Thoughts of an American Centrist

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Is it the economy (stuipid)?

In late 2004, it looked like the economy was back on the upswing, adding lots of jobs, picking the stock market back up on its feet, stabilized gas prices, and promises of deficit cuts in the years to come. What happened to all that? Why are our representatives in Washington talking about Terri Schiavo, a Social Security problem that's decades removed, Tom DeLay, and filibusters? (OK, I admit, I've been talking about those things too, but I'm not in Congress!)

While most of us Americans at home are wondering what would happen if we were laid off in this market, or how the stratospheric rise of both gasoline and a gallon of milk is going to affect our own monthly budgets, or how the dueling forces of rising college costs and shrinking public school budgets are going to affect our children's educations, or - given the ever increasing life expectancy - how we're going to be able to afford both our own and our parents' retirements, devout Washingtonians have been busying themselves with what 90% of Americans would classify as "fluff."

The answer, in part, may be that it is our fault. As Americans, we have been sitting back, quietly grumbling and festering over our own financial worries. At 26, I'm not sure if the economy is really that bad, or if it's just part of "growing up worrying," so I don't want to complain too loud. Deep down, however, I think we realize that there really is no excuse for the way things are headed now. We need to make some serious noise about the issues at hand. Here are some samples of issues I'd like to see discussed:

We have one hundred and sixty-two billion of dollars in trade deficit with China alone, partly due to the underhanded dealings of Chinese businesses. This is taxing our already overstretched national credit line, and taking away from American businesses. So what do we do? We make them a permanent member on the most favored nations list.

We have skyrocketing fuel prices, mostly because analysts see that there is an end in sight of the world-wide oil supply just a few decades out. What does our government do? Aggressively promote legislation to encourage and speed up real progress on a replacement for petroleum? Nah, we'll just pay some lip service to alternative energy, while re-branding nuclear fuel as one of the "alternative" sources. If we're going to wean ourselves off of greenhouse gasses and Saudi Arabia, we're going to need a serious government initiative to help us find not just an "alternative" solution, but a true "replacement" solution. It'll take nothing less than the kind of momentum Jack Kennedy gave the NASA's Apollo moon landing mission.

Health care costs are out of control! What do we do? Add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, talk about importing drugs from Canada (legally this time), and make noises about malpractice reform. Oh please. The medical system in the US needs an overhaul more than the IRS does, and these little Band-Aids just aren't going to cut it. More about that in later posts.

Let's face it, we have all elected one member of the U.S. House of Representatives, two United States Senators, and a President of the United States of America to help keep our country running smoothly, and they're not doing their jobs. There are a lot more important issues they could be discussing than gay marriage and filibusters, but until we as a people demand that they address the real issues of the day, it's going to be the same-ol'-same-ol' inside the beltway.

The 2006 Congressional elections are still 18 months out, but let's make sure that when they get here, the candidates are answering some serious questions about some serious issues!


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