Government 101

01/16/2018 08:51 am ET

The Need For True Government Reform– by Jerry Jasinowski

The spectacle of President Trump sitting at a table with maybe two dozen members of Congress from both parties, heartily agreeing with everything that was being said even when the speakers were in sharp disagreement, underscores the dysfunction of our government today and raises the question whether we are still able to govern ourselves. We have legislators who cannot agree and a President who does not recognize disagreement when it is slapping him in the face. Trump later followed up with his now infamous profanity about third world countries, aborting whatever progress he had made when he was agreeing with everybody.

Of course, there are and have always been sharp disagreements among politicians who naturally represent diverse opinions. But at the same time, there has always been up until now a basic understanding that there are a few essential elements of governing – call it Government 101 – which everyone understood and eventually came together on.

Front and center among these basic elements of governing is that the government must keep functioning at all times despite policy differences. Once again we are facing a potential government shutdown this week because of intense partisanship. Neither party wants a government shutdown but neither will relent on its demands. Sharp disagreement is not new; our inability to work around it is.

I would list as the second most important element our national defense. We are beset by threats to national security on every side, yet we continue to starve our military and domestic security agencies of needed resources. The unsettling incidence of deadly accidents among our naval vessels results from trying to do too much with too few personnel. If there is any issue our elected representatives should be cognizant of and willing to deal with, it must surely be national security, but once again partisanship reigns supreme.

There is a broad consensus in the land that our infrastructure – roads, highways, bridges, airports, waterways, railroads – are in a sorry state, eroding productivity and undermining the quality of life. But to update our infrastructure would cost money and instead of raising new revenues, Congress is busy cutting taxes. One option would be to increase the fuel tax which hasn’t been changed since 1993, but that too offends the tax cutters. So we do nothing as the system continues to degrade all around us.

Yet another key facet of Government 101 should be raising revenue to pay the government’s bills. The Internal Revenue Service needs to be able to compel business and citizens to pay what they owe. Instead, Congress is starving the IRS. Funding for the agency has fallen by about 20 percent since 2010, accounting for inflation, while the agency has lost more than 15,000 employees. Now it has a new law to enforce with too few resources to the job.

It was never plausible that people who do not believe in government would do a good job of running government and the Trump Administration is filled with people who want to destroy government rather than reform it. The new tax bill implementation is another example of unprofessional government in action. The ship of state is adrift.

Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. Jerry is available for speaking engagements. January 2018

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