How to Fix Washington Gridlock
Posted by patriotslog
The United States Congress has an all-time low approval rating; commentators often joke that those who do approve of Congress at this moment consist of their immediate family, and nobody else. President Obama is not fairing much better, holding the lowest approval rating of his presidency also; though the fact that he raised so much money in campaign contributions this quarter illustrates just how inaccurate these polls are. It has become next to impossible to find anyone who can say in complete honesty that our government is functioning. Democrats blame republicans, who point the finger right back; the poor blame the rich, the president blames Congress, and the web just keeps growing. We even see some who are still irrationally hanging on to their disdain of President Bush, blaming all our woes on him for no other reason than petulant bitterness (yes, some of our current problems were set in motion by Bush, but those comprise a fractional minority). Everyone in America is more than happy to blame their government, representative, neighbor or friend; everyone in the government is more than happy to blame the other party. The only thing we do not see is people taking any responsibility for the problems. One lone patriot by the name of Buffett is brave enough to step forward, admit the system is not working, and taking responsibility for that. He knows tax rates and breaks favor the rich, and he is taking responsibility for that, and trying to change it. Warren Buffett even invested billions of dollars of his own money to help banks which were struggling. Thank you for your good heart and generous pocket Mr. Buffett. For the other 320 million minus one of us in America, it is time to take a good long look what we have done wrong. How can we expect Congress to stop pointing the finger and acting if we do not do the same; they will not take responsibility until we do.
So why is the system failing us? It is more our fault than we would like to hear. The system is not broken, it has and will work when we maintenance it, it is only failing because of our lack of attention to the problems. Three of the root causes, in no particular order, are lobbyists and money in Washington, skewed Congressional districts, and irrational voters electing irrational candidates.
Money in Washington has long been a problem, and has been covered by patriotslog on multiple occasions. Too much money with lobbyists, and special interest groups which influence legislation cause numerous problems, including of course, influencing legislation. So many voters feel out of touch with their representative; it is impossible to have your needs heard without a pocketbook bursting over with campaign contributions–a luxury too few of us have. Money talks loudest, and only those who have it in abundance are being represented. Gone are the days where a Congressman or senator hears the voice of the people, and governs by the people and for the people. Democracy has become by the money and for the money. Political parties now align their views to fit those of the biggest donors in the country, unions, corporations, lobbyists, and special interest groups. What a representative believes or stands for no longer holds any merit, parties now tell their incumbents what they believe and why they believe it, because it is impossible to get re-elected without party support. If you do not please the establishment, you will have no established base; such was the case when Senator Jim Bunning got pushed out by the Republican Party in my home state of Kentucky.
The fact that lobbyists have Washington in their pockets bad enough, but it has become almost acceptable to have blatant dishonesty among our representatives. Lobbying firms and corporations now hold the power in Washington, and the American public knows it. It is so brazen and advertised it almost seems to be a spit in the face of the American public. Big oil gives millions to keep their subsidies from being taken away. AT&T opens its wallet to get their deal with T-Mobile passed the stall the state department has rightfully put on it. The auto industry spends countless sums each year to put legislators in their pockets, and even the new debt ceiling super committee is seeing dollar bills by the dump truck poured in by the big banks which caused the massive government bailouts that are now the reason to have a super committee in the first place. Even Bill Gates gets in on the action. Furthermore, if you this could have gotten any more absurd, China recently donated money to stop legislation. Is the United States of America for sale? Washington cares about the voters on one day a year: Election Day. In any other nation an approval rating as low as this is justification for an uprising, yet we in America have the vote. The problem is that the vote of the citizen is being mitigated by the dollar bill of the corporation; in fact, just yesterday a new PAC rule was exploited allowing unlimited amounts of campaign contributions to Utah Senator Mike Lee. Some feel publicly financed campaigns would fix this problem, and it would help; but in our current state, can we afford to have every campaign in the country financed by tax dollars? So if we are not publicly financing campaigns the corporations ought to be allowed to endorse whomever they please, just as you and I can. It is not fair to have them shut up while we have a voice. The problem is that we cannot have them influencing the legislation after the campaign has won an election. There is no easy way to do this, elected officials, bureaucrats, and other politicians will always find a way to get their money, and no matter the detail in law we have they will find a way around it. Those who make laws and pass bills cannot vote on the proposal the way they see fit, or the way those whom they represent would wish, because they know the money from the lobbyists makes re-election so easy. For this reason there needs to be cps on the amount of money any single entity can give to lobby. There also needs to be a limit on the amount of money any campaign can spend on one election. This keeps our tax dollars from being spent, and marginalizes the lobbyists while leveling the playing field for elections. Any lobbyist influencing legislation and any government official caught taking it ought to be sent to prison on the spot. The government should serve the people, and that is not happening. This is the first reason the government is failing us.
