Visual source: Newseum
Even the opportunities we have seized are mostly coming undone. In one of his presidency’s more bipartisan moments, George W. Bush joined with Senator Ted Kennedy to pass No Child Left Behind. The law, though flawed, made some important strides in education reform. Today, Congress is too distracted to pass needed fixes, and so the Obama administration is preparing to grant states waivers from the bill so they do not need to take over thousands of schools that haven’t met the law’s overly stringent requirements.
Similarly, the Obama administration was able to use the aftermath of the financial crisis to pass health-care reform, which made a good start on both covering the uninsured and controlling costs. It also secured a package of financial- regulation reforms to limit the risks of another catastrophic meltdown. Today, Republicans want to repeal both laws, and if they win the next election, they might just get their wish. In the meantime, they’re defunding the implementation of the two laws, and bogging them down in the courts.
It’s entirely possible that we could wake in 2013 only to realize that we have made no durable progress on any of our pressing national problems over the course of the Bush and Obama presidencies, and have, in fact, made some problems worse. That would mean a loss of 12 years during which we could have been moving forward as a country. And we won’t be able to blame it on a lack of opportunities.
Mississippi voters just approved a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. But that law will not go into effect immediately, thanks to the Voting Rights Act. Instead Mississippi will get in line behind Texas and South Carolina as the Department of Justice examines each state’s voter ID laws, in a process known as “preclearance.” The Justice Department will allow each law to go into effect only if the state can show its law will not have a racially discriminatory purpose or effect. Such proof may be hard to come by: a recent study by The Associated Press found that African-American voters in South Carolina would be much harder hit by that state’s ID law than white voters because they often don’t have the right kind of identification.
But this important preclearance procedure may not be around much longer. Before the next election season rolls around, the Supreme Court could well strike down this provision of the law as an unconstitutional infringement on states’ rights, leaving minority voters essentially unprotected from efforts to diminish their voting power. Congress needs to act before then to protect voting rights everywhere.
President Obama’s decision in September to scuttle stricter national standards for smog may well go down as the worst environmental decision of his administration — unless, of course, even more damaging retreats lie ahead. The decision was a setback for public health, a victory for industry, which had lobbied strongly against the standards, and a public embarrassment for the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, who had proposed them. [...]
This page was not impressed by [administration] arguments then and is no less skeptical of them now in light of John M. Broder’s exhaustive account in The Times on Thursday of the steps that led up to the decision. The article paints a picture of an aggressive campaign by industry lobbyists and heavyweight trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute that began soon after it became clear that Ms. Jackson was determined to tighten the rules governing allowable ozone levels across the country.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a complete turkey! It’s the super committee! By next Wednesday, the so-called supercommittee, a bipartisan group of legislators, is supposed to reach an agreement on how to reduce future deficits. Barring an evil miracle — I’ll explain the evil part later — the committee will fail to meet that deadline.
If this news surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. If it depresses you, cheer up: In this case, failure is good.
Why was the supercommittee doomed to fail? Mainly because the gulf between our two major political parties is so wide. Republicans and Democrats don’t just have different priorities; they live in different intellectual and moral universes.
The New York Times presents this question in their "Room for Debate" section:
Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and now Herman Cain — all caught in an embarrassing moment when their memory failed them or their knowledge was limited.
The federal government requires applicants for certain civil service jobs to take a written exam. The same holds true for the foreign service. And to become a U.S. citizen you have to pass a civics test. Why do we not require a similar exam for individuals who seek election to office?
Sarah Palin (writing without a shred of irony):
Mark Twain famously wrote, "There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." Peter Schweizer's new book, "Throw Them All Out," reveals this permanent political class in all its arrogant glory. (Full disclosure: Mr. Schweizer is employed by my political action committee as a foreign-policy adviser.)
Mr. Schweizer answers the questions so many of us have asked. I addressed this in a speech in Iowa last Labor Day weekend. How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires? How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us? How do politicians' stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge-fund managers'? I answered the question in that speech: Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves.