Bipartisan Gridlock

It's a problem!

Imagine

What does the future look like? Let’s stop for a minute, and picture a world. A world where there are no rules, where there is no protection. Or worse, a world where the only rules that exist benefit only a select elite, leaving the rest of the world behind. This world where crime runs rampant and most citizens don't even dream of being able to afford any level of education could be the United States of America if bipartisan gridlock is allowed to continue at its current prolific rate. If gridlock isn't fixed, public safety and the standard of living shall suffer. If it is fixed using the methods presented by my group, we will have an improved government that will be a shining symbol of democracy and freedom, a government of a nation dedicated to protecting the rights of its citizens.

Bipartisan gridlock leads not only to laws not being passed, but also to the stagnation and eventual demise of bills that appropriate government funding. That means that if congress doesn’t pass governing laws over new situations or technologies, which could range anywhere from weapons to UAVs our police officers, our military, our federal executive offices (like the FBI or CIA), cannot act legally to protect our citizens from new threats. And going beyond that, without appropriations bills, federal agencies will lose funding and not be able to function. In short, citizens will increasingly face inadequate laws for today’s world, so long as congress remains dysfunctional due to gridlock.

I don't care if you're an extreme libertarian and think that government doesn't have a place in everyday life. The truth is, the government does affect us. All of the time. The USA government website lists 533 agencies. That’s a lot of government presence in our society and our economy. An ineffective government like ours will grow to be with continued gridlock can be a massive drain on the country’s resources, economy, and political standing around the world. In addition, the standards for health, safety, and security within the nation will plummet without effective government intervention.


But what if we CHANGE? What if congress could come together to pass legislation for the improved living of our country’s citizens? We would again become The United States of America that stands for freedom and democratic progress. The bright nation that proudly supports its citizens with a mutual strength derived from the public, supporting them in education, defense, and economic security. With gridlock a thing of the past, congress would be able to pass bills appropriating funding to its variety of governmental agencies and causes. Congress could pass reforms to protect citizens and expand our guaranteed rights. We can use money to inform the public on the issues brought to discussion and voted upon in congress instead of selling elected officials based almost solely on their political party alignment..

Problem

At one time, politics was a respectable thing. People went on a campaign with a sense of sportsmanship, affirming the 'may the best candidate win' mentality. Then after the race was over, the loser would work with the winner realizing that their ideas were what the majority of the people want. Sadly, these honorable ideals were replaced by cut-throat politics based on gaining money and power. Party's resort to name calling, false blaming, and any other tactic to make the opposing party look like they are hurting the nation. This conflict only turns friends into enemies, and drives a rift between people who need to work together.


As if that wasn't bad enough, the media decided to take sides as well. For years we have grown accustomed to hearing biased news. Most news stations are omitting certain aspects of a story to make it seem the person at fault can be connected the opposite party or its ideals. Most people have to check out the same story from two or three news sources to gain a good non-biased idea about what happened. The problem is that people love hearing news that they agree with, and supports their views politically. However as these news stations become more and more strongly biased, they push the people further and further from the "middle ground". As people become more extreme, so do the people they elect into office. Those elected then are not willing to compromise, effectively locking our system in a standstill.


As a result, many bills that would normally pass with bipartisan support have died in Congress. One example from February 2014 is a bill that would have improved services for veterans-many Republicans are known to champion veterans' issues, and the bill was drafted by Democrats, but both parties tried to use the bill as a political pawn, and it never made it out of the Senate. Another serious effect of bipartisan gridlock is that important bills become hostage to a political game of chicken, in which both parties embrace the philosophy that if they refuse to budge from their position, the other party will be forced to concede. This phenomenon came into play when the law governing the interest rates on federal student loans expired in June 2013, doubling the rate for subsidized loans. The two parties in Congress continued battling over a successor for the law until late July of that year-leaving college students all over the United States in uncertainty for almost 2 months!


Most people agree that bipartisan gridlock is a bad thing, but does it and the laws it effects tangibly harm the country? The answer is yes. Lawmakers in Washington have been using the national debt crisis to play the ultimate game of chicken, and the economy is suffering for it. And since our economy has been unstable, any close calls are a major threat to collapse.

The Debt Showdown

The debt showdown is essentially a war, with numerous battles between 2011 and 2013 (and possibly some in the future). This section will hit some of the highlights and explore their effects on the United States' economy.

The US national debt is now more than $14 trillion-over 100% of annual GDP-and is growing rapidly. Both parties recognize this to be a serious problem, but prioritize it differently. Republicans believe that Congress should minimize and eventually eliminate the budget deficit as soon as possible, but without raising taxes; Democrats want to expand the government and tax wealthy Americans, and consider reducing the deficit to be of secondary priority to stimulating the economy. In 2011, Republicans, feeling that they could not reduce the deficit by conventional means but having a majority in the House of Representatives, began threatening to vote not to raise the debt ceiling (continuing the American government's ability to borrow money) unless the Democrats agreed to cut spending in the near future. And so began the debt showdown.

