Over the past couple of months I have paid more and more attention to the nation political landscape, focusing on the importance of the coming presidential and congressional elections. I have always kept my nose somewhat into national and political matters, however in the recent past I have really started listening. What I hear and see is simultaneously terrifying and unreal.
How is it that we have accepted the fact that the congressional branch of our federal government no longer functions? Insane overuse of the filibuster, intense ideological polarization and frank disregard for the favor of anyone but their lobbyists and contributors has ground the Senate to a screeching halt.
In short terms, the filibuster uses Senate governing rules to allow 41 votes to stop legislation instead of the simple majority which typically (and in my mind rightly) should govern the body. Right now 60 votes are needed to pass anything more important than... well to pass anything.
The filibuster, however is not completely to blame here. It is simply the implement used by those who have forgotten how to compromise, forgotten that they were elected to be the best of us and work for progress through debate and persistence.
Last week Senate Republicans and Democrats held two completely meaningless votes concerning a topic of vast importance to the national landscape. It's nice that they use our lives for entertainment I suppose. In an act that looked like a functioning body, the senate debated two choices for tax reform, voted and declared a winner. In this case, the Democrat's plan won by a narrow margin.
In that winning plan, Bush era tax cuts would continue with tax increases only going to those who make more than a quarter million dollars a year and then only on income above $250,000. Whether you agree with this plan or not doesn't really matter because the Senate was just having play time anyway. Legislation which changes the national tax landscape must originate in the House of Representatives. I'm not kidding. This is what our national congress is doing to help an economy struggling to keep footing.
When asked why they had wasted yet another week of the country's time, national Republican officials commented that it was important to let their constituents know where they stood. Did you not explain that during the platform portion of your election? Your constituents know where you stand. They elected you to go to Washington and help solve their problems. Instead like small untaught children, you have decided to take your ball and go home.
Over the 30 some years of my life I have seen majorities in both bodies of Congress and the White House change hands with regularity. I understand that as the majority changes so does the political landscape. Also, I understand that the checks and balances set forward in the constitution are there to keep hasty and tyrannical laws from coming to pass. What I can't understand and won't accept is a complete shutdown based on politics.
Politics should breed POLICY based on debate and constituent need. Instead we get the worst kind of obstructionism masked as patriotism.
It is obvious that the problems in our federal government reach far beyond a simple Democrat vs. Republican brawl. If that were the case, this whole issue would smack of politics as usual. A complete shutdown of the Senate is not politics as usual.
Ask yourself a question. How often do you hear our national media discuss the annual farm bill? If you are like me the answer is never. Do you know why you don't hear about a bill that has far reaching ramifications concerning food and fuel costs? Because the legislation always passes without a hitch. But contrary to what has happened in the past, as of last week, the 112th Senate could not pass the farm bill.
There are many dire issues facing our country as we move toward the 2012 elections; issues which the populous will face regardless of whether or not the legislature functions. That is the tragedy of this situation.
The unemployment rate is not just a number to us, it is a father or mother without a job. The energy debate is not theoretical, it translates to the very fate of our local community and on and on.
We the people face these issues and if we the people don't get the current clowns to shape up or ship out, well then maybe we deserve our fate.