Let’s try a smaller approach to the big problems

From 1991 to 2005, the Atlanta Braves won every division title but just a single World Series. A common refrain then was that, in baseball, you build a team one way for the 162-game regular season and another way for the shorter playoff rounds. The Braves, built perfectly for April to September, had flaws come October.

We may have reached a comparable point in politics.

Since 2000, Americans have elected two men as president who were very talented at campaigning and connecting with voters but far less effective at selling their biggest ideas once in office.

George W. Bush’s proposals to transform Social Security died quickly and rather quietly, and he managed only to expand the spiraling Medicare. Barack Obama got further with his health care plan, but that proposal appears ready for burial beside labor-union “card check” and cap and trade.

Personality, it turns out, helps only so much once it’s time to govern. More than that, the decision between Candidate A and Candidate B may be binary, but shaping policies that affect more than 300 million people is not.

Now, a week after Democrats lost their 60th Senate vote, Obama faces calls from some members of his own party to take health reform in smaller chunks.

“Think small” is also the advice coming from the right. Ross Douthat of The New York Times says liberals created a federal government “too big to reform” and recommends that policymakers embrace fixes that reflect “modesty, simplicity and incrementalism.”

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander likewise counsels his fellow Republicans to go “step-by-step in the right direction to solve problems in a way that re-earns the trust of the American people.”

They’re right. To make a solution “comprehensive” is, in our nation of competing and entrenched interests, to render it unworkable.

But can you win an election with a 12-step approach to reform? That won’t fit in a Tweet, much less on a bumper sticker.

Getting back to our baseball analogy, voters reward candidates who swing for the fences — even if governing is more akin to “small ball,” where it takes two or three plays to score. You just don’t see that many home runs in politics.

Consider Albert Pujols. The St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman is the best hitter in baseball. He hit 47 home runs last year. But to do so, he went to bat 700 times and saw 2,690 pitches.

In baseball, that rate of success makes you an MVP. In real life, not so much.

So, we need to think small. Let’s also think backward.

Part of the reason that government has become too big to reform is that we tend to “solve” problems by adding new laws, new regulations, new programs on top of the old failed ones.

Here, let’s change metaphors from baseball to something else familiar to Americans — heart attacks.

In so many problematic areas — health care, education, the financial and housing markets — our problems are the result of bad policy after bad policy, like plaque building up in an artery.

We go to the doctor, and the doctor essentially prescribes a bacon double cheeseburger: still more bad policy on top of the old ones.

We don’t need to replace one unresponsive health care bureaucracy with another one; we need to remove some of the government-imposed barriers to a functioning market. We don’t need to codify “too big to fail” by charging banks for their taxpayer guarantee; we need to unwind the steps we took that made them so unwieldy.

The public servants willing to work slowly backward are the ones to lead us boldly forward.

37 comments Add your comment


January 28th, 2010
7:27 am

In the interest of truth-

: ‘There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter at all unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit.’ Ancel Keys PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota 1997.

In fact, no clinical trial on reducing saturated fat intake has ever shown a reduction in heart disease. Some have shown the exact opposite: ‘As multiple interventions against risk factors for coronary heart disease in middle aged men at only moderate risk seem to have failed to reduce both morbidity and mortality such interventions become increasingly difficult to justify. This runs counter to the recommendations of many national and international advisory bodies which must now take the recent findings from Finland into consideration. Not to do so may be ethically unacceptable.’ Professor Michael Oliver, British Medical Journal 1991



January 28th, 2010
8:13 am

excuse my stream of conciousness, but if you’re going to go all George Will (baseball metaphors) on us, you could have at least slipped in something from Yogi Berra, because at the end of the day, like Yogi (good at baseball, not so good at grammar/syntax) politicians are only good at being politicians. in fact, ALL problems (big or small) can be traced back to a politicians. your observation about “solving problems” by “adding laws” sums it up. the Constitution was drafted (I hope) to establish and operate a Republic, NOT a vehicle for greedy, self-serving pimps to enrich themselves by selling “policies” (laws) to the highest bidder.

