Americans have rightly reached a point where the sorry spectacle emanating from our nation's capital is making our stomachs turn. The small minority of voters who feel an affiliation to the tea party holds a disproportionate sway over the decisions made in Washington, D.C., based on what seems to be their motto, "My way or the highway." This very vocal group believes they have the only answers our country needs and everyone should either come around to their point of view or they'll let the government collapse to show us they mean business.
History shows that when one group dominates to the exclusion of all other dialog, you have a dictatorship, not a democracy. When you have a group willing to watch our government destroyed to force their will on everyone else, you are coming dangerously close to losing the government of the people that we seem to believe is our birthright. A government held hostage by a fanatical slice of the electorate is no longer a government that represents its people.
Compromise has become a synonym for selling out as opposed to what it really is -- the only way a true democracy can survive. Aside from brief moments like 9/11, there is rarely going to be a time when everyone in America thinks alike about the solutions to our problems. Democracy being the messy form of government that it must be to function, this means that solutions must inevitably be a middle ground in which each side gives and takes a little. When one person or one party gains so much power or has such high ambitions that they are willing to destroy that which they purport to love in order to get their way, we've got trouble, my friends, trouble that means our children may never know the America we do.
This country wrestled with a similar group of one-issue voters in the past and the result was disastrous. The issue was prohibition. It was an idea that had been bandied about for years without gaining any real traction because the majority did not want it. Then the Prohibition Party figured out how to use its leverage in a very disproportionate way. They started to back candidates who were just a tad shy of a majority in their election fight. By bringing these candidates their margin of victory with a guaranteed bloc of votes in return for the candidate's pledge to support prohibition, they were able to gain a lopsided amount of political clout. Thus prohibition, a movement that never had majority support, became law.
Every credible economist states that we simply cannot balance our budget or pay off our national debt without a combination of both budget cuts and revenue increases. Since the middle class is already being squeezed out of existence from job loss, poor economic conditions and wage stagnation, they are hardly the group that can carry the burden. On the other hand, the uber rich in this nation have seen their portion of our national wealth increase exponentially so that they now control the majority of it. While workers' salaries have stagnated or decreased based on inflation, CEOs have gone from making 40 times what their average worker earns to 400 times what their average worker earns.
How does it make sense to anyone to not let tax breaks for the super rich lapse or to close the corporate loopholes that allow international conglomerates to pay little to nothing for the privilege of doing business here? How does anyone accept cutting off aid to the most helpless in our society ... the elderly, children, poor families ... while claiming that simultaneously raising revenues is unacceptable?
The Republican-led government of the first decade of this century took us into two unfunded wars while cutting taxes for their rich pals. Now suddenly the Republicans pretend to be the party of fiscal conservatives, horrified at the deficit. Why is a deficit bad under a Democratic president but not to be discussed when run up by a Republican president?
The bottom line is that no matter who is primarily to blame for the past decade's fiscal shell game, we are all now in the same boat and we'd darn well better learn to pull together or we will drown separately. America's very survival is riding on our choices.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.