In 2019, labeling Congress as “broken” is not a particularly controversial statement. The deadlock that many regret is only becoming more common, leaving the ordinary citizenry little hope in any productive changes. I, like most Americans, had a very critical and cynical view of the legislative body, but upon seeing the problems firsthand, I can tell you that they are far worse than most imagine.
Recently, I had the experience of venturing into Washington DC to attend a public markup hearing regarding the 2020 budget. During this trip, I was able to listen to 14 members of the Senate Budget Committee give introductory statements on the currently proposed budget created by Chairman Mike Enzi (R) of Wyoming.
A Deadlock in Discussion
Problems observed were numerous, first starting with the repetition of typical rhetoric adopted by the members of the committee. Whether you were a Republican or a Democrat, you followed the lead of talking points first iterated by the ranking member of your caucus. For the Republicans, this was previously mentioned Mike Enzi, and for the Democrats, it was Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont.
Enzi repeated his pleas for pragmatic, incrementally smaller budgets to eventually tackle a steeply rising national debt, taking aim at both mandatory and discretionary spending. Sanders, on the other hand, pushed his typical mantra of focusing on wealth inequality and protection of social programs, primarily calling for a reversal of Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut on high-income citizens.
The refusal to give an inch of credence to the other sides position by any Senator was a clear representation of the supposed deadlock that we hear about all too often.
Not only did members of the committee spit out stale talking points, but they also took jabs at one another. However, the way in which members of the Senate disagree is much different than the traditional political theater that we think of. The behavior of those within the walls of Congress reflects less of the bombastic debating we see every 4 years during the Presidential election and more of what I describe as mutual stately disdain.
This mutual stately disdain is demonstrated through highly pointed refutations of one another while using the most controlled tone possible. This subtle form of hatred is only noticed when analyzing each of the Senator’s words carefully. The facade of a peaceful congress is covered by this thinly veiled rhetorical trick.
Within the specific hearing I attended, I slowly was able to notice the bitterness behind the attacks that fellow senators were lobbing at each other. Examples are visible on both sides of the partisan divide, with Ron Wyden (D) saying the entirety of the GOP proposed budget wasn’t responsible and Mike Braun (R) insinuating that his Democrat colleagues believe trillion dollar deficits are good.
The underlying problem behind the entirety of this hearing was that neither side actually held a position that worked to fix our budgetary mess.
On the Democrat side, there simply isn’t enough taxable money in the country to pay for the slew of free-college, free-healthcare, and free-parental leave programs they’re proposing. Further, the progressive wave thus far has heavily talked about the prospects of taxing the rich, without mentioning the inevitable tax raise for middle to low-income families in order to pay for these programs.
On the Republican side, there is no evidence that the Republican Party has enough political courage to cut spending the necessary amounts to quell the rapidly rising national debt. While Republicans talk a big game serving in the minority, they have ignored the politically complex task of cutting spending in favor of an easily explainable tax cut.
This would normally be the point in the piece where I outline the big solution to our current problems, but this time, unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Members of the United States Government have obviously become far too comfortable in their unbalanced positions of power, succumbing to the ultimate influence of “the swamp.” Until the people of the United States stand up and demand major changes, the systemic problems instigated by corrupt bureaucrats will continue.
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