Chris Broe

January 28th, 2010
8:33 am

and I swear under oath that nicotine is (not) addictive.

Where have you gone, Henry Clay? Ah, the great compromiser. He put off our civil war, already written in blood between the lines of our founding compromise, (the constitution), for 2 generations. He also bat .370 lifetime against southpaws. (Kyle’s sports connection was a real 7th inning stretch).

Politics is compromise. If baseball were political, they would gerrymander second and third base for democrats. They could let the umpires invoke cloture. They would give Derek Jeter veto power.

I know, you get the bit.

But contagiously ridiculous (Bob Barr tried a similarly aggregious analogy using football a few days ago) comparisons aside, Obama is an amazingly gifted orator who charmed blinders off the long-faced incumbency glued to their seats, (hey, a horse-racing analogy) on the right.

Maybe Obama’s speech would have been more effective if he had put DVD’s of “Avatar” under the seats like the way Oprah does with her audience. (talk show analogy! Wow, I’m so creative!)

A healthcare bill could only pass if it contained compromise provisions. That’s not Obama’s fault.

That’s Baseball.

At one point during the speech last night, Scalia asked to view an instant replay of a humorous aside Obama got some laughs with. I don’t think instant replay belongs in the supreme court, do you?


January 28th, 2010
8:34 am

I don’t know what a neo-Carlinist is but I want one. Good post.

Yogi Berra

January 28th, 2010
8:39 am

90% of blogging is half mental.


January 28th, 2010
8:42 am

Government cannot solve problems. They only create them. This is why the Tea Party will continue to grow and eventually become a viable 3rd party option.

Republicans don’t get it, either.

We want government out of our lives. Period. No negotiation. No “debate”.


January 28th, 2010
8:47 am


One thing that might be nice to add to you post: the need to return to state governance.

We have 50 states. The smallest of these has around 0.5 million people. I’d think that if the federal government could back off, the states could probably address the things that they need to outside of defense and a few areas where national standards are required. Most states have less diversity both in income and in ethics which means a particular state is more likely to provide solutions that are in line with what its typical citizen wants. It would also provide some semblance of a marketplace for government.

I know there are some negative connotations that are harbored in the idea of state governance. I also know that some states (notably our own) have highly dysfunctional governments. It still seems like a better idea than allowing one government to work one solution for all 300 million of us.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 28th, 2010
8:50 am

I like baseball analogies. So let’s advance the runner with a sacrifice bunt. The minor sacrifice I recommend is “all government agencies that regulate,” i.e., everything except the US Marines. I suspect the runner would not only take second, but might come around to score.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 28th, 2010
8:52 am

Sorry Wes, you said it better than I, and before I posted too.

Road Scholar

January 28th, 2010
9:22 am

We agree for once! The present bill is too cumbersome. It needs to get back to the basics w/o sweetheart deals. But I’m amazed at peoples views against regulation; now I’m against stifling regulation. But to continue to believe that all persons are inherently good (while I approach life believing this, actions by many do not support), is a mistake. When raising your children (and many on both sides of politics act that way!) you’d like to think your children are w/o flaws. But they need limits set, with penalties for abusing the breaking of these limits. The question is to what extreme is implementing these limits acceptible.


January 28th, 2010
9:33 am

Kyle, it also doesn’t hurt to have the best three man rotation in the history of baseball.

The Braves biggest problems were always with hitting. But I digress.

Bottom line: I can’t wait until November. I also can’t wait for 2012 when Obama’s campaign slogans will be:

“Give me a chance, you’ll see!”

“Yes, No, Wait……we can, maybe.”

“I’m black!”

“Stimulus you can believe in!”

“America, oh yeah I remember her.”

“Ready to lead……….finally.”

“Ready to lead in my second term.”

And many many more…..


January 28th, 2010
9:48 am

Oh yeah, the Democrat party infighting. As the Kool Aid man would say……OHHHHHH YEAH!!!!

