Polarized politics is one symptom of our broken democracy. But compromise is not necessarily the answer either, as epitomized by the new $1 trillion farm bill. New Deal-era crop subsidies were obsolete by 1941, when America's entry into WWII created inexhaustible demand for food and other crops. Yet both parties, holding hands in the name of comity, have continued these obsolete subsidies for more than 70 years -- now mainly going to large corporate farms. The new bill eliminates direct payments while increasing crop insurance supports, hoping Americans won't notice that money is fungible.
For government to function, democracy must be able to set new priorities -- changing what doesn't work or isn't needed, as well as meeting new needs. Sometimes democracy can add new programs, as with Obamacare. But it seems incapable of getting rid of the old ones. This is not sustainable.
Compromise is not the answer. Holding hands does little good when driving over a cliff. America needs a new vision of how to clean up old programs. See the discussion on obsolete law at "America the Fixable" (Common Good's 2012 series at theAtlantic.com).
For more Howard's Daily posts, visit commongood.org/blog.
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