Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 5, 2013

Political inaction and today’s realities

Being a scientist I prefer to focus on generally agreed-to facts in assessing even  complex political issues and will try to do so here in an attempt to understand why our two party system is so inept in dealing with our most important issues. First, some generally acknowledged facts.

During the last three decades, manufacturing jobs have been lost in America  and wages within our emerging service industries have been much lower than those in our diminishing manufacturing sector. Therefore, financial inequities have greatly increased in recent decades among US citizens.

Another well-recognized fact is that people tend to stay within the economic group into which they were born. Sure, there are exceptions – in both directions – but this observation is strongly supported by sociological research.

We also have issues today related to what some might call “deferred maintenance” of our social system.  Relative to many other well-developed and wealthy countries of the world, our health care offerings and educational opportunities for the general public are thought to be second rate or worse while private offerings in those areas are generally thought to be excellent by those who can afford them.

We all agree that our present political system is exceedingly polarized.  Democrats and Republicans tend to both view and respond to the above problems in very different ways.  The Democrats and certainly the Obama administration wants to address these issues with direct means of assistance to the more needy among us – such as by increasing the minimum wage and establishing a comprehensive national health system.  The Republicans tend to favor the “increase our total wealth” approach by which the entire “ship” might be raised to a higher level if we have lower taxes and fewer social programs – thereby facilitating all needed improvements within our society.

These different approaches have now been time-tested and vigorously argued over throughout the last three decades – while the problems they claim to address continue to increase.  While the Democrat presently in the White House forcefully tries to implement the direct assistance approach, Republicans are doing their best to ensure that all of his programs fail.  At the same time, the Republicans quite understandably offer no alternate means of directly addressing these issues because their solution is essentially to do nothing other than let the forces of the existing marketplace proceed with minimal interference by government.

Perhaps the Republicans now wish that the USA had not supported NAFTA and other free trade agreements in the recent decades and perhaps even wish that we had learned to picked our own cotton back in the 17th and 18th centuries. Both the free trade agreements and the institution of slavery enriched some but impoverished many. In any case, the facts are that we did these things in the past and should continue to address the issues that came with them.

I can’t resist pointing out here that the same applies to our present problems associated with climate change. That is, we should be forcefully addressing the problem that is being caused by the 40% excess CO2 we have added to date to our atmosphere over the Industrial Age. In approaching this absolutely enormous communal problem, the Republicans have at least demonstrated great consistency.  They simply ignore it as well and even deny that the problem exists..

Increasingly, it seems to me that  “polarization” is no longer the greatest limitation of our political system. Instead, it is that we now appear to have only one party that is willing to deal with our most important historical problems. Therefore I guess we should be thankful that constructive action by Congress can no longer be thwarted by an irresponsible filibustering  minority.


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