Thursday, December 7, 2017

Why people have such a low opinion of politicians

A recent Gallup poll (Nov. 2-8, 2017) put Congress’s approval rating at 13%, disapproval at 81%, and 6% with no opinion. The short answer why so many disapprove is that we believe the vast majority are unprincipled.

Principled politicians carry the same core beliefs whether they are in power or out of power.

House Republicans yesterday again demonstrated their that belief in state’s rights applies only when they’re not the ones telling the states how to act. If enacted, the law they passed and sent to the Senate would allow anyone with a legal concealed-carry right in their own state to take that right with them when they travel to states with more restrictive policies. For example. Arizonians, who do not need any permit for their concealed-carry, would be able to conceal their guns while traveling in Maryland, which has a very strict concealed-carry policy.

One might cynically think this vote is a payback to the National Rifle Association, which has been pushing this, for their contributions. That may be, but it also shows the Republican Congress believes it knows better than Maryland what their citizens really need. Funny, how when the Federal Government under Democratic control proclaimed transgender people should be able to use the bathroom of their choice—well, that was gross overreach and an issue that should be left to the states.

President Trump’s shrinking of two Utah national monuments illustrates a lack of principles by both parties. Many Republicans have maintained that states should have free rein to manage national lands “because they know best.” One can and should discuss whether lands acquired by treaty belong to the whole nation or should be deeded to the state in which they belong. Regardless of one’s personal position, Trump has consistently said national lands should be run by and for the states. By that measure, his trimming of the monuments is principled.

However, candidate Trump and Republicans in general decried President Obama’s executive orders and proclamations as unlawful, unconstitutional overreaches of presidential power. Yet once he became President Trump, and with Congressional Republicans cheering along, he has used these same strategies to pursue Republican objectives.

Democrats do not show principles, either. Many Democrats are now decrying President Trump’s “overreach.” Such decisions should be left to Congress they now say, ignoring their eight years of approving President Obama’s use of executive power to achieve his agenda.

Elections should, of course, have ramifications. Those who support the policies put in place during the Obama administration will not look favorably on Republican changes. They should have done a better job of electing their candidates. To decry the mechanism of power now that they don’t control the levers is not defensible.

However, Republicans have learned nothing from the mistakes Democrats made in unilaterally passing legislation with sweeping national consequences. Democrats pushed through Obamacare without soliciting expert opinion on all the consequences. The public did not like it then, in large part because Democrats never brought them into the process; Democrats overstated some and never clearly explained other benefits (remember “nobody will lose their insurance”?), and they never admitted to the costs.

The Republican tax bill process has done them one better on all these counts. Only 32% of people approve the plan, while 48% oppose it, and 20% don’t know enough to do either.

Republicans universally decried Democrats for pushing through “Obamacare” without bipartisan input—and have sunk even lower with their tax bill by rushing through a 500-page bill with repercussions that affect every individual in the US.

The process is deeply flawed. It has been said that people would be sickened to see how either sausage or legislation is made. Making last-minute changes and pulling all-nighters didn’t work well when we were in high school and college, so why does Congress think their constituents would applaud this approach to running the country? Politics, as Bismarck said, is the art of the possible and requires compromise.

Last January, Senators Grassley and Lee introduced an amendment to the constitution to require the Federal government to have a balanced budget. Without the new tax legislation, we are running budget deficits of a half-trillion dollars a year. Both senators voted for a tax cut that will increase Federal debt by over a trillion dollars. In the House, multiple balanced budget amendment bills have been introduced and co-sponsored by Republicans who voted for the tax cut.

Kudos to Senator Corker who did take a principled stand against increasing the deficit and voted against the bill.

No principles. No respect. No solving the enormous financial problems facing our country.

To quote Trump: “So sad.”