Reading the headlines, watching TV news or a documentary, you would notice that there is always a clash of ideas. From this churning comes path breaking concepts and arrangements that lead to improvement of our civilization. However, I am beginning to be convinced that such conflict will not inevitably lead to improvements. For conflict of ideas to lead to positive outcomes, the conflicting parties should genuinely wish for a common vision of what defines progress and should follow terms of engagement that is mutually acceptable and fair. It should not just be for winning.
Imagine you are a teacher and the 5 year olds in your class are to be given an assignment to collaborate and create some thing. When you see them conflict, you still have the power to educate them, persuade them and get them to see a common vision and solve the problem.
However, when you look at the US House and Senate, what is possible for kids to do seems to be difficult for them and they are not willing to listen to any one and no one can make them see sense. I read that the Obamacare repeal version 2.0 is in the works and is being whipped up secretly. Democrats are not getting a chance to see what is in the bill and are apprehensive that it will be rammed through at short notice. The lead actors guiding this enterprise are the same who slammed a one year process to introduce Obamacare as rushed and the over 100 consultations held for Obamacare was considered insufficient. With regard to terms of engagement, Ver. 1 was passed with a 51% vote against norms.
You would have expected a good president to be the adult and encourage some order but instead we have a situation where the President probably did not know what was in Ver. 1.0 of the bill and praised it as the very best. Now having seen that the revised bill is unacceptable to any state and only has 17% approval, today the President has described the bill as “Mean, Mean, Mean” and “Son of a Bitch”. Now not only do we have dysfunction in creating the bill but also changing goal posts from the President. Can anything good come of this?
Democracy is what we all aspire for. However, when parties behave selfish by placing their interest groups above that of the citizens and the nation, we have dysfunction. Prolonged period of dysfunction dilutes the faith people have in democracy. Already late night comics joke about the inability of Congress to achieve anything.
Take the case of taxes. One view is that taxes should be reduced on the rich because they can then create jobs. This assumes that the rich will prefer to invest to create jobs rather than sock it away in an offshore bank? This also assumes that the rich will be sincere enough to pay full taxes and not find ways for tax avoidance. The flip side of the argument is that the poor and working cannot be trusted with their money. They need to be taxed.
Look at it from another perspective. If the working middle class and poor get tax breaks, they will have no option but to spend to meet their essential needs as their income is low. This could lead to a spike in demand and create new investments to meet the demand and also create new jobs. On the other hand, the rich are already spending for not only their necessities but also for luxuries and any incremental income is not going to guarantee spending. Find ways to make the lazy work, support the enterprising and reigning in the prolific is what we need legislation for. The lazy approach is “one size fits all”.
Now don’t get me wrong. I also believe that the people themselves bear some responsibility for the predicament they find themselves in. If there was personal accountability in every individual then regardless of the situation, they would strive to succeed. They would be looking fro policy strays that help them in order to succeed. A reasonable concept that Ben Carson infamously tried to explain with the unfortunate phrase “Poverty is a state of mind”. People with the right attitude have successfully built a decent life without much support from anyone. The successful people in the world succeeded by sheer merit and efforts and taxing them for their success is as repugnant as enabling people with no drive by subsidizing them. However, the real world contains many people that lie somewhere between the two extremes and that is where we need the politicians to collaborate as adults and come up with innovative and compassionate tax, health care and other policies. They need to deliver results before people lose faith in Democracy.