Category Archives: the debt and ideology

Ann Marie Buerkle and the Telephone Town Hall

Thursday night one of Ann Marie Buerkle’s people called me and asked me to hold the line for a telephone town meeting. I don’t know if you have ever participated or listened to one of these but usually the assistant makes a list of questions and names and then the Congressperson calls on people to ask his/her question. Until your name is called (which it may never be) you hang on the phone and listen to questions and answers.
This town meeting was a bit different because all of the people hanging on to the phones were people who sent advice about the debt ceiling and the various debt deals by email or fax to Ms. Buerkle’s office. I find this a very frustrating town meeting format because the Congressperson always has the last word. There is no rebuttal.
So as each person took her/his turn and gave the reasons why they did not want any of the solutions being offered at this time, as each person made very persuasive arguments about jobs, tax codes, budget cuts, and raising taxes or ending subsidies, Ms. Buerkle always got to speak last. Each time she reiterated her credo that government regulations are the reason we don’t have jobs, that Obama has never suggested a plan (which I believe we know is not true because a deal was almost reached) and that the mean Democrats won’t vote for cut, cap and balance or for John Boehner’s plan. It was very hard to sit and listen to her criticize the President and the Senate and paint the House of Representatives as full of saints. I hung up after 45 minutes and before I had my turn because I could see how this was going. No matter what I said Ms. Buerkle would just use her turn as a time to repeat the Republican Party line, which I have heard quite enough of, thank you please. I’m not a talker anyway, I’m a writer.
What I would like to say to Representative Buerkle is that she was elected by people who thought they were fed up with the status quo. They would have elected whoever was not already in power. Some of us, a lot of us did not sign up for Ann Marie Buerkle’s America. America belongs to all of us. Now that Ms. Buerkle is in office she is supposed to listen to her constituents, not browbeat (however politely) her constituents. She has to represent us all. I do not have faith that she knows enough economics to find her way out of our current financial situation. She better be awfully sure she is absolutely right if she is just going to push through her agenda. That’s not the way America works and she knows it. That’s why there are checks and balances, that’s why compromise keeps America on a more or less even keel. I still want Congress and the President to raise the debt ceiling now, with no conditions whatsoever. Then we can deal with all the rest of this.

Raise the Debt Ceiling, Decide Which America We Will Be Later!

These debt wheeling and dealings are so painful to watch because they tend to back up a political message we have heard quite a bit lately that American government is dysfunctional and is unraveling.  Without our democratic government there is no America. The land will still be here, there may be other governments, but they will never be the America we are so proud of.  All of the history we cherish, our revolutionary roots, our bravery in the face of an overbearing “mother country”, all of the creative efforts of our forefathers to devise a government that would foster equality and stand the test of time disappears.
It seems that we will let it all go because our affluence is in jeopardy. Affluence is like that; it comes and goes, ebbs and flows. So money is scarce right now and we are at each others’ throats. The divide is real. Some American’s really feel that we will have to let go of our entitlement programs. They feel America is poor because our government is too big and no one wants to do business here anymore. While it is true that American workers have been priced out of the market, we would never be able to exist with the wages being offered in places like China and India. How low can we go? I don’t know but I know we can’t go that low. Workers wages will eventually climb as third world nations become major consumers and want to increase their own affluence. No matter how small we make our government, I don’t think we can win back these businesses right now. However, it is extremely painful to watch the high levels of unemployment or to experience the fear of life without a stable income. It is painful to see once productive people falling into poverty; it is especially hurtful to see this happening to children. We look around for new jobs, but they are just not being generated at the rate that is necessary to help our economy right now.
So we sit, Americans, in two divided camps. There are those who believe that we must reduce spending and debt, but that this is hardly the right time to cut the safety net that keeps Americans who are caught in this global shift safe from freefall. This is not the time to worry about small government. So many issues about that:  how small should our government get; does small mean getting rid of all entitlements, having everything left up to the marketplace and private corporations? Does small mean getting rid of all regulation of business? Be real. All Americans will never agree with that and right now it will not solve the problems of our economy because for American workers to be able to compete in the current global marketplace the American economy would have to dial itself back to the 1930’s (the Great Depression) (which may be happening anyway).
Which brings us back to the American political divide and the debt dealings; the Democrats and the Republicans are not fighting about the budget. They are fighting about America. Which America will we be? Will we be the America of the New Deal, which includes a government that serves all Americans (and sometimes does overstep it’s bounds) or a government that stays aloof from the doings of the masses and keeps it’s mitts off of business and doesn’t mind what business has to do to the American people as long as America looks prosperous among the nations of the world.
We cannot let this divide kill America. Raise the debt ceiling please. It has nothing to do with solving our current American crisis of ideology. These internal ideological wars have been going on for quite some time and we can’t make these decisions in time to prevent default. This is not just about the budget and spending. It is about two opposing views of what America will be like in the near future. We need people to spin out a view of what America will be like if we follow one path or if we take the other. We could take a middle path, but Republicans do not seem to want that. They have a view of a new or reconditioned America. Instead of blasting the opposition they need to tell us what America will look like if we go with their ideology. We have to imagine an America without Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security. We have to imagine an America where the private marketplace will offer products to take care of the needs of the people who fall out of fortune and where competition will make the prices of these products affordable. We have to imagine an America where corporations are relatively free to do business as they please and deal with workers as they please. I just cannot feel that this is an America I would like to live in. What would happen to the ideals of our revolutionary forefathers if we went with this vision of America?
I can certainly see why compromise would be our best bet. It would give us a bit of each ideology and would perhaps result in a stronger America. Raise the debt ceiling please, not in  steps, raise it now and raise it enough to get us through 2012. Then we will have time to continue to make up our minds about which America we want instead of being forced to make a precipitate decision because someone has us in a pincher play.