstrates that rules, even your own, are for some other class of people – not the DC elite."

Steve, did you protest this vehemently against former lobbyists from several years before the administration was in power in the Bush Admin? Do you have cites to that? Or is this a double standard on your part? Just wondering.

(If not, given your prior support for the Bush Administration, why would you object to people supporting the same thing you found fine for years?)

are you sure...glass house: Do you suppose there is a happier constituency over this withdrawal than insurance company executives?

Are you f*cking kidding me? Tom Daschle was in bed with the health insurance and health care companies in a big way.

Hilzoy's post is thoughtful, and I agree that the idea might have been to change peoples' expectations of politics. But then why appoint someone in the first place who is practically a poster boy for corporate shilling in the first place? It's Obama's failure to see that contradiction long ago that puts the lie to the 'new politics'.

I understand a lot better the reactions of someone like Tom Harken, who's been a close friend and colleague ever since they were both young, idealistic midwestern members of Congress -- and who's been through much of the same corrupting process. But Obama has only known Daschle since he became a full-out "consultant".

Inheriting his staffers -- how convenient for all concerned. That's one of the vectors of the Washington disease. Over the past twenty years, one third of senior Hill staff have become lobbyists.

No, there's nothing in the damned water. It's in the air, and it's MONEY. Corporate money that fuels our system of legalized bribery known as "campaign financing".

Having to raise $30 million, as big-state Senators do to win, means that every single week hours and even days are devoted to raising money. You go to events put on by lobbyists, you and your spouse and your political staffer dress up for the occasions, you spend a whole lot of time around people who take vast sums of money for granted -- and pretty soon you're so used to that scene that you don't begin to question it.

The permanent government is the web of lobbies, think tanks, Congressional staff, law firms, and campaign consultants. The members of Congress are the pretty faces and smooth talkers who can manage to stomach the whole routine and make some kind of connection with the voters cycle after cycle. It's still the case that once you're there, chances are you'll stay there for many terms. Unless you don't raise enough money, or piss off a lobby enough to focus on replacing you.

I'm thrilled that Daschle withdrew. But if Obama really wants to do something about changing what people can expect from politicians, he needs to make some structural recommendations that change the way campaigns are financed.

A dozen out of what the NYTimes says is 'thousands'. And when you expand the net to be people who are not registered lobbyists but who received money from groups that lobby or groups that employ groups that lobby, the number of people who would earn your ire jumps, and yet you still think that a dozen or so constitutes a reneging on Obama's part. And you and others will argue till you are blue in the face about the numbers of civilian casualties in Iraq. Why do 12 or 17 or 25 out of "the more than 8,000 employees who will be hired by the new administration" (your link) make such a burning statement, yet the difference between, say, 300,000 and a million earn a 'sh!t happens' shrug?

And any entity that tried to change any facet of public policy during the past ten years (or more!)has to have had a lobbying presence in DC. You cite William Corr, but you (again) elide over the entity that he was lobbying for. Their website is tobaccofreekids.org. Does this look like the insidious influence of lobbying? And yet, when we start looking under the rocks of the GW astroturf sites you bring up, you complain that we are looking at the rhetoric rather than the content.

This may seem like the typical liberal rag on OCSteve, but what you brought to the table is the assertion that Morrissey makes which is that the US media is unable to cover Obama's flagrant breaking of his promise, and so, he turns to a dubious source that he dresses up as the Times of India. That's bullhockeypuck one.

Then you wave your hands at the number of appointees and the actual lobbying that they did to draw some conclusion that Obama is completely abandoning his promise because less than a score of people were lobbyists, with some of them being lobbyists 4 or 5 years ago, have been appointed. Bullhockeypuck 2.

And your list is so full of it, it beggars belief. I mentioned Corr, but Tom Vilsack was the governor of Iowa and a freaking presidential candidate.

