[On Sundays, this blog looks beyond jobs and careers in “Sabbath.”]
The Art of the Impossible
The government will probably shut down next week. Compromises that were once taken for granted in Washington are now impossible. The corporate media tries to blame “both sides,” but the problem lies with the most conservative aspects of the Republican party. This group thinks compromise is getting 100% of what it wants – then it asks for more.
Let’s consider “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act. This plan should make Republicans happy. It’s based on a model from the Heritage Foundation, and it later became the model for Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts. When President Obama and the Democrats proposed a similar plan, Republicans began to cry “socialism” and “death panels.” Now, rather than try to make changes in the plan, they demand repeal or defunding. No compromise.
In my state of Illinois, the problem isn’t at all Republicans. It’s dysfunctional Democrats. The governor and both houses of the legislature are controlled by the Democrats, and they cannot reach an agreement on how to resolve a huge pension deficit. The governor tried to block the legislators’ pay as an incentive to push them to act. A court said this move was illegal. So, in Illinois, Democrats cannot not even compromise with other Democrats.
Both the Democrats in Illinois and the Tea Party faction in the U.S. House are playing the same game: politics. They want their core voters to feel they are being strong. In the process, they don’t care if the nation or the state suffers. They can only think about the next election. As long as the voters agree to play this game, nothing will change. At the deepest level, we don’t only need better politicians, we need better citizens.
P.S. According to today's Chicago Sun-Times (9-30-2013), the story in Illinois is not as simple as I made it out to be. While there has been infighting among Democrats, they have apparently reached a deal to adjust pensions by $140 billion. Republicans are demanding $10 billion more in cuts that the paper calls unnecessary and insignificant. This is the only mention I have seen of GOP involvement in this problem. Add to the list above -- better journalism.
Common Dream offers a summary of several progressive writers who are not happy with the “Fiscal Cliff” solution. A common point among the writers is that the compromise solution still did much more to help wealthy people than it did to help working people.
There is one point that I disagree with. Some critics condemn the roll back of President Obama’s temporary 2.6% cut in Social Security payroll taxes. While this is a bad time to raise taxes on working people, this ugly move had to be made. If we value Social Security, we need to pay for it.
On the positive side, the deal did extend long term unemployment. Not every state takes advantage of this program, but for those that do, it will give a little more security to those who have had the hardest time finding a job.
The next phase in this debate will be even more important: What will be cut in the name of “saving” that will hurt working people and the poor? That question has been left open for now.
Speaking today in Michigan, President Obama put himself on the side of labor in its conflict with Michigan’s governor and state legislature that is pushing through “right to work” legislation. The President even said that such laws mean “you have the right to work for less money.” Great words, golden words, but we have heard words from this president in the past. What will he do? Actions matter.
In his first four years, the President has done little to help labor. He is currently said to be supporting a Pacific trade bill that would be as bad or worse than NAFTA. He also champions education “reform,” which is a smoke screen for busting teacher unions and enabling corporations to profit from public education. Labor supported Mr. Obama. It is time for him and other Democrats to return the favor. If they don’t, the elections of 2014 could be worse for the Democrats than 2010.