Nearly a year before the first primaries and days before a possible government shutdown if the debt ceiling is not raised, President Obama has officially kicked off the 2012 campaign season in the middle of heated budget debates that threaten the imminent shutdown of our entire government.
Both sides are using these debates as a means to push their future ideological budget positions (as well as non budget related issues)- one of the reasons there have been 6 provisional budget extensions for the current Fiscal Year that started October of 2010. Obviously, these future budget positions are crucial to the stability and strength of our government as the long term implications of not rectifying our exorbitantly large debt have made themselves irrevocably clear. However, the failure of our Legislative and Executive Branches to negotiate, establish, and implement a budget for a Fiscal Year that is more than halfway complete, despite the fact that the government can and will shut down if nothing is done, demonstrates the incompetency of both parties and foreshadows the futility of any future debates regarding future government spending and taxes, and our debt.
To most in America, this incompetency is mind-boggling. Parts of the government will shut down if nothing is done. For the left: government programs and safety nets will stop. For the right: government instability and shutting it down destabilizes markets, which can send the value of the dollar plummeting, and negatively impact the economy and wallets. The two things that both parties claim to hold most dear will be greatly negatively effected -- not to mention the increase risk of terrorist attacks should our military, intelligence, and security agencies cease to function. So why can't they pass even another temporary budget and for that matter why did they wait so long to do debate all of this? Why are ideological debates such as abortion being added to this debate? Ockham's Razor suggests that solution lies in asking, Who will most benefit from the government shutting down? Not the constituents of either party, nor the American people, nor American businesses, nor the American economy. The only ones who will benefit are American politicians and the Republican and Democratic parties.
Both sides of the aisle are already making excuses and blaming each other for the impasse. The result is a PR battle that will extend in to the elections of 2012. Both parties are trying to paint the other as the villain responsible for all of our ills, when in fact both parties are responsible. They are positioning themselves to best respond to the aftermath of what went wrong rather than preventing it. The far extremes of the parties that have gained massive grounds as of late have proven stubborn and non-compromising, when our entire country and government system was founded upon compromise. The House and Senate exist as a compromise between having a population density based legislature, the House, and one based on states' equality, the Senate. By not compromising and refusing to take immediate measures to solve an imminent crisis, the parties have shown their cards once again: the politicians, both old and new, will not be wiling to make the politically suicidal steps necessary to ensure the betterment of our country -- cutting programs and increasing taxes. Yes, we all need to pitch in to fix this mess we've created.
By portraying each other as the one's responsible for the currant impasse, they are forever able to say that had things gone their way and the other party just listened, any past, current, or future crisis could have been averted. Whether in election campaigns or the media, this deflective reasoning has become the norm. They bicker back and forth offering the same solutions over and over, we are constantly being bombarded by messages of who is better Democrats or Republicans, the Big Mac or the Whopper, when in both are giving us coronary disease.
However, it's safe to say that one part of government that will continue to function during a shutdown is our Legislature. In her Tea Party response to the State of the Union, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann stated that we should "turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more," and called for a repeal of the recent health care changes. She is worried about the loss of $100 million to the economy, and yearns for the days of a smaller government, and yet she has the power to help save nearly $100 million in Federal spending: refusing her paycheck. Everywhere in government, politicians are searching for ways to cut spending and make the most of what they have, but refuse to make a sacrifice on a personal level. The rank and file members of the Senate and the House of Representatives earn roughly $174,000 per year, with higher salaries for the various leadership positions. With 100 Senators and 435 Representatives that's just under $100 million per year, not including benefits and pension plans. Yet they bicker about how to save money to the point where other people who earn a whole lot less will not get paid and the government will incur more debts to pay to shutdown and restart. The government had the CEO of AIG work for $1 a year, so the precedent is there. Some will say that not paying Congress will reduce the number of qualified people who want to do it, but in reality the pay is not as high as in finance or other executive jobs, and our founding fathers had other jobs (one of the reasons congressional breaks and vacations exist). Thomas Paine refused to make any money off his most famous works, Common Sense and the Rights of Man, choosing to benefit our country rather than himself; President Truman was found to be living only off of his meager army pension rather than stain the presidency by capitalizing on the position after his term ended. Why should we expect less integrity from our current leaders?
President Obama launched his re-election campaign on Monday, less than a week before the deadline to prevent a government shutdown. Why couldn't he wait until this was over? Why did he do it on Monday? All of the pundits say one thing -- money -- suggesting that the Obama campaign for 2012 will get $1 BILLION. It is naive to claim that spending money to make money (or to further one's cause) is inherently wrong, however, the rate of which campaign spending has increased over the last two decades is frightening and is quickly solidifying an unconstitutional requirement for the presidency -- money. If the Japanese workers who are breaking their backs trying to prevent a nuclear disaster stopped in order to try to build a new nuclear power plant, the public would demand they commit seppuku, yet our politicians and pundits are making moves to run for office. In the 2008 primaries, the major nominees continued to get paid for their current elected positions, despite the fact that John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton each missed over 30% of the votes at the time. If you or I missed a third of work looking for a new job, we'd be out in the street. Instead we pay them through taxes and donations to their political campaigns. After the budget has been at least temporarily solved, it will be time that we demand campaign finance reform before it is too late. Political contributions are not tax deductible because they are for one's own benefit (personal or ideological), political contributions are a form of buying your interest in government, so why should we not go further and tax it? For every $1 raised for a political campaign, $0.50 goes to paying the deficit or another part of government. Democratic candidates could direct their political contribution tax to medicare or another program, Republicans to paying off the debt or military spending. One can argue it's just a drop in the bucket, but considering how hard it is for one person to ever earn the amount that bucket constitutes, we are ants compared to the bucket: so let's be ants with drops of water so we don't die of dehydration.
If you want my vote, don't bother putting a video on TV, don't bother going to Iowa, just do your job at a price that's of value for the American people -- get the government running. Take a pay cut.