American politics are a spectator sport

Published 10:04 am Friday, April 1, 2011

If I go to the theater I buy popcorn to enjoy while watching the movie … just part of the American experience like a hot dog and a beer at the ballpark.

Right now watching American politics though is more entertaining than a good movie and I am metaphorically sitting in my comfortable chair, munching on my popcorn and watching this: You may like or hate the Tea Party (more and more people actually do not like it) but they are having an effect in the House of Representatives.

Does anyone actually think the spending cuts would be so aggressive without their push?

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Speaker Boehner is finding himself boxed by his new fiscally radial members; they are uncompromising and have no fear of a government shutdown now or if they should refuse to raise the federal debt ceiling.

And if that is not difficult enough to manage while trying to push cuts through the Democratic Senate, Boehner has his second in command, Eric Cantor ready, willing, and maybe even able to push him over the balcony and become the new speaker.

Democrats still seem to need to be forced to find any spending cuts, which is puzzling given the deficit numbers and trends.

But Republicans seem eager to slash and burn even valuable programs that make a difference. And the major budget issues have not even been addressed yet…this is just the skirmish before the war.

At the state level is it just me, or have the new Republican governors elected to go to war with their citizens over the public employees issues.

These new leaders could have just asked state employees to accept higher benefits contributions and pay freezes … they have accepted belt tightening before.

But by breaking the unions they have thrown their states into divisions that may not heal for a long time.

And it seems their belt tightening is a whole lot more about partisan politics than necessary changes.

These governors tend to freeze taxes, or lower them for business, maintain or increase projected spending, sell off valuable assets like turnpikes, and then charge workers, who mostly vote Democratic, for the costs of these programs.

The President’s polling numbers seem frozen below 50 percent. That is not so surprising, as his moderate approach seems to satisfy no particular constituency.

As a progressive I have issue with his decision to extend the Bush tax cuts, disagree with the Libya actions, and think his foreign policy is far too close to failed Bush policies than makes sense.

Of course the Republicans have honed their angst to a sweeping policy that if Obama supports it, they oppose it.

Consider Libya. Republicans love all things war, so they can’t quite hate this war.

But neither can they support this president so they work hard to find creative ways to doublespeak and reverse their positions based upon his position.

Hmmm, here’s an idea, Obama should embrace the $61 billion in tax cuts Republicans in the House have proposed. Republicans will immediately realize they can no longer support the cuts because Obama wants them.

It sure seems as if the political wars still ignore what the people sent them to Washington to do. Just how many ways can voters say “jobs” to get the attention of our elected officials?

Republicans ran on “jobs,” and then offered abortion restrictions, attacked NPR and went after Planned Parenthood. Jobs? Well, not so much.

We booted inattentive politicians in 2006, again in 2008, and again in 2010 … and yet they still ignore the people and spend their days fighting over trivia.

OK, 2012 will come soon enough.

Jim Crawford is retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.