Our Political Dysfunction

Has anyone noticed how dysfunctional our nation looks as of late?

Take a moment and think of the origins of our dysfunction? I believe that our nation’s short term mentality is at the heart of our problems.

From Washington to Wall Street, from the President down to Main Street, we continue to make the same mistakes of trying to solve our short term problems at the expense of our long term goals.

It is well documented by myself and many others that our nation’s economic crisis can be blamed on a short term mentality. One that took immediate profit at the expense of our long term economic security.

This short term mentality is most likely the cause of our political woes as well. We have a system that cares far too much about self preservation, then the people they are supposed to represent.


For instance, the GOP has been the party of “NO” ever since the President has been sworn into office. They have willfully ignored the need for health reform, by not forthrightly engaging in the debate for reform. In the words of Senator Jim DeMint they wanted this to be President Obama’s Waterloo, as if he has been in office for years, making bad decisions, and needed to be stopped. This was simply a short term strategy for the gaining GOP seats in the 2010 election. How does this represent the people? 18,000 to 45,000 Americans die yearly because of lack of Health Insurance, yet the upcoming elections are more important.

The President is guilty of this as well as Thomas Friedman wrote today.

President Obama is so much better when he takes a heated, knotty issue, like civil rights or banking reform, and talks to the country like adults. He is so much better at making us smarter than angrier. Going to war with the banks for a quick political sugar high after an electoral loss will just work against him and us. It will spook the banks into lending even less and slow the recovery even more.

But it is a short term populist win before the State of the Union. Who cares if the banks may turtle at the possibility of reform, we can get some momentum to hold some Democratic seats in the 2010 election. That being said it is hard not to punish the banking system that was solely focused on short term growth, and a bonus structure that promoted that behavior. But that punishment can be done smarter, and with an eye on the future.

The dysfunction doesn’t stop there, Friedman continues to make some valid points toward the entire system.

Also, President Obama tried to create a bipartisan commission to come up with a plan to reduce the national debt – a plan that would inflict pain on both parties by cutting some programs and raising some taxes. But the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, said the G.O.P. would not cooperate with any commission that proposes raising taxes. And some liberal Democrats rejected cutting their favorite programs. Way to take one for the country, guys.

Then let’s look at the unions – hardly paragons of sustainable thinking for the country. We all know they got more than their fair share in the General Motors settlement and in the Obama health care proposals because they could shake down the Democrats in return for votes.

And, finally, don’t forget both the Democratic and Republican senators who have decided to get a quick populist boost by turning one of the few adults we have left – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke – into a pinata. No, Mr. Bernanke is not blameless for the 2008 crisis. But since then he has helped steer the country back from the brink and kept us out of a depression. He absolutely deserves reappointment.

It is hard to deny the facts, that every aspect of our political life is becoming based on short term success as well. Breaking this cycle may be the most important thing our nation’s leaders can do to move our country forward, out of this fragile economic situation, and into a sustainable economy that thinks long term.

But for this to happen our nation’s leaders need to identify that we have a problem. An unemployment problem, a health care problem, an energy problem, an education problem, a campaign finance problem, and then a debt problem.

Of course we have more issues that need to be addressed, but if a stay at home dad can identify these core needs, and our leaders in the House and Senate can’t even agree that these issues need a bi-partisan fix, then why are they in office to begin with?

William Armstrong
William Armstrong is a lifelong Michigan Fan now living in Tennessee, where he is starved for information regarding his Michigan Wolverines and the Big Ten in general. That is the reason he writes about University of Michigan Sport. Contact him at his blog hailtothevictorsblog.blogspot.com