What has happened to us?

Aug 10 2011 - 11:34pm

I used to wake up every morning thinking "we are all going to be okay." But these stressful last few weeks of reading about and watching the polarization amongst our leaders in Washington, I am not sure anymore.

Rather than solving our problems, Congress has become the problem. The credibility of our nation is now in question worldwide, and this is a real tragedy. America matured and grew over the years built on civility and compromise amongst leaders. But now we have a group that is willing to take us into fiscal disaster.

I remember the time when Congress took only a day or so to vote on going to war in Iraq and send our young men and women to die. But now it has taken months to reach an agreement on our debt ceiling that appears to be very divisive and promises to continue the finger pointing for months to come.

There is a leadership vacuum in Washington. Today's leaders focus on raising money, positioning themselves for getting elected every couple of years, and tearing the other side down. There is no feeling of "Let us all work together and help each other," so everyone in the country can benefit.

No question -- Obama came into the presidency lacking experience. He wasn't in the Senate long enough to develop relationships that would have served him well in tackling the huge problems that fell on his plate.

Rather than both parties deciding to work together to help him succeed, because otherwise we will all suffer, the Republicans became a party of "No" trying to block everything he was trying to do. He was labeled a radical socialist, a closet Muslim, a non "birther"- to name a few. They continually snipe at him to bring him down at any cost.

I would like to think that this polarization is only political and has not trickled down into our culture. But if the Washington leaders keep this finger pointing up, it will seep into our society unless they make a change. To give an example of this, just last week one writer in the Standard Examiner stooped so low as to even criticize the way Obama walks. "He walks like a praying mantis."

Is this the way we were taught by our parents, school teachers, church leaders etc., to think or express? Freedom of speech comes with a responsibility, not to write or say whatever comes to mind.

I have to admit that I have no respect left for our senior leaders in Congress, Bishop and Hatch. Between the two of them they have 43 years of experience - Bishop eight, Hatch 35.

My expectation was that they would mentor the young Utah firebrands, Chaffetz and Mike Lee, into becoming statesmen in their later years. Statesmen have flexibility, not an attitude of "my way or the highway." Judging on their "No" vote in this debt crisis, all four of them have ratcheted up the level of polarization, making it very difficult to forge a consensus on any issue.

People across the land are hurting. Many of my friends at Thiokol (ATK) have lost their jobs. Hatch and Bishop continue to preach that that what's good for the rich is good for the economy because their profits will lead to investments to create jobs.

Currently corporations are sitting on a mountain of cash and yet unemployment continues to rise. Over the past decade the income of the top one percent of Americans has risen by 18 percent while that of the industrial workers has fallen by 12 percent. So much for the trickle-down effect.

The wealthy have become really adept at protecting and furthering their interests at the cost of the wider public good. Through sheer greed, the CEO's of corporations and investment firms have continued to reward themselves with obscene salaries and bonuses.

The basic problem we have is how to plug the growing gap between income and expenditure. The people want all the services but don't want to pay for them. Republicans refuse to raise taxes. Obama, having inherited two wars from Bush and pushed through expanded medical coverage, must somehow find the money to pay for it all.

What are we citizens to do? First, do not behave like our congressional members. Second, become well-informed and vote!

We have the right to vote, but we don't exercise it well. Only about 40 percent show up at the polls. A majority of them are seniors, typically 65 years of age or above.

Out of those, I wonder how many are truly aware of the issues and well versed to understand what is at stake.

The politicians know this and play to them. The press, particularly the talking heads on the news channels, do a very poor job of informing. There is nothing they like better than to keep the snipes going and predict gloom and doom.

In the meantime, I keep hoping that better days are ahead.

Kulkarni lives in Perry.

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