With the last-minute passage of a bipartisan bill to reopen the federal government and raise the federal debt ceiling, the nation and much of the world has avoided a financial maelstrom — for now.
What brought us to this precipice is the radicalization of politics in America that recognizes only two schools of thought (liberal and conservative) and considers that everyone must be a devout adherent of one or the other — “you’re either with us or against us." This ideological fanaticism has perverted our representative democracy to the point that the U.S. government is virtually paralyzed.
The shutdown debacle was instigated by the Tea Party, a relatively small minority of Americans whose ideological fervor borders on the irrational. In their jihad against Obamacare, they have crossed that border into lunacy and brought America and much of the world to the brink of financial disaster.
The brains of the Tea Party House members must be located in their colons, and if they enjoy regular bowel movements, explains why they lose their minds every day.
People hate what they fear. The angst and financial hardship that the Tea Party’s recklessly radical behavior has caused millions of people has not only discredited them but also to some extent the entire Republican Party.
Recent polls have reconfirmed that most Americans (51 percent) are neither conservative nor liberal. They are pragmatic independents who apply common sense in evaluating issues. Acceptable solutions to problems, therefore, will not be found at the extreme ends of the political spectrum. They will be found in the middle. Unfortunately, the 21 percent of hard left, and the 28 percent of hard right Americans typically substitute reason with doctrine. For true believers, others are always infidels and compromise is always a sin.
The Tea Party’s adolescent approach to address the serious issues of the federal government’s expanding intrusive power and addiction to deficit spending has wasted time and effort for finding an acceptable solution. It took decades of deficit spending by self-serving, irresponsible Democrat and Republican politicians to put America $17 trillion in debt. It will take some time and much careful pruning to correct the situation without wrecking the economy and inflicting devastating pain on millions of people.
One thing that the government shutdown has demonstrated is how pervasively and deeply the federal government is involved in everyday life. For instance, did you know that a beer brewer must get approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for any new beer recipe? This is one of many questionable regulatory activities that sucks up tax dollars and impinges on freedom. A much larger one is the futile war on drugs, which only benefits the law enforcement industry and the drug cartels. In a free society, criminalizing victimless personal choice is not a legitimate exercise of government power. Yet, the government expends tens of billions of dollars each year engaging in this suppression of freedom.
Every organization incurs incremental inefficiencies that, like plaque, need to be removed periodically. By now, the federal government with its larded-up bureaucracies running obsolete or ineffective programs is loaded with plaque, much of it maintained for the benefit of entrenched, well-paid, federal employees and the clients of career politicians.
If the new bipartisan budget committee really wants to do right by the nation, it would objectively identify areas of excessive or obsolete spending. There is much money to be saved if our elected representatives employ impartial reason rather than obstinate ideology, but this current Congress will not do that.
The ideological impasse in America is insane. The middle majority of Americans is not going to accept an economic model that continues to overfeed the 1 percent while it gradually starves everyone else. Nor, will it accept a model that loots enterprise and invention to bestow excessive entitlements on indolent people and subsidizes wealthy corporations.
The acceptable model for organizing society and the economy is not found in the ideologies of Ayn Rand or Karl Marx. The one constant in life is change, so no ideology can be perfect and no model can be permanent. Somewhere between unbridled capitalism and confiscatory collectivism is an acceptable model for America.
We will not find it while the loonies at the extremes control the debate. Even though a good number of congressional districts have been drawn up to almost ensure that loons get elected, there are many more of us in the middle than at the extremes. As California has done, other states can force fair redistricting of congressional districts. And, if Democrat or Republican candidates are not reasonable folks, we need to encourage independents to run and then vote them in.
We cannot continue having government behave like an episode of Looney Toons.