While I will confess to be a very partisan person, I chose never to engage in partisanship on this blog during the election. There was already way too much partisan hatred and bickering. There was already a cacophony of voices screaming insults and abuse at each other. This is no way to run an election, or a country for that matter. But now we need to sort things out and begin our journey forward. To do this we must take a painful and honest look at our nation’s troubles, and figure out how we can best come together to solve them.
We need to find a way to come together as a nation and discuss our various issues and their best solutions. In the present political climate any civil discourse seems impossible.
The Republican leader in the Senate said early on that the party’s primary goal was to prevent Barack Obama from being elected to a second term. Such a stance can only be described as destructive defiance. It seems that the Republicans, and especially those of the Tea Party persuasion, tried to sink the ship of state because they were unable to set its course. That is partisanship gone rancid. Every proposal that Obama offered up, including his quest to find acceptable compromises, were shot down by intransigent Republicans. And then, to add insult to injury, the Republicans viciously accused Obama of having a failed presidency. A failed Tea Party mutiny is a more apt description of the last two years.
In the kinder, gentler times in Washington, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill declared that, “We are all friends here after 5:00 pm and on weekends.” If only we could recapture such civility in today’s political life.
Our country is still in a mess. There is no dispute about that. We have rampant unemployment, soaring debts, a shaky, unfunded entitlement system, a collapse of the middle class, a large and accelerating gap between the haves and the have-nots. The middle class is hurting and the poor are becoming ever more destitute.
We need tax reform, immigration reform, and regulatory reform. We need to create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, rebuild our economy, and rebuild our crumbling education system that was once the pride of the planet and the source of our great economic well-being as a nation that once allowed even our working classes to participate in the American Dream.
On the global front we are in the midst of the largest mass extinction in seventy-five million years. We need to develop a sustainable economy that does not plunder the earth’s resources or endanger its future to power our economy today. So, before we build pipelines to move shale oil down from Canada we need to stop and assess the environmental impact. Sustainability must now be a key component of every decision.
If Mitt Romney ever had a plan to govern this country he refused to communicate it to the general public. Every question directed to him was answered either by reciting his talking points or by attacking the president.
He spoke repeatedly about tax breaks for the millionaires and billionaires on the grounds that these are the job creators. But this was also George W. Bush’s line. It was a failure then and it would be a renewed failure again. It might be a good idea to give tax breaks that spawn actual job creation. But without such a linkage many of the rich would simply park their excess cash in their Swiss bank accounts helping no one.
There is already too much idle cash on the sidelines awaiting productive investment opportunities. What is lacking is not excess cash, but rather consumer demand. If you want to stimulate the economy and create jobs then put some extra cash in the pockets of the middle class so that they can go out and buy tires and refrigerators, thus creating demand and driving production.
Romney wanted to see financial regulations abandoned to free up business from government interference. But we have had three major financial crises in recent history that were directly caused by the lack of effective government regulation:
- The Savings and Loan Crisis in the Reagan era caused by deregulation of the thrift industry.
- The stock market collapse of 2000-2002 caused by the complete failure of the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate our financial markets. Elliot Richardson, then the Attorney General of the New York was the only person even trying at that time to regulate the financial markets. During this time of regulatory abdication, the predators, thieves and con-artists had their field day. The rogues list includes such names as Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, and a host of others. The financial losses from this event totaled over $5 trillion.
- Finally, we had the global collapse of our financial markets due to the “liar loans” in 2008. Mortgage companies would give loans to anyone who could fog a mirror. These trash loans were then securitized with “AAA” ratings and sold throughout the global financial markets. When this house of cards, built on corruption and regulatory abdication, finally collapsed, it created a global recession from which we have yet to extricate ourselves.
Does any of this sound like we need LESS regulation?
Romney never did explain how he could give tax breaks to the rich, increase military spending by two trillion dollars and balance the budget. Such nonsense is what George H.W. Bush called “Voodoo Economics.” He did speak of doing away with almost all federal programs that actually benefit the middle class and working poor. In a frenzy of social Darwinism he would cut funding for Head Start, unemployment insurance, Pell grants and student loans. The millionaires and billionaires would prosper mightily under a Romney administration, while the rest of us would be floundering in debt and despair, and left with no rope to climb. Even Big Bird had his head on the chopping block. Excuse me, but is not Big Bird about preschool education? While government subsidies for public television do not pay for the production of Big Bird, they do go to sustain broadcasts of Big Bird to smaller, mostly rural communities where the need for such preschool education is critical.
And then there is the strange case of Obamacare that was at the center of Romney’s attacks. Obamacare began as Romneycare in Massachusett. So, how could Romney attack what was essentially his own plan raised to the federal level?
The American health care system before Obamacare was a disgrace. The U.S. spends 17% of its GDP on healthcare, while no other country spends more than 12%. And still our health care outcomes trail most of the world. The leading cause of personal bankruptcy in this country is from medical bills. It would be hard for anyone to argue that our system did not need a major redesign.
Romney claimed that he would repeal Obamacare his first day in office. But he never told us what he would do to replace it.
Nothing can be accomplished in government today because of the polarization and dysfunction that has gripped our nation. It seems like those who seek to steer the ship of state would rather sink it than give up their desired course and heading. How did we get into this mess, and more importantly, how can we get out of it?
This year’s presidential election will be the most vicious that we have ever seen. The Supreme Court has opened the door wide to unlimited spending by corporations and billionaires, and political action committees (PAC’s). High priced television ads will assault logic, truth and the senses with their distorted messages hammered at us over and over ad nauseum.
We can no longer discuss issues, agendas, goals, directions, policies or principles. The political circus has become a mud wrestling match in a hog manure pit. Instead of discussing the issues and policies, campaigning now is all about the politics of personal destruction. Character assassination is the order of the day.
Instead of solving problems our main concern seems to be in blaming the other side. This country is in a mess, and there is more than enough blame to go around. But blaming will not fix the problem. It will only prolong the conflict, delay the solutions and deny any hope of returning to normalcy. There was an editorial cartoon after the earthquake that hit Washington in August of 2011. The cartoon said, “Some Republicans believe that Obama caused it while other Republicans believe that Obama simply failed to prevent it.”
When Tip O’Neill was Speaker of the House, he would tell everyone that, “We are all friends here after 5:00pm and on weekends.” If only we could bring such civility back into our body politic. O’Neill has a simple rule throughout his whole political life. He would never finish work without taking someone out to dinner. And, in his thirty-four years in the House, including ten plus years as Speaker of the House, there were a lot of dinners.
There is no better means of getting to know someone than breaking bread together. Away from the office and its daily grind, O’Neill could get to know people, their families, their interests, their visions for the nation. He ate with friends and political foes, the entrenched leadership and the rookies trying to learn the ropes. He built relationships instead of just accumulating contacts. This is an art that is nearly forgotten.
If only we could return to the days of civil discourse based upon mutual respect and shared values. We can all disagree about the solutions, but we all can agree that there are problems to be solved, and fighting, blaming, attacking will not help.
Let us talk about the economy, entitlements, social safety nets, education, immigration, tax reform, our military, big government vs. small, federal vs. state powers, guns, medical care, regulation, and personal freedom. But let us have a civil discourse without the name calling and blame storming that has kept us mired in dysfunction.
Let us learn to listen to those with whom we disagree. None of us has all the answers. Let us learn anew the value of compromise. In a time of unyielding radicalism compromise is the only way to come together. No one will get everything that she or he wants. But together we can work on solutions for us all.
Are there any patriots left in politics who will put aside their personal agendas to work for the common good? Are there any brave women and men who will agree to put aside their mutual animosities to rebuild this great nation