Written by: Rebecca Harris, Senior at the University of Connecticut
What do you get when you mix Democrat blue and Republican red? Purple. America is running dangerously low on "purple" people who can see both sides of an issue and compromise to form bi-partisan solutions on a MORAL basis. That is the goal of this blog, to present unbiased and non-partisan information that shows both sides of an issue, and to inspire the American youth to educate themselves and influence change. An educated young electorate is vital to Democracy. This blog will be a champion of facts, and an enemy of information influenced by partisan ideology and political bias. I want to help eliminate the disconnect and disinterest that is present in my generation, and inspire social responsibility to educate ourselves.
The views expressed in this blog are my own
Today in a press conference, President Obama called House Republican’s decision to hold raising the debt ceiling hostage in exchange for spending cuts "unacceptable”.
“While I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficit, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress over how to pay the bills they’ve already racked up,” Obama said. “To even entertain the idea of this happening, of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd.”
Yes, Congress has technically avoided the “fiscal cliff”, but that is only half of the job. From a group who has seemed immovable from their stance to never raise taxes, tremendous compromise was forged on Republican’s part in the tax deal. Now, Republicans are asking for the same show of fairness from the Democrats. Yes, the recent election proved that a majority of the country believes in the President’s past record and ability to lead us in the future, and winning elections do have consequences. However, the worst thing that the President and Democratic members of Congress could do in their victorious position would be to fall short in showing the opposing party that they can come to the table and make the same kind of sacrifices in ideology that Republicans did for the good of the American people.
There was another exciting recent victory, that of Daniel Day Lewis’ Golden Globe as best actor for his performance in Lincoln. In the movie, honest Abe says:
“Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That’s a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works - has done and always will do. In his book Euclid says this is self evident. You see there it is even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law it is the self evident truth that things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other.”
As Americans, we know one thing to be self evident, and that is that we all want our country to prosper in every way possible. Every American is a cheerleader for the United States, that is the truth that unites us all. The sentence “Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other”, to me means that our common goals unite us. In order to achieve that goal, we must keep that top priority in mind always lest we let obstacles road block our effort to ensure the best future for us and our children.
President Lincoln had the opportunity to negotiate a peace agreement and probably end the Civil War before the thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery, was passed. He struggled deeply with the decision to hold off peace talks with Confederate delegates in order to ensure the amendment’s passage. The reason whyhe didn’t let the crumbling truth, that thousands of men were still dying in the bloodiest war ever waged on American soil, move him from this endeavor is because he had the ability to recognize the importance of a higher objective than winning the war: freedom for everyone.
Congress has a duty to ensure the prosperity and protection of our country and its citizens. Every member of Congress is equal to that objective, and therefore they are equal to each other. It is this goal that deserves above all else to be achieved, and if all of Congress keeps that in mind then I am positive that we will be able to reach an agreement on spending cuts, and subsequently raise the debt ceiling.
Hello Purple readers! Purple Politics is back and running after a brief hiatus over the holiday season.
Now that the election is over you would think that there isn’t much political news to discuss, correct? WRONG. The debate over the political and economic status of our country is very much alive and must be paid attention to now more than ever.
To quickly recap important legislative deals that have been reached over the past couple of months, let’s take a look at our successful (sort of) aversion of the "Fiscal Cliff". For those of you who don’t remember, we were set to go off the fiscal cliff on January 1, 2013 due to the expiration of the Bush Tax cuts coupled with the absence of a long term budget deal and the implementation of sequestration. On January 1, 2013, the House passed the Senate bill extending the Bush Tax cuts for every individual who makes $400,000 a year or less. A deal had been struck, on the tax portion at least. There is still a long way to go, including comprehensive tax reform, entitlement reform, and decisions on what cuts needs to be made in government spending.
Most budget experts, for the most part, have agreed that in order for us to effectively reduce our country’s deficit, we need to enact a balanced plan of budget cuts and raised revenue. We are 50% of the way there with the revenue, now it is the Democrats’ turn to compromise with their Republican counterparts on spending cuts.
Notice how earlier I described the fiscal cliff as being “sort of” averted? That’s because it was not truly averted, but merely postponed. However in order to stay positive and move towards continued future compromise, the glass must be viewed a half full, not half empty.
There is, however, another extremely important issue that will be addressed by Congress in the upcoming months: The Debt Ceiling.
The Debt Ceiling, in short, is the amount of money that the U.S. treasury is allowed to borrow to fund all government spending. That money borrowed pays for all of the things Congress has already bought: Social Security checks for seniors, the interest on government bonds that have been sold, etc. For many years Congress spends more money than it takes in, the difference accounted for by raising the debt ceiling.
NOT raising the debt ceiling will do only one thing: not allow Congress to pay for the things it has already bought. It will not do anything to cut our deficit. If the debt ceiling were not to be raised, the U.S. runs the risk of defaulting on its debt which has major negative consequences such as our credit rating being lowered, and loans and mortgages rising. Especially now, in the midst of a still-fragile recovery, defaulting could slow that recovery.
Looking towards filling up the other half of the glass, spending cuts, Republicans have warned that unless they do not see substantial cuts in government spending to balance the new revenue being raised, they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling. While this seems like a harsh ploy, remember that the reason we had a “fiscal cliff” to go off of in the first place was because the thought of what would happen if we went off of it was supposed to be so frightening to both parties that it would force cooperation. The idea with the debt ceiling is the same thing, Republicans gave major concessions in compromising on taxes, now they expect the same compromise from Democrats.
