After this latest shutdown debacle everyone seems to have an opinion about who was really at fault. These opinions tend to fall along partisan lines. However, the true answer may surprise you. Meanwhile the debt continues to go up and the economy continues to go down as the D’s and R’s keep squabbling, the media keeps pontificating, and the masses keep whining about all the press conferences that interrupt their daily dose of Wheel of Fortune. So who really should be baring the brunt of the blame? The answer is US! That’s right! You, me, and everyone in between are the real culprits that are responsible for this Cirque de Stupidity.
We mock the latest congressional approval rating for falling to an embarrassing 5%. The battle cries from coast to coast are “throw the bums out”. Great! So why don’t we? Or better yet, why haven’t we done so already? Every two years at least 87% of Congress (that’s 33 Senators and all 435 Representatives) are up for re-election. If you look at the average Congressional approval rating going back to the 2008 election it has floundered at only 17%. Yet during those same 3 election cycles (2008, 2010, and 2012) the average re-election rate has been an astounding 86% for the Senate and 90% for the House. If you chase those same statistics further back through history I’m sure you’ll find a similar long term pattern. We claim to seek politics that are bipartisan, but at the same time we treat our politicians as if we’re bipolar.
What we have is the ultimate in a love/hate relationship with our elected leaders, but why? The answer can be found in how our government was designed versus how we’ve grown to accept it. In the beginning our founders sought to create a very weak centralized government. It had 17 specific functions to fulfill (see Article I, section 8 of the Constitution) and after that everything was meant to be handed off to the individual states to deal with (10th Amendment). Therefore, the proverbial “Pie” of federal largesse was meant to be very small and the focus was more on creating a fair system of representation among the states regarding those matters the federal government was meant to be responsible for.
The way our government is designed we have 100 Senators and 435 Representatives that are each beholding to the specific constituents they represent. So basically we’ve got 535 disparate agendas that are working toward garnering as much of the largesse pie as they can possibly get to reward those who are the only ones with the opportunity to keep them in power. Yet amazingly all those individual agendas are somehow expected to magically coalesce into a single unified agenda that is supposed to be the “best” for the country as a whole! This explains why “Congress” and “chaos” always seem to be synonymous.
When the federal government was small, as it was meant to be, this theory worked reasonably well. However, once Congress figured out that rather than fight over a tiny slice of a small pie it was much easier to simply grow a bigger pie, that’s when our real troubles began. Politicians from both parties are just as guilty of “bringing home the bacon” that we can no longer afford just to satisfy their districts. Sadly, they do it because that’s exactly what we’ve grown to expect them to do.
We as a nation have become like a bunch of spoiled kids at Christmas. We want all the toys that can possibly be squeezed under the tree, but nobody wants to talk about the slave elf labor that goes into building those toys. We want all the high speed rail and dam projects to come to our district, but nobody wants to think about where the money’s going to ultimately come from to pay for them. The obvious problem is that now we’ve got far too many kids being promised government “toys” and far too few elf “workers” paying the taxes required to keep up with the demand.
Ultimately, politics is a simple math problem. Unfortunately, as a nation we tend to be bad at math. The only way we can possibly survive for the long haul is to grow up and accept the fact that the holidays are over and it’s time for Congress to get back to work. However, it’s also time for “WE THE PEOPLE” to start acting more like their adult bosses by demanding they produce real solutions, and less like little kids expecting each year to bring even bigger and better toys. In the mean time we all need to go on a diet, forego the fattening government “Pie”, and start shedding the weight of all this debt.