Wednesday, February 24, 2010
functionality before change
This past Sunday, in The New York Times, Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat from Indiana, outlined why he will leave the Senate at the end of this year at only 54 years of age and still strongly supported in the polls. He says that Congress has become dysfunctional, which is certainly no revelation. Among causes for the dysfunction he sites “strident partisanship, unyielding ideology, a corrosive system of campaign financing, gerrymandering of House districts, endless filibusters, holds on executive appointees in the Senate, dwindling social interaction between senators of opposing parties and a caucus system that promotes party unity at the expense of bipartisan consensus.” Sounds to me like the Senate, and the nation, is losing one of the few people who gets it.
Meanwhile, as the Congress whirlpools in its dysfunction, Tea Party activists keep showing up at rally’s and Town Hall meetings around the country. They show up with a lot of anger and few good ideas. They seem to be awash in contradictions. They wear ‘We the People’ on their t-shirts and reference the Constitution at nearly every turn as they harp for smaller government. They seem to be unaware that the Constitution empowers the government to intervene and help its citizens. Scroll down to Article I, Section 8, Powers of Congress, which states “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” Not only is there a constitutional directive for Congress to provide for the ‘general welfare’, but there is a sensible one as well. When I think of opting for less government and less regulation I think our naivety is exposed. After all the banking, insurance, investment company and bailout crisis we have endured how silly is it to think that ‘Corporate America’ would ‘do the right thing’ all in the spirit of good business practices. I also wonder exactly how many activists calling for smaller government are ready to forego future Medicare and Social Security benefits.
The other side of the aisle hasn’t fared much better though. The Democratic majority has yet to deliver solutions for health care premiums sharply on the rise and the double digit and flat lined unemployment numbers. The current U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, is now trying to figure out how Anthem Blue Cross of California can justify a 39 percent rate increase to some of its individual policyholders. In Washington, there is not much hope that meaningful medical or spending issues will be resolved. And pessimists seem to outnumber the optimists regarding even a modicum of reform.
On the job front, I suppose dysfunction is the forerunner as well. We allocate a great deal of money to fight wars all over the world. But rebuilding our aging infrastructure of bridges and roads, which would produce needed jobs, is continually underfunded. And it is not just Congress that is dysfunctional. It would make sense to bring new technology that is green and renewable to market on a massive scale for the sake of jobs and a brighter future. But, either to condemn carbon ‘cap and trade’ or to infer science from a few snow storms, the newest cessation of common sense by many is to refer to global warming as a hoax. It seems to defy our logic to trust, for example, NASA’s ability to grasp scientific concepts over those of many politicians or commentators with an agenda. Add to that, our behavior over the last forty years of foreign oil dependency has not fared well for our functionality either. Yet we seemingly want to stay the course.
Considering the rule that most situations are not quite as good or as bad as they seem I suppose this contagious dysfunction is not cause for all doom and gloom. At least one bright spot appears in learning that Sarah Palin’s approval ratings have slipped in the polls since her keynote speech and palm reading episode at the Tea Party Convention February 6th. It is difficult in this environment to uncover a majority opinion among Americans on an issue that makes sense. But a recent ABC NEWS/WASHINGTON POST poll, put out in the days following Sarah Palin’s speech in Nashville has shown some promise. The poll reports that 55 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Palin and 71 percent of Americans think Palin is not qualified to be President.
Tomorrow, President Obama will convene a bipartisan summit in Washington to once again attempt enacting workable and meaningful reform for America's system of health care. Perhaps, and God willing, another majority opinion that makes sense will come together in this nation.
(C) 2010 Christopher's Views