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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to fix a broken U.S. Government


 
I realize I am no expert on social science, wasn’t even really interested in the subject in college, but as a lowly progressive political blogger, I have become fascinated with our political system and its intricate workings.  Actually, the system isn’t working now and if we don’t fix it soon, this country’s downfall could make the decline and fall of the Roman Empire look like a Sunday school picnic.  We are no longer on the fiscal cliff, or curb as some described the problem, we are now headed toward a newly created political buzz word, “sequestration.”

Sequestration is defined by the HuffPost as, “referring to a series of draconian budget cuts, totaling $1.2 trillion, that {were} scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. These cuts are evenly split between defense and domestic discretionary spending (with some exemptions, such as Social Security, Medicare, and veterans' benefits).”  The GOP doesn’t want any more short-term fixes but refuses to budge on additional revenue mixed with spending cuts.  The President is standing firm on what he wants and is likely to win the battle in the long run.

Is the problem caused entirely by Republicans?  The answer is no and on the Democratic side, there is still the extreme left rallying for raising taxes and limiting spending cuts.  In some cases we have noticed House Speaker John Boehner shifting from his supporters on the right, particularly the fanatics of the Tea Party, moving further toward the middle for some reconciliation on the issues.  Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also seems conciliatory in his latest speeches.  So what is the problem?  I’m not sure anyone really knows.

The first thing that comes to mind is that the GOP hasn’t recovered from an election they thought they would win.  And Sen. McConnell has never retreated from his statement to make Obama a one-term President, which failed.  According to JoePalermo in November of 2012, “McConnell now promises the next best thing: Continue to abuse the filibuster as no Senate minority in American history has and gum up the works while demanding total capitulation on Obama's part before any bill can escape the clutches of his icy, deadening hand.”

Sam Rayburn, former Democratic Speaker of the house from Texas, was considered by many to be the great negotiator.  Lyndon Johnson was known to be good at bringing parties together in agreement on serious matters and even Barack Obama is looked on as a pretty good negotiator, considering the passage of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.  What happened to the art of negotiation, which almost anyone will agree is the only objective way to arrive at a governing solution?  Where did this political necessity fall by the wayside, almost into oblivion?

Looking back at George W. Bush, he had a rather diverse Congress with the majority swinging from one party to the other in his eight years.  Regardless, with GWB it was his way or the highway, thanks in part to his henchman, Karl Rove.  Going back a few years, Ronald Reagan was known as the great communicator and managed to get a lot of what he wanted.  George H. W. Bush was known for managing the end of the cold war.  Bill Clinton was able to get those in his party to vote for the largest tax increase in history in 1993. He also passed sweeping trade and welfare reforms in the face of withering fire from the left. 

Not bad on both sides, except for the tyranny of George W. Bush, who many say will go down in history as this country’s worst president.

Negotiation is defined simply as a “mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement.”  Well it’s not simple, at least as far as this Congress is concerned, a body that closed out 2012 with a 14% approval rating.  In picking that definition apart, there are three basic ingredients that have to be satisfied.  The first is there must be a discussion; second, there must be agreement on terms to fix the problem; and third, you must arrive at an agreement.  Here’s how I sum that up: 

There are discussions that tend to lead nowhere, basically blamed on a GOP Congress of “NO” to anything Barack Obama proposes.  No one can come to terms because Republicans would rather obstruct Democratic legislation than present their own, except in rare cases.  There can be no agreement because of one and two.

In simplification, it reminds me of the kid that didn’t like the way the football game was going, so he picked up his ball and went home.  Sure, the Dems have to shoulder some of the blame in this standoff, but they might be more amenable to the conservatives if they weren’t constantly being stonewalled.  But there is one thing that the right had better understand and that is the fact that Progressives are here to stay, and Republicans no longer have a free ride.

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