Greece and Italy recently reached solutions to curb their debts (which have surpassed 182.2% and 146.6% of their GDP respectively). Their incumbent leaders stepped down and interim technocrat prime ministers were appointed in the aftermath to implement much needed austerity measures to get their finances in order and pass budgets for the fiscal year of 2012.
Here in America, our debt has now surpassed $15 trillion (not far behind our Mediterranean counterparts at 101.1% of our GDP) and the Super Committee has failed to come up with a solution to cut our debt by $1 trillion after months of negotiations.
What if we applied the technocratic solution here in the U.S.? Just as in Athens and Rome, our parties have become so polarized that the political process in Washington has become compromised, to the detriment of the country’s fiscal solvency and citizens’ well-being.
Austerity measures, spending cuts, and entitlement reform are never popular topics, and whatever is not popular will find politicians reluctant to publicly support or implement. It seems brave ideas and bold measures among our nations’ leaders have become a thing of the past. All too often, today’s politicians keep falling back on what’s “safe” to do – blaming the other side for everyone’s problems and talking a good game about the need to solve them without following it up with any action.
These are supposed to be the leaders the tax payers elect, and pay, to solve our problems. Instead, they’re using our problems to advance their own agendas. Then we wonder why our problems never get solved.
As the Super Committee’s result shows, the parties are paralyzed when it comes to working together for the greater good of the country. Their special interest agendas come first before anything else, and it’s the middle class, working Americans who get hurt the most in this process because nobody in Washington represents them (despite the fact that both parties claim to).
Democrats are unwilling to touch entitlement reform, while Republicans are unwilling to touch taxes. Both claim they have “put their sacred cows on the table,” but at the end of the day, nothing ever gets reformed in any meaningful way.
Both Greece and Italy went in circles like this for years until there was finally violence in the streets over the frustration and lack of progress in the political process. Once the parties’ political bickering started affecting finances, particularly the European Union, external entities had to step in and force the parties of Athens and Rome to come to an apolitical solution.
The result was the so-called “technocratic administrations,” a form of government where technical experts not belonging to any political party are in control of decision-making in their respective fields. In this case, independent economists Lucas Papademos and Mario Monti were the choices agreed upon by all parties to step in, implement the economic reforms, pass the 2012 budgets, and then step down. This also requires finding candidates willing to commit political suicide and sacrifice any future in public office for the greater good of the country’s economic health and future of its citizens.
Ironically, both interim technocrat prime ministers Papademos and Monti have approval ratings of near 80% among their respective publics according to several polls, far ahead of any political party in Greece or Italy. It seems the masses have had enough of posturing from career politicians and are more than willing to give the technocratic solution a try.
Despite its undemocratic means, I suspect that the technocratic solution would find an equally receptive majority here in America. All our political parties and career politicians have been good for is finding more ways to kick the can down the road indefinitely and cover their own interests, while our debt only climbs higher, entitlements become further unsustainable, and our tax code remains in shambles. We should explore the solution of suspending the political process for a negotiated amount of time and appointing a technocratic administration to implement much needed and long overdue reforms in spending, entitlements, and taxes, as well as passing a 2012 budget. As long as Democrats are in power, meaningful entitlement reform will never get addressed, and as long as Republicans are in power, meaningful tax reform will never be tackled.
America is already seeing violence and demonstrations on its streets, must we wait until it gets to the scale of Greece’s and Italy’s security emergencies before we finally act on thus far empty promises?
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