The system was made to be fair; however, just as in war, the victor in politics gets the spoils. The Congressional map is so skewed that if it were not directly affecting every American, it would be hilarious. We have districts shaped like the letter C, like a stapler, and like a piece of popcorn. Look how the new Congressional districts are skewed in Utah. This is absurd! The only district a Democrat had a chance to win, Salt Lake County, is now split into three districts where the democratic vote can be offset. Both parties are equally guilty of this. How can we expect a fair system when we have these as our voting districts? This is another example of the government system which is not broken, but failing. Why are the districts set up as they are? To win seats in Congress. The majority party in a state creates the voting districts, so we see the districts being created in shapes that guarantee one party will be the victor. The only competition in this system becomes the competition in the primary elections. When this is the case the voters will usually elect the candidate they feel “fits” their party better. For example, many republicans prefer Rick Perry to Mitt Romney, and Perry has a shot at winning the primary because he appeals to far right party members. Romney is given the stigma of not being republican enough. This is what happens in every one of these skewed districts. One candidate is accused of not being radical enough by using their own part against them. When this happens, often the more radical candidate wins because primary voters find him “more” republican or democratic than the opponent. Unfortunately this usually turns out to mean they are more resistant to any moderate ideas and any compromise. When in any normal election, a candidate would lose due to their radical and out of touch views, these candidates are winning because of the skewed Congressional districts. This leads to the stalemate in Congress. Two extremes will not come together, they will not compromise, and they will not sway from their radicalism.
This is exactly the third problem: extremism. The third problem however is extremism due to voters. The voters are the cause of the gridlock in Congress. Nobody wants to hear that, but it is the truth. In the age of 24 hour news channels, WikiLeaks, and “credible” unnamed inside sources, everyone in America can find something to be angry about without spending much effort looking. With so much information so readily available to so many people it seems impossible for an elected official to do anything right. Not only is Capitol Hill faced with opposing points of view on anything, but the United States public is also. The age of sensible citizens who agree to disagree is fading; it seems more and more common that people feel we must agree with one side or the other, there is no in between, let alone a third option. This being the case, voters are angered quickly at the system which pleases one side, then shifts to please the other. Compromise has become a dirty word. People appalled at the way Congress is run, a bill that was passed, a statement which was made–and the list can go on and on–want desperately to make a difference. People want to see the government function; the problem is that every voter has a different idea of what a functioning government is. Wanting change, the voters then naturally gravitate to the candidates who promise the most change; too often, these candidates are the most radical ones. So voters sweep in radical candidates, on both sides of the isle, such as Michelle Bachman and Nancy Pelosi; two women who are unlikely to agree on what color to decorate a wedding with, let alone matters of policy and ideology. When this happens it leads to a natural stalemate. Radicalism dams progress in Washington. The last time we had two opposing ideologies of this intensity in DC, slavery was the issue. That gridlock turned so bad it led to succession; which Rick Perry may or may not have already considered. We as voters need to blame ourselves, and take responsibility for our actions before we can expect those we elect to do the same. Representatives are citizens, if we do not have honest citizens we cannot expect them to become honest once elected.
THIS IS AN EXTREME CASE, BUT ILLUSTRATES THE POINT NONETHELESS
You and I have a responsibility which we need to fulfill before the government will return to serving us. We must stop electing the catchiest campaign slogan, we must stop letting out hearts be roped in by flashy words like “change” and “outsider”. We need to make certain that the best candidate wins. We have to research the candidate, their views, their policies, their beliefs, and for those to whom it matters, their religion. An informed voter is needed now more than ever, and educated voter will create more change than a flashy candidate. If we know the issues and the candidates thoroughly we will know what to expect, and we can avoid the types of situation we now have. The system is not broken, it is only failing. Any engine which is not broken can be fixed with educated maintenance; we can be that maintenance. We have been given the greatest nation and government in the history of the world; we need to do our part to maintain that.
October 25, 2011
About patriotslogI am studying to achieve a double major in political science and journalism from the University of Kentucky. I am married to a wonderful woman named Sierra. I am starting this blog because I feel the political climate in Washington is carving deep canyons for our children to climb out of. Our representatives, on both sides of the isle, do not represent us, they represent the lobbyists.This blog is not to give answers, but to make people think. I believe the more we think about our ideas the better they will become; as opposed to becoming more and more intrenched in far left or right wing brainwash, where it seems nobody thinks anymore. I hope y'all enjoy.
Posted on October 26, 2011, in Patriotslog Articles, Politics and tagged approval rating, Bill Gates, China, Congress, congressional districts, Congressman for sale, gridlock, Jim Bunning, Kentucky, lobbying, Michelle Bachmann, Mike Lee, Mitt Romney, money in Washington, Nancy Peloci, President Obama, Rick Perry, Utah, voters. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.