Posts Tagged Government policy

Process Matters in a Democracy

In what should disturb any and all policy makers, Bill McInturff summarizes the response to the debt ceiling debacle this way:

Americans’ attitudes about the debt ceiling are not only based on the actual outcome, but are primarily derived from the manner in which this issue was debated and resolved. Their views about this process are clear, and are overwhelmingly negative.

The perception of how Washington handled the debt ceiling negotiation led to an immediate collapse of confidence in government and all the major players, including President Obama and Republicans in Congress.[snip]

Make no mistake: This collapse of economic confidence is not an independent event driven only by economic reality. This sharp a drop in consumer confidence is a direct consequence of the lack of confidence in our political system and its leaders.[snip]

The following Washington Post numbers illustrate the consequences of the debt ceiling debate. It shattered confidence in our political system and everyone involved. The data about confidence in Washington to fix the economy is appalling.

We see lots of data. This is the rare “wow” data. It represents a profound change in a handful of months and shows the terrible consequence of the debt ceiling negotiation.

The impact of the debt ceiling debacle is severe – not as bad Hurricane Katrina, but devastating nonetheless.  Literally no one in DC emerged from that looking good, mature, in charge, or deserving of support or respect.  Some emerging conventional wisdom suggests that Republicans benefitted because as the anti-government party they benefit when government looks bad; I disagree.  Republican congresscritters need their constituents to trust them to get re-elected and that trust was broken.  Right now, there should be a host of candidates preparing campaign ads that say “I won’t risk the full faith and credit of the US  . . .unlike Rep. So and so” or “I’ll get the job done without looking like a a three old throwing a tantrum.”

“The Debt Debate had an impact. People are upset that elected officials are putting their interests ahead of the country’s in a way I personally have never seen before. Just the mention of an unnamed Senator was a negative to people. Lord, they hate Washington right now.”

For me, there’s two issues.  First, process matters.  As much as that may bother politicians, Americans expect government to work a certain way – and with the health care debate it looked bad but the debt ceiling debacle was even worse.  It was every bad cliche about politicians playing out in a single event – craven, selfish, petulant, and petty, both sides looked like squabbling children.  The president’s attempted pose as “the adult in the room” made him look distant and disconnected.  He didn’t look weak, he was weak.   The Republicans looked nuts and petty – a screeching horde of crybabies throwing a tantrum.  Every player in the drama looked bad because they behaved badly.  Even people who “hate” government expect it Congress to behave like a mature body debating important issues.  It was a fiasco at every level – dysfunctional, unhealthy, unbalanced, and ultimately destructive.

Second, this is our fault – it is the fault of voters and nonvoters.  Every person who voted for a Republican member of Congress in Nov 2010 voted for this every progressive or Democrat who stayed home, who didn’t vote, effectively voted for this.  If you sat out 2010 because you were disappointed or whatever excuse you gave, you are to blame.  If you voted for a Republican for Congress in 2010. you are to blame.  As voters, as citizens, too many of us are lazy or uninformed; we don’t bother to spend the time to know what’s going on in DC or who is doing what.  Too many of us literally don’t know even the basics of government.  In July, a report showed that 44% of people receiving Social Security claim they’ve never used a government program.  Seriously?  In the face of such epic ignorance, I’m not even sure how we can expect government policy to make sense, let alone actually be sane.

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