Tom Finneran: The Shutdown Sins Of Both Parties
Friday, October 18, 2013
|As the US Government stumbles back into business, let's take a look at what the shutdown shows us about both political parties.|
Thus it is that each political party bears a heavy load of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in, where America continues to appear to the rest of the world as an incompetent, inept third-world nation with less than third-world leadership. That the average American citizen would send everyone in Washington D.C. straight to their rooms for imitating the worst behaviors of juvenile delinquents should come as no surprise. That those average Americans do not have the capacity to do just that adds to the cynicism and frustration of the electorate. Yet reaping what they have sown, the electorate too bears a share of blame for the many fiascos of recent American history.
We live in Massachusetts so in deference to our “blue” heritage, let’s start with the sins of the Republicans. Probably no greater recent harm has been done to the nation as a whole and to the reputation of Republicans themselves than the presidency of George W. Bush. Not being a knee-jerk Bush-basher and seeing through the contemptuous hypocrisy of most “progressive” leftists, I do not pounce on every utterance and decision that President Bush ever made as evidence of an evil incompetence. Indeed, I think that President Bush was a good and honest man, trying his best under trying circumstances but squandering some crucial teachable moments. Rather, I take strong issue with his total mismanagement of the federal budget while claiming the credentials of a fiscal conservative.
I tend to give Presidents the benefit of the doubt regarding foreign affairs and the use of America’s armed forces……..thus President Obama’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, his mutually incompatible policies in Afghanistan, and his vastly increased use of drones get a pass from me. As did President Bush’s decisions about those same issues and theaters of war. President Bush’s worst mistakes were in matters of incredible increases in federal expenditures (think of two wars and a massive expansion of Medicare) while telling the American people that they deserved tax cuts. It may have been a winning short-term political strategy for him but it was bad for the nation and it has proven to be the undoing of the Republican brand on competent budget management, a brand which had been steadily built up over many years. And to cite “patriotism” and “going shopping” as an answer to his critics was a silly non-response to serious national matters.
When going to war, all Americans should sacrifice something. Our Presidents, Obama, Bush, et. al. should not pander to our worst instincts. Few Americans wear the uniform and carry the rifles these days. But all Americans should be pitching in. True leaders rise to the office and rise to the occasion. And the hostile world would shudder in fright to see an America united in purpose and prepared to sacrifice some of its creature comforts in pursuit of that purpose. Such was President Bush and his Republican allies lost opportunity----to assert America’s priorities, to pursue those priorities by paying for them, and to convince the American people that they were indeed truly patriotic in their insistence that the Bush spending binge should not be loaded onto the nation’s credit cards and kids. Finally, that Presidents Reagan and Bush the elder had begun to tarnish the Republican reputation for sober management of the nation’s purse, does not excuse “W”. He planted the seeds that allowed the Democrats to scoff at the concept of trillion dollar deficits and debts as meaningless. Which in fairness now brings us to the sins of the Democrats…….
Where oh where to begin? Let’s start at the top with President Obama whose votes and statements when he was merely Senator Obama stand in direct opposition to his current pronouncements regarding the debt ceiling and deficit spending. Today he openly admits that he was playing politics back then without regard to the nation’s essential interests. Small wonder that he is reaping what he has sown. Do you remember his 2008 campaign pledge to go through the federal budget “line by line”, eliminating wasteful, redundant programs and subsidies. Five years in, he and his advisors must laugh hilariously at that whopper. But think of the message to the American people, at least those who are paying the nation’s bills, and to the lost opportunity to lead us in a much more responsible way. Having criticized President Bush’s reckless spendthrift ways as “unpatriotic” and “failures of leadership”, President Obama then merrily doubled down again and again on Bush’s worst impulses. Some patriotism that is. Some leadership too.
Congressional Democrats cannot escape the bitter harvest of their own deeds. Whether they are more blameworthy than their Republican colleagues is probably in the eye of the beholder. But the credit card mentality has taken deep root and will do mighty harm to our children. To hear Congressional Democrats speak of taxes is to cringe. With some twenty percent of the nation’s taxpayers paying more than ninety percent of collected revenues, and with America borrowing more than forty percent of its annual expenditures, it’s well past time to make some serious apologies and more serious amends.
While the American people can be manipulated and divided by political witchcraft, the sad fact remains that those same American people would rise to the occasion if asked to do so by respected leaders. That American children’s futures are at risk as never before in America is obvious. That the nation’s elected leadership has badly failed them thus far is obvious as well. Sowing and reaping, sowing and reaping. The question remains---where are the grown-ups?