Today’s Op-Ed by Paul Krugman in the New York Times is very well researched and written as usual. But…it was also one-sided and completely partisan. Of course, one reason for the partisan nature of the article is that it focused on some recent quotes of Republican legislative leaders, returning to their ‘tax cuts solve all problems’ litany. But still…I believe most people would appreciate at least a small indication in the article that Democratic legislative leaders are caught in their own litany. It’s so easy to get stuck in the partisan trap…seeing one political party as wholly right while the other is wholly wrong. A growing number of Americans are choosing to be ‘independents’ though, because they are uncomfortable with this simplistic approach to public policy decision-making. This makes me hopeful that we can eventually move away from strictly partisan positions to discuss our important public policy problems with open minds.
Three weeks ago, several thousand people gathered in different AmericaSpeaks sites across the country to discuss our budget deficit and national debt. In our live event and in our Second Life event, our participants recognized quickly that our economic future will require a combination of approaches. While no one was happy with the reality of our predicament, we focused our attention on the most valuable solutions rather than playing the ‘blame game.’ I believe this is what most Americans want our leaders to do also. If everyday citizens can do it…why can’t our elected public servants? The AmericaSpeaks conversations were refreshing…and were filled with hope. Here’s the problem I have with our current partisan positions.
The Krugman Op-Ed identifies a troubling dependence by Republican Party leaders on tax cuts as their primary method for dealing with the economy and the deficit. During the Reagan and Bush Two administrations, their huge tax cuts sent the deficit through the roof…both times. The theory of cutting taxes as a way to reduce deficits should have been permanently discredited…but here it comes again. You can read the Op-Ed for yourself for the details. Even with this significant historical evidence, Republican leaders are returning to this familiar and tired answer to our continuing problems with budget deficits.
But…we also need to hear about the corollary problems that come from Democratic Party leaders on their dependence on continued high levels of government spending as their primary method in reducing the national debt. The argument is made that in difficult economic times the government needs to spend…because citizens cannot. I believe this theory is correct…but I also don’t trust that these same leaders will advocate for reduced spending in significant enough amounts to make a difference once an economic recovery is truly on its way. While the theory in this case is sound, the likelihood of Democrats legislating for significant surpluses anytime in the future seems very small…especially with the aging of Baby Boomers and the pressure that puts on continued spending.
The partisan trap must be escaped before we’ll be able to find any real solutions to our long-term economic sustainability. In my opinion, our best hope is in the willingness of American citizens to break free in their own public policy conversations. In my last post, I identified some methods in creating local deliberative conversations on national problems. The current messages from both Democratic and Republican Party leaders should serve as addition evidence in this analysis. Our problems are significant…and the proposed solutions are sorely lacking. Non-partisan, small group, deliberative conversations can refocus our attention on solutions with some reasonable hope of success. Let’s consider making a break from self-serving partisan language and methods as we discuss long-term, public policy solutions with our neighbors.