Democracy Now! looks at the 113th Congress: "The Most Diverse in History, But Not the Most Progressive"
On Thursday, the 113th Congress of the United States of America convened to the question, "Will it be any different from its predecessor?"
My optimism extends this far: the past week indicates that it cannot be worse.
While legislators congratulated and each other for avoiding the fall over the "fiscal cliff", the brinkmanship and overriding posturings of ideology must leave the American taxpayer with a bitter taste. Why did it take so long to reach a deal, one element of which talked about spending cuts even as Congress works on a plan to set them aside?
For example, “the doc fix” --- which effectively shield doctors from any control of the costs of Medicare and Medicaid --- remains in place. Doctors are, in the main, very well paid. Why should they not accept a cut in their fees for treating patients receiving Government support?
The key to solving the economic problem is jobs, but American corporations are holding billions of dollars in cash but are unwilling to invest when the Government’s tax-and-spend policies are in such a mess. How will this awfully cobbled deal encourage the private sector to invest?
To invoke the common expression: there are two things people never want to see made --- a sausage and a political deal. The agreement this week has all the elements for failure, let alone indigestion, applying a Band-aid to a deep, long-term wound.
If "middle America wants to emerge from the huge debt Government has incurred, it has to accept some of the responsibility, hard though that may be. Taxing the rich alone will not fix the problem.
Another expression: politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. The election campaign by President Obama spelled out that the middle classes could not be exempt from the nationwide pain to reduce debt. Yet the deal permanently extends the tax cuts of 2001 for incomes below $450,000. Where is the prose in that retreat from the debt problem?
The economic issues facing America are no different to the rest of the Western world. Those countries which lent and spent hugely in the past decade have to pay the price. That means austerity.
The alternative is to pass the problem to the next generation. The 112th Congress, in passing the problem to its successor, embraced that. This is a complete failure of governance.
It is easy to point the finger at politicians who hold the party line, sticking to their ideology. However, the root of the problem lies in the Constitution itself. The checks and balances on each branch of Government was a brilliant concept for its time, when there were no political parties or factions. The Founding Fathers expected legislators to negotiate and agree matters, hopefully in the nation’s best interests.
The 112th Congress has failed singularly to do this. Republicans in the House have refused to consider almost every Presidential initiative, and the Democrats have refused to talk with their opposite numbers in any meaningful way. Instead, both sides involve themselves in “yahboo” politics.
It has to be said that the current crop of supposed leaders are not fit for purpose. Will change occur? I wouldn’t wager even a wooden nickel on it. Instead, I'll put two real nickels on more Congressional business as usual and another political crisis --- this time over the Federal Government's debt ceiling --- at the end of February.