Friday, August 12, 2011

The system is not broken

Charles Krauthammer makes a point I'm so glad to see being made. He answers criticisms and complaints that "our system is broken." No, our system is working just the way it was designed to work.

Krauthammer points first to what has happened over the past year in Wisconsin. Yes, there was a lot of sturm und drang, but in the end, the people got to speak and their elected officials got to act. And the people got to respond.
The people spoke; the process worked. Yes, it was raucous and divisive, but change this fundamental should not be enacted quietly. This is not midnight basketball or school uniforms. This is the future of government-worker power and the solvency of the states. It deserves big, serious, animated public debate.
And for those who are dismayed about seeing the sausage get made in Washington over the increase in the debt ceiling, that's how policy gets done in our country. And if we're trying to do something large like turn back from the big government model that our country has been following for so many years, it's going to be slow and contentious.
The debt-ceiling debate universally denounced as dysfunctional, if not disgraceful, hostage-taking, terrorism, gun-to-the-head blackmail.

Spare me the hysteria. What happened was that the 2010 electorate, as represented in Congress, forced Washington to finally confront the national debt. It was a triumph of democratic politics — a powerful shift in popular will finding concrete political expression.

But only partial expression. Debt hawks are upset that the final compromise doesn’t do much. But it shouldn’t do much. They won only one election. They were entrusted, as of yet, with only one-half of one branch of government.

But they did begin to turn the aircraft carrier around. The process did bequeath a congressional super-committee with extraordinary powers to reduce debt. And if that fails, the question — how much government, how much debt — will go to the nation in November 2012. Which is also how it should be.

The conventional complaint is that the process was ugly. Big deal. You want beauty? Go to a museum. Democratic politics was never meant to be an exercise in aesthetics.

Not just ugly, moan the critics, but oh so slow. True, again. It took months. And will take more. The super-committee doesn’t report until Thanksgiving. The next election is more than a year away. But the American system was designed to make a full turn of the carrier difficult and deliberate.

Moreover, without this long ugly process, the debt issue wouldn’t even be on the table. We’d still be whistling our way to Greece. Instead, a nation staring at insolvency is finally stirring itself to action, and not without spirited opposition. Great issues are being decided as constitutionally designed. The process is working.

Notice how the loudest complaints about “broken politics” come from those who lost the debate. It’s understandable for sore losers to rage against the machine. But there’s no need for the rest of us to parrot their petulance.
Did all those whining about broken politics feel the say way a year ago when the Democrats pulled out every legislative trick they could find to cram through their health care reform without having to have a congressional conference committee after Scott Brown brought their lead in the Senate below 60 votes? I didn't see Thomas Friedman daydreaming about how wonderful it would be if President Obama listened to public opinion and stopped his unpopular program from passing.