In case you missed it, there was a second government shutdown a week ago. I watched a few speeches on C-SPAN just out of curiosity. Yeah, boring, but surprisingly it opened my eyes to a bigger problem, a problem I’d always thought was the answer that would solve everything.
Let’s start with this last shutdown.
Because government shutdowns are bad for so many reasons, Congress took extra care to avoid another one by coming up with a bipartisan 2-year budget and agreed to sign a continuance to keep things running. I can imagine all the scrambling and deal making that took place as last Thursday’s deadline approached.
And then it hit a snag named Senator Rand Paul. Some of you may know politician Ron Paul – yeah, that’s his son.
Senator Rand Paul decided to create a filibuster to stop the vote and make a statement. The filibuster lasted less than two hours, so he figured it couldn’t hurt. Curious, I watched his speech on C-SPAN. He wasn’t the only one to speak, but his statement is what helped me hit upon something I’d never considered before.
At first I couldn’t understand why Senator Paul wasn’t celebrating this bipartisan agreement. Yes! The Republicans and Democrats finally agree on something! But his point was that the new budget simply increased spending to make Republicans and Democrats happy, not because it was the right thing to do.
Increasing spending doesn’t make sense following the recent Republican tax bill which cuts government revenue. The change in tax law and the increase in spending through the budget makes for a perfect storm and this two-year budget will increase our national debt by 1 trillion dollars each year. That’s $1,000,000,000,000 being added to our already $20,000,000,000,000 worth of debt. According to Senator Paul, that’s irresponsible.
Before we try to identifying who is to blame for the situation we find ourselves in, I want to focus for just a minute on the bipartisan part of the budget.
If you’re in Congress, trying to get everyone to vote YES on a budget you just add enough in to make people happy. As an aside, the two-year budget also includes a lot of tax law adjustments and changes to health care. A complaint another senator brought up was the fact that these bipartisan bills include so much random stuff, it’s impossible to simply vote yes or no.
Let’s look at an example of the bipartisan process, just to gain a little perspective.
Mom needs to decide what to make for dinner. She asks her kids what they want. Republican, says he wants steak for dinner. Democrat will only eat fish. After a bunch of arguing and squabbling, Mom decides to just have both. A steak – fish dinner.
Except that Mom goes to the fridge and she doesn’t actually have either of those. She doesn’t have anything – oh, and she has no money. So, using her credit card, she goes to the store with the idea to buy steak and fish for dinner. While she’s at the store, Republican and Democrat are looking at the shelves and start remembering things they need. Republican needs a new pair of shoes, Democrat forgot that she was supposed to buy more supplies for school. Soon, the cart is loaded with a whole lot more than ingredients for dinner. And it’s all going on the credit card.
And that’s when it hit me. There is a huge problem with bipartisanship – a problem with our two party system in general. We’re only looking at the requests of two political parties and their platforms in order to get enough votes. We aren’t considering any other option because we’re so overloaded by the requests of these two. And as Senator Paul pointed out in his speech, no one is willing to make any sacrifices.
This has taken me a while to fully understand, so permit me another analogy to provide a picture of our current situation with the two party system.
Mom is trying to decide what to wear for date night. She decides to ask two of her friends to help her pick out what to wear. Each takes a look at her closet and pulls together a suggested outfit. One is plaid, the other polka dots. Mom looks at the two choices and picks polka dots. OH NO! The plaid friend is NOT happy. Okay, she picks plaid. What!?!?! Now her polka dot friend is in tears. Mom feels stuck.
As a way to make them both happy, Mom suggests that they work together to create an outfit for her night out. The two, with plaid and polka dot outfits in hand, start arguing and debating what parts of each outfit should go into the new one. Plaid is definitely making it into the outfit. Well, if plaid is, then so is polka dot. Each will not budge on certain points. After some negotiating, they put it all together.
Mom walks out the door with a plaid-polka dot outfit and a closet full of so many other options.
Bipartisanship – two parties – limits us to only two ways of looking at things, two outfits, two platforms. In our diverse, rich, wonderful world, that’s not good enough. We need to consider far more options than just the ideas of two. Even ideas that arise from smaller third parties could help our nation considerably.
A bipartisanship approach is not the answer to our problems. It is the cause of our problems.