Published Nov. 29, 2014, in the Waterloo Region Record.
As controversial as U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent executive order was concerning the status of undocumented, illegal immigrants in the United States, the issue might pose more strategic problems for his Republican opponents in Congress.
For all the threats and warnings from House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner about “not playing with matches” or “poisoning the well,” a review of his own actions suggests the Republicans have themselves contributed substantially to the toxic atmosphere by blocking any legislative proposals by Democrats over the past four years. Moreover, they have been shown to have no new policy suggestions of their own on the issue.
Unlike the Democrats, they are clearly divided in trying to simultaneously satisfy tea party extremists who fantasize about impeaching Obama — among many other radical agenda goals — and the mainstream establishment wing of the party, more based in reality, which just hopes to win elections.
Published Aug. 19, 2013, in The Waterloo Region Record.
Just as we can observe the futility of absolutist inflexibility haunting many corners of the Middle East from groups such as the Taliban and Hezbollah, the American governing process is being similarly confounded by uncompromising absolutism.
In the process, elected officials are more in tune with their narrow ideological base than the electorate at large. It has resulted in a meagre rating of 12 per cent of the population who are satisfied with the job the Congress is doing, yet most in Congress think they are acting in their electoral self-interest because the system is broken.
The level of political dysfunction in the U.S. has become so profound that the congressional leadership has seemed to stop even trying to portray an illusion of resolving their differences. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has been quoted as saying that he should be judged not by what legislation gets passed, but rather by what is repealed.
Published Feb. 27, 2013, in The Waterloo Region Record.
It is ironic that in an American Congress where members are divided along party lines, and seem barely able to agree upon the time of day, one of the few laws they have passed authorizes a budget sequester which is being decried on all sides, and threatens to disrupt an already tepid economic recovery in the US. The explanation of course, is that the sequester was never supposed to happen. It was a miscalculation by both Republicans and Democrats that by adopting threatening tactics they could jointly frighten each other into compromising upon financial offsets, to permit the House of Representatives an extension of the debt ceiling, which was itself a threat to force the president into spending cuts without reciprocal revenue increases.
This all dates back eighteen months when the American economic outlook was even bleaker than it is today, and President Obama was apprehensive about the impact of a crisis precipitated by Congress to force an economic default, prior to the 2012 presidential election. He and congressional Democrats hoped that if they spared the mandatory entitlement programs, the fear of a mutual reduction in domestic discretionary spending as well as defense spending, might motivate Democratic and Republican legislators to break their ideological impasse on other expenditures.
Published Jan. 23, 2013, in The Waterloo Region Record.
The wrangling between Democrats and Republicans over deficits and the U.S. debt has just begun
The imagery of the fiscal cliff was an irresistible metaphor for media outlets covering the political confrontation in Washington in the closing weeks of 2012.
However, the wave of attention focused upon whether America’s economy would dive over the cliff on New Year’s Eve was merely a curtain raiser that has ushered in constant conflict in the new 113th Congress.
As it happened, that issue was addressed a few hours later, but only by kicking the can down the road for a few weeks. Some symbolic matters were dealt with in the New Year’s Day deal, including many Republicans being obliged to restore a higher tax rate for a tiny fraction of the wealthiest U.S. citizens, but in terms of alleviating the budget deficit it amounted to peanuts. The annual savings were approximately equivalent to the amount of revenue allocated to the victims of hurricane Sandy.