Many Americans would agree there are serious problems that are bringing down the country. Most of the issues relate to actions and missteps of the federal government during the past two presidential administrations. Here are 10 of them.
1. Senate Filibuster
By far, the most damaging legislative ploy is the Senate filibuster. During the past few congressional terms, the opposition party has used the filibuster much more extensively. In the 110th Congress, there were 112 cloture votes. Thereafter, the total has gone down slightly. The minority party in the Senate can stop most types of legislation if the majority cannot muster 60 votes.
Historically, the filibuster served a specific purpose — to protect smaller states from being dominated legislatively by larger states. Currently, it’s possible that 41 senators representing 11% of the population could obstruct a bill that is supported by 59 senators representing 89% of the population. The filibuster has morphed into a parliamentary procedure that, frankly, makes it impossible for Congress to operate productively and effectively represent its constituencies.
2. Lack Of Government Transparency
The federal government has become too secretive. Notwithstanding social media and an insatiable press corps, the American people are frequently deprived of information they deserve and need to assess the competence of their representatives. True, certain issues relating to national security must be confidential, but secrecy and presidential privilege have been taken to an extreme in the Benghazi, Associated Press, Fox News, and Internal Revenue Service scandals. There is absolutely no reason for the administration to hide behind trumped-up security claims to limit the complete flow of information on these matters.
3. Government Spending
Both major parties have done very little, in spite of continuing budgetary rhetoric, to control spending. Left-wing groups correlate spending cuts to taking food from children, and the right wing associates frugality with cuts in defense. Our government is only capable of adding new programs and has been negligent in eliminating programs that are no longer effective or needed. This mismanagement of resources has cost taxpayers dearly in recent years under multiple administrations.
4. Entitlement Reform
Everyone has known for years that, in the not too distant future, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will effectively bankrupt the country. Simple arithmetic proves that the population growth of older Americans will drain these programs, and future generations will receive fewer, if any, services. Scores of options to reform entitlements have been proposed and debated. Yet none have been legislated into law. The overhang of entitlements is going to change our society for the worse if it is not addressed soon.
5. The Middle East and Diplomacy
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on far too long despite repeated promises to end them sooner. The cost: too many lives and too much money. The latter is a primary reason why America is struggling financially. The original intent of these conflicts was to defeat Al-Qaeda and bring peace to the region. Nothing could be further from reality. Most people, but few of our leaders, recognized that U.S. occupation would never result in the formation of new democracies, and the 1,000 year struggle between Sunni and Shiite Muslims would continue to make the region unstable long after our troops disengage.
6. Student Debt
A very dangerous change may be taking place among our young people. Education is being set aside because of outrageous tuition increases and the accumulation of student debt. Yet, many large universities have accumulated billions of dollars from generous alumni and favorable tax treatment. The accumulated “profits” of these institutions should be used to bring down tuition costs. Lower college applications are going to happen in spite of the overwhelming evidence that education increases one’s chances to get a job in America.
7. Campaign Spending
The Constitution, under the First Amendment, protects the rights of citizens to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. And usually, the candidate who raises the most money wins. This is a sad commentary on voters who are influenced by the crap and lies in campaign advertising, and the inability of our leaders to amend the Constitution to rein this abusive system.
8. Government Intrusion
Our leaders clearly have a low opinion of Americans as they continue to increase their assault on their civil liberties. This, in turn, is decreasing the approval ratings of the president and Congress. The continued encroachment on our privacy along must cease. There should be no undue restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. The government should not be able to mandate that a marriage is not a marriage unless the partners are a man and a woman. Unrestricted monitoring of our phones and email is a travesty and should be severely restricted and overseen by the courts.
9. Social Issues and Religion
Our country was founded on the values of religious people. For the most part, our forefathers relied upon religious dogma to create laws and rules that govern us to this day. Nevertheless, they intentionally separated church and state, a formula that has been critical to the success of our country. If you have any doubts about this, look around the world and compare the lifestyles of those that live in democracies to those that live in theocracies. Democracy and religion do not mix. In America, some people spend far too much time trying to impose their values on others. Abortion and gay marriage are personal choices that should not be restricted or encumbered by “god-fearing” politicians for other citizens.
If the amount of money that a government collects is substantially less than what it spends, there will be problems. Given that a huge number of Americans cannot file their own taxes without professional assistance, it’s obvious our tax laws are too complicated. Given that hundreds of billions of dollars are lost to tax cheaters each year , simplification of the tax code that discourages these people should be a high priority. The current IRS scandal is not going to make the debate about taxation any easier. Yet, it may ultimately be the impetus to reform the code, so it can no longer be dominated by special interests.
America needs to clean up the aforementioned problems to return to its former glory. Partisanship is going to make this a real challenge. The political landscape is growing more complicated with every passing day. The 2014 midterm elections may be the beginning of something very positive for the country. The past two presidents have performed poorly and torn the country apart. Hopefully, the next person elected president will have substantially more experience and be a better leader.