By Steve Brawner
© 2014 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
Think everything that’s wrong with this country is President Obama’s fault, or the Republicans’, or both? Nah. The real problem isn’t a person or party. The real problem is that America’s political system doesn’t work anymore. If we “threw out all the bums,” pretty soon we’d decide that the new bunch were bums, too.
Let’s illustrate the political system’s problems using Obamacare.
Remember what the health care system was like in 2008? If you were sick, the insurance companies wouldn’t cover you. If you were sick too long, they’d drop you.
The entire system was (and still is) based on compensating medical providers for treating us, not for curing us or preventing illness. As a result, American health care is misdirected and costs far more than it does elsewhere, making the country less competitive and adding to the national debt. People die because it’s based on the wrong incentives.
Such a system did not need tweaking. It needed an overhaul. A lengthy national conversation involving medical providers, insurers and patients should have occurred. Democrats and Republicans should have worked together to create solutions. Reforms should have occurred in stages, with the states serving as laboratories of democracy. It should have taken a decade.
Can you even imagine that? Not only did it not happen, but it could not have happened, for many reasons. Democrats and Republicans had no incentives to work together – except for the good of the country, and that wasn’t enough because playing politics was more important. The job had to be rushed because the 2010 elections began the instant after Obama took the oath of office in 2009. It’s all a big game now.
The system made it impossible to reform health care the way it should have been reformed. And so we got what we got – a law altering American life that was passed quickly without broad support. I don’t hate it as much as some people do, given what it replaced. A lot of people have health insurance that didn’t have it before. But it’s complicated, messy and too centrally directed, and it doesn’t do enough to contain costs. We’re not sure where it’s going, and so people fear it, and understandably so. Now that Republicans control Congress, they’ll pretend to try to torpedo it, but they don’t have anything to offer in its place.
This is no way to run a railroad.
The Constitution has served us well for more than two centuries and is an example for the rest of the world. But the political system can no longer address big problems responsibly. The Founding Fathers created a government. Today’s elected officials can hardly pass a budget.
Meanwhile, the system has not prevented what the Founding Fathers hoped it would prevent. Government has grown far bigger than they intended. Service in Congress has become a career. A political class of lobbyists, campaign professionals and influencers make their livings by extracting taxpayer money and/or sowing discord. A wealthy aristocracy with unlimited resources exerts too much influence over policymakers.
The Founding Fathers anticipated some of this, but they could not have known what life would be like in the 21st century. And so the Constitution needs to be renewed through the amendment process. Examples to be considered should include, among others, term limits, campaign finance reform, and some kind of balanced budget requirement.
It’s hard to imagine Congress making any of this happen, but a movement, the Convention of the States, is trying to amend the Constitution through a states-led process that has never been used before. An Arkansas chapter is trying to pass a resolution through the state Legislature. Because it takes 34 states to call a convention, it will be an uphill battle nationally.
Our political system doesn’t do what it was meant to do and can’t solve new problems, either. The Founding Fathers rightfully made the Constitution difficult to amend. However, the Constitution itself was a revolutionary document written by people who understood that sometimes things need to be shaken up.