As the recent national tragedy emphasizes, so many Americans have been grappling with the same sentiment over the past few years: Why do politicans make governing so much more difficult than it needs to be? Recently, a friend and I, whose political affiliations conflict, discussed the ramifications of our nation’s recent tragedy in Connecticut. In a matter of minutes we both identified things we believed as essential to our opinions, realized the non-essentials, and arrived at a compromise.
Why is that so hard for our government? What makes our governing process so drawn out and unproductive? My friend and I contended that Congress’s perpetual gridlock is largely responsible for many of our country’s hardships. Turns out 94% of Americans agree.
So what is its cause? I believe most gridlock stems from our misguided focus. Rather than focusing on where we agree, we focus on where we differ. This leads to more dissent and less productivity.
The 112th Congress achieved the title of lowest approval rating in history, clocking in at a mere 10% back in August. If the 113th Congress wishes to fare better, and gain some favor with America (hence, start taking steps towards an effective, productive legislature), they need to get this message.
Since this seems to be too much to ask them to do on their own, I have laid out a blueprint for how to govern reasonably, knowing that certain politicians will differ with their colleagues on many issues. I also have identified several issues I believe would be good starting points for compromise, and the ways our leaders can compromise within each issue.
Early on, our leaders need to identify their core non-negotiables — I emphasize core because I do not want to leave room for someone to purport that their list of non-negotiables includes 22 policy stances. Following that, our politicians need to identify where they agree, identify the areas of their disagreement that falls outside their respective non-negotiables, and compromise.
Here are the five key areas in which the 113th Congress should be able to compromise.
1) The economy
Republicans can compromise here by agreeing to close tax loopholes and simplify the tax code. Since many Republicans are already adopting this stance, and it may not be seen as much of a compromise, they could even take on caving on capital gains taxes, or at least some aspects of them. For instance, when people choose securities, and other equivalents, as substitutes for income, they could be taxed at the same rate respective income would have been.
To start, loopholes cost our government $20 billion annually, and even though that pales in comparison to our debt, every billion counts. (Who thought they’d ever hear that?) Additionally, our tax code is too complicated, plain and simple. Efforts to comply with the tax code not only consume six billion hours of work each year, but also cost our country $160 billion each year. The benefit of reworking some of the capital gains tax code could prove to be far more pecuniarily beneficial.
Democrats can compromise by cutting entitlements. This is quite shorter than the Republican’s list, but every bit as, if not more, substantial.
As The Can Kicks Back, a millennial organization fighting for bipartisan fiscal solutions, notes, we currently spend 45% of our budget on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Even worse, that number will increase to 60% by 2022. To reiterate, that is 45% and 60%...
Both parties can compromise by keeping the tax rates where they are, unless both parties are able to agree on some other arrangement.
2) Gun control
As a disclaimer, I am no gun-law expert and do not ardently hold a position on this stance. I did not even fully develop my view until I recently read a great article, which highlighted an insightful email.
Republicans can compromise on semi-auto rifles and clip regulations of handguns. Dems can compromise by not overstepping boundaries placed by the Second Amendment and not interfering with people’s right to own reasonable weapons.
Democrats can compromise by, as the email outlines, not over-regulating guns and even promulgating safe, legal gun ownership.
3) Gay marriage
This one is fairly simple.
Democrats can stop calling for government interference in the rights of the church, and thus violating the separation of church and state, which they so often cry out for, thus allowing the church, and each respective denomination/religion, to decide whom they choose to marry.
Republicans can also follow the separation of church and state, thus conceding that the government should equally recognize and grant civil unions to all partnerships.
4) National defense
Democrats can compromise by not downsizing the military and/or military spending. (This one seems a little more substantial than their counterpart, but the opposite holds true for education. In the end, it all mostly balances out.)
Republicans can compromise by agreeing to cut all non-essential spending from the Department of Defense. Non-essential, bordering on irrelevant, spending in the D.O.D. has been estimated as costing up to $67.9 billion.
Republicans can permit more federal assistance/intervention/accountability in public schools. Additionally, they can give more leniencies with higher education, allowing for more Pell Grant funding and more tax breaks for college tuition.
Democrats can compromise by permitting school vouchers, which, with the addition of their oversight/accountability, will doubly help to improve competition among the schools.
Lastly, both parties can compromise on other issues by devolving power to the states. This reduces how much is on their plate, facilitates their efficiency, and can even cut costs. Some issues that may possibly be a good fit for this are legislation on marijuana, gay marriage (if the above compromise cannot be worked out, or even if they just prefer this method), and many more. I know this seemingly favors Republican ideals, but I see no reason why Democrats would oppose this. In fact, they should appreciate it, since it so far has been a more effective way of implementing their platform.
In summation, it is high time that Congress’s, and our government’s, efficiency and productivity increase. It is needed for the success of our nation. If a couple of kids can do it, why can’t our nationally elected leaders do so?
I mean, to quote the counterpart of the conversation, “You'd think the minds who are supposedly capable of leading this country would be able to, you know, actually lead...”