Democratic anger goes public in prime time

The Democrat-vs.-Democrat anger roiling the ranks of Congress is being wrapped in smiles and standing ovations Wednesday as President Barack Obama outlines the nation’s top priorities in his first State of the Union speech.

But for most of the Democrats cramming the House chamber, there is no issue more pressing than getting re-elected in November. And it’s not clear that pursuing Obama’s priorities will help them achieve theirs.

In personal and profane terms, House and Senate Democrats have huddled behind closed doors to list the debacles: The stunner in Massachusetts that cost the Democrats a Senate seat. The slow-motion collapse of health care talks. A government bailout of Wall Street while unemployment sits in double-digits.



January 28th, 2010
9:50 am

And just to add more insult to liberals everywhere. PMSNBC and CNN didn’t even break 1 million million viewers.

George Bush laugh: Heh heh heh

TUES., JAN., 26, 2010

FOXNEWS BECK 3,196,000
FOXNEWS SHEP 2,187,000
CNN KING 796,000


January 28th, 2010
9:52 am

A GOP Road Map for America’s Future

There’s still time to rejuvenate our market economy and avoid a European-style welfare state.


In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama will declare a new found commitment to “fiscal responsibility” to cover the huge spending and debt he and congressional Democrats have run up in his first year in office. But next Monday, when he submits his actual budget, I fear it will rely on gimmickry, commissions, luke-warm spending “freezes,” and paper-tiger controls to create the illusion of budget discipline. Meanwhile, he and the Democratic congressional leadership will continue pursuing a relentless expansion of government and a new culture of dependency.


Democrats are Corrupt, Repukes are Lying Scum

January 28th, 2010
9:53 am

The good schools across the country are being destroyed in SMALL steps. Take the Plano Texas school system highlighted in todays WSJ. Parents of poor, under performing students are demanding that their kids get to attend the high performing schools. Since there is not room for all them at the high performance schools, many of the high performing students are being transfered to the poorly performing schools, and the places they formerly occupied at the high performing schools are being taken by the under performers. The fallacy of this approach: It is the students who make a school high performing, not a school that makes the students high performing. All across America, student performance has declined because of this fallacious argument: put the stupid students in the high performing schools, and the stupids will automatically become smart. The opposite actually happens, the high performing school get dumber, and the poorly performing school stays stupid. Here is a bit of the article from the wsj: Newcomers Test Schools
In Plano, Texas, Population Shift Prompts Rezoning That Angers Many Parents

PLANO, Texas—This Dallas suburb, a wealthy enclave known for its top-notch schools, is struggling to integrate a flood of poor, minority students.

In a battle mirrored in other districts across the U.S., parents here have been fighting for months over which public high school their kids will attend: one under construction in an affluent corner of the Plano Independent School District, or an older school several miles away in the city’s more diverse downtown.

Last month, the district’s school board angered many parents when it created a Pac-Man-shaped zone that placed their children in the downtown school for grades nine and 10 instead of in the newer, closer campus.

The downtown school has the highest proportion of poor students of all high schools in the district; many are Hispanic and African-American.

“We want to go to our neighborhood school,” said Kelly McBrayer, a white, 48-year-old stay-at-home mother of three who lives near the site of the new high school.

Mrs. McBrayer and other parents from her neighborhood held a silent protest at a recent school-board meeting. They wore black T-shirts with the shape of the new attendance zone in bright pink and the message “Pac-Man in your neighborhood soon?”


January 28th, 2010
9:53 am


Progressives’ anger grows against White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

A remarkable thing is happening to Rahm Emanuel: he is losing his aura of invincibility.


Yogi Berra

January 28th, 2010
10:05 am

A fork divided against itself wont feed the bulldog.

Yogi Berra

January 28th, 2010
10:07 am

The best thing about the United States is that there are 90 feet between the 3 branches of it’s government.


