Work horses, show horses, and seeking the ‘right answer’

If all the current stalemate in Washington was about was the debt ceiling or spending cuts or eliminating come tax breaks, it’d be bad enough. But those are just symptoms of a bigger issue that’ll continue haunting us long after whatever last-minute decisions either temporarily resolve the arguments before Aug. 2 or plunge the U.S. into uncharted financial seas.

What’s really at stake here is whether or not our elected leaders, be they Republicans or Democrats, can govern in the spirit intended by the founding fathers.

Unfortunately, current events would seem to indicate the answer is a resounding “No.” And those of us they’re supposed to be representing seem to agree on that.

Eighty percent of those surveyed shortly after the “Grand Bargain” proposed by House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama fell apart said they were angry or dissatisfied with the way our national government works. That’s the highest number in nearly 20 years.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the Washington Post-ABC News poll even said they’d vote for someone other than their current representative in Congress. That number is a historic high.

Is it any wonder? If you think senators and representatives arguing about the debt ceiling, spending and revenues are paying attention to our feelings, you’d be dead wrong.

This despite the fact we began this week with the value of the dollar falling in relation to foreign currencies such as the franc, yen and euro, something financial analysts attributed to the current focus in Washington on a short-term fix to the debt limit rather than more balanced solutions to debt and spending and revenues. Others warn our AAA debt rating could be downgraded as early as next month and that interest rates could rise as much as 1 percent if the U.S. defaults on any obligations.

The reaction from Boehner and his equally tone-deaf Senate counterpart, Harry Reid?

They threatened over the weekend that each house of Congress might go its own way and waste legislative time passing competing House and Senate debt packages.

All the while, the clock is ticking with some congressional observers saying tomorrow may be the deadline for getting any compromise legislation moving in time for the president’s signature before Aug. 2.

There’s evidence of leadership disarray whichever way we turn.

Boehner and his No. 2 in the House, Eric Cantor, haven’t been on the same page for a while, and both have been at odds with their GOP Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell. Things aren’t any better on the other side of the aisle with the Obama-Reid-Pelosi triumvirate seeming to be reading from entirely different books, much less pages. Lately, Obama seems to be mirroring the petulance of Boehner and Cantor.

Something about fiddling while things burn comes to mind. Is this really the best we can expect from those we elect to act on our behalf?

Perhaps it is.

The 80-percenters in the Post-ABC poll tend to leave political arguments to the fringe elements in both parties. Those of us in the middle —  somewhere between Michele Bachmann and Dennis Kucinich — weary of the “let’s you and him fight” school of easy journalism that focuses on those who speak loudest or have the spiciest talking points rather than the harder task of giving us what we need to know to make intelligent decisions?  We opt out.

We leave our fates in the hands of those who take their cues from uniformed bloggers who select only so-called facts that support their preconceived notions. In our absence, those folks become the base of both parties that legislators are loathe to upset. We put up with our highest elected leaders playing chicken with our futures in the interest of partisan politics.

Until we take back the debate and start demanding work horses instead of show horses in Congress, well get what we deserve, and it’ll become even less likely those we choose to govern us will accept the following advice:

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.” — John F. Kennedy

Jim Spehar has temporarily strayed from his intent to leave discussions of national politics to others.  Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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