Several generations ago — and some will argue more than a century ago — the role of government was to govern via the creation and implementation of good, sound, growth oriented public policy that encouraged the economic and personal development of our society and Country. The goal was to expand opportunity across all walks of life simply by making opportunity available in a wide variety of forms. Everyone won — private and public sector. As such, for much of our national history, this strategy worked — evidenced by our eventually becoming the economic engine of the world. In the process, we created a middle class that became the envy of untold millions, in nations across the globe.
But somewhere along the way, most notably beginning during LBJ’s push for “Great Society” legislation (or perhaps FDR’s New Deal, however unintended), government morphed into a consumer of economic growth, as opposed to a creator of opportunity. The change was simple. Politicians, and their handlers, replaced long-term, strategic management aimed at strengthening our country financially as well as socially — with news cycle-based, sound-bite management targeted only at individual political advantage (or lack of political disadvantage) without any regard for proper, wise public policy benefiting our nation as a whole.
The debate in Washington regarding tax policy appears to be the endgame of the descent of our government into its current state of nothing more than bickering fourth-graders bent on claiming the win during afternoon playground recess.
Regrettably, both sides have their heels dug in, while maneuvering for the best finger-pointing opportunity — instead of simply getting down to business seeking a cooperative solution designed for the benefit of 315 million of us, as opposed to 535 of them (not to mention the Executive Branch), and their legions of supporting bureaucrats.
The focus of government has become themselves, not the country and its growth opportunities. They seek only the expansion of their influence through untouchable and uncontrollable entitlement programs, unwieldy taxation, and redundant regulation, while totally disregarding a private sector slowly being starved to death.
The cowardice of our politicians is clear in their failure to face the facts: The road they have been kicking the can along is a dead end. And their silly inability to realize this has boxed them into a corner.
But what are they doing to fix this and get on with the business of the country? Nothing — other than more blaming, bickering and finger-pointing, simply because no one has the guts to say what all of us desperately want said: “Enough, already. Just stop this nonsense.”
No one in Washington — Republicans and Democrats, as enabled by a culpable media — will admit their ever-expanding-bureaucracy / kick-the-can management / never-jeopardize-a-single-vote method of government has been a total failure. They may simply be incapable of this.
Government (at all levels) has become a business of its own. But it is an odd business: It does not create any product or revenue; it only consumes revenue by taking — ultimately in the name of expanding itself. And now, it wants an unlimited ability to borrow because it is afraid it can’t tax much more out of a fragile economy to feed its ever-growing revenue needs. In terms of economics, what part of this guaranteed failure don’t our politicians get? And why not?
This “fiscal cliff” debacle is far more than an argument between adolescents on ideology. Further, it is more than the usual Washington-style debate where facts aren’t important, nor is the welfare of individuals across the country. It is instead entirely demonstrative, and the logical result, of at least 50 years of an errant, imprudent approach to governing. The egos of our politicians have expanded into a “Government is the only solution — and we are the government” mentality.
The contrary is actually true. Politicians, and their inability to reverse the conditions they have caused, have become the root of the problem.
Therefore, the solution actually is for government — collectively — to acknowledge its short-sighted mismanagement of the world’s greatest economy, fire the political image-handlers, then get to work rebuilding a country.
But we shouldn’t look to them to realize this. They are already too busy positioning, preening, and chasing cameras for sound bite opportunities to actually understand what we — out here in “Realityville” — want them to do:
Go back to governing for the growth of our opportunities, not for theirs.
Tom LaBarge is a business analyst based in Kennesaw.