Broken Politics and the Continued Dysfunction of the American Government
Twenty One percent. That is the approval rating for congress. Though freely elected through America’s democratic system, only twenty one percent of the public approves of the performance of the people they essentially hired to run our government. While many Americans wake up wondering if they will have a job, if a bank will foreclose on their home, or if they will get sick and be unable to afford healthcare, most major corporations are relaxed and safe, knowing that if need be a taxpayer bail out is just around the corner. We have become a nation where the rich are getting richer at the expensive of the poor, who are getting poorer. Its no wonder either, our political system has become besieged by private and personal interests, at the expensive of the struggling American people.
Take the recent debate over extending the Bush era tax cuts, for example. At the center of the debate was the United States public deficit. At just over 14 trillion dollars, our deficit currently breaks down to about 45,000 dollars per person in the United States, while the median income in the United States, for people above 25 years of age, is only 32,000 dollars. The mean, or average income, was 35,000 dollars, and both of these measures were taken in 2005, before the Great Recession. With an unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent, it seems safe to assume that personal incomes have decreased since the housing market and financial collapse.
Thus for politician and citizens a like, the size of the national deficit should be of great concern. Republicans argue that spending and services provided by the government should be cut, while democrats argue that taxes need to be raised, especially on top income earners.
Both parties make valid points. The Republican party is right to question the size, and especially efficiency of the government. It certainly does seem that administrating any program or project through the federal government is expensive, time consuming, and seemingly wasteful. The governments reputation for being an indecipherable and inefficient bureaucratic maze is dead on, though perhaps increasing efficiency, instead of cutting services, should be the first priority.
Democrats are also right to point out that the United States has been overspending for almost thirty years now. Only George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton ever paid serious attention to the deficit and made serious steps towards a financially sound America. And even then America has posted only one surplus in the last thirty years.
Multiple wars in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq, rebuilding after Hurrican Katrina, stimulus and financial emergencies packages signed by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and numerous other measures have all contributed to an every mounting deficit, and someday somebody is going to have to pay for it. Democrats are right to ask if the already wealthy and financially secure can chip in a little more than the struggling middle and working classes.
Thus both parties came to the negotiating table with different priorities. Republicans wanted to cut spending, Democrats argued for a tax increase. Both parties had their relevant points, and in all likelihood both an increase in taxes and a decrease in spending would need to be pursued in order to make a serious dent in the deficit.
One might expect a sort of compromise to be made, a reduced increase in taxes, and modest cuts from the budget. Even if the immediate impact on the deficit was negligible, the symbolism of unity and compromise would be important for our struggling nation. By finding a middle point between the issues raised by both sides, namely the spending habits of the federal government, and continuing with a historically low tax policy, all in the face of a burgeoning public deficit, both parties could have set the tone for compromise and sacrifice for the greater good of our nation.
Instead, both parties pursued their own private interests at the expensive of the American people and future generations who will have to pay down of deficit. Republicans demanded that tax cuts be extended to all Americans, even those who are already wealthy and have been reaping the fruits of American prosperity for years.
At first, Democrats stoutly refused to compromise, arguing that the nation could not afford a tax cut totaling nearly a trillion dollars, and they are right. Given the stance of both parties one might figure that they had reached an impasse, however behind closed doors the two parties reached a compromise. In order to bring on Democrats, the Republican party agree to increase spending through the bill. The final document, the Omnibus Bill, weighed in at nearly 2000 pages and was filled with hundreds of earmarks on both sides of the aisle, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars.
Thus the “compromise” of both parties was to lower revenue through extending the tax cuts, and raising spending with hundreds of billions of dollars of Pork Barrel politics. This would seem to be a violation of both parties principles, but because it satisfies the private interests of the law makers, the Omnibus Bill passed into legislation and added nearly a trillion dollars of debt onto our national deficit.
Given the nature of the U.S. political system, and the refusal of our politicians to confront the problems facing our nation, it is easy to see why people hold such a low faith in our government. We need real solutions that are not based on tired ideologies and talking points, but instead address the actual, and factual, problems facing our nation. Rome was not built in a day, nor was the United States, but unless we begin to examine the way our country is run we may well be the next chapter in history books of the fall of a once mighty nation.