Common Good recently hosted a public discussion at which David Webb, co-founder of TeaParty365, and Will Marshall, head of the Progressive Policy Institute, agreed on at least two key points: First, that the outcome of the coming election is unlikely to have any significant effect on American policy, and second, that American government needs a major structural overhaul. As Marshall put it: "It's not true that bipartisanship is dead in Washington. There's a perfect bipartisan conspiracy to bankrupt the country."
My inbox is flooded with campaign emails in which the dominant messages can be summarized as either "no new taxes" or "no cutbacks on Medicare or other benefits." This morning's headlines are stories on the huge dollars pumped into the campaign by the Chamber of Commerce (New York Times) or the even larger amount of money pumped into the campaign by the public employees' union AFSCME (Wall Street Journal).
It's not news, I suppose, that American politics is dominated by the narrow self-interest of special interests. What is worth pondering, perhaps, is where this has led us. Many states and cities in America have been made terminally insolvent by promises made in past decades for short-term political gain--mainly in benefits to public employee unions. The poster children for these abuses are public employees who retire at age 40 or so, with benefits that exceed their salaries when working. Congress is not far behind, unwilling to adjust incentives to make Medicare and other programs affordable. Corporate America has jumped on the selfishness bandwagon, resisting any changes to subsidies that have stacked up over the decades. American citizens have been trained to think they have "rights" to get what they want from government. Ask any school principal about legal demands by parents.