Realistically, Congress has no choice but to raise the debt ceiling every time it comes up for debate. If the United States could not borrow money, it would not be able to fulfill many of the financial obligations it has set for itself and default on its debt, sparking a global financial crisis far worse than the one in 2008. Despite this danger, in July 2011, the two parties debated until two days before the projected default. Amid all the uncertainty, the economy had already started to brace for the impact-the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 15%. Standard and Poor's, one of the three major credit rating agencies, downgraded the United States' credit rating, saying that "the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges". Like individuals, nations with lower credit ratings have to pay higher interest rates on their debt, which for the United States will be a difference of billions of dollars over the next decade.

For two years after that incident, Congress continued to jitter the economy with more debt-ceiling debates, a "sequester", and a "fiscal cliff". Finally, in October 2013, failed to agree to a new budget (mostly because of disagreements over spending levels and Obamacare), and the government partially shut down. Programs such as Social Security that were funded by long-term laws continued, but any government program that had to be reauthorized every year-anything from preschool programs to the national parks-stopped operating. The government was shut down for 16 days before Republicans and Democrats finally agreed on a budget. In that time, the US economy lost about $24 billion and almost a third of that quarter's economic growth.

After the shutdown, Congress took a break from the debt limit debate by raising the debt ceiling high enough to last the country until 2015...
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Solution

Compromise:



Open Primaries:


Politicians compete in free for all primaries in which the top two vote getters move to the general election even if they are both of the same party according to an article “California’s Open Primaries.” This will lead to less extremist candidates and help facilitate voters to research the candidates. Having two candidates from a single party takes away the option of just checking one of the parties without knowing who is actually running. The voter must look into the person's view rather than just their affiliation.


Social Bonds:


Senators no longer move to Washington and therefore only visit other senators when they are voting. As a result, senators no longer have social bonds in order to overcome party lines. Senators used to be enemies by day and friends by night which allowed them to at least listen and hear what the other party had to say. This greatly benefited the process of making decisions in Congress because they wanted to keep their friendly relations with other senators. The best proposals were voted through not the selfish acts of a single party. This is no longer the case as senators do not want anything to do with Washington or other members of Congress.


Education:


According to Pew Research Center, 69% of Americans had a negative view on Congress in 2012. Yet according to according to an article called “Historical Elections”, a vast majority of congressmen are reelected each year. This shows that citizens do not look into who they are voting for. People need to educate themselves on who they are voting for in order to insure politicians who will do what is best for the nation.


Multiparty system:



Choice:


With simply two parties choices diminish. It is as if someone asked what your favorite ice-cream is and only allowed you to choose from vanilla or chocolate; what happened to strawberry and the millions of other flavors? America has had a firm history of only having two parties, but with more parties we the people will be capable of choosing what we truly crave.


The idea that more parties will be beneficial to America is clearly stated by LaVenia the secretary of N.Y. Green party in the New York Times Sunday Dialogue: Two Parties or More “With proportional representation, actual competition of ideas might ensue, and voter turnout might rise, with a more accurate and democratic representation of the population in government.” Therefore by having a multiparty system the American people will be blessed with a multitude of choices which will focus on what that individual believes is important. It will be as if every American had their own lobbyist. Their lobbyist will not be a money manipulative suit but their chosen caring representative. With choices representatives will have to take stances on issues which will allow voters to know how their representative will act once they are elected, thereby forcing representatives to be delegates instead of trustees. Representatives will now focus on the issue their party takes on and act in accordance with that issue instead of making secret agendas in smoked filled rooms.


More choices does not solely make representatives act in accordance with what they stand for it can also decrease gridlock. This will be achieved for multiple reasons. First off with representatives acting according to their party they will not fear for their job. According to article The Electoral Roots of America's Dysfunctional Government “officials are unwilling to compromise… because they are primarily concerned about protecting their own power and positions in Washington.” Thus by voting in a manner their constituents agree with they will retain their position and be able to amend and pass laws. Secondly with even more division due to more parties bills will only be passed with compromise, no one party can try to steamroll bills through. Steamrolling is one of the greatest problems with the two party system; the parties do not communicate they try to force a bill through without discussing it with the other party. However with a multitude of parties, compromise and communication will be required. Thus making moderate bills that everyone can agree with and be happy about. Therefore by admitting more choices by having a multiparty system representatives will become more respectable and gridlock will be ground to dust.

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I'm Just a Bill (Schoolhouse Rock!)

