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CHECKS AND BALANCES

November 13, 2010

The Republican two-year campaign to win the 2010 elections was effective; yet, it has been made to seem more ominous and a sign of the times than it was.  Remember, it is a relatively normal cycle that has been repeated in some fashion throughout our country’s history – a contribution to the over-arching system of checks and balances as effective and important as the interplay among the branches of government the administration, the congress and the courts.  It was neither a great country-changing victory nor a life-threatening disaster.  It was an adjustment and should be treated as such. Learn, integrate the impact, and move on.  For me, I hoped this would signal  a return to sanity as we eliminate the extremes so that some measure of collaboration could be introduced into the way we govern ourselves…and perhaps as time healed the campaign wounds, together we could have an honest discourse of what we need to do to move forward.

This week, an Obama-appointed bipartisan deficit commission released a preliminary report on what needs to be done to get the country on track – to recover from the expense of the 21st century wars and the emergency actions to stop the 2007-2008 slide into a repeat of the Great Depression.  It laid out options – some favored the right; some favored the left – but the report in general clearly laid out the over-arching problems this country is facing and some options that need to be considered in order to move forward.  The conversations on TV and on-line over the last two days seem to show a general consensus – this will be hard; there are some things I as a Democrat, a Republican, a Tea Party member, or simply a independent-thinking American individual would not wish to happen, but in general, most of the feedback thus far indicates those that have read the initial overviews feel it is a realistic assessment of the problems we are facing and a realistic assessment of what kinds of things need to be addressed to get back on track.  And most feel it is a starting point for discussion and reassessment of needs and values that will form the basis of the actions that may take ten years to cement.  And although I naively wish for a quicker relief, it did take decades of dangerous thinking to get us to this place of pain, so I should be happy it might only take ten years to recover.

So, for me, there was a sense of relief to hear that perhaps sanity will prevail.  Just like the American public that made hard decisions and sacrifices to individually whittle down their own personal debt in the past 2 years to the tune of $ One Trillion, so must the government.  Some changes I will be happy about; some things I will be less so – but none will be life-threatening – nor will they place this country in a place where we are worse off than the rest of the world inhabitants – we will still live a good life.

And yet I fear in today’s world of internet and cable TV connectivity, the negativity and our new tolerance for half truths and outright lies in this election may have a broader and deeper consequence. 

And this morning in the Strib, I saw proof of that fear.  A letter to the editor demonstrated for me that not all the public saw the Deficit Commission preliminary report as a ray of hope.  One reader called it a doomsday scenario, a dog-and pony show led by Bowles and Simpson to scare Americans into an austerity program aimed at further injuring the middle class.  For him, since it did not support his own ideas, it had to be a Republican plot.

It was troubling to read that proof that the polarization and negativity continues and needs to be fixed – another task for our system of checks and balances – and one, that although it starts in state capitals and Washington, must also be supported by the media self-correcting its own actions.  Put the country and its citizens first over ratings. Give the country a fair chance to let the checks and balances work!

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