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Politics before government is unacceptable

By Frank Salvato
web posted June 26, 2006

The fact that politics has replaced government in this country should be unacceptable to every American citizen. Our Founders were wary of a government of factions and rightly so. A government of factions, by its very nature, places the well-being of the faction (or political group) above the well-being of the nation. It is because of this that special interest groups and fringe factions, small in number but armed with bullhorn mentalities and big mouths, have come to take priority over good government and the will of the people.

Today it is clear that partisan politics has indeed replaced good government in our representative democracy. "Leaders" in the House and the Senate, from both sides of the aisle, have placed the political well-being of their parties above the needs of the nation. One only has to listen to the positioning of Harry Reid or the carefully choreographed responses of Bill Frist to understand that most often it is the issue taking the backseat to the political position. In today's United States government it is more important for a politician to position his "faction" in the best way possible for the up coming elections than it is to do the work that best benefits the American citizenry.

A perfect example of this is the inability of Congress to secure our nation's borders.

GOP leaders in the House recently announced that immigration reform was not a likely possibility this year. This is due to the fact that the Senate produced a bill that didn't exclusively address the border issue and, instead of heeding the public outcry, incorporated the politically charged issue of immigration reform into their proposal.

Despite the fact that every opinion poll taken on the issue of border security has indicated that a consistent 80% of the American people demand that our borders be secured right now, politicians place their political livelihoods ahead of the demands of their constituents. This will result in Republicans accusing Democrats of not having the intestinal fortitude to secure the borders in the midst of a global war against radical Islamofascism and Democrats accusing Republicans of not caring about the hard-working downtrodden just trying to achieve the American dream. Both accusations are extreme. Both accusations are politically motivated and geared toward the 2006 and 2008 elections. And both accusations achieve nothing but the status quo, leaving our borders porous.

Another good example of how politics has replaced good government in the United States is the grid-lock over Social Security reform.

Only those who would find it acceptable to re-write American history could be arrogant enough not to admit that when President Roosevelt introduced the concept of Social Security his end goal was to include a "system of voluntary old age annuities." Translated into the language of today, Roosevelt envisioned exactly what President Bush has been suggesting, that the American worker be afforded the opportunity to take a portion of their Social Security payroll deduction and invest it in safe, qualified private accounts.

But politicos invoked a very transparent outrage centered on the unlikely. They argued that if a person invested poorly, or if the markets crashed ala the 1920's, the poor investor would be left destitute. Of course, logic mandates that investing only a portion of your Social Security payroll deduction in the private sector would still leave the "destitute" something and that the proposal suggested by the president spoke of specific investment opportunities existing within a limited portfolio.

The larger issue for the politicos with regard to the partial-privatization of Social Security is that they would lose a substantial amount of revenue generated for the government trough. This revenue is too often mismanaged and borrowed against to pay for the pet projects that they think make them look good at home.

This leads to another example of how politics has usurped the mandate of government: pork barrel spending.

Republicans and Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives all agree that the drunken-sailor spending spree that Congress – not the president but Congress – has been on for the past six years is outrageous and unacceptable. Yet funding still gets proposed for bridges to nowhere and legislation for funding rodeo museums and tropical rainforest biospheres still finds its way into bills that are critical to our country.

Pork barrel spending is designed to paint the elected official – the porker – in a favorable light to his constituents back home. Because we live in an age when the term "civic responsibility" might as well be written in Sanskrit, this most often works. But more and more people are realizing that Congressional fiscal mismanagement is detrimental to not only the country but the individual.

Once again politicians' actions demonstrate it is more about their personal and their political party's well-being than it is about those who sent him to Washington in the first place; their constituents.

It is well past time for the American people to communicate to their elected officials that the status quo of politics over government is unacceptable. This requires Americans to make the time to be civically responsible and to understand the issues better than just chewing on the agenda-driven slop that emanates from television, newspapers and radio. It requires Americans to understand all facets of the debate – not the argument, but the debate – and to realize that a more well-rounded, intelligent understanding of the facts can only lead to a more cohesive and less divided nation.

So, while John Kerry opportunistically keeps erasing and replacing the date on his resolution to "bring the troops home" in the hopes of being right one of these times so that he can claim a political victory where there really isn't any, we should all contemplate doing something to replace his kind in government. Gathering the facts on the important issues and voicing our displeasure with the politics-over-government crowd is the first step. Re-engaging in the American political process by re-establishing a true representative democracy is the second.

Frank Salvato is the managing editor for The New Media Journal. He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education initiative. His pieces are regularly featured in over 100 publications both nationally and internationally. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, and is a regular guest on The Right Balance with Greg Allen on the Accent Radio Network, as well as an occasional guest on numerous radio shows coast to coast. He recently partnered in producing the first-ever symposium on the threat of radical Islamist terrorism in Washington, DC. His pieces have been recognized by the Japan Center for Conflict. He can be contacted at oped@newmediajournal.us. Copyright © 2006 Frank Salvato

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