Politics crowds out principles
Down-to-the-deadline arguing over increasing the national debt and proposals to delay Obamacare focused the public's attention on Washington this past week. According to recent polls, most Americans do not like what they see.
Congress stands at its lowest rating ever with 87 percent of Americans disapproving of their performance, according to a CNN/ORC International poll. One is left to wonder what the 10 percent who did approve were thinking. The fact that this is the lowest approval level in history is disconcerting in a democracy that faces great structural challenges.
Republicans, some of whom dared to suggest slowing the federal government's rush toward an unsustainable level of debt, stand at a record low in the polls. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll concluded that most Americans blamed the GOP for the government shutdown, sending party support to a mere 24 percent.
Democrats in Congress didn't garner a lot of love either, indicating voters blamed both parties for pushing the nation to the brink.
Those associated with the non-party Tea Party, however, aroused more public anger than either of the two major parties. The same NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows support for the Tea Party has fallen to 21 percent.
People see the budget debate as largely one of party politics rather than as a political struggle of principle. Americans benefitting from the trillions of synthetic dollars created by the Federal Reserve have minimal interest in cutting entitlements in order to return the country to sound finances.
With a culture of ‘career' politicians, this popular sentiment likely will thwart any political action to restore common sense spending and balanced budgets. Likely, this situation will continue until bond or currency markets dictate eventually some harsh austerity and sound budgeting in return for continued financial support.
The Tea Party is a grass- roots movement without the important organizational structure of a conventional party. Doubtless, their low rating has been influenced by some of the wild statements of both Democrat and Republican politicians. Some legislators described Tea Party Americans as “anarchists,” even “terrorists.” Such extreme and degrading characterizations of grass-roots Americans exposes a deep fracture within U.S. society.
Without any party machinery, the Tea Party claims to stand democratic-ally against big government and its massive costs, which it sees as crushing the economic independence of ordinary Americans. Members of the two major political parties are becoming increasingly partisan, if not prejudiced. This combative, even hostile, atmosphere detracts from the ability of Congress to tackle the important tasks of managing the nation's budget and its growing debt.
In addition, career politicians have one overriding interest: getting re-elected. This goal is placed, usually covertly, above all others. Little wonder that Americans fed up with Congress talk increasingly of term limits. Without term limits, chronic overspending and debt likely will continue unchecked.
International bond markets need to call a halt to profligate U.S. government spending by requiring economic restructuring and austerity as they have done already in Europe.
John Browne, a former member of Britain's Parliament, is a financial and economics columnist for Trib Total Media. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.