Will a multiparty system increase the deficit?


A Multiparty system will not impact the deficit. As stated in the article Multiparty Government, Fiscal Institutions, and Public Spending “ As budgetary institutions become stronger, the impact of the number of partisan spending diminishes dramatically. In cases where the BCI is 0.35 or above (approximately 53% of our sample), having additional parties in government has no statistically discernible effect on next-year spending.” Therefore the only contributing aspect to the deficit is the monetary restrictions placed on government spending and the number of parties in the government has no significant impact. To read more about the topic please follow the following link. http://journals.cambridge.org.lib-ezproxy.tamu.edu:2048/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=9030389&jid=JOP&volumeId=75&issueId=04&aid=9030387&bodyId=&membershipNumber=&societyETOCSession=


Why is Bipartisan Gridlock important?


Bipartisan gridlock is an important problem because it effects everyone. It is true that America has always had two parties and gridlock has occurred before. However stating that it has occurred before in history does not mean it is a problem that we should ignore. Bipartisan gridlock slows down the government and decrease the capability of compromise. An extreme example of what happened due to bipartisan gridlock is the civil war; it was two parties against each other that ultimately split the country in two. Therefore even though bipartisan gridlock does not currently cost lives it has before and if it goes unchecked there is a possibility it could again. Overall bipartisan gridlock is important because it hinders the government’s ability to act effectively which hinders America’s ability to run properly.


What can I do to help?


Ultimately people can help rid the country of bipartisan gridlock by educating themselves on the issues and candidates. The Republicans and Democrats have dictated the country by forcing people to choose one or the other. They know people will side with their candidates simply because of their affiliation with the party. People need to educate themselves on issues and the people running for office to force the candidates to earn your votes every election. So go find people to have political discussion with and decide for yourself what you think the nation needs. Then vote for the person that most closely fits your personal views rather than some party's ideals. The only way to rid the nation of bipartisan gridlock is to have each and every citizen vote for the candidate that best fits their ideals rather than simply check the box of "their" affiliated party.

Lead Contributors

References

Abramowitz, Alan (2013). “The Electoral Roots of America's Dysfunctional Government”. Presidential Studies Quarterly.Date accessed: 11/18/2014


"Angry About Partisan Gridlock in Washington? Blame the States." Angry About Partisan Gridlock in Washington? Blame the States. Governing, Dec. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.



Barrett, Ted. "Vets Bill Fails in Senate, Victim of Election-year Gridlock." CNN Political Ticker RSS. CNN, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/27/vets-bill-fails-in-senate-victim-of-election-year-gridlock/comment-page-5/>.



"California's Open Primaries: A Solution to Partisan Gridlock?" The Week. N.p., 5 June 2012. Web.30 Nov. 2014.



Harwood, John. "Can Partisanship Be Fixed?" CNBC. N.p., 8 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.


Herken, Gregg. "Is This the Solution to Partisan Gridlock in Washington?" History News Network. N.p., 16 Nov. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.



Hiltonsmith, Robert. "The Real Student Loan Crisis." The Great Debate RSS. Reuters, 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/08/01/the-real-student-loan-crisis/>.



"Historical Elections." Opensecrets RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.


Lanny W. Martin and Georg Vanberg (2013). Multiparty Government, Fiscal Institutions, and Public Spending. The Journal of Politics, 75, pp 953-967. Date accessed 11/30/2014


LaVENIA, PETER A. "Sunday Dialogue: Two Parties, or More?" The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.


Lesher, D. (1996, Apr 19). Key legislators plan bipartisan panels to avoid gridlock. Los Angeles Times (Pre-1997 Fulltext)Date accessed: 11/18/2014


Mann, Thomas E. "Want to End Partisan Politics? Here's What Won't Work - and What

Will." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 17 May 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.



Matthews, Dylan. "Here Is Every Previous Government Shutdown, Why They Happened and How They Ended." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/25/here-is-every-previous-government-shutdown-why-they-happened-and-how-they-ended/>.




Saad, Lydia. "Gridlock Is Top Reason Americans Are Critical of Congress." Gallup. Gallup, 12 June 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/163031/gridlock-top-reason-americans-critical-congress.aspx>.



"Section 2: Views of Congress." Pew Research Center for the People and the Press RSS. N.p., 19 \Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.



"United States of America Long-Term Rating Lowered To 'AA+' Due To Political Risks, Rising Debt Burden; Outlook Negative." S&P. Standard and Poor's Financial Services LLC, 5 Aug. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/articles/en/us/?assetID=1245316529563>.


Walshe, Shushannah. "The Costs of the Government Shutdown." ABC News. ABC News Network, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/10/the-costs-of-the-government-shutdown/>.