Sunday, July 8, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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A sobering question was posed to us this week: When future historians look back at this period in American history, what will they say?
This is a difficult time for America, with serious issues facing the country. It will take leadership to move ahead, yet we haven’t seen that in Washington; instead, the nation is stuck in partisan gridlock, unable to take bold and decisive action. Unfortunately, blind ideology, pushed by Republican leaders in Congress, has ruled. The result is that little has been accomplished.
Two respected political scholars, Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, recently issued a blistering critique of Washington, saying the dysfunction was the worst they had seen in more than 40 years of work. Although they note that both parties have played games, they say the “core of the problem lies with the Republican Party,” which they call “an insurgent outlier in American politics” due to its extremism.
In recent essays and a new book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” Ornstein and Mann say such extremism has pushed the nation further from finding solutions to the its problems. It’s not hard to figure out why. Consider how far apart the parties are on a few issues.
• Jobs: President Barack Obama has wanted to expand federal programs to build highways and other infrastructure projects as a way to boost employment; the Republicans have balked at the cost and have instead demanded tax cuts, which have never proven to be an economic elixir. The resulting impasse has resulted in stalled growth and a lackluster economic recovery.
• Debt: Democrats have made offers to start cutting the nation’s tremendous debt. Republicans have refused and held out because they say the offers aren’t big enough. Last year, some Republicans said they would reject a deal in which they received $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in new revenue. And don’t forget the games the GOP played on the debt ceiling that resulted in a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating, which hasn’t help anyone. In the meantime, the debt continues to climb.
• Health care: Democrats celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act with its ruling this month, which means millions of Americans will be able to obtain health insurance and see a doctor. Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have vowed to repeal the law. As we have noted before, the law is far from perfect and needs to be improved, but if Republicans do repeal the law, what will they do to help? They’ve provided no way forward.
We could go on through the issues, but the situation is clear: There are real problems that aren’t being addressed because of the all-or-nothing attitude that has overtaken Washington.
The nation didn’t get into this situation overnight, and it won’t get out of it overnight either. It’s going to take a long, sustained effort, but Americans have been known for their ability to work together and find solutions to accomplish major tasks.
However, if something doesn’t change soon, and if people don’t start finding ways to compromise and work together, we hesitate to consider what future historians will have to say. It won’t be good.