I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Paul Haughey today. Paul was born in Toledo, Ohio, grew up in Los Angeles and now lives outside San Francisco in Sausalito. He was an electrical engineer, went to law school, became a patent attorney and now is a writer. His first book was the legal thriller novel “Undue Diligence” in 2006.
Congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion, Paul! Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?
Thank you, I am very gratified that my book won a BRAG medallion. That’s the political answer – now to answer your question – I was searching online for sites that do book reviews, and came across indieBRAG.
Tell me about your book, Common Cents.
It is an attempt to explain various problems with our political system in simple terms, with examples. It explains how the Constitutional checks and balances have been distorted – for example, through campaign donor/lobbyists, a broken primary process, winner-take-all voting and rigging of district boundaries by incumbent state legislatures (Gerrymandering) to solidify the control of partisan incumbents and defeat compromise. It shows how we are manipulated by partisan media and how these and other distortions have led to extra benefits to special interests at the cost of the middle class engine of our economy. And it has 30 cartoons! The chair on the cover, by the way, is Washington’s chair from the Constitutional Convention, and is still there in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Ben Franklin commented that the sun on the chair was a rising sun, indicating good fortune ahead for the country.
How did you come to write this story?
I read a lot of books and articles on individual political topics. I hadn’t seen a simple, comprehensive approach. A lot of the books would have made a good short article. I started making notes to clarify my own thinking, then decided to convert them into the simple, comprehensive summary – Common Cents.
Were there any challenges?
Lots. For example, getting good facts and statistics. It seems no two articles or sources had the same numbers for the same thing – such as how much we spend on different subsidies and loopholes, or even something as simple as how much of the federal budget is spent on defense. Everyone seems to choose a different period, different accounting method, etc. I ended up just picking one that seemed in the middle oftentimes, and footnoting it.
What is some of the feedback you have gotten about Common Cents?
People love the book! The problem is getting them to read it – it seems a lot of people just don’t read books anymore. I have to tell them it’s short (110 pages before appendices & end-notes) & it has 30 cartoons! I’ve heard people buy extra copies for their friends after reading it, or sending copies to their representatives, etc. The reviews on Amazon have been heartwarming, except for one curmudgeon! Some readers are surprised at how politics really works, and are skeptical that my solutions will ever come to pass.
What was your writing process for this book?
I pulled things from articles and books by experts, and simplified them, while footnoting the source. I’d write in evenings and weekends when not working at my paying job. I kept a notepad by my bed, because I’d often get inspiration when I’m falling asleep or just waking up. I got inspiration in the shower as well – but the notebooks kept getting wet!
Will you write more political books?
I would like to do some articles next, then perhaps another book down the line. I think it makes sense to follow-up on several of the topics in my book with articles.
In your book description it says “The branches of government fight each other for more control with executive orders, signing statements, legislative vetoes and other tricks.” I would have to agree with you there. Could you give an example of this please?
Georg Bush tried to get a Republican Controlled Congress, his own party, to limit federal funding for stem cell research, where the stem cells come from aborted fetuses. Congress wouldn’t do it, and they are the branch of government that is supposed to pass laws. So Bush issued an executive order. Congress then passed a bill reversing the order. Bush vetoed the law, and Congress couldn’t muster the 2/3 majority needed to override. When Congress doesn’t like how the President is administering laws, they create agencies that report to Congress, or to their committee, duplicating functions. With a “legislative veto,” Congress passes a law giving it the right to overrule an administration decision, such as where military bases are located, or approving real estate transactions – a nice way for members of Congress to hand out favors to special interest donors.
I know there are many who would love to “do away” with the Constitution or start over-if you will-how important is the Constitution to you?
I revere the Constitution, as do most Americans. It is what establishes the rule of law instead of a dictatorship. It was the first, and has defects, that later constitutions in other countries did better. For example, most countries elect a parliament, and the parliament selects the president, so you don’t have our divided government and things get done. However, I doubt we could ever change the fundamentals of our Constitution since ¾ of the states need to approve, and there are vested interests by small states in their outsized representation – states with less than 20% of the population control half the senate and have outsized electoral votes. But it has been amended, and is due for a tune-up.
As a history enthusiast I am really into the history of our forefathers and what they envisioned for this great country. Which of the founding fathers you most admire and how has what they envisioned changed?
I admire both Madison and Jefferson, and they would both be rightfully proud of how the Constitution has performed to avoid a dictatorship or monarchy, which was the norm in that day. Jefferson would be flabbergasted that the Constitution has lasted this long – he thought there should be a new convention every 20 years. They both may regret leaving so many details to Congress, which has upset the balance they created. They did not foresee political parties, primaries, winner-take-all voting, the filibuster, large campaign contributions, Gerrymandering and massive media manipulation of voters.
Where can readers buy your book?
Online – here are the links:
I greatly appreciate you taking the time to interview me. I think it is wonderful what you are doing with your blog!
Thank you, Paul! It was lovely talking with you.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Paul Haughey who is the author of, Common Cents, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Common Cents, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.