Elected officials rarely govern the way they campaigned. With the exception of cornerstone promises, i.e. a commitment to a particular issue(s) that is inviolable barring the most extreme of changed circumstances, no one should be surprised or upset when a candidate changes course. That’s politics. And politics is the art of compromise.
House speakers and senate majority leaders on both the federal and state level, to get legislation passed have to cajole in various ways their fellow representatives, who may not want to support a particular bill. But invariably the party bosses will promise the resistant member something to bring home to his or her district. In a country as large as ours, interests are extremely disparate.
I’m sure Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) isn’t too concerned about Georgia’s farmers any more than Senator David Perdue (R-GA) cares all that much about New York City’s subways. But both will always need votes for their constituents, and their own political survival often depends on their success in meeting local needs. No one ever said the political process wasn’t messy, but I’ll take it over an authoritarian government seven days a week.
We are in one of the biggest crises in our nation’s history, but it’s one shared by the rest of the world. The coronavirus is killing a lot of people each day, and so far we have no meaningful way to stop it, such as with a vaccine. The virus is also decimating our economy putting record numbers of people out of work. It is affecting many retirees who depend on their various retirement investment accounts for the bulk of their income. Others who have private pensions, and those with state retirement plans that also depend on successful investing, are probably going to take a serious hit.
Some are clamoring for ending the quarantine and reopening businesses. I am sympathetic to them. We all should be. Without people working our state and local governments, which provide for almost all of our public safety and education, there is no income or sales tax revenue.
If police officers, firefighters, prison guards, teachers, highway engineers, et al are laid off, we could have serious civil unrest. I think we’ve all heard the scare talk of the U.S. becoming like Venezuela if Democrats are elected, but for the first time the threat is real and it has nothing to do with one political party or the other.
Our financial situation on the federal level was shaky before the virus invaded. Tax cuts during a time of prosperity that promised to increase revenue did just the opposite. Deficits have exploded since 2017. Both parties want costly programs, and responsibility for some of the waste can be attributed to each. The party is over for now and probably for a very long time to come. There will be belt tightening, and it won’t be just a notch or two.
The federal government is printing money at a rate faster than the presses can make it. Good thing we move most money digitally now. Does anyone think that the private sector can bail us out of this situation without serious government intervention? The largest stimulus package in history, the one that ended the Depression, was the taxpayer money that bought all the hardware for World War II.
Taxpayer money will be needed for the foreseeable future to keep groceries on the table, pay for rent and other vital household functions, and for businesses. How long it will take to recover is anyone’s guess. What the devastation will look like once the economy returns to normal---if it does---no one can say.
But sooner rather than later our state and national leaders are going to have to make some tough decisions balancing health safety with public safety. People have to go back to work. Vital government functions and services must be maintained. The bickering between the parties has to be suspended until another time. As Americans, we are all in this together. Everyone has to have an oar in the water. The pain will be spread far and wide.
States and municipalities are pleading for help to backfill their depleting coffers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opposes it. He stated that a number of states, mostly the blue ones like New York, have overspent for years, to include lavish pensions on government employees. Yet many of these blue states, New York among them, are net providers of tax money to Washington, while Kentucky and most southern states are net recipients.
Consider, too, that last year McConnell got a bipartisan bill passed (with some Republican resistance) to pay for the pensions and health care of a few hundred thousand coal miners resulting from the bankruptcy of a private coal mine concern. This is the kind of politics and special interests at work that must be reconsidered and a big picture approach taken to help the people of all states.
Americans should prepare for seismic budget cuts on all levels of government. Phones won’t be answered at the Social Security Office, state DMV, and countless other services we take for granted while complaining all the while. The special interests, particularly those who lobby for tax breaks, should be given the boot. It’s time to pull together. Our survival is at stake.