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Former GOPer: How Republicans Went Crazy, Dems Lost Their Mojo, and the Middle Class Got Shafted

Bill Moyers talks with Mike Lofgren, a long-time Republican who describes the modern dysfunction of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

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Bill Moyers: What brought you to the moment you decided to make a break, and to issue that cry from the heart if I may say so, that went out on "Truthout"? What was the trigger?

Mike Lofgren: The trigger was the debt ceiling crisis of the summer of 2011. I thought it was so transparently needless, yet they did it. And that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Now it wasn't just a publicity stunt that gave the United States a black eye. Just the transaction costs for having to manipulate all the money and stave off the debt ceiling cost, according to the Government Accountability Office, $1.3 billion.

Bill Moyers: And why did that impasse occur? Why couldn't they solve the deficit crisis? Or why wouldn't they solve the deficit crisis?

Mike Lofgren: Because they believed that they had Obama over a barrel. And that they could force him to do what they wanted, which was to radically downsize all domestic discretionary spending. And he wasn't going to do it. And that's how we got to that situation.

Bill Moyers: What do you think's going to happen after the election, no matter who wins? Because the popular expectation is that we're heading toward a fiscal cliff. Are we going to go through, in those few months between the election and the inauguration, what we went through with the deficit crisis that you just talked about?

Mike Lofgren: I would say the likeliest possibility is that we'll get some sort of short-term extension of the provisions to kick the can down the road a little bit. Now I'm not saying that that will happen. There's also a possibility if past is prologue that the Tea Party faction in the House could dig in its heels and say no, just as they did with the debt ceiling crisis.

Bill Moyers: And what then would be the consequence of that, as you can anticipate it?

Mike Lofgren: The consequence would be immediate and severe spending cuts, both on domestic discretionary, and on national defense

Bill Moyers: Both parties catering, as you write so vividly in here, to their funders, their donors, the billionaires, the Wall Street financiers, the corporations. And yet they, one or the other keeps getting away with it.

Mike Lofgren: It's happened before in our country. It happened after the Civil War with the Gilded Age. So it's not surprising it can occur when money starts infusing into politics. They will capture the governmental mechanism, just as Wall Street has captured it now. Wall Street has captured Washington at its source, the capital.

Bill Moyers: Just give me one example.

Mike Lofgren: One example would be banks that we are bailing out. Why not compensation limits on their CEOs and top executives? We didn't get that. But we did get limits on the compensation and the benefits of U.A.W. employees when we bailed out General Motors and Chrysler.

Bill Moyers: We got from unions what we didn't get from the financiers on Wall Street?

Mike Lofgren: That is correct.

Bill Moyers: How come? How so?

Mike Lofgren: Money from Wall Street into the pockets of campaigns.

Mike Lofgren: If somebody texts $20 to their favorite candidate, okay, that's $20. And they're not really expecting anything other than they like that candidate and they want him to win. But when savvy businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, who've shelled out $36 million so far and expects to spend $100 million before the end of the election cycle, when somebody like that is spending that kind of money, they expect a tangible, monetizable payoff.

 
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