Skip to comments.Is Our Government Really Broken?
Posted on 02/24/2010 4:35:08 AM PST by Kaslin
If you want to see broken government, consider the fall of the constitutional Roman Republic and the rise of Julius Caesar: "Fortune turned against us and brought confusion to all we did. Greed destroyed honor, honesty and every other virtue, and taught men to be arrogant and cruel, to neglect the gods. Ambition made men false. Rome changed: A government which had once surpassed all others in justice and excellence now became cruel and unbearable." So said the historian Sallust at the time.
But in retrospect, while moral decay surely played its part, the more complete explanation for the fall of the Roman Republic lay in the consequences of the successes of Rome's vast Mediterranean conquests. The flow of wealth into Rome from the conquered empire -- which had been built to protect the city-state of Rome -- undercut the republic it was built to protect. The Roman constitution had been designed to govern a city-state, but with the wealth of empire came severe economic inequalities that the Roman Senate would not, or could not, resolve. Demagogues arose, private armies were formed -- and finally force of victorious arms replaced republican government.
Another familiar example of broken government was our Washington government in the 1850s, which failed to peacefully resolve the matter of slavery. Once again, force of arms was required to resolve an existential crisis of a republic. Six hundred thousand Americans died during our Civil War. Although I and most Americans (at least outside the South) think Abraham Lincoln acted wisely and saved the republic -- and we returned to more or less constitutional government in 1865 -- it cannot be denied that America got its first real, sustained taste of authoritarian government under Lincoln.
We had better hope our government isn't broken -- or we are likely to have more to worry about than 10 percent unemployment.
In fact, as many have observed recently, our government is working just fine -- blocking the enactment of unpopular laws by a government that is out of step with the people. There is nothing new in that. I served in the Reagan White House and with Newt Gingrich in the 1990s. I recall feeling both times that government was broken -- the filibuster was blocking our majority rule -- because we couldn't get "vital" legislation enacted. (In fact, both times I was involved, inter alia, in the failed effort to close down the Department of Education, saving only its essential student loan functions.) We overreached. We got a lot done, but only that with which the public was comfortable.
Other administrations, including Jimmy Carter's, complained that government was broken because they generally were incompetent to lead. However, a form of government and the public are functioning adequately not only when they block bad or unacceptable law (as currently is the case) but when they are able to solve great dangers to the nation. We may soon get a test on that second matter.
There is broad agreement (as close to a universal agreement as we have seen on a great issue) that if we don't get our national debt and deficits to sustainable levels, we may never recover our prosperity -- and will then lose our military strength and our great sovereign freedom.
If, as many expect, the Democrats lose effective or actual control of Congress in the November elections, it is likely to be because the public has risen up and rejected the party that has brought us these intolerable multitrillion-dollar deficits with a budget proposal that fails even to propose a path out of the morass.
Although many hard decisions will have to be made, everyone agrees that at the core, we have to reduce vastly the current estimated $50 trillion of unfunded liability that exists in our entitlement programs -- Social Security and Medicare particularly.
So, should the election play out as described, 2011 will be the year that will test whether our government is broken, because a pretty good definition of a broken government (or more accurately, a broken polity -- a government and its electorate) is one that agrees on a great threat to society, agrees broadly on what needs to be done -- and cannot do it.
While many of us have for years complained of our failure to get entitlement costs under control, in fact, only starting in 2011 will the true test of our polity begin. Because only now is there a strong majority that sees the danger.
Until the 1990s, federal deficits were the concern merely of the green-eye-shade part of the Republican voters. Most Democrats, independents and some Republicans didn't vote based on that issue. Then Ross Perot came along and ran on the deficit issue, thereby expanding the part of the electorate that really cared about deficits. Then in 1994, Newt Gingrich and the new Republican majority championed trying to get to a balanced budget (and succeeded, with Bill Clinton in 1997).
Still, only about half the electorate really cared about deficits. However, during the George W. Bush presidency of 2001-09, most Democratic voters came -- for the first time -- to loudly, emphatically and constantly attack deficits. Thus, in 2009, for the first time since the rise of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a big majority of the public is alive to the dangers of excessive debt and deficit. And just at this moment, we get these staggering multitrillion-dollar-per-year deficits.
Now the danger is manifest. Assuming the November election plays out as suspected and the public manifests its deepest concern -- if the public will not support or the government of 2011 does not enact genuine structural reductions sufficient to honestly project our debt to be under control for the long term -- then we can honestly say that our government is broken. Then we will know that we are in for a hellish future.
Good article. I think we sometimes lose perspective on the long term view when we deal with day to day “crises”.
