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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

Offering Voters a Hot Fudge Sundae Diet


When Ronald Reagan was in the White House, then-U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder — acknowledging Reagan's remarkable ability to escape without any of the voters' blame for his administration's mistakes and misdeeds ever sticking to him — dubbed him "the Teflon President."

It was not too much of an exaggeration to say then that if Ronald Reagan had driven a convertible — with the top down — through a car wash, Jimmy Carter would have gotten wet.

Reagan's 1980 campaign promises to cut everyone's taxes by one-third, double the nation's defense budget and simultaneously balance the federal budget always reminded me of the tabloids on sale at the checkout counters of supermarkets. You know, the ones that feature stories like, "Hitler Is Alive and Selling Commercial Real Estate in Dubai." Their breakthrough medical story is a variation of "You Can Lose 11 Pounds Every Other Day on the Miracle Hot Fudge Sundae Diet." It's simple: Just eat four — or, even better, five — hot fudge sundaes a day, and your metabolism will magically over-accelerate and any excess weight will melt away.

Reagan's internally contradictory three 1980 campaign promises were the political equivalent of the hot fudge sundae diet.

Here in a presidential campaign, some 28 years later, American voters are being offered by Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain bogus solutions —more political hot fudge sundae diets.

The world is holding its breath. Americans do not honestly know if their retirement accounts will disappear, when and if their homes (that is, if they can keep them) will stop sinking in value, whether a faltering economy will provide jobs for their children — or for them. The next president — either Obama or McCain — will face a budget deficit for next year alone of at least $800 billion.

The national debt — having almost doubled on George W. Bush's watch — will soon pass $11 trillion on the way to $12 trillion. We are not even mentioning the unsustainable costs of Medicare, the economic urgency of rebuilding the nation's roads and bridges, the moral imperative of repairing the nation's broken health care coverage.

So given this emerging perfect storm of historic crises, what do we get from the men who would lead us out of these scary times? I'll cut the taxes of 95 percent of Americans and provide health care to nearly everyone, or I'll stop the scheduled expiration of George W. Bush's tax cuts, toss in several billion new ta -cuts of my own and, in case you missed it, direct the U.S. Treasury to spend an additional $300 billion buying up those bad mortgages.

Because this is a family newspaper, I'll just call the intellectually dishonest agendas endorsed by both smart nominees — when ouchless, painless prosperity and patriotism are over — baloney, bunk, bull. It is discouraging, bordering on depressing, that neither of these men thinks highly enough of his fellow citizens to treat us like grown-ups, saying something like this: "We face rough seas. There will be no national health program. We cannot afford it. There will be no tax-cuts. We cannot afford them. Taxes instead will go up. The 'Me Generation' is over. From now on, it will be the 'We Generation.' The party is over. Sacrifice will be real and universal. We — all of us — will make it, but only if all of us are committed to all of us getting through this together."

The next president will desperately need the trust and the confidence of the people he tries to lead. He will have a finite supply of political capital. A presidential credibility gap — beginning even before the inauguration — will further deplete that public trust. Please, John and Barack, no more hot fudge sundae diets. Level with us!

