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Political polarization and the debt crisis | Letters
I disagree with a common perception that the polarization of Congressional politics is the underlying cause of the debt crisis.
To accept that premise requires me to also accept that one party control would have prevented it. Any debt crisis we face today is primarily the result of legislation passed when one party or the other was in control, without any serious consideration given as to how to provide long-term funding.
Examples include the unfunded wars, Bush tax cuts, stimulus expenditures, Medicare and Medicaid, and never-ending unemployment benefits. I exclude Social Security because it was funded, but those funds were diverted to cover some of the unfunded legislation, leaving IOUs in reserve. None of these are bad ideas, but they are not properly funded, and that is solely the responsibility of both parties in Congress.
We now have a reality where not only are the two Congressional chambers each controlled by opposing parties, the parties themselves are split into opposing factions. All of the leaders know that the problems are of their own making and that they alone can provide resolution.
However, they have little experience at true negotiating or compromise. Extreme positions are now being taken because for so long everything happened under a win-lose scenario when faulty logic and mean spirited debate began to be accepted as open and good faith discussion.
All of this holds true here in our Washington. The economic downturn is not the primary cause of our state’s funding problems. They too, are the result of one party control passing every idea proposed to spend money in good times without considering the long-term funding needed during less fortunate times. Here, we even have legislation that was passed that was not funded at all such as payments so new parents can stay home, or providing cost-of-living raises during a time of no growth.
We have little chance in this state of a split Legislature, but the controlling party still needs to recognize and avoid the dangers of believing they alone have all the answers.
We have a chance to get things right if these leaders can step up to the task of governing and set aside their antagonism for those with different positions. All of them want what’s best for the country, but the overall parties seem to have lost the belief that compromise always brings out the best in a pluralistic society. If they can’t do this, we must replace them.
John McMahon, Federal Way