It’s mind-boggling to me how the public and media continue to delude themselves over the principal cause of the governmental policy paralysis that grips Washington.
The latest example of gridlock is the failure of the so-called super committee, born of the debt-ceiling fight during the summer, and comprised equally of Democrats and Republicans to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion of deficit reduction.
Yet the failure of the deficit reducing committee and the current governmental dysfunction was perfectly predictable and, indeed, unavoidable thanks to the electoral choices the country made in the fall 2010 mid-term elections. Americans, in short, seem to be in denial over the simple truism that elections matter.
In 2010 for example, a grumpy electorate focused on Democrats as the scapegoats for the continued struggles of the economy, the housing crisis and the high unemployment rate. Never mind that it was GOP’s deregulatory zeal that had created the conditions for the financial collapse that, in turn, precipitated the crisis in the first place. Never mind also that Democrats had passed a stimulus bill which, when combined with the TARP passed under the previous administration, had almost certainly prevented the Great Recession from becoming a second Great Depression. And never mind also that the 111th Congress had been extraordinarily productive, passing legislation that curbed credit card company abuses, reformed the banking industry to avoid future financial meltdowns, enacted much needed reforms to food safety and student loans and, as the crowning achievement, overhauled the health care system to expand coverage to most of the uninsured while curbing the worst abuses of the health insurance industry. All of these laws benefitted ordinary working Americans, almost always over the strenuous objections of powerful industries and the GOP.
Yet because Democrats, despite worthy efforts, failed to fix in two years an economy that most now recognize will take up to a decade or more to repair, the country booted them from power in the House of Representatives and reduced their Senate majority in favor of a Tea-Party- dominated GOP whose principal characteristic is an unwillingness or inability to listen to reason. Hence the ridiculous brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling and almost fanatical refusal to consider tax increases on America’s wealthy to address the deficit.
Of course it’s much easier to blame “government” than to acknowledge our own culpability for the mess we created in the 2010 mid-terms. I mean, what were we expecting exactly? Peace, harmony and bipartisanship?
In 2012 the stakes are much higher. All I ask is that we make a clear choice between two contrasting visions of what sort of society America will be in the future. And that whatever we decide, we do not blame a faceless, amorphous government, that we voters played the pivotal role in shaping, for what follows.