Which would mean that they expect the Republicans to come up with a path to get us out of the multitrillion-dollar deficits. I hope we have a plan.
Tax cuts would be nice, but they are not my focus.
I'm not talking about a reduced rate of increase in the growth of government programs.
I'm looking for 10% annual reduction in government spending each year, every year, until we don't have a deficit.
There is no talk of reducing entitlement programs coming from Republicans. I don’t think there is any consensus even among R’s for reductions of benefits.
I haven’t heard a peep from our side. I think our plan is to not have a plan.
And clearly they had such huge concerns about deficits that they immediately launched massive programs to reduce them?
Anyone with a functioning brain cell knows that the only thing DemonRATs care about is being in power, and they will destroy anything and everything to achieve that.
It is my understanding that "private armies" were instrumental to the expansion of the Republic's empire. A wealthy man would raise an army to go conquer and plunder a foreign land. The troops shared in the booty and Rome then sent governors. The permanent professional army did not come until later.
**Then in 1994, Newt Gingrich and the new Republican majority championed trying to get to a balanced budget (and succeeded, with Bill Clinton in 1997).**
Long past time for the GOP/RNC to prepare, present and publish a PLATFORM. Use the best think tanks, macro-economists etc., & spell out policies that candidates will embrace & TEA partiers can support.
Keep it simple and pro-Constitutional Republic in its entirety.
Not broken. Just power and control hungry. There would be an easy fix if a few statesmen were to emerge and call obama out on his socialist/Marxist policies. I have not given up hope that some heroes will step up and save us from the wanna be dictator in our White House.
Not among the leadership, no. And if the GOP takes control of Congress in November then come January it will be Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell. And the hard questions will still be ignored.
Then we're like the dog that chases the car and one day actually catches one. We won't have a clue as to what to do next. And if that's what happens then that'll practically guarantee an Obama win two years later.
Yep, our government is not broken. It is working exactly as intended. We The People are a huge part of the checks and balances under our Constitution and we are working as hard as we can to STOP a Marxist transformation of our form of government.
Other administrations, including Jimmy Carter's, complained that government was broken because they generally were incompetent to lead.
Can't say this doesn't apply here as well. Obambi is incompetent. I even fear he may be less than psychologically intact. But whatever, he is a horrible, horrible, horrible politician. In the end, he has/had some charisma, but he has no political skills whatsoever. He is just incompetent on every scale.
However, a form of government and the public are functioning adequately not only when they block bad or unacceptable law (as currently is the case) but when they are able to solve great dangers to the nation. We may soon get a test on that second matter.
Sigh. We The People are exerting a positive influence on our national security by opposing Obambi's dangerous bumbling on terrorism and so on. But this is not a realm where there is a large margin for error.
I think the platform should have two words and that is all:
Just follow that principle across-the-board, in every situation, and every single goal of the conservative movement, even “social” goals, will be advanced or freed up for advancement.
Nope. The hard questions will not be ignored.
If they are, it will only be because We The People backed off and went back to leaving our nation's fate to the "professionals."
Amen. But I fear any plan that would work would be so draconian as to scare most of America away. I'm not sure we have the leadership to put such a plan into practice. The first job would be to convince people it's the only plan that has any hope of success. After that, it would be a full time job to keep on track with it.
As painful as the plan, and actually carrying it out would be it's far better than what awaits us if we don't git-’er-done.
I suggest we book mark this and see what happens. I have zero faith in Boehner or McConnell, both creatures of D.C. who are so far out of touch with what real people deal with that it isn't funny any more.
Should the Republicans take control of Congress in the fall then I truly believe that the Speaker and the Majority Leaders and the whips and the committee chairmen should all be Congressmen and Senators with four years or less in D.C. They are about the only ones with new ideas and an understanding of what life outside the Beltway is like. Never happen though.
Some of the things that I have read that helped bring down the ancient Roman Empire were:
1) Undermining of the currency system,
2) A very large standing army to quell any possible rebellions in the lands Rome controlled,
3) A very large bureaucracy.
The army and the bureaucracy required huge amounts of money to keep employed.
America’s military and law enforcement is in 143 countries and our bureaucracy is beyond outlandish. Since we took the Dollar off of the gold and silver standards it has become practically worthless.
We are definitely following in the footsteps of the ancient Roman Empire. We are only doing it bigger, better and faster.
My only certain income is from social security, about $1300 a month, before taxes. And from that I have to pay for my Medicare and drugs. I am a full time freelance photographer and that’s a tough way to make a living these days. I have some good months, but for the most part I barely manage to cover expenses. Even so, I would give up 10% or more of my SS if I thought it would be used for nothing more than getting the deficit under control.
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