In December 2011 , I had been to the local library and found the staff looking gloomy . This was a surprise , particularly since it was the holiday season . One of the library workers who I knew quite well cleared up the matter for me . ” Sandra” told me that three employees , including herself , had been notified that they would be laid off on January 1st because of budget constraints . She was very despondent because with kids in high school, she and her husband needed her paycheck and, in this economy , it would be very difficult to find another job. Privately , I agreed with her assessment but I tried to cheer her up by mouthing all the usual platitudes. ” Things may look bad but all you need is one little break .” ” Things are never as bad as they seem .” “The economy is picking up ” etc.
I was at the library again in early January 2012 and I was surprised to see Sandra behind the library desk. She told me that there had been a last-minute reprieve and that the budget had been re-jiggered to save the three library workers ‘ jobs. While I was very happy for her and the two others , I could not help being angry at the local politicos who had ruined the holidays and caused them so much pain. Surely , the pols must have known that they were not going to lay off anybody but yet felt compelled to grandstand .
I remembered this episode during the just concluded ” fiscal cliff ” drama. I , like an overwhelming percentage of the public , felt certain that a deal would eventually be concluded because, otherwise, the consequences to the American economy would be dire. Yet , in spite of such considerations , these politicians had to posture, to milk every last bit of drama from the situation, before striking a last second compromise .
Why do they do such things ?
Do they think that such behavior will elevate them in our eyes ? Do they think that the public will see them as principled men ( and women) who are standing fast for what they feel is true and right ? Or are they just playing chicken in the way that criminal defense lawyers go all the way through jury selection before striking a deal ? Is it their need to keep themselves in the spotlight ? Can they honestly tell themselves that they are acting in the best interests of the nations and not playing selfish , partisan politics ? Don’t they see that all this name-calling and heated rhetoric is polarizing the American public and inciting class hatreds ?
There is plenty of blame to go around and both Democrats and Republicans are at fault for this and all the other crises which have become so common the past few years. However , the greater share of the blame must be laid at the feet of the Republicans . The Bush-era tax-cuts disproportionately favored the rich and the ultra- rich. Every statistic shows this . The share of the national wealth owned by the top 1% has increased by leaps and bounds even as the middle-class has been sliding steadily downhill. For Republicans to fight so hard to preserve the interests of the few while trying to trim the ” entitlements ” of the rest of the populace is the height of cynical hypocrisy. It is important to balance the budget but not at the expense of the weaker sections of society.
I have seen, in other countries, how a multiparty system leads to politicians switching loyalties , cutting deals to form coalitions and to governmental instability. The other extreme , the one-party state , is unthinkable . Our two-party system is still best, but I wish both parties were closer to the center than they are now. Then , at least , there would be many more compromises as both parties sought to work together for the common good and not for narrow sectarian interests .