Monday, May 30, 2011

The Big Question



David Gregory, the moderator for NBC's Meet the Press, asked the question leading up to a break in the round table discussion is the Federal Government capable enough to solve the problems of the day as it is constituted. My answer to that question is, emphatically, no.

Now listen to the conversation, if you have not already, between former President Clinton and House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, in the video above. That is a real discussion between people who understand the process. Those are the kind of discussions I use to have with my colleagues in the Mississippi Legislature, thus allowing me to earn the trust of Democrats and Republicans alike. These are the discussions that are sorely lacking in our process now.

The title of the video is misguided because Ryan admits all he was trying to do was start the discussion on Medicare Reform. He knew that his proposal was a radical idea, but the discussion has to start somewhere, so why not throw something out there and see if it sticks. The problem is that in this era of partisan spin and cheer leading, the GOP equated Ryan's icebreaker as the gospel to fix Medicare and the Democrats campaigned against it, successfully I might add in a special election in the most conservative Congressional District in New York State.

Ideas in politics are just that: ideas. They are not subject to pious adherence, they are starting points to invoke intelligent discussion and hopefully a workable solution to a public policy issue. Whether it is the deficit or crime in the streets, ideas in the legislative process are introduced as legislation to be debated, dissected and eventually fine-tuned to comport to the balance of providing for the general welfare while maintaining individual liberty. That is the foundation by which all legislation should be framed.

Fox News and MSNBC are not the policy makers for this nation, therefore our political direction should not be guided them. The men and women that sit in the United States Congress have that responsibility and they should start acting like they understand that. When the country is in a crisis, ideology should be thrown out the window and the preservation of the nation should be the main priority. Instead of developing talking points, both parties should be engaged in meshing ideas to move the nation forward.

Campaigning has its season. Governing is the main job. It is harder to govern that it is to campaign. In order to move this country forward, at some point in time, our elected leaders must be able to discern the difference. If they cannot, then they should be removed during the electoral process, it is that simple. However, the reality is everybody that says throw the bums out wants to keep their bum, and this cycle of leadership without vision or courage continues.

Leaders lead, followers follow. Right now we have a Congress comprised of expert followers, not leaders. They can give great speeches and most of their media sound bytes are on point, but that does not equate to leadership. The wood stain does not help the patio deck support the weight of those who stand on it, it is the strength of the wood used to construct the deck. We know how to make politics sound appealing to our bases, but we have forgotten how to govern the masses. In other words, we know how to make the deck look good for our benefit, but we have forgotten how to build the deck altogether.

In this time in our history, that has to change. This is the time for big ideas, not small-mindedness. As someone who has had the privilege of serving the public, I know how hard this is. I know how unappreciated one must feel when they have the passion to govern while others are more concerned with staying elected. But we need those people with a passion to govern to step into the forefront, even if it means breaking the party line. If those people are not in Congress yet, then they must run for Congress and we must support them, for the future of our nation is at stake.

Our economy is in a mess because we are too scared to do the things, or even have the discussions, necessary to make the fundamental changes needed to improve it. The political parties either want to vilify or sanctify the business community that drives our economic engine. They should be leading them. That is what they truly want and that is what the American people truly want. It is time to stop disappointing them and start doing what they want.

The Ryan-Clinton exchange was as pragmatic as one can, and should, expect from their political leaders. It is long overdue for those discussions to be the norm in Washington once again. It is time for the leaders to lead, and not in name or deference only.