George Mitchell, who was primarily responsible for the the Northern Ireland peace treaty is so obviously someone whose skills are so commonplace that we could easily plug someone else into getting peace in the Middle East. After all, he chaired the commission that wrote the 2001 report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so someone with the same skills can simply read the report and be able to get the same results. You argue that heads of major corporations can't have their pay reduced by the government because they are irreplaceable jewels guiding their respective companies but for ME peace, any retired senator would be fine, as long as he hasn't been paid by a company that does work in the ME.

Patrick Gaspard is 41 years old and lobbied for SEIU, and here's the kind of lobbying he did:
Gaspard’s involvement with 1199, regarded as one of the most powerful unions in the state, dates back to 1988 and Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid. The next year he worked closely with the union to elect David Dinkins, the first black mayor in the city’s history. More campaigns followed: in 1999, Gaspard was working as Council member Margarita Lopez’s chief of staff when Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by police officers in the Bronx. The union was one of the central organizers of the civil disobedience that followed, and 1199 President Dennis Rivera and then-Political Director Bill Lynch asked Gaspard to coordinate those efforts. A position in the political department followed. Gaspard's role in the administration seems to be similar to that of J. Steven Griles who "pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Senate investigation of the Abramoff scandal, the top Bush administration official to do so" I mean, hey, civil disobedience campaigns are just like obstructing justice, right?

Munoz lobbying for the National Council of La Raza, which, as anyone knows, is lobbying to satisfy the irredentist sentiments among Hispanics, so they are just like Jack Abramoff. I mean, if I lobby congress to make sure that they legalize marijuana, or have better child-proof caps, or take mercury out of vaccinations, that is just like Ralph Reed getting more than 5.3 million dollars or something like this. The nerve of the media to not see it!

I appreciate the data that OCSteve's bringing to the discussion, but also feel strongly that a no-lobbyist system needs to be able to distinguish between issue advocacy organizations that don't play any kind of role in campaign funding or electoral organizing, and corporations (and unions) who do.

@Gary:

That's a cheap shot. Bush never pretended to care about corporate and lobbying influence. His administration and party reveled in it.

It does create different expectations when a candidate is elected explicitly promising higher standards.

We are all struggling to adjust in an environment with a deep thinking, candid President. It will take a while.

The "two rules on taxes" thing doesn't make sense. If you owe back taxes, but aren't guilty of fraud (look at how much "willful" pops up in the IRS FAQ on this subject), the IRS tells you to pay up with interest. That's it (and that's what Daschle did). Paying up your late taxes doesn't equal a felony conviction for fraud, which is why if you or I do it, it probably won't come up in our next job interview. It's not a separate rule. I'm not sad Daschle is gone -- I'm actually glad, because of his ties to lobbyists. But effing up your taxes doesn't automatically mean you're convicted of a felonious offense.

Tony P
//And, what steps (aside from drawing grand conclusions about politics and telling us about them) have you taken to rectify your own mistake?//

It was not a mistake. I bought a mobile home park where Norman was a tenant. Then I bought out all the tenants, including Norman. Now I am redeveloping the site. I win, the town wins, the tenants win, even Norman won (for a little while) until he blew most of the money at a casino. (Norman went out of his way to concentrate wealth away from himself).

So: my hypothesis was that Obama was trying to give people grounds to hope for more from their political leaders, and that he planned to do it in the only way that could work: not by talking about it, but by living it.

Hilzoy you are on a roll these days... if I had known you had such a sense of humor I might have checked in every so often.

That one made me laugh outloud.


But if Obama really wants to do something about changing what people can expect from politicians, he needs to make some structural recommendations that change the way campaigns are financed.

Good idea. Maybe he could try raising hundreds of millions of dollars of campaign cash from small donors. Perhaps via a website or something. Naah, that would never work.

On a more serious note:

Look, I understand the angst over Obama's choice of Daschle and a lot of other DC insiders. I do think Obama made a major mistake in picking Daschle, and I'm glad he came right out and admitted as much directly (no passive voice constructions or blaming the staff while giving himself a pass). But it does not seem to me that his mistake was due primarily to a lack of commitment on his part to cleaning up the govt. of lobbyist influence, per his promises made during the campaign. I think the reality is more complex than that.

