Why Is Our Political System Such A Mess?

It is so easy to complain about the government, yet often less than half of the eligible voters actually bother to vote. Call it apathy, or the "my vote doesn't make a difference" mentality, but it is rare to find effective government on any level. Our government leaders do not act as statesman, but simply as a bunch of politicians constantly campaigning for the next election.

Our federal government seems to get nothing done, even often appearing not to even be making the effort. And when there seems to be an effort by some, the system usually breaks down and little real progress is made. The 2 party, 2 houses of Congress system is, to say the least, flawed. Our representatives make compromises on their compromises, simply because the "poll numbers" show them they need to get certain "pork" projects done to get reelected. It is rare that a bill that finally passes through Congress, after the House's and Senate's bills are reconciled, and a "compromise" is reached to reconcile the bills, ends up resembling the original intent. Spending is done haphazardly, because politicians are afraid to vote against something for fiscally responsible reasons, for fear that their future political opponent will use it against them in their next campaign. Rarely does a politician vote his conscience, but rather micromanages votes based on personal political consequences. We see this with jobs, economics, health, foreign affairs, and almost any and every other legislation. It is rare and far between when a meaningful piece of legislation is passed, without major flaws, loopholes, inconsistencies, and waste. Our government leaders are afraid and/ or unwilling to use sound financial reasoning, such as beginning the budget process with "zero-based" budgeting, so that programs that work are encouraged, and waste is eliminated. In the elections of 2010, an alliance of those opposing how things are, informally formed an alliance known as the Tea Party, which unfortunately spent far more time speaking of what's wrong (which most of us know anyway), and made few realistic concrete suggestions for improvement.

Our state governments are in many cases even more flawed. Several states are nearly bankrupt, and in my state of New York, the state senators and state assembly representatives have not submitted a budget in time in recent memory. All these "leaders" resort to the blame and "it wasn't me" game, and threaten each other with lawsuits, vetoes, etc., without having the courage nor foresight to propose viable solutions.

Often, our county and local representatives are even more dysfunctional. In Nassau County, N.Y., out of nearly 240,000 votes cast this past election day for Nassau county executive, the final margin of victory was less than 500 votes. A month after Election Day, the election for State Senator in my district is still being contested, with numerous recounts.As if that wasn't indicative enough of a political quagmire, far less than half of the eligible voters went to the polls. On the local level, the county blames the town, which blames the villages, or vice versa. Infrastructure is often neglected until instead of doing regular maintenance, major repairs are needed. This wastes money, as well as creating ill will, and worsening the quality of life.

So, what can be done? We, the people, need to send a message that we are tired of the empty rhetoric, and that politics as usual will not be accepted. We have to start on the local level, and get leadership that will make the tough decisions, even if they are sometimes unpopular. We must support leadership and statesmanship, instead of being swayed by what a politician looks like, or how well they deliver a speech. We must ask, "What are you going to do about the issues?" Don't accept cliches, but follow up by questioning the how and why, and especially the how much aspect of a proposal. Do not blindly believe the cost nor time proposals given to you to get your vote - - - ask how? Never believe a politician that tells you he will cut taxes without cutting programs! Ask, "How will you balance the budget and pay for the expense?" Ask what efficiencies they are suggesting that would save money. Don't believe that most savings come from cutting big expenses. Anyone who truly understands the realities of budgeting and policy implementation knows that the most effective and realistic way to reduce expenses is to make numerous smaller decreases and look for numerous efficiencies.

Now is the time that the public must become less apathetic and more proactive. They must demand that their political leaders actually become representatives of the people. We must begin on a local level because real change can occur much more quickly on a local, smaller scale, than on the national level. Once we get the local government functioning (instead of being dysfunctional), we can then use that success as an example to change the state system, and eventually the national system.

This is not a short-term easy challenge, but I believe can and must be accomplished and achieved if we are to regain our greatness, and become true leaders of the rest of the world. We must eliminate the waste and dysfunction now!


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