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This morning I heard some interesting discussions about the recent NBC/Wall Street poll, the possible shutdown of government Friday, and some proposals on how to fix our broken government. The participants were MSNBC's Morning Joe" hosts, Joe Scarborough and Miki Brzezinski. The rest of the panel consisted of former congressman Harold Ford Jr, party political analyst Mark Halperin and onetime President George W. Bush's party political strategist Mark McKinnon.

The panel agreed that the GOP presidential race is wide open despite the national polls. They went onto cite some pretty interesting numbers such as 70% of Republicans identify themselves as conservatives and 26% as moderates. That's a problem for Mitt Romney since only 27% of Republicans thinks that he is a conservative. Overall just 21% of Republicans think that they have a strong field, 51% think they are average and another 27% think they are weak. The Public Policy poll in Iowa has Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich in a virtual tie because Newt Gingrich has lost points recently. A win by Paul in Iowa helps Mitt Romney because it will stagger Newt Gingrich going into the New Hampshire primary. There's a reason for that logic, Mitt Romney can claim the west, north east and Michigan, and Newt Gingrich can claim the south but there's no section of the country that Ron Paul can claim. An independent run by Ron Paul would assure the second term for Barack Obama. I think when it's all over; Republicans will choose electability over a Conservative Purist. They want to win badly and although the national polls show Newt Gingrich leading at 40%, Mitt Romney at 23% and Ron Paul at the bottom with 9% in a head-to-head, the outcome is much different.

In a head -to-head match-up:

(Obama 47% .Romney ..45%) (Obama 51%...Gingrich...40%) (Obama 50 %...Paul..37%)

Obama is trailing a generic GOP candidate by two points.

Mark McKinnon brought up some interesting points on how to fix our broken government. I don't agree with all of them, but it's an eye-opener He would start out by tying Congress's pay to passing a budget. If they have some skin in a game it would give them more incentives to compromise. His plan would require bipartisan seating, thinking if you had to face your opponent every day; it would encourage civility and understanding. The plan would also include reforming the filibuster requiring the lawmaker to stand before Congress. Mr. McKinnon thinks we should adopt a system that the British parliament uses by having the president address the issues with Congress on a monthly basis. He said that way people could see who the real obstructionists are. I'm lukewarm on the latter, but I don't agree with his last proposal of eliminating negative campaigning It's not negative campaigning if you point out your opponents fault and besides there're always different strokes for different folks.

Ordinarily, a possible shutdown would generate a lot interest, but we're getting immune to all the threats. The government will run out of money Friday, unless we have a continuing resolution but the Senate leader Harry Reid said if Congress does not pass the payroll tax and unemployment compensation extensions the government will shut down. The House of Representatives passed the measure but added a few poison pills that assured defeat in the Senate and a sure presidential veto. The president already said that he would veto any bill that would require passage of the Keystone XL oil pipeline issue. It would be fair to say that the president wants to side with the environmentalist in an election year, but the union people want this pipeline. Right now, the state of Nebraska has some issues they want resolved first. This would require a 30-day review killing the payroll tax bill. The Republicans also wanted to kill major portions of the Healthcare law, reel back some EPA regulations and require drug testing for unemployment compensation, require applicants to pursue a high school degree, if they don't have one and avoid a scheduled cut in pay for Medicare physicians for two years, a provision known as the "doc fix." I believe in the end, the attached poison pills will be eliminated and some kind of compromise will be made on Keystone XL. The Democrats don't want to fast track Keystone XL, and the Republicans say it's a way to add jobs and become less dependent on foreign oil. The payroll tax bill will not add any jobs but it’s about the only thing that’s passable in congress.

We still have a demand and a job problem and austerity will not help that one bit, neither will comparing our economy to yesteryear where the variables are quite different. For example, Best Buy’s sales were outstanding last month but their profit margin wasn’t because they had to discount everything due to online discount houses like Amazon. People don’t have lot money in their pockets because the last 30 years of income inequality is finally hitting the middle class.

What a way to end the year; it’s the same that we started.