Here's part of the larger picture: Obama is an incrementalist - when he says "change" we aren't always talking about the snap your fingers and the movie goes from monochrome to color (like in the Wizard of Oz) sort of change. Rome wasn't built in a day, nor is it going to be remodeled in a day. The culture of DC isn't going to change overnight - cultural things tend to have a huge amount of inertia, and take time and a long grinding effort to fix.

IMHO the more important question with regard to good governance and the "new politics" is: Are we making incremental, non-cosmetic progress? And is this progress on-going, or is it going to stall out?

It seems to me that thus far we are making non-trivial progress (whether it continues remains to be seen). Does this administration have fewer lobbyists, with less influence, than it would if Obama hadn't pushed this issue? I'm reasonably satisfied that the answer to this question is a qualified yes, pending further results.

The other thing is that it seems to me that part of Obama's problem with DC insiders is that the pace of events has forced him to accelerate the timing of his transition planning. He did not have the luxury of putting together cabinet and subcabinet level staff over the first 6 months of his admin (remember how long Clinton took to staff the exec. branch), because there are too many urgent crises which need immediate attention.

In some respects (like press conferences and annoucement of policy initiatives) Obama was forced by George Bush's lame duck status to begin governing even before the inaguration. All in all this has to have been one of the shortest transition periods ever involving the transfer of power from one political party to the other, and that coming hard on the heels of a primary and general election campaign which was historically unprecedented in length and grueling in its intensity. It isn't as if Obama was just wasting away the last 24 months doing nothing when he could have been assembling a shadow govt.

So I'm willing to cut Obama some slack for under the pressure of events trying to make do with whomever was already experienced and handy to the task (such as Daschle), and then making corrections as necessary as the transition unfolds. It would have been better if he had conducted a more thorough housecleaning, but that would have been a difficult and risky thing to do without the luxury of time (and we would probably now be complaining about how foolishly he'd selected a bunch of inexperienced people once they started screwing things up, if he'd gone that route).

IMHO the place to really watch out for lobbyists to tell if Obama is committed to cleaning up the govt will be in the subcabinet and lower level positions, because those are the people who will be groomed to move up into the top level jobs in the years to come. If this cleanup operation is going to work, it will have to work from the bottom up, not just from the top down. One of the signs I'm going to watch for is who moves up through the ranks during the next 4 years. If Obama ends his term with fewer lobbyists and old DC hands in top spots than he began it with, then I think we're making progress.

"a no-lobbyist system needs to be able to distinguish between issue advocacy organizations that don't play any kind of role in campaign funding or electoral organizing, and corporations (and unions) who do."

I kind of agree with this as stated, but I'm afraid of it as implemented. Nell you are actually one of the very first I've seen who talks about a willingness to apply the exact same rules to corporations and unions.

But I'm pretty sure that the line between issue and corporate/union advocacy is going to be very difficult if not impossible to maintain. Are trade associations allowed? If so, what do you do about something like the old Tobacco Institute? What about pro-tariff organizations as they almost always have corporate backing because some corporation or the other is hoping to stamp out competition with the force of the government. What about anti-NAFTA groups funded by unions?

A no-lobbyist rule is at least withing the realm of workable. (Maybe really tough. Maybe not worth it on balance. But understandable and workable). A no-lobbyist-unless-they-are-an-issues-lobbyist rule seems impossible (except as a way to pretend to keep out lobbyists while keeping the ones you like, it could work perfectly for that).

I'm not accusing you of bad faith. I think in theory I'd like that kind of rule too! But in practice I don't see it.

//So, I'm not sure what solution, exactly, dave would like Obama to come up with, outside of a law requiring all able-bodied persons to have jobs. Is that really the level of control dave wants the government to have over people's lives?//

The opposite is true. dave would like the govt to not give money to able-bodied persons. That is different than requiring all able-bodied (and minded) persons to work.

