Monday, April 08, 2013

Politics, Politicians, and Pollyanna

My son Jamie shared a couple of You-Tube videos from the show "Newsroom" with me this morning, and we got into an interesting discussion of what's broken in America. Conclusion? The system. One clip showed a young girl asking why America is the greatest country in the world. The show star's long answer boiled down to "It's not the greatest country in the world, but it was and it could be again."
Set me thinking about politicians today. I guess I'm Pollyanna, but in an ideal world I think they would run for office because they wanted to be public servants. Therefore, they would put the public good ahead of their own success (that's sort of what I think physicians should do too, and I think maybe since the day of doctors earning big bucks seems to be passing, that sort of change is happening in medicine). But back to politics--let me use Texas Senator John Cornyn as an example, though I know it happens on both sides of the aisle (I may be Pollyanna, but I'm not that stupid!). Cornyn seemed a reasonable fellow when he was in office in Texas, but when he got to Congress, he lost any individual opinion, always voting the party line. Recently I read that he's moving closer to the extreme right wing because he's worried about his re-election. Therein lies my problem--the only reason I can see for becoming more conservative is that you really embrace those core beliefs. If you don't believe it, how can you say it?
I was also horrified to read that Speaker John Boehner publicly said he rejected the President's latest budget without reading it. To me that speaks of a deep bias against the President and not at all of a willingness to work together, to compromise for the sake of the common good--and all those people who are hurting because of the sequester.
I know a few politicians, past and present, who I think really had or have the public good in mind. Senator Ted Kennedy was one; Texas Representative Lon Burnam is another, though Lord knows he faces an uphill battle in the Texas House. I like to think U.S. Representative Marc Veasey is another, but I only know about him through my daughter and her husband. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel seems to be another. Can't make my mind up about Ron Paul--he had some good ideas but a lot that were pretty wild.
Jamie and I came to no conclusions because there is no simple fix. Term limits sound reasonable, to me, because they would keep legislators from getting too entrenched, but Jamie pointed out you'd have too many people who don't know what they're doing. We have one example of an out-of-control freshman legislator from Texas who may prove his point.
Maybe, as Medicare and Obama care have done with physicians, we should stop rewarding legislators so handsomely and making it so expensive to run that only the wealthy can afford to try. As we careen toward an oligarchy, maybe we should think about that.

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