America's Debt Deal: Political (and economic) collapse retreats

Just over two months ago, I asserted here that the negativity surrounding America's political system and its ability to function and keep the country going was overblown (see post). The current debt deal, which passed the (more tricky) house yesterday evening, provides more evidence of this. I admit to only having partial details on it, but it thus far looks sensible. The pain is spread evenly and is mostly being delayed until later, allowing time for the economy to recover. These two aspects are very sensible: with divided government, cuts needed to affect parts of the budget both parties hold dear, and with the economy in its current fragile state, cutting too much too soon could have been calamitous. Economists and rating agencies had been calling for a credible deficit reduction plan, not an immediate reduction itself.

OK, fine, so disaster hasn't struck, is that the best we can expect from the US Government these days? This seems like a good point, and sometimes I feel it myself, but it again focuses too much on the negative. Congress over the past few years has passed a revolutionary (for America) health care plan, nationalized student financial assistance programs, changed environmental regulation, and accomplished many other things to boot. This seems to get lost among the noise of insanely partisan politicians screaming at each other (usually figuratively only) and egging groups on who call one side or the other things like "fascist," "Nazi," or "socialist." The absurdity of it all is enough to make the strongest stomach queasy.

But it still works.

American politics is noisy and partisan. That's the way it is. The REASON it is that way is because Americans vote for it to be that way. In particular, republican voters tend to want representatives in government who stick to their guns and don't compromise (see chart). So republicans are loud, obstructive, and stubborn. It's irritating. But that's the way their constituents want them to be. That's a sign that American democracy is working well, not poorly.

The problem, then, is not with America's democracy or even its political system, but rather with Americans themselves. No one likes to hear that they themselves have gotten themselves into a pickle, but they have. Once again, though, let's not be overly negative. I'm a realist, not an optimist by any means, but people on the liberal side of the isle with me tend to be overly negative. It's hard sometimes, I know. But take a closer look at that chart. Not only do most democratic voters prefer compromise to get things done, the majority of ALL voters does, too. As long as that is the case, we ought to be all right, even if compromise comes at the last minute and is a noisy, shameful spectacle every time.

I'm not trying to make all this seem completely harmless: it wastes time and money, and smaller things that need to be done may get lost in the process. What I'm saying, though, is that the system still works. If people start to pay attention to politics more and educate themselves, then people will vote for politicians with sensible policies who are ready to get things done. As long as people are aloof from politics and continue to rely on ideology to provide their compass points, things will be irritating and suboptimal, as they are now. Any suggestions for that systemic problem? Education system?


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