//Also, dave, could you remind me where you live? If you're aware Norman is selling drugs, and letting him do so from your property, I can ensure that the local police can relieve you of both this burdensome tenant, and the property from which you allow him to sell drugs, posthaste. It can probably be boarded up by the end of the day if you give me your ZIP code and everything. Might want to get in touch with your attorney, though.//

Not true. The town hall and police station are directly across the road. I have ratted out Norman and another guy at the other end of the park several times but the police aren't interested. In wonderful California they seem to have a level of tolerance for small-time dealers. The only time the police actually did something was when I discovered that one guy had gutted his mobile home and turned it into a pot growhouse. So, your subtle suggestion that I can be implicated is BS.

We are all struggling to adjust in an environment with a deep thinking, candid President. It will take a while.

Especially for the cynics, it will take a while to adjust.

This whole episode reminds me of when Hillary said she believed there is nothing wrong with lobbyists. Some her best friends are lobbyists! Non-cynical people recognize that there are lobbyists and then there are lobbyists.

My feeling is that Nell has impossibly high standards when she views Daschle as a "bad guy." But it was good to see him withdraw and take one for the team. And it was good to see Obama admit he is not infallible, but it is good to see that the administration is not too hard on themselves when they say yes we made a couple mistakes but we will be graded on what we do over the 4 year term.

Phil, Jesurgislac:

I grant you that Norman pays sales taxes, and bridge tolls, and an occasional gasoline tax (when he can get his car running). My overall point is that the govt pays Norman to be stupid.

I don't see what the big deal is about hiring former lobbyists. Just because you used to work for someone, does that mean you are forevermore loyal to them? I used to work for a big bank. When I worked there, I tried really hard to make money for the bank. But I don't work there now, and I don't give a crap what happens to them anymore. So a guy used to get paid by Raytheon, and now we are going to assume that even though he no longer works for Raytheon, he is in the tank for them? Conflict of interest arises from trying to serve two masters at once, not from having serial masters. Its possible, I suppose, that Mr. Raytheon secretly has an understanding with Raytheon that he will later be rewarded for whatever favors he does for them while in government service. But that is possible whether or not he worked for Raytheon before.

Is the quality of government employees so high that we ought to be making service ever more difficult for those who wish to serve?

IRS estimates that non-compliance with the householde employee tax laws is 85%. That means that 85% of all the people who have ever employed a housecleaner or a nanny are barred from government service. Does this make sense? Does it make sense that we have selective IRS enforcement for people who want to serve in government? I think my taxes are pretty clean, but if I were asked to hand them over to Obama's team so that I could have a chance to take a huge pay cut to serve my country, I think I'd take a pass.

If he doesn't earn his own money, he's not paying taxes, other taxpayers are paying his taxes for him. They may be doing it indirectly, but they're doing it, not him.

This presupposes that the amount of welfare money he receives -- if this anecdote is at all true, which has yet to be established -- exceeds the amount of sales and other taxes he pays in a year. It also ignores away his alleged drug sales income, which, if real, almost certainly outweighs his welfare income if it's enough to keep him from either part time work.

Try harder next time, Brett.

I'm still more concerned that we now have an admitted criminal who knowingly allows drug sales to take place from or on his property. I really feel like I need to get the police or DEA involved here.

LMNOP and cleek have offered no reasonable solution. All they have to say it that it's cheaper than locking Norman up.

LMNOP and cleek have offered no reasonable solution. All they have to say it that it's cheaper than locking Norman up.

Step 1: Incorporate yourself as a bank holding company (1st National B'B'B'Bank)

Step 2: Declare Norman as a troubled asset (a failing Collateralized Rent Obligation)

Step 3: apply for TARP funds

Step 4: Profit!

The opposite is true. dave would like the govt to not give money to able-bodied persons.

Like CEOs? Or you?

Gary
In his sober (whether drink or drugs) moments Norman seems to be able to reason. Why does he abuse himself with drugs? I don't know - why does anyone do it? Perhaps it started as a mental illness.

I take your point though. Mental illness is a tragedy that I am familiar with. There were two truly mentally ill residents in the mobile home park who we arranged supportive housing for. But Norman, I believe, is more about bad choices than classic mental illness. Yet, I am not a doctor so...who knows?

