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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Failure of Reactive Government

I was struck last night thinking about how the big issues of our time are each an example of the failure of our federal government to act appropriately and proactively and each have become a great source of demogoguery.

Iraq War
There can be little doubt now that the war in Iraq has become a debacle without a clear vision of success. While there were good reasons for invading Iraq, especially for humanitarian purposes, the actual occupation has been a disaster without an end in sight. Yet I can't help but thinking that things were put into motion long ago that left the Bush administration with few options other than force. How long did the US turn a blind eye to state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East? How long did the US turn a blind eye to "friendly" dictators?

The story of the Iraq War did not begin with 9/11. The story unfolded during the failures of the Clinton and Bush I administrations. Both administrations were guilty of passing on the problems to the future. And we have now seen that future before our eyes.

Yet we hear so little constructive dialogue about what to do now in Iraq and the Middle East. Most Republicans says, "Shut your pie-hole about the war and just support our troops" while all most Democrats can muster is "Bush lied, people died." Is this really what passes for intelligent political discussion these days? Unfortunately, that is the best it gets.

Illegal Immigration
The United State is currently engaged in a vociferous internal debate about the role of immigrants in our country and secure border policy. There is no doubt that we have a serious issue that needs to be resolved.

As in many things in life, people like to clearly understand who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Regrettably so, many people in America are making illegal immigrants out to be the bad guys. But I cannot condemn those who choose to dig their way out of poverty to provide a better life for their families by coming to another country, albeit illegally. What I can condemn is our federal government that has turned a blind eye to this problem for decades. While the stream of immigrants entering this country has greatly increased in recent years, this has been a long time coming and we all knew about it.

Our federal government has not had the courage to address this issue and just hoped it would go away.

And so what do we hear now? More demogoguery. Many advocate booting all illegal immigrants out of this country with scarcely a thought to the human tragedy involved in such a measure and the message that will be sent to those around the world who still see the United States as a beacon of hope. And others are taking this opportunity to rachet up the increasingly nationalistic rhetoric of Reconquista and "Down with Whitey!"

Where are our leaders? Where are the statesmen and public servants?

The Fuel Crisis
Perhaps the best example of the failure of our government to act and follow up with demogoguery is the recent fuel crisis. Rarely have I ever heard such stupidity from our nation's leaders.

For almost my entire life I have heard talk about conserving energy and the need to develop alternative sources of energy. Yet next to nothing has happened. Our federal government obviously seemed to think that nothing needed to be done; that we would always have all the oil we need. Our government has done little to encourage domestic oil production and little to encourage alternative solutions.

And what do we get from our leaders in this time of crisis? Complete and utter ignorance of Economics 101.

I have yet to hear either a Democrat or Republican make one comment about the fuel crisis that wasn't utter nonsense.

"We all know it's the big oil companies who are causing these massive price increases that go way beyond what supply and demand would merit." - Rep. Charles Schumer

"Anyone who is trying to take advantage of this situation while American families are forced into making tough choices over whether to fill up their cars or severely cut back their budgets should be investigated and prosecuted" - House Speaker Dennis Hastert

"I believe that we have allowed too many companies to get together to reduce competition. They get together, reduce the supply of oil, and that drives up prices." In the short run, it's hard to deal with it for tomorrow. But I think windfall profits, eliminating the antitrust exemption, considering the excessive concentration of power are all items we ought to be addressing." - Senator Arlen Specter

"Our plan would give taxpayers a hundred dollar gas tax holiday rebate check to help ease the pain that they're feeling at the pump." - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
Not a single one of the quote has any connection with reality. In fact, their only purpose is to feed people's fears and prey upon people's ignorance of basic economics.

I am also baffled as to why environmentalist and many on the Left are not praising high fuel prices. High fuel prices should be the goal of environmentalist if they want to decrease our dependency upon fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, all of this is politics as usual. The history of legislation in this country is a history of reactive governance. And a history of demogoguery.

So why are our leaders afraid to lead? Because they are too in love with power. I honestly believe that most of our representatives go to Washington desiring to do good and represent those who sent them. But with few exceptions, they quickly abandon many of their beliefs in order to stay there. This is true of both parties.

The best way I know to change this sorry state of affairs is to institute term limits. Term limits would ensure that our representatives did what we ask of them rather than working for their own interests of re-election. Term limits would break the cycle of politics as usual.

Do I have high hopes for getting term limits? Of course not. The patients are running the asylum. But we can start by sending a message in our elections that long-time incumbants have to go.

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