In the last few weeks, many plans and schemes have been drawn up to keep our government from defaulting, including the President’s talks with Congress, the Gang of Six plan, and now, two separate plans drawn up by the House and the Senate. So far, however, no plan has been able to gain full approval from Congress and the President. Through all the confusion, one fact remains clear: our government is at odds with itself. It is unable to agree on the means of eliminating our national debt because our leading political parties have polarized to the point where cooperation between the two is nigh-impossible.
While both sides (for the most part) agree that the debt ceiling needs to be raised, they disagree on what should be done next. The House—with a Republican majority—staunchly refuses to agree to any plan that increases taxes, or even remove the Bush-era tax cuts (which were originally meant to be temporary). The Republican plan would instead rely on less government spending to make up the money. Adversely, the Senate—with a Democratic majority—will not allow government spending cuts on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Both groups blame each other for their unwillingness to compromise. It has become a partisan issue.
Why is our government so unwilling to cooperate with itself? The answer lies at least partially in the fact that the Republicans and Democrats are farther and more firmly apart on the political spectrum than ever before. To quote Mickey Edward’s essay, “How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans,” the problem is not division but partisanship—advantage-seeking by private clubs whose central goal is to win political power. This begins with the primary elections, which have been overtaken by extremists who only accept those with radical ideas of either the far right or far left. Today’s society is not going to elect someone who’s even close to the middle ground. This is further fueled by narrowcast talk show hosts like extremist Rush Limbaugh who will tear politicians apart if they are even slightly open to the ideas of the opposing party, even if it’s for the sake of compromise. Now that our political parties are easily recognizable for their differences, they are unwilling to work together.
Somehow, the U.S. has to pay off its loans or our nation’s so-far solid credit rating will disappear, foreigners will not want to invest in the U.S. and the dollar will lose value. The clock is ticking. To get the debt ceiling raised by Aug. 2, the House must vote by July 27. Can our government get its act together or will it postpone any real decision-making until the last minute, settling for something unsatisfactory to all? President Obama will address the nation on the evening of July 25 about this issue.