How Could Congress Make A Deal?
There are many explanations for the apparent gridlock in Washington. Certainly there are cases of distrust and misunderstanding. There is also just partisan politics where it makes no different what anyone says, “I’m voting my party line”. And I suspect some of the gridlock can be traced to “what’s in it for me”.
As a general statement Democrats favor a wide range of progressive issues ranging from poverty reduction to assistance for those on fixed income to healthcare availability to education access, and so forth. Democrats see government as a pathway to improve these areas. Democrats are ready to tax others to provide these services. (Regrettably Democrats are not big on measuring whether the services were actually provided, or that the services provided accomplished their intended purpose). If sufficient tax revenues are not available, Democrats are comfortable with borrowing (increasing the national debt) in order to provide these services.
Republicans, on the other hand, question the wisdom of any entitlement (either because the see no need or they feel the aid will fall into the wrong hands). Republicans think citizens should “earn” enough or go without (the GOP recognizes the truly indignant and would provide for them). Government ought to be confined to Defense Spending and probably infrastructure (the major national defense highway systems) spending in the mind of the GOP. States and localities should tend to all other issues. Hmmm.
One party seems to care little about the ordinary person, the changing nature of American society, or recognize the need for reasonable constraints on our modern, highly technical free enterprise economy. On the contrary, this party may actually value highly the potential of each American to take care of themselves. This party may think how things are is how they should be.
The other party sees most “problems” as beyond the scope of Americans to solve without the help of government. Progressive solutions, they reason, have worked in the past, so why not now? Progressive (Government sponsored) solutions and the cost be damned are their motto. They foresee social ills ultimately ruining the country. On the bright side, they see progressive solutions creating economic rewards which will more than pay for the solution’s cost. Hmmm.
How are we to find common ground?
For starters, why don’t both parties acknowledge “nothing” is free. For example, free education for grades K-12 in fact is not close to free. Teachers’ salaries, text books/supplies, and building maintenance/operating costs must be paid for in some way (normally through property or sales taxes). So, it should be clear that even good things must be paid for… So for starters, why can’t Republicans and Democrats agree upon that? If government provides services, these services must be paid for.
Stay with me on this.
To begin, Republicans and Democrats do not agree on what services the government should provide, so it makes it very difficult to agree upon how to pay for the services we might want if we do not already agree on what we are receiving.
But maybe here is a starting point. Let’s forget about what is on the books already.
What if all new legislation required a portion of its funding to be generated from reductions in existing programs cost?
Requiring savings from existing programs would accomplish two objectives…
- All organizations initially gain in efficiency as they age. This efficiency could be converted into lower operating cost which probably means less people. This efficiency generated lower cost could be converted into funding for other programs. Hmmm. (Political organizations, however, seeks the votes of government workers too. People reductions are often ignored even though those workers eliminated from one program could be employed by a new one.
- All organizations tend to calcify as they age. Shaking up exiting organizations keeps them vibrant and more likely to remain effective.
Political leaders (regardless of political party) ought to recognize that inefficiency creep into existing bureaucratic organizations. Political leaders might find it easier to accept (or at least consider) new programs if they knew that already existing programs would have to be trimmed in cost to help fund the new proposal. Taking positions like “no new tax revenues” or “no more Medicaid support (for those can’t afford healthcare)”, or on the other side of the spectrum, no changes to Medicare or Social Security (even when bankruptcy looms ahead, and everyone will lose) are not the most productive of positions to take.
The most honorable face that can be put upon the current gridlock behavior sees our politicians practicing the art of negotiation. Each is starting with their “best of all worlds position” (as they see it) and will not move off this position unless there is a sizable win for their side. Isn’t this how bargaining is suppose to proceed?
Maybe, but… there is nothing happening in Congress that is even slightly productive. Funding in part all new programs from reductions in existing ones will necessitate current programs continually being reviewed for efficacy and cause legislators to think hard about the cost of new laws. Maybe this is dreaming but it seems better than the nightmare running now.