Before diving into this post, I would first like to highlight how beneficial of an exercise that I think that this is for all of us, especially for students in general. Nowadays, it is way too easy for people to adopt a certain set of views simply because they grow up around people who think the same way or because they read or watch news from the same media source. Personally, I believe that I am very lucky in this sense because I grew up in a household with a father that is quite conservative and a mother who is quite liberal. Neither of my parents ever pushed their views upon me and always encouraged me to learn about world events on my own. Consequently, I have developed into a person that is quite moderate. Those closest to me often describe me as a person who rarely argues vehemently for something, but always serves as a moderator for an argument, frequently chiming in when I see flaws or hear outlandish comments from either side. For me, this has been very beneficial because it has allowed me to examine various arguments with a relatively unbiased view and better understand where each side is coming from.
Personally, I believe that one of the most effective ways to become informed is to read about current events from multiple news sources. I first adopted this view after spending a summer working for a Hedge Fund called Tudor Corporation during which I had the chance to meet with Paul Tudor Jones. Above all else, the comment that I most vividly remember from the meeting was his suggestion to pick one writer from each end of the spectrum and read them every day. Although I have not been able to find two writers that I consistently follow, I do force myself to read articles from both the left-leaning New York Times as well as the more conservative Wall Street Journal. Ultimately, I feel that this assignment gets at the heart of this idea because it forces us to read opinions that may directly conflict with our own ones. As someone that generally leans right on issues involving the economy, I chose to read a couple articles written by Paul Krugman and one that particularly caught my interest was his op-ed from October 13th entitled “The Dixiecrat Solution” (link below).
This article caught my attention because it talks about the general frustrations that we all have with Congress and its inability to get anything done in a timely and rational manner. As he alludes to in many of his articles, the Republicans have been ‘ruling through extortion’ by demanding changes or a repeal of the crowning achievement of Obama’s presidency: the Affordable Care Act. Though there are clearly some problems with the new system, it is completely unreasonable for Republicans to force a shutdown of the government for a cause in which they had no chance of being successful. On the other hand, Democrats are so aggressively opposed to reducing spending to address our monumental federal debt problem that no real solution can be reached. For me, the main thing that I have taken away from the recent developments (or lack thereof) in Washington is that our political system is fundamentally flawed. Ultimately, the two parties have become so powerful that no politician can realistically stray from the ideals of his party without taking the risk that he might become extricated. And, seeing that the two parties have become increasingly polarized over the past few decades (see NY times blog attached), this has led to a completely ineffective Congress that has continually been forced to delay forming a real budget for a few months at a time rather than making a significant decision.
What’s particularly interesting about Krugman’s article is that he direct calls out the moderate Republicans in Congress for enabling the extremists to control the party. In particular, Krugman reflects back to when Dixiecrats throve in Congress and the Southern conservative Democrats tilted the scale in favor of the Republicans. Though not good for liberals, the alliance between conservative democrats and republicans actually enabled legislation to be passed in a timely manner. Now, Krugman believes that the solution rests in the concept ‘Dixiecrats in reverse’ because he believes that there are many liberal republicans that don’t fit the mold of the traditional republican view. While there is certainly some truth here, I believe that it falls on both sides of the party. It should not only be liberal republicans, but also the conservative democrats that lead the charge for a more moderate solution. If a Tea Party faction can emerge on the right of the right, then why can’t a significant middle-ground faction emerge as well? In my view, we need to come to the middle and agree that we need to cut spending and raise taxes on the wealthy; it shouldn’t have to be one or the other. I realize that this is really simplifying the issue, but my point is that we need to reduce the extremism in Washington. Our current party system is destroying confidence in our government and it needs to change. We cannot afford for this lack of confidence to spill over into other areas of our nation, especially to our economic system. I’ll leave you with a quote below by one of our very own senators. It’s sad to see how they recognize the harm that they are causing, but are still not motivated enough to do anything about.
“Something has gone terribly wrong when the biggest threat to our American economy is the American Congress.” –Sen. Joe Manchin III
Interesting reads if you have time: