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Dysfunctional government

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Dysfunctional government

What have we learned from the “deficit slaying” farce in Washington?

Among the many lessons are the following.

There is a complete absence of leadership in Washington! No one is willing to stand for something that supposedly benefits the country, and in the process risk his/her political career. Better to waffle, obfuscate, pander and lie than stand on any solid principles.

The electorate is ignorant when it comes to understanding economic issues. The media, which is largely interested in entertainment and itself lacks knowledgeable people in this area, long ago abandoned its minimalistic effort to educate. The new forms of communication – twitter, social media and talking heads on radio – promote ignorance and the spread of misinformation. Schools seem to have failed as well, perhaps because of intimidation by the hordes defending “political correctness”. And of course, politicians are followers, driven by polls rather than good sense and desire to lead.

The US system of government with its numerous checks and balances is completely dysfunctional, at least in comparison to the British parliamentary system. It is a system of government that caters to the tyranny of the minority, generally the lunatic fringe of the left and right, as well as deep-pocketed special interest groups. Civility, rational discourse and decision-making, and compromise long ago disappeared from Washington.

Despite the fact a bill has passed, it does not even begin to solve the fundamental problems: should the government use Keynesian stabilization policies; at what level of aggregate spending should the budget be balanced and over what time frame; what should be the composition of spending and taxation over time?

A new “super-committee” of Congress has been selected to find answers. But why should we expect this committee to be any more successful than the bipartisan committee that was selected in 2009 and reported last year? By the way, they put forth an excellent agenda with very good proposals. However, neither Congress nor the President were willing to make the tough choices outlined in the report for fear of alienating someone.

Finally, there should be binding term limits for all elected officials, perhaps six years for all members of Congress. There also should be hard limits on campaign spending. (Maybe the Supreme Court will finally wake up.) This might reduce the amount of time devoted to fund raising and limit the influence of the lunatic fringes. Politics should not be a career. Rather, it should be a sacrifice many people should be willing to make for the country, either at the end of their careers, or as “sabbaticals” from their careers.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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