In a deal in which real compromise is made, both sides have to concede something that they are not happy about. For a deal to be truly purple the middle ground has to be reached.
Most words associated with the word “politician” are, let’s face it, negative. I have heard from multiple people around the hill, democrat and republican alike, that behind closed doors policy decisions flow smoothly, there is a lot of bipartisan compromise, and realistic solutions are created. However once in the public eye, these “politicians” suddenly become, in my mind, too scared of sacrificing re-election victories to make the right decisions.
It seems that the general attitude around government is this: Yes we all agree that it is a sad thing that politics plays the largest role in policy making and that because of politics and re-election campaigns lawmakers are so cemented in ideological ground because they’re afraid to stray from their base even if it’s in the best interests of the country. But even though we all recognize there is this culture of inaction in government due to this, to win the game you have to play the game, so we are all going to play the game. My argument to that is this: If a majority of the people agree that this political game is flawed and is having a detrimental affect on our country’s well-being, why can’t we change it? We see examples of the devastating affect this culture of no compromise, no “purpleization”, is having on the country every day. We’re going through an economic depression, trudging through the largest budget deficit our country has ever experienced. The health of American citizens is taking a hit, shown by the fact that we are 50th in the world in life expectancy, and 41st in the world in child mortality rates. Something has to be done.
In college sometimes you are assigned to work on a group project for a class. Usually the teamwork goes one of two ways: one way is that one person rises as the natural leader of the group, a person who the group trusts and respects, and everyone else follows suit to what this person says and wants to do for the project. The other way, is that everyone finds a way to work together to accomplish the task at hand contributing equally to the outcome. If the ideas in the group clash too harshly and there is no compromise, and no project is agreed upon or handed in, you get an F. Why can’t we apply this same idea to government? In my last post I quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham, a republican senator from South Carolina who said “If you don’t give up some ideological ground, the country sinks”.
What it will take are people in leadership positions in our country to lead by example. That means people stepping up regardless of whether they will get re-elected or not, and changing the political climate of government for the better. Standing up for what they know is right and making policy decisions based on what is right, not what will get them re-elected. It would be a sacrifice for the greater good of the country, and if the majority of people in government change their behavior to reflect this new culture of morality and accountability to what is in the best interest of the country, I believe we would see a substantially positive change in how our country runs.
There actually is a real life example of someone putting this idea into practice. Ever heard of Buddy Roemer? He was a former Louisiana governor and a candidate for the 2012 Republican Party nomination for president of the United States. Never heard of him? That’s because he ran on a platform that stressed campaign finance reform, announcing he would limit campaign contributions to $100 per individual. AS a result he raised very little money compared to the rest of the candidates, and the reason he did not attend any of the Republican debates is because he failed to meet the 7% minimum polling popularity requirement to participate. I think Roemer’s efforts should be highlighted, not only by myself but also by the mainstream media. If Roemer’s name recognition increased and he was thrust into the public eye, the American people would see a candidate who was leading by example and his polling numbers would have been substantially higher. The media has a profound impact on the population and what the media decides to highlight and give importance to. Roemer knew that he was not realistically going to win the Republican nomination this way, but he ran on principles that he strongly believed in to prove a point. He led by example.
Let’s stop complaining, finger pointing, and playing the blame game. Strong policies are born from bipartisan compromise. We need to purpleize politics, and make it about creating smart policy and less about re-election ambitions and money.
Due to a provision in the Budget Control Act passed in 2011 by the Senate Budget Committee, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, also called sequestration, will go into affect in January 2013. The sequester was intended to encourage a bipartisan agreement to reduce the deficit by proposing legislation by the beginning of 2013. The idea is that the mounting pressure of these automatic spending cuts will make lawmakers progressively more worried about the effects of the sequester, and bring them back to the table to compromise and hammer out a bipartisan budget proposal.
In keeping with the theme of “Purple Politics”, it is extremely encouraging to see senators of both red and blue persuasions voicing promising words of compromise. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) has said that he is open to a plan that includes cutting spending as well as raising some revenues such as closing tax loop-holes and eliminating certain subsidies. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also voiced publicly that he is willing to eliminate certain tax deductions.
“We are so far in debt that if you don’t give up some ideological ground, the country sinks,” Graham said. “We need more revenue.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) has also supported a plan that would close certain tax loopholes and raise revenue.
Some democratic and republican senators are also in agreement that they would like to see more involvement from President Obama. Sen. McCain put it cordially, saying
“I’m not trying to put all of the blame on the president, but he has some responsibility in this dialogue.”
Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) has publicly agreed with Sen. McCain’s comments
These bipartisan sentiments are of huge encouragement that a bipartisan solution is entirely possible, and we are inching closer to it each day despite a political environment that is plagued by polarity.
David Brooks, New York Times columnist and author talks about equipoise in his new book the Social Animal. Equipoise is the ability to have the serenity to read the biases and failures in our own minds. People that have equipoise have epistemological modesty; they are able to adjust strengths of the conclusions to strength of their evidence. Someone who possesses equipoise is curious and open-minded. They are able to look at themselves and recognize their own biases. This I believe is the key trait that makes a person easy to work with and easy to compromise with, because they are able to reflect on their own biases and shortcomings and use their curiosity to explore other options. Equipoise is necessary however, to be truly successful in compromising, all parties involved must exhibit equipoise. Equipoise = Purple Politics.