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Fixing What's Wrong with U.S. Politics

David Moss

In America today there's a growing sense that the political system is broken and that its ineffectiveness is a major threat to U.S. competitiveness. Why do so many think the political system is not working? Research shows that in Congress, Republicans and Democrats are more polarized than ever. They seem pulled apart by two starkly different conceptions of government: one viewing the government as inefficient, invasive, and easily corrupted, and another seeing it as a vehicle for solving people's problems. Yet the ideological divide may not be the true source of the breakdown. A look at U.S. history shows it's not new. Moreover, sharp ideological battles have often proved highly productive in policy terms, delivering the best ideas from both sides. In the 1840s, for instance, state politicians who were deeply skeptical of government pushed hard for balanced budget amendments while politicians at the other end of the spectrum demanded free public schools for all. In the end many states adopted both policies--a combination that proved enormously powerful. The problem today is that too many have come to view politics as war, where victory is paramount and "compromise" is a dirty word. This take-no-prisoners approach, which came into sharp relief during the debt-ceiling debate, threatens to cripple the best-of-both dynamic. Revitalizing America's culture of democracy--where the health of the nation comes first, above economic interest, party, and ideology--is essential. Business leaders must play a large role in this effort, because the implications for the economy are so great.

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Tags: Politics

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  • 19 Dec 2011

    Joe Seydl

    I agree 100%. The division on Capitol Hill is alarming. As a society, we keep hoping that our politicians in Congress will resolve their ideological differences and pass balanced legislation that helps to improve our country's economic competitiveness, but the end result is always the same: political gridlock. And as David notes, the problem is that any form of compromise by either party is now viewed as treachery to the compromising party's base. If you're a democrat and you support the Keystone Pipeline, then you're viewed as a traitor to the democratic base. If you're a conservative and you support increased government spending on infrastructure, then you're viewed as a traitor to the conservative base.

    In my opinion, though, the idea that compromise is evil is a false notion that exists only on Capital Hill. If you go out and talk to average voters, there is actually a lot of agreement in terms of how to address our country's economic challenges. Yes, let's keep certain regulations in place that preserve our environment and promote public safety. But let's also get rid of other regulations that are outdated and that complicate small business formation and expansion. Let's revamp our tax code and make it simpler, but let's also make sure that everyone is paying a fair share and that certain individuals or special interest groups are not gaming the system by taking advantage of unfair tax loopholes and whatnot. Let's fix our country's broken healthcare system by, for example, promoting new preventative care technologies as well as taking advantage of the gains associated with global trade in the health insurance industry. And let's provide the necessary and affordable educati on opportunities for those whom are born into low-income families. Everyone needs a fair shot in this country, and the wealth of a child's family shouldn't be such a large factor determining his or her wealth later on in life.

    Compromises can be made. And indeed compromises are made everyday, by the American soldier fighting overseas, by the recent college graduate who is working as a teacher for Teach For America, or by the small business owner who is trying to expand his or her business and hire new workers. The only thing we ask is that our policymakers, too, make the necessary compromises that will benefit society as a whole.

  • 18 Jan 2012

    Dennis Nelson

    The root cause problem is a lack of training and experience for too many. As a result, for some the idea and desire of service and to serve has been replaced by the concept and desire of rule and ruling. Compounding that situation is the inexperience of others in combatting the symptomatic and accompanying ruthlessness and willingness for self-destruction if rule cannot be obtained. Symbiotic interdependence is too little understood, discussed or promoted.

  • 19 Jan 2012

    Omar Woodard

    We've spent the last 40 years listening to the Republican Party tell the American people that our unique system of self-governance is actually the biggest problem facing this country. That government, particularly at the Federal level, is the root of all evil; a bureaucracy that should be made as inconsequential as possible. And that even the most fundamental of public services should be privatized to the highest bidder. They believe that even something as critical to the American middle class as unionization is a cancer on the body politic. The GOP's ruthless multi-generational assault on our system of self-governance has eroded public confidence in the one institution over which the American people has the most control. This is by design - modern day political discourse operates around the assumption that the Democratic Party generally believes in solving problems facing America. The GOP believes in shrinking government because g overnment IS the problem. That is not a recipe for fruitful compromise.

    Until the GOP becomes solutions-oriented, rather than rooted in a Civil War-era conservatism, our democracy will continue to be dysfunctional. And the media validates this by providing "balanced" reporting instead of fact-based reporting. There is only one political party hellbent on making the most important institution in America, our democracy, dysfunctional. And that is the Rwpublican Party.