I was much taken with Washington Post business writer Steve Pearlstein’s column today. Pearlstein had the audacity to point to two of the biggest reasons for the political and legislative gridlock in Washington – an electorate that demands completely contradictory things from the people it elects, and a president who apparently lacks the backbone to tell it like it is. (See the Jewish Week editorial on congressional gridlock here)
After trashing congress for its failure to move on “health-care reform, financial regulation, the jobs bill, the long-term budget deficit, energy and climate change,” Pearlstein speaks a truth you don’t hear much these days as columnists and bloggers celebrate the “wisdom” of angry tea partiers:
The truth is that on many issues these days, the American people are badly confused. They want Wall Street to be reined in, but they’re dead set against more regulation. They want everyone to have access to affordable health insurance, but they’re wary of expanding the role of government. They want the government to do something to create jobs, but not if it involves spending more money. They want the federal deficit brought under control, but not if it means cutting entitlement spending or raising taxes.
And so on.
Then this about President Obama, who, in his estimation, has not risen to the leadership challenge:
He will not demonstrate that leadership by running around to carefully staged events in which he tells ordinary voters what he thinks they want to hear. Nor will he demonstrate it by redoubling efforts of his PR war room to respond to every attack or piece of Republican disinformation with overwhelming rhetorical force. Rather, the real challenge is whether the president can strengthen the bond of trust between himself and the American people by having the courage to tell the hard truths and make the hard decisions, irrespective of short-term political consequences and the tut-tutting of the commentariat.
You want to pin the blame on Congress for today’s legislative gridlock? Well, okay, they deserve plenty, but also look in the mirror. As long as voters demand benefits without costs, wars without higher taxes and services that someone else pays for, and as long as political leaders are afraid to tell us our desires have little to do with reality, the stalemate will just deepen.
It’s like California (“Give us the world’s best schools, but don’t use our tax money to pay for them) on a national scale.
I also wonder about the Jewish groups that say they are working to protect the nation’s most vulnerable. Why aren’t their
leaders educating constituents about the unalterable fact there is no free lunch?