January 28th, 2010
10:39 am

a neo-Carlinst is a theocratic wag who studies/espouses the writings and life of the late George Carlin. this neo-Carlinist “beleives” George Carlin would be both disappointed and amused at the notion that he is viewed as a demigod in terms of both political and theological ethics. at his core, Carlin was a brutally honest observer of humanity, and while he came to realize early on, that mankind’s shortcomings made for better copy (books, stand-up, etc.), he was not a misanthrope. so, while most Americans cite their Bible or their Constitution, I cite “Brain Droppings” or any of the many insightful video clips available on DVD or YouTube.


January 28th, 2010
11:04 am

LA January 28th, 2010 9:50 am

I agree with you on this one, cable TV is gaining in audience but has a long way to go. The 21 million who watched on all cable combined pales to the 31 million that watched on the broadcast networks.

JF McNamara

January 28th, 2010
11:19 am


Could it be that liberals have their own brain and don’t need to be told what to do by the TV and radio? Maybe their party isn’t run by unnaccountable media blowhards professing to be the greatest thinkers of our time but have never done anything but host radio shows.

Any attempt to fix a meaningful problem would be welcomed, but Congress isn’t going to do anything but collect lobbyist checks.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 28th, 2010
11:26 am

Dear Neo @ 10:39, but what is the difference between baseball and football?


January 28th, 2010
12:04 pm

Your point is a very good one. If Obama had taken the issues in health care one at a time, he may have had some success. Had he started with coverage for those with pre existing conditions, stated the problem, suggested solutions, and given an “honest” estimate of what the cost would be, he may have gained some traction.

Anytime one uses the words comprehensive reform, especially in an area which touches every citizen, caution flags go up. Most people still have no real grasp of what is being proposed, how much it’s going to cost, and how it will affect them.


January 28th, 2010
12:37 pm

JF McNamara

No, liberals do not have brains.

Yes, the democrat party is run by a bunch of marxist, lying sacks of horse crap. John Edwards much?

Oh and speaking of talk show hosts, I guess you forgot that Chris Matthews, Rachal Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Ed Shultz, George Snufalufagus and Dan Rather are all liberal apologists.

YEE HAW!!!!!!!


January 28th, 2010
12:38 pm

Kyle, I’ve posted two responses to JF McNamara and for some reason they won’t post.

IT department fail?

Kyle Wingfield

January 28th, 2010
12:45 pm

Not sure why that happened, LA, but I let through the more concise of the two.


January 28th, 2010
12:48 pm

Great play by play last night, Kyle. You and I shared the same observations. Now, onto my take. Yes, I know, I said I wasn’t gonna watch but my post will explain.

I think “O” has some serious personal issues. I had no intention of watching his SOTU last night but the viewing was thru osmosis (my husband’s viewing of said SOTU). I tried to ignore it but MY GAWD! that man is delusional.

I expected him to start out with the blame game….he didn’t disappoint. At some point he begins talking about leadership as though it wasn’t his?

He appears to be suffering from dissociative identity disorder or at the very least, dissociative amnesia. I think he’s created an imaginary friend for himself. Lord knows he has very few left. Admittedly he’s under a lot of stress but when, as a president, HE’S making HIS case to the American people, it would be better to offer only one Obama. Are we to believe the HIM of yesteryear (the one he failed to acknowledge) or the CHANGELING we saw last night?

He acknowledges there was a disconnect. He then attempts to reconnect by “Staying the Course”…..the same course that disconnected him from the people in the first place.

If he can’t even figure out who he was or is…how the heck are we supposed to know? Know thanks to both, I say.

There’s something OUTTA WHACK with Obama!

I loved the staging for Governor McDonnell’s response. That should be duplicated whenever possible. My favorite part of his speech?

Some people are afraid that America is no longer the great land of promise that she has always been. They should not be.

America will always blaze the trail of opportunity and prosperity.

America must always be a land where liberty and property are valued and respected, and innocent human life is protected.

