Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Shutdown



I once heard someone say that Democrats are elected to implement mistakes and Republicans are elected to ensure that those mistakes are never fixed. I find such a sentiment apropos given the events of the past several weeks. While our elected representatives continue to draw a paycheck for petty bickering and shameless brinksmanship, the vast majority of Americans found their lives adversely impacted by the partial government shutdown. As bitter partisanship becomes more commonplace, our country takes on the appearance of a deferred hostage situation with the livelihood of its people being consistently exploited as collateral.

The effort to partially close the Federal government was spearheaded by Texas Senator Ted Cruz who is himself a walking dichotomy. He catalyzed an unpopular government shutdown with a speech in which he bemoaned that once people get to Washington “they stop listening to the American people.” He rallies against government interference in the free market, but is married to a Goldman-Sachs executive whose employer received billions in Federal bailout assistance as a result of the AIG settlement. He maintains his eligibility for president (despite being born in a foreign country and fathered by a non-US citizen) while enjoying the support of voters who fervently maintained that such a configuration would render Barack Obama ineligible for the very same office.

That is not to say Senator Cruz’s criticisms of the Affordable Care Act are unfounded. While I believe the ability to receive medical treatment should be a right and not a privilege, I am far from convinced that Obamacare is the most effective or responsible methodology for achieving that end. Trying to arrest healthcare costs while maintaining a profit-driven health insurance marketplace is a fool’s errand; there is simply not enough money to go around. That being said, I am not na├»ve enough to believe that unfettered capitalism will lead us to the promised land of fair and affordable healthcare. The solution lies somewhere between these two ideologies; sweeping reforms operating within the confines of a fiscally-responsible framework.

Soon enough, the conversation shifted toward entitlements and government overspending. Again, these are legitimate concerns being clouded by oversimplification. Some would point to an “entitlement society” inundated by lazy non-contributing zeros whose only goal is discovering the most efficient method of relieving hardworking taxpayers of their income. Others would insist that anyone who openly criticizes the long-term viability of such programs is a heartless racist hiding behind a veneer of fiscal conservatism. Both assumptions are unfair, insulting, and factually incorrect.

Many programs have been proven unsustainable in their current incarnation and voicing concern doesn’t make you elitist or racist it makes you responsible. Conversely, food stamp usage amongst military families is set to hit a record $100 million this year (in addition to the $31.2 million in WIC entitlements) so let’s not pretend that everyone who accepts government assistance should be dismissed as parasitic.

Inevitably, our legislative branch will reach a symbolic agreement that does nothing outside of validating their already plunging approval ratings and reinforce the need for term-limits. Both sides will claim victory in order to validate their obstinacy and issue statements congratulating themselves for “standing with the American people.” I recently saw a statistic that claimed only 1 in 5 congressional seats are in reasonable danger of changing hands at the next election. Perhaps we, as voters, should take it upon ourselves to eliminate congressional job security. 

4 comments:

  1. Everying in politics is a "shell" game. Trust neither Democrats or Republicians.
    It is ALWAYS - ALWAYS about the money !

    There are NO POOR Senators or Representatives of either party !

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  2. A-men!! Unfortunately, however, the vast majority of the American people will assert that everyone else's Representatives/Senators that caused the problem, re-elect their own because THEY were not at fault, and ultimately nothing gets changed. Our founding fathers must be dizzy from rolling over in their graves...

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