State of the (re)Union

Beasts of burden sat interspersed among circus animals Tuesday night. President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress undivided by the proverbial aisle. Donkeys and elephants, living together, for the moment.

The president offered perspective. “What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.”

I’ll go out on a limb: Every American wants her leaders to work together for the common good. What follower in any organization doesn’t want that?

To another limb: Most Americans don’t think it will ever really happen.

If cohesion consistently fails to occur; if, for example, entitlement spending continues to barrel us toward bankruptcy, we must ask: “Are fundamentals at play that are preventing purportedly well-meaning people from achieving self-evident goals?”

I’ve argued in this space that the political personalities and discourse of our day are no more extreme and – to use terms preferred by my friends on the left – vitriolic and shrill than they were in the past.

However, I do believe some contemporary forces are at work that prevent progress and cause the blame for inertia to be laid unjustly at the feet of modern rhetoric and old-fashioned hardheadedness.

1. The size of the federal bureaucracy.

Politicians come and go. Bureaucrats live forever. If elected officials find it difficult to enact change, appointed officials make it nearly impossible. The politicians’ adrenaline rushes ride on their staying in office. The bureaucrats’ financial livelihoods ride on it. And there are 2.65 million bureaucrats who would like to keep their jobs.

2. The money used to influence the federal government.

No patriot wants to limit a citizen’s right to petition his government. Still, the billions of dollars that flow through K Street lobby firms are not necessarily helpful in times of needed transformational change. The mammoth resources largely go to protect existing interests in the status quo, not exactly what we need at the moment.

3. The surreal environment of Washington, D.C.

I wrote last year, in the middle of the Great Recession, that D.C. stands for “district of construction.” Federal spending drove continued expansion there even as the rest of the country contracted. The real estate market is just one of many ways that the capital city is out of touch with reality, much less main street America.

Unrefined idea: abandon the district as an historical tourist attraction and build a new capital in the geographic center of the country. Keep it simple, functional and with tools that allow average citizens to have their elected leaders’ ears the most.

Where would such a capital be built? Near Lebanon, Kansas, where the terrain is level and the roads are straight, like we want our politicians to be.

What does “Lebanon” mean? White. As in pure and untainted. In other words, a clean slate.

1 Response to “State of the (re)Union”

  1. 1 Tweets that mention State of the (re)Union « Write of Center -- Trackback on February 9, 2011 at 05:18
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