Government should have this clear goal: Where opportunity is absent, we must create it. Where opportunity is limited, we must expand it. Where opportunity is unequal, we must make it open to everyone.

Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create this nation.

Now, we should pledge as Democrats, Republicans and Independents–Americans all—to work together to leave this nation a better place than we found it.

God Bless you, and God Bless our great nation.

Kyle Wingfield

January 28th, 2010
1:30 pm

Repukes: That one was a step too far.

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 28th, 2010
1:35 pm

In my time on the planet, I’ve noticed that most Presidential candidates have no real vision. Their main vision is of themselves in the White House. The entire focus of their energies is to get there and once they achieve that, they’ve expended most of their energy. It’s sort of like the dog who chases the car, if he catches it, he don’t know what to do with it.


January 28th, 2010
2:15 pm


Amen to your 1:35. This is what George Friedman at Stratfor has to say about presidents in general.

Presidents are not to be judged by how they make history. They are to be judged by how gracefully they submit to the rules that history lays down.

It’s not that presidents don’t matter. It’s that they don’t matter nearly as much as we would like to think and they would have us believe. Mostly, they are trapped in realities not of their own making.

I would, however, add that what I saw in Obama, last night, was a need to ignore his share of the realities….the ones that were of his own making. I’ve never seen a president try so hard to side-step himself.

Democrats are Corrupt, Repukes are Lying Scum

January 28th, 2010
2:17 pm

Ok Kyle, now I know where the line is.

Bob Hobnobber

January 28th, 2010
2:39 pm

I like the neo-Carlinist idea. George Carlin was a student of language and its meaning – most of his material was about words and their context and meaning. I miss him and Molly Ivins too. I would love to hear them discuss the willfully ignorant mindset that make Fox News such a success and drives the popularity of the Tea Party. The Tea Party will never be a viable third party, because most of its energy comes from people who (rightly or wrongly) feel victimized and angry and who want some of what government can offer – defense, roads, Medicare – but don’t want to pay for it. Anger and self-pity can never build a lasting political party. That requires the long view, of both history and of the necessary compromises that policy requires.


January 28th, 2010
3:32 pm

I can speak for him, but as a disciple, I feel “entitled” to project my interpretation of his dogma to all who will listen. re: Fox News (or CNN or ABC for that matter), Carlin also advised to “never believe ANYTHING you hear from the government or the media” as both are basically self-serving entities, solely interested in “more power”.


January 28th, 2010
3:47 pm


January 28th, 2010
4:18 pm

If Obama wants health care reform of any kind to actually gain momentum, he should start by proposing the most obvious and universally agreed upon individual steps. A simple proposal like allowing insurance companies to operate across state lines is clear enough and agreeable enough that it would pass. Then like magic Obama will have finally accomplished something he set out to do. Perhaps by building a little momentum, he actually could begin to foster some of that bipartisan cooperation he’s asking for.

Another good step would be for him not to lecture supreme court justices on consitutional law. I’m sorry, but if you want to be a part of the Judicial system you should ask to be considered next time a seat is avaialable. Until then, please function in your own role of government. There is a reason we have checks and balances in government, lest one man try to control the whole country.


January 28th, 2010
4:50 pm

LA – 12:38 PM

It’s the magic of the World Wide Web, remember ?


January 29th, 2010
12:19 pm

“Government should have this clear goal: Where opportunity is absent, we must create it. Where opportunity is limited, we must expand it. Where opportunity is unequal, we must make it open to everyone.”

If that’s the case, why are Republicans against Affirmative Action and the EEOC?? Inder the Bush Administration, enforcement was NOT done!! I’ll believe this when I see more minorities have a role in the GOP!!

“Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create this nation.”

The Founders also didn’t think that women and minorities were human beings…..the Founders need to be just more than deified…..but corrected!!

Look…it’s taken over 250 years and 43 white guys to screw up this nation…and the country expects a black man to make instant corrections after all the screw-ups that has happened in this nation?? PULLLLEEEEZE!!!