, Port Arthur, Texas


September 27, 2012

Making Washington listen to voters

PORT ARTHUR — Twelve members of Congress, who were called the Super Committee because of their task of finding a compromise plan for significant debt-reduction, were selected and met to address the problem.   Unfortunately, the committee of six members from each party and each house of Congress (members most determined not to place on the table anything the other party wanted as bargaining chips) met to negotiate.  But the plan they developed was one with such severe consequences should they failed to come up with a debt-reduction plan before the next election, that they dare not fail next time.   But they did fail.

There is the belief among many that members of Congress and the President will do something about the so-called "economic cliff" during the lame-duct session.  But Congress was supposed to do that this year, and gridlock prevented it.   If political fear did not drive the development and approval of a compromise plan prior to the 2012 November elections, why would they choose to avoid the cliff after the election?  What would these same congresspersons -- who already will have been re-elected despite failing to effect a compromise feel that it is still in their best interest to make the hard decisions when not making them did not hurt?  Wouldn't fear of the consequences of doing the right thing still drive behavior before the next election?   This election must give them real reasons to fear doing nothing.     

The first "next election" is upon us, and it is a choice between turning government over to Democrats for the next two years because of what President Obama has achieved (or tried to achieve) during the past four years, or turning it over to Republicans who got us into the troubles we and the world now face but only promise to do better next time by exercising more of the same policies.

Who is to be blamed, anyway, for debt-reduction and budget-deficit plans not being developed and approved by Congress and the President?  President Obama has said that all entitlements must be on the table.  But, to my knowledge, Democratic congressional leaders have not voiced agreement.  AARP spokespersons have expressed opposition to the concept of means-testing Social Security and Medicare, but, to my knowledge, congressional Democrats have not expressed opinions about this idea.  Even some talk-show hosts on msnbc have suggested that Medicare and Social Security not be placed on the table.  

Republicans, however, have been the most obvious and persistent stumbling blocks to compromise by insisting that raising taxes on the wealthy would throw the country back into recession, and cause jobs to be lost.  But historically in this country, when taxes have been raised, the economy and job creation have grown.  Times when the contrary was true are so infrequent that even Republicans don' t cite them.  While there is a slim chance Republicans could be right this time, it makes sense to bet on the outcome that historically has been true, which favors Democrats.      

It was once thought that divided government could do no harm.  But this is a new political breed and a different time.  While gridlock can prevent really terrible decisions from being made, it also can keep crucial needs from being met.         

Not only is gridlocked government not working here, it is proving to a be poor model for newly formed representative governments around the world whom we hope to befriend.  Republicans are teaching the unsavory in new democracies how to use political and economic blackmail.  Voters must return integrity to our democratic processes this year by beginning to allow one party at a time to make executive and legislative decisions for the nation until politicians get the message.  The only question is which party can voters trust more to listen to them and heal the nation.  The answer seems to be Democrats.  

If there is not a Bowles-Simpson-type compromise agreed to by Congress and the President before the election, then between now and the November elections each party should assemble an outline of a plan for debt reduction.  Enough time has passed for each party to have ideas addressing our debt and budget deficit problems.  There also is enough time for each party to put its ideas together on at most two sheets of paper and make them available for public viewing and for use during the presidential debates.  Each plan should detail where and how much spending would be cut, from where and how much revenues would be increased and as much other relevant information as possible.   Voters would evaluate the plans and determine which political leaders are best qualified and trustworthy enough to implement it.  Again, Democrats seem to have a big edge this time.

Even though Democrats cannot attain a filibuster proof majority, by electing only Democrats to the Senate this time voters will send a loud message to incumbent Senate Republicans about voters insistence on bipartisanship, compromise and fair play.  Now is time for the people to take charge, and use this election to vote against the party that seems more inclined to lead the nation contrary to the people's wishes.  That party for the past four years has been the Republicans who have their own individual and collective agendas.  The goals of too many of them are more money and job security, not bipartisanship and economic solutions.  

President Obama was elected because he promised to bring change and to end partisanship. But he needs help.  He cannot effectively reach across the aisle when, as one Democratic congressman put it, a pit bull on the other side reaches back with a bite.  President Obama was right:  Washington, today, won't change itself.  The people must guarantee getting what they want with their votes.

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