Press-Republican

Columns

October 20, 2013

System of government clearly broken

A little history lesson:

When Sam Adams, Betsy Ross, Nathan Lane and the rest of the Sons of Liberty stormed a British ship in 1773 and tossed East India Tea into Boston Harbor, they weren’t doing it because they thought it would be cool to dress up like Mohawks or because they’d invested heavily in Paul Revere’s new Starbucks franchise.

These original patriots were protesting no taxation without representation, which led to the American Revolution, which led to a democratic form of government featuring, well, taxation WITH representation.

In the 240 years since, we’ve devised a complex, inefficient and somehow successful system based on elected officials representing the best interests of the people. After all, it would be extremely unwieldy to ask 300 million people to vote individually on every proposed bill.

That system is now clearly broken.

For three weeks, our government has been shut down. Nearly a million people were put out of work. National Parks were closed. NASA was shackled, with astronauts still in space. Meat, airplanes and nuclear power plants were no longer being inspected.

Our country was threatened with default, unable to pay its loans and smearing its once pristine credit rating, potentially leading to an economic meltdown.

What would happen if the entire nation went into default? No one is completely sure, though it’s safe to say it wouldn’t be good for your retirement savings.

If I were to default on my mortgage, a greedy land baron would buy my property at auction, call in a SWAT team to evict me and knock down the house to make way for a Golden Corral.

Stands to reason that the Chinese and Saudis would do the same to the rest of the country. We as Americans don’t want this to happen.

This was written before this week’s deadline for our great nation to fall into default, so it’s possible that a compromise has been reached before publication, ending the government shutdown. Even if that’s so, it’s likely that we’ll be facing the same questions, deadlines and threats once again in three months or a year. What can be done to avoid it?

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