Partisan Interpretation of Facts and Reality

June 10, 2012

Just now, June 10, 2012, I am watching C Span, which is broadcasting the House Budget Committee, chaired by Paul Ryan. Douglas Elemendorf, who is Director of the Congressional Budget Office, is giving testimony. I missed his opening remarks and caught the Q&A. I was struck by, and very irritated to see, in action, what we all feel has become the nature of our Congress–partisan politics. I will pick on Bill Flores, R-TX, who was so very clearly attempting to force Elemendorf to admit that the stimulus program did not work, and thus any further stimulus would not work. Elemendorf was very clear–it did work, but the weakness of the underlying economy during this period of unusual crisis, such as the US has not experienced since the Great Depression, has caused the impact of the stimulus to be less than we had hoped. Flores is so clearly “partisan” in his attitude and his questions (really statements of his opinion). James Lankford, R-OK, spoke with far less in the way of bias to his party’s position. But the preponderance of speakers were clearly biased–not open to better understanding Elemendorf”s analysis, but rather, trying to disprove his conclusions and embarrass him

Partisanship was so clearly evident and must be so easy to see if one watches such hearings on C Span. Why don’t we Americans watch and why don’t we rise up and denounce and throw out the representatives who so very clearly display resistance to accept facts and realistic analysis, such as that supplied (in my opinion) by such as Elemendorf and his staff?
If we just watch, we can each so easily see how we are being failed by the clearly visible positioning of our elected representatives, how they become more and more entrenched in their positions.
Partisanship was not limited to Republican representatives. Democrats also displayed the full range, one to another, of reasonableness and extreme entrenchment in liberal ideology. However, there has been considerable bi-partisan scholarly recognition that the right wing Republican camp (most of the party now) has been by far the greater offender. I wonder how many Americans know the name Grover Norquist? Do we Americans recognize that somehow he managed to persuade almost all Republican members of Congress to sign a pledge that essentially removes all elements of revenue increase (via taxes), only leaving the still debated principle of using tax reductions to stimulate growth. Either that, or somehow stimulating growth by reducing entitlements via the avenue of reducing debt and following that logic to some connection to growth. This is a pledge not to listen, not to be open minded, a pledge to be resolutely partisan and refuse any possible compromise.
The essence of this debate is around spending vs. taxing; whether there is any way to reduce the budget deficit and the debt burden without making painful cuts in entitlements; whether there is any magic to be found in tax code restructuring such as to stimulate growth.
How have we ended up in this stalemate, which can only make the situation worse, and which we tolerate continuing month to month and year to year in taking no action?
I imagine most thoughtful Democrats recognize that entitlements must be reduced. And, our military budget exceeds the total of the defense budgets of at least the next 14 countries combined (Fareed Zakaria). All of this will need to be reduced. And, there is value to the arguments that tax cuts can potentially increase growth and thus reduce employment–but just right now, there should be little disagreement that careful spending choices on such as infrastructure and education will help to grow us out of the hole we are in.
Why can’t we compromise and move forward?

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