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




7 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;....I would not say there was much hot fudge in Mr. Mccains promise to cut social security. If anyone heard it, it seems like it would be enough to KO his chance for the presidency. The fact is that Mr. Obama is closer to the truth. And I am closer yet to the truth. And if you don't like me and why should you... try that sheriff who stopped evicting people. Government is not just laws and good parking spots. It is trust, a form of relationship, and the republicans have always been prepared to throw out the trust like they are willing to throw out  social security. But we have grown up with it, and paid for it many years, and relied upon it, and so asked less than our due when negotiating wages. If they have underfunded it to avoid paying their due, they have a problem. To put the government in bed with our employers and exploiters who have reaped the lions share of profits on no taxes, and then deny social security -does not fly. The whole of government has got to support itself on revenues. It borrows from the rich to loan to the rich and bleeds hard pressed working people. It does not work that way, even if their ideology supports it. It is killing off the only really productive people in society. It is turning us into servants.. .Government for the rich should be supported by the rich. Ultimately the laboring people carry everything with the help of God. But they need more than the help of God to carry it twice for nothing. They need fair wages. The government has to be willing to tax wealth instead of just labor. And the promises it makes to keep labor peace it should keep when it has labor peace. The fact is that we can have what we want from government. It would be easier to disolve this government and start over. As John Connely said in Ireland: Britain will rule you through their banks and counting houses. If we cannot stop government from being ruled by money we will never be able to rule money to the benefit of all. We have to remember that we are not made for the government, but that government is made for people. It is a form of relationship that can be reformed or swept away by revolution. It does not have to be a void where we doposite our energy and withdraw frustration. Thanks....Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Oct 11, 2008 6:16 AM
Your view is indeed accurate and timely. Unfortunately, communicating such a clear-headed view of the current situation will NOT result in an election success. Americans strongly believe that our President can solve all problems and address all issues. Hearing a proclamation regarding what we cannot realize from government will fall on deaf ears. Perhaps our American "can do" approach to life has become a problem for us. I do believe that once elected one of these gentlemen will provide us with a reality check and set priorities for the future.
Comment: #2
Posted by: John Krasniewski
Sat Oct 11, 2008 7:08 AM
There's nothing new here, Mark. You don't get anywhere by telling the truth to people who've been fed denial all their lives. And most Americans, sad to say, are not grown ups when it comes to facing up to reality. That is what this economic melt down is all about. The American way has been life in fantasyland for a long, long time, and old habits die hard. Looks like it will be real hard this time. .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Mondale tried it your way a long time ago, don't you remember? "I'm going to tell you right now I'm going to raise taxes." And thus began the era of teflon.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Masako
Sat Oct 11, 2008 8:34 AM
Re: Masako;...Sir, . . Let me tell you what the truth is... The truth is a form of relationship. So is government, and so is society, and so is the economy. Politics is a form of relationship too. So is marriage. But we do not necessarily seek truth as a form from politics or marriage. I don't want to hear from my  wife what I look like. That is why I hate my mirror, and it is easier to love my wife if whe is willing to tell me an occasional lie. Mr. Obama knows that it is not the truth that gets things done in the country. It is numbers that count. He has every right to tell people everything will be all right if he is elected. Mr. Bush, having squandered all trust in his ability, can get us to worry about how bad the economy is only by telling us it is not so bad. The thing that every one has to remember is that it is all for fun. The economy says were all broke? Time for a new economy; because we give the economy meaning, and it is just a form, and if the form does not serve our relationship, it is the form that must be changed because we cannot change the relationship. We cannot just give up relating to each other because the economy does not work....Now, that is why that sherrif has got the right idea. If the whole of the economy is falling to pieces, there is no point throwing a person into the street to suffer for a form that is failing. The relationship between the sheriff and the dispossessed is a human one, or a Christian one or is one between neighbors, and while these too are forms of relationship, they may work even while the economy does not. As long as we maintain our relationships on some level, we can cure ourselves of failed forms without pain or violence. We have to keep the faith. We have to hold on to the trust. We have to be able to unite in sufficient numbers so that we can command the attention of our fellows. If we do not cry they need not come to assist us. A vote for Mr. Obama is a cry for relief. Were I he, I would not tell the people that anything was beyond, beneath, or above them. The people can have a fair economy, one that facilitates an exchange of values and supplies all our physical needs. We cannot live with a failed economy, especially if it means throwing people homeless into the streets to live as they can without hope. We can give them hope. We can be their hope. We can relate with or without any particular form....Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Oct 11, 2008 11:30 AM
Howdy Mr. Sweeney. Glad to see you warming up more to Obama. Like I said some time ago in one of these commentograms, as imperfect as he and the current messed up system are, they're all we've got. More turbulence ahead--the Captain says please remain in your seats with your seatbelts firmly fastened... Cheers. Masako
Comment: #5
Posted by: Masako
Sat Oct 11, 2008 1:07 PM
Re: Masako, ..Sir;... Kurt Vonnegut had a story in one of his books about a medieval knight finding a sparrow lying on his back in the middle of the road, and to paraphrase, the knight asked the sparrow the meaning of... The sparrow replied that he had heard the sky was falling; and the knight asked him what he thought he could do about it if it was so. The Sparrow replied that one does what one can. Voting for Mr. Obama is one thing people can do that has the desire for change written all over it. I don't expect, that as an attorney,  he has what it takes to challenge all that gives his status meaning. Yet, some times, change begins with insignificant movement, because people see that movement must be real and significant at some point to count as change. Yet, if law is leading us to strife, to be tearing at each others throats, it is going to have to change like every other form we relate through. For that reason, people should encourage change as reform so that change long denied does not burst forth in violence. I am afraid you are seeing the tendency for the counter revolution to begin before the actual revolution, and none are more violent than those trying to hang on to the past forever and ever more...Thanks....Sweeney
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Oct 11, 2008 5:35 PM
How sad, a hot fudge sundae diet and we can't digest it. Thought I'd share something I lifted from my dear Ross Perot's web site
This is from his National Debt Chart:.... On July 31, 2008, the total federal debt stood at $9.586 trillion. Of that amount, $4.182 trillion was owed to the various “trust funds” (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, federal employees retirement funds, etc.) because the government “borrowed” that money from them. That leaves $5.404 trillion of debt “held by the public.” Of that amount, $2.728 trillion is held domestically by banks, mutual funds, and other U.S. investors. This leaves $2.676 held by foreign countries, institutions and individuals.
Suggestions made by one of his readers:...... 1)"Their pay ought to be cut in half and frozen until the national debt is balanced out, and the $700 billion dollar bailout they so desperately want is paid out of the pockets of those that caused this to happen."
2) "All retirement funds set aside for them ought to be dumped into the social security system, and they ought to be made to survive on what every other American Senior citizen has to make it on. That way they would keep their greedy, lying, stealing hands out of it."
3) "Any pay they should get should be voted on by the people. That way they could only get a raise based on how well they served the people, and how well of a job they have done."
I particularly like the third suggestion and I'll add they are working for us; we should determine their rate of pay and if they don't do their job, no raise and/or kick them out of office. If they take money from lobbyists, no raise, no pay, no vote. Jail time. Lobbyists are in Washington purely to affect the outcome of how our representatives vote. Is your representative's vote for sale or is it for you? Kick them all out of Washington. No more business as usual!
Comment: #7
Posted by: liz
Mon Oct 13, 2008 12:52 AM
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