4dave: I'd love to know what jurisdiction in California you live in. I know a lot of city attorneys and I can pretty much guarantee that virtually all of them would be interested to discover that their chief of police was refusing to bust a drug dealer even when the landlord was requesting assistance.

Also, double-check your lease. You are allowed to inspect your premises on reasonable notice. If you find evidence of drug dealing, file a 3-day notice to quit followed by a unlawful detainer case. Once you have judgment, have the sheriff throw him out.

(or are you just BSing when you say you have "evidence" of drug dealing? hmmm.)

//Would society be better off if he lived on the street?//

No.

//Like CEOs? Or you?//

Yes. Exactly. Don't give it to CEOs and don't give it to me.

Original Francis

I'm not BSing. When Norman has something to sell he turns his porch light on (during the day). It can be seen from the main avenue behind his house. Soon a car rolls up, Norman comes out, they exchange things, then the car leaves. This repeats five or six times and then the light goes off. The word around the park is that Norman sells drugs. The police know Norman is a problem. He has a record. There seems to be some weariness involved...that Norman is unsolvable so we'll overlook it.

Mobile home eviction rules are pretty tight. He owns(ed) the mobile home and leases the land. The land lease can only be broken if he is convicted for committing a felony on the premises. Misdemeanor stuff won't suffice. Being a felon won't suffice. The crime has to take place on the leased premises.

Anyway, I got him out by buying him out. If I had tried to evict him for a crime it would have muddied the waters with the other tenants. It was crucial that they did not perceive me as sinister or underhanded. [But that wasn't hard since I'm not those things.]

LMNOP and cleek have offered no reasonable solution. All they have to say it that it's cheaper than locking Norman up.

check the inspection sticker on your sarcasm meter. it might be past due.

How about academic research grants? How about paying corporations to promote their products in overseas markets? How about paychecks for the military? Can I get a hard and fast set of rules here?

And since you're a business owner in California, and think the government shouldn't give any money to you, I'd be very interested to see your prior tax returns. Can you email those to me?

You go to the meeting room with the policy experts you have, not the policy experts you wish you had.

Obama regains his credibility if his team advances policies that are against the interests of their former clients.

//And since you're a business owner in California, and think the government shouldn't give any money to you, I'd be very interested to see your prior tax returns. Can you email those to me?//

Huh? What would this show? Only that the money flows from me to them. Unless you're talking about an occasional refund for overpayment.

I have no idea what Norman has to do with the topic at hand. But, FWIW, here are my thoughts about Norman.

Yes, Norman's pissing away your hard-earned tax dollars and mine. Gee, that sucks. Sadly, some people are jerks.

I'd still rather be me than Norman. Bet you would, too.

Next topic.

Regarding Daschle, nobody's irreplaceable. He's not a bad guy, he'd probably be great at the job, but I'm perfectly happy that he withdrew. I'm glad to see the bar raised.

Regarding Obama's hypocrisy in hiring folks who came from lobbying backgrounds, I expect Obama to do something stupid or wrong at least once a day during his entire four years in office. I think, frankly, that that is the expectation *he* set himself for his time in office.

So, I appreciate the factual details that OC has gone to some trouble to dig up, but they just don't blow my skirt up.

It's a hard job. He's going to screw up. I'm not looking for perfection, I'm looking for someone who will, consistently, make things better than they were.

As far as I can see, he's at least making an attempt to do the right thing. Amazingly enough, as it turns out that is freaking huge.

Anyway, I got him out by buying him out.

A brief quote, picked up from I forget where, but which has become one of my words to live by:

If you have a problem you can solve by throwing money at it, you don't have that big of a problem.

Hey, I'm glad Norman is out of your hair.

But watch out, he may read this blog and then sue you for using his life story in print without clearing it with his people first. He sounds like that kind of guy.

Whose wine I drink his praises I sing......

It's a Catch-22. Obama can staff his administration with experienced people or he can staff it with people who are not products of the revolving door system, but he can't do both. Which is to say, he seeks to change the system with people who are products of that system. This can work provided Obama's people are as committed to change as he is.

Where Obama can really raise the bar in politics is to attract idealistic and competent young people to government as FDR and JFK did. Obama has always played a long game.

If you have a problem you can solve by throwing money at it, you don't have that big of a problem.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote in an essay: "What is money for, if not to throw at problems?"

I am a huge Obama supporter. One of the reasons I like him so much is his ability to accept responsibility and just be a good guy. However I can't help but wonder if he's playing this one the wrong way. What I mean is, getting Daschle out of town was clearly the right move, but you can't leave the mainstream media with little sound bites of " I screwed up" and "I made a mistake". Too many people only read the headlines. The fact is, he didn't screw up, his vetting team did. So say that you take responsibility for the mistakes *of the vetting team*. Taking responsibility is a refreshing change coming from any politician, let alone the President, but I'm worried he's opening himself up for cheap shots (cheap but effective) later on down the road.
http://www.newsy.com/search/daschle

Nell: [Obama] needs to make some structural recommendations that change the way campaigns are financed.

TLTIABQ: Good idea. Maybe he could try raising hundreds of millions of dollars of campaign cash from small donors. Perhaps via a website or something.

Nell: {smiles with mouth, not eyes; golf claps}

As might have been clear from my comments, I was talking mainly about Senate and House campaigns, and changes in the law. But as it happens, the Obama campaign's ratio of money raised from small donors is not exceptional for recent presidential campaigns; only the number of them was. If congressional campaigns managed to duplicate that same ratio of small to large donors, they'd still need to tie themselves to lobbyist fundraiser-bundlers (as Obama himself did).

This greatly restricts their ability to represent their constituents, as opposed to their donors.

Too many people seem to think that the huge numbers of people who gave $200 or less to the Obama campaign (2.5 million people) make the $1000-plus donors, bundlers, and PACs responsible for half of his record-breaking haul irrelevant. They don't. All they do is dilute the bundlers' influence marginally.

As of August 31, 47 bundlers for the Obama campaign had raised $500,000 or more each. It's absolutely true that the campaign didn't rely on them to the degree that McCain did (an estimated 82% of his big-donor money was bundled, versus 43% for Obama). But it's also absolutely true that those 47 people get their calls returned, and got plenty of opportunity to get their policy priorities across during the year and a half that they hauled and stacked those checks.

Goldman-Sachs' presence at the top of the donor pyramid accounts mightily for the terrifyingly crappy bank bailout proposal discussed in Eric's thread above.

This is BS. Why is Geithner there and Daschle not? It's pretty effin clear that Daschle would do far less damage to the planet than Geithner is with his right wing economics.

So many of these top appointments are filled with former government employees or elected officials. Many of them have no specific expertise in the area they will supervise, just connections. Daschle, for example. Many names of people from non-profits and academia or industry have been put forth for these various positions, but the well of talent from which Obama is drawing is narrow and shallow. This is a populous country with many talented and experienced people. The hope I had was that new people with new perspectives and solid experience would be chosen. That is what I dared to hope.


Nell: {smiles with mouth, not eyes; golf claps}

Sorry Nell, my bad for misreading your comment and not picking up the right context. I guess this means I've used up my cheap shot allowance for the month, huh?

LeftTurn: {shamefully stares with downcast eyes at shoes}

I'm glad Obama has agreed with me in admitting that he really screwed up. His admission is like Bill Clinton's admission of screwing up, when the sperm on the dress evidence was introduced. Kinda hard to hide the obvious.

The more important point is that your savior made such a simpleton's mistake! How does the "hope and change" guy end up nominating 3 or 4 tax cheats!

Obama takes full responsibility for the screw up. Big deal. He was sloppy. And, just like Kwame Kilpatrick, Obama now wants us to forget about it and move on.

Is the light penetrating the darkness yet? Are ya'll able to see that Obama may not be wearing any clothes?

Poor Hilzoy thinks Obama is trying to raise the bar! LOL. You don't raise any bars by extending important positions to your buddies, who oh by the way, are really corrupt.

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