Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
By John Avlon, Special to CNN
Government seems broken. Congress is more polarized than at any time in recent history. Patriotism is confused with partisanship.
How did we get here? It requires a look at the past year to see how wingnuts hijacked our politics.
“I hope he fails.” With those four words, Rush Limbaugh coined what would become Republican strategy. It’s a telling sign of the times when professional polarizers in talk radio give talking points to party leadership, instead of vice versa.
But of course, it takes two to have bipartisanship and neither party has a monopoly on virtue or vice. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deserves her share of the blame. After President Obama delegated what would become the $787 billion stimulus bill, Republicans were shut out of the negotiating process, undercutting President Obama’s claims to represent bipartisanship. She ultimately gained no Republican votes and lost the support of eleven centrist Democrats.
As Blue Dog Congressman Jim Cooper from Tennessee said at the time, while summing up the perspective of the liberal House leadership aligned with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying, “They don’t mind the partisan fighting ‘cause that’s what they are used to. In fact, they’re really good at it. And they’re a little bit worried about what a post-partisan future might look like.” The Progressive Change Campaign Committee started running attack ads against centrist Democrats who voted with their districts rather than with the party line.
Editor's Note: All this week in our special series "Broken Government," CNN is taking a hard look at our nation's government; the frustrating problems and the potential solutions. Today, our Carol Costello looks at the U.S. trade deficit and how we can compete with cheap foreign labor. And tomorrow on American Morning, we head to a small community surrounded by 14 chemical plants spewing cancer-causing waste. Why has it taken the government's environmental watchdog a decade to get involved?
(CNN) – Last year, the U.S. bought more from other countries than we sold. How much? More than $380 billion, according to the folks at the census.
So what's the fix? Some economic experts say we need to adjust free trade agreements. Our Carol Costello went to Baltimore, Maryland to find out why.
(CNN) – All this week, we're using the full resources of CNN to look at Washington gridlock in our special series, "Broken Government."
Today, we're investigating gerrymandering. It's an old political trick, but simply put, it means dividing up local voting districts to give one party or another a political edge.
The way these lines are drawn can swing entire elections. One example is Maryland's second district. At its longest point, it's about 50 miles. At its shortest – about 1,700 feet.
One possible solution is to bring in independent commissions to re-draw districts. But how likely is that? We sent our Jason Carroll to California to find out.
Toyota executives aren't the only ones taking heat over the safety of their cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also under fire.
The agency is supposed to investigate potential safety defects, but many say it's just another example of our broken government – overworked and underfunded.
We were joined on Wednesday's American Morning by Allan Kam, who was once senior enforcement attorney for the NHTSA. He retired in 2000 and is now director of Highway Traffic Safety Associates.
Many Americans are wondering how they will ever retire in this recession. But, members of Congress don't have that problem. They'll be collecting fat pensions at your expense.
As part of our week long series "Broken Government," we're taking a hard look at the congressional pension system. And the fix – Congress would have to cut their own benefits. Our Lisa Sylvester has the report.
Editor's Note: All this week in our special series "Broken Government," CNN is taking a hard look at our nation's government; the frustrating problems and the potential solutions. Today, our Carol Costello looks at states trying to gamble their way out of the recession. And tomorrow on American Morning, President Obama says he wants to double U.S. exports in the next five years. So what's the plan and how can America even compete with cheap foreign labor?
By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello, CNN
Our cameras were rolling at The Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh as a contestant spun the “Wheel of Luck.” On this particular day the “Wheel” lived up to its name, coming to a rest on $5,000. A small crowd erupted in cheers and applause at the elderly man’s good fortune.
The owners of Pennsylvania’s newest casino are hoping that promotions like the “Wheel of Luck,” along with more than 3,000 slot, virtual roulette and Black Jack games, will entice big crowds and big bucks.
Someone else is hoping that the casino is a big winner: the state of Pennsylvania. Why?
Pennsylvania gets a cut – a very big cut – from every dollar spent in every one of the nine up-and-running casinos licensed by the state legislature. 34% of gaming revenues go directly to the state. Additional amounts go to municipalities, firefighters, and the horse racing industry.
Pennsylvania is not alone. In fact, there is a virtual stampede by states to authorize legalized gambling. 39 states either have or soon will have gaming available to one and all over the age of 21. And if you throw in lotteries, that leaves just two states without some form of legalized gambling: Hawaii and Utah.
Why are so many states betting on gambling? One word: recession.