Archive for Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Opinion: We have ourselves to blame for shutdown

January 23, 2018

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If we don’t like what is happening in Washington — and few do — the blame must be placed squarely where it belongs. It is “we the people” who send these people here.

We send people of different and often opposing viewpoints to Washington and expect them to get along. Many quickly turn opportunities to represent us into opportunities to represent themselves. They become careerists, statists and hypocrites, first supporting one cause or policy when it suits them and then with whiplash intensity turning around and supporting its opposite when it is politically expedient. It is why my favorite lecture circuit laugh line is “I’m happy to be here tonight from Washington, D.C., where the only politicians with convictions are in prison.”

Is that too cynical? Perhaps. There are a few good men and women in Washington, but they are often overtaken by the swamp, which is more like quicksand, dragging everyone down. If re-election and fundraising become primary goals rather than promotion of the general welfare, everything else becomes secondary.

The greatest frustration for voters comes from knowing how a problem can be solved, but then witnessing politicians refusing to solve it because they prefer to retain the issue as a weapon in the next election, and the one after that.

Perhaps a cynic would say that the refusal by Senate Democrats to pass a continuing resolution last week, much less a budget, is a device to turn attention from the great economic successes attributed by many to the Trump administration. But it is not cynical when one has observed how the “game” is played here. And to many it is a game, which serves only those who are playing it, not the rest of us.

The appeals to the “base” on the left and right rob the nation of a real debate on issues and an eventual resolution that benefits the majority. Is gaining and holding political power by a handful of politicians worth the sacrifice of faith in our government? And is this government, whether headed by Democrats or Republicans, what the Founders had in mind? Any high school history student, if taught the facts, must conclude it is not.

The Founders wanted limited government so that the people could be unlimited in pursuing their aspirations, consistent with their abilities and desire to take reasonable risks. What passes for government and governing today is a sham, a ruse, an embarrassment to their intentions and to ourselves, if we could be embarrassed about much these days. Even China mocks our dysfunction.

Hypocrisy is practiced by both parties and is the exclusive property of neither one. Republicans are now quoting Democrats, who spoke out against a government shutdown when it was politically advantageous and who now are for it. Democrats have their own list of quotes about Republicans.

The only benefit from this, if one can call it a benefit, is that Republicans are at last fighting back. During previous threats to shut down government, Republicans have cowered and allowed Democrats and the media to blame them. It was nice to see them refusing unconditional surrender this time.

There must be a better way. There is, but the public must demand it. Given the divisions in the country, which are reflected in the Congress, don’t look for that to happen anytime soon.

This is why we need term limits. Meantime, here’s one idea: Shut Congress down and don’t pay them until they start behaving like adults and serve American citizens first.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist with Tribune Content Agency LLC.

Comments

Larry Sturm 3 weeks, 4 days ago

We the people need to hold our elected officials more accountable. We do not we do not need them fighting like a bunch of 5 year olds on a playground.We need term limits so they are not running for the next 2 elections before the last one is past. We need government funded elections so everybody is running on the same playing field. One party system to stop infighting. The president needs to be held accountable for any wrong doing the same as anyone else.

Armen Kurdian 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Absolutely need term limits, unfortunately. Would take re-election out of the equation. Could make Senators 2 term max, House members 6 terms max, and combined 20 years max.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 weeks, 4 days ago

I used to think that we didn't need term limits, that the voters would be the term limits, but that's not happening. They keep sending back the same people every year. I used to think it was the pork that reps brought in, but I don't even think that anymore, because they got rid of ear marks, so that can't be it. Perhaps it's just laziness on the part of voters. So I have changed my stand on term limits. Armen, I think your plan sounds good. It's enough time for them to do something, but then they need to get out.

I would also like to see limitations to campaigning. A lot of these people spend most of their time running to raise money to get reelected. Maybe we should not allow fund raising until 6 months before the primary. Also, require them to put out a yearly newsletters to all constituents, about what they have been doing at their job. They can start out as snail mail, then people can opt to get them by email to save paper and money. Newspapers can also publish them. No more stupid 30 second ads on TV. It's 365 days, 7 days a week 24 hour campaigning now. It never ends anymore. As soon as the election is over, they are running for the next one.

Gary Stussie 3 weeks, 4 days ago

I knew there was something Dorothy and I could agree on!

David Holroyd 3 weeks, 4 days ago

There was no shutdown, you are right. Just a day off with pay. No big deal.

Dorothy you say "its time for them to do something" If you don't like what "them" is doing YOU should do something.

David Holroyd 3 weeks, 4 days ago

A shutdown? The employees are getting paid so what is the big deal. ?

P Allen Macfarlane 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Governmental disfunction has gotten much worse since Obama's election. Term limits? I don't think that is necessarily the answer. Changes in the way we elect our representatives would be a good start. Do away with the primary system to start with and take campaign finance out of the contests.

I would remind Mr. Thomas and our Republican-leaning commenters that most of the shut-downs over the last 40 years have been initiated by Republicans, not Democrats.

Bob Smith 3 weeks, 3 days ago

You are aware that in 2008, a certain Presidential candidate refused to accept public campaign financing and drove a stake through the heart of campaign reform, aren't you?

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