It seems like the thing that our politicians do best is polarization. Never mind that our founders gave us a wonderful Constitution that called for limited government, and provided a system of checks and balances that would make it necessary for legislators of all divisions to come together to enact laws beneficial to the citizens and the country.
Hey, but what did those old guys know? Given time, we elected some politicians who would institute changes to make our government "more relevant". You know, why not let the federal government tax the individual citizens and businesses directly . . . who needs to put the states in the middle? Amendment XVI "fixed" that problem. And, how about that other pain in the neck rule that let each state legislature appoint their two senators. Amendment XVII fixed that problem too, and let the senators get elected directly by the people.
Those two "little" changes resulted in more negative consequences than could have been imagined. First, it has virtually negated the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which provided that things not delegated to the federal government were reserved to the states, or to the people. Kiss that one goodbye. Next, letting the federal government directly tax each state's citizens basically ceded the power of the states to the feds. When the IRS was first established after the amendment was passed, the tax code was 400 pages in length. It has now grown to over 74,000 pages of rules. And, the IRS has a budget in excess of eleven billion dollars, and a staff of over 90,000 employees just to make sure you pay what you owe in accordance with the rules set forth in those 74,000 pages. Do I hear an "Oy Vey" out there?
Perhaps even worse than the direct taxation of the citizenry, is the direct election of the senators. Prior to the Seventeenth Amendment being ratified, each state legislature chose the people to represent their state in the senate. At first glance it would seem appropriate for the senators to be elected directly by the people. However, things have evolved to change that view. First, as the will of the people in each state changed the makeup of its executive and legislative branches, those changes were, previously, often reflected in the subsequent appointments of senators. There were no long term or career senators. Once direct election occurred however, it fostered in the "professional politician". Every one of the longest serving senators in the history of our country came after the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified. That has resulted in essentially subordinating the states to the incumbent senator.
As Lord Acton famously said, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." In viewing our Washington Politicians, their desire for power did away with the original intent of citizens coming forward to make a contribution by serving in public office, to now becoming essentially tenured power brokers. That has led to a polarization within our government that has infested itself down through the states and the citizenry. The mutual respect and comity needed to meet the needs of all the people have been discarded, proving the validity of Lord Acton's wisdom.
Senator Reid, when he was majority leader in the Senate was, arguably, the most polarizing and disrespectful leader the Senate had ever known. Under his leadership, Senate filibuster provisions were changed so the Democrats could process the president's judicial appointments based on a simple majority vote. That ended a provision that, for over 230 years, had thwarted the "tyranny of the majority". Reid also sat on over 300 bills that had been passed by the House of Representatives, preventing them from even coming to the floor of the Senate. He did that so Democrat senators, and possibly the president, wouldn't have to be held accountable for voting against a measure the citizenry may have wanted passed. As one would expect, the senator and the president would then charge that it was the Republican's fault that nothing was getting done. Polarizing at its worst!
When the Republican took control of the Senate, many wished to "get even" for the mistreatment by Senator Reid. The Republicans were also angered by the numerous presidential actions that ignored the Constitution and the separation of powers, when he arbitrarily changed the provisions in the PPACA without submitting those to Congress for their passage, and for the numerous "in-your-face" public comments he made about by-passing the Congress if it didn't do what he demanded. All this further promoted a polarization that has spread from Washington down to state and local levels, and even within the political parties. All one needs to do for verification is to read the letters to the editor section of the newspaper.
As the old adage states, The perfect is the enemy of the doable. Polarization has many politicians and their followers on both sides demanding only their view of the "perfect". And, thanks to the polarization that has been instituted, the country suffers, as party affiliation takes precedence over the needs of the country and the people. It's time to wake up!
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
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