After 16 years of formal schooling, I have less than six weeks left before I receive my bachelor’s degree and will walk out of O’Neill Arena and into the “real world.”
Fortunately, job prospects seem to have improved in the last few years, giving me hope that I will be able to land a job that will allow me to put my degree program (public administration) to good use.
However, I will more than likely be putting any long-term career searching on hold until after the November elections. After having seen the results of the 2010 elections, there is much that remains to be done in terms of working to reverse and modify legislation that has been coming out of Lansing as of late.
Our state needs long-term reforms, but not the kind that slashes public education spending and gives taxpayer dollars to unregulated for-profit schools.
We need tax reform that updates the beer and wine tax and gas taxes so that they are tied to inflation rather than a flat amount.
We need to lower the sales tax and expand it to include services. If we can find money to pay for business tax cuts, surely we can find money to make sure our roads aren’t crumbling beneath our cars and trucks.
Instead of taking care of our neighborhoods who have been laid off, we have cut the length of benefits for unemployment and temporary cash assistance. I understand when money is tight for residents, it is also tight for the state government.
The problem is when we elect legislators who believe government is an enemy to be defeated rather than as a vehicle to serve the people.
We have a government that cannot serve our needs. Worst of all, we have people who have lost faith in our leaders, who refuse to trust their judgment solely because they happen to be either Democrats or Republicans.
It has been my experience that far too many individuals blindly vote based solely on party affiliation, ignoring candidates who actually share their values and have policy plans that reflect their worldviews.
It is out of this brew that we are staring at a future devoid of true compromise, empty of leaders who are actively working to unite, rather than divide the populace.
The quest for party purity is a fool’s errand. Failing to look at your opponent’s argument leads to incomplete solutions.
Abraham Lincoln surrounded himself with Cabinet members who had contrasting views, which author Doris Kearns Goodwin chronicled in her book “Team of Rivals.”
Unfortunately, few leaders employ this tactic, surrounding themselves either consciously or subconsciously with those of the same mindset.
The worst examples of gridlock were seen during last year’s federal budget debate. Judging by the proposals for this year’s budget that have been released by both parties, neither side is showing any indication of wanting to actually pass a budget, as opposed to adhering solely to sticking with their worldview and angling for whatever slight advantage they can muster at the polls.
It is impossible to solve the deficit through cuts or tax increases alone, as it would cripple our economy. While it is understandable to want to erase the deficit in a single budgetary year, it would be much better for our long-term stability if it was done over a ten-year span, with incremental cuts and increases in tax revenue so as to allow the economy to adjust to the money being taken out.
What we have to decide for ourselves as a nation is what our idea of “fairness” is, and if there is any place for it in our budgetary discussions.
For example, is it fair or just to cut services to persons on welfare so that businesses can have their taxes cut?
Or, is it better for us to lay off teachers and police and firefighters so that oil companies can receive billions in subsidies?
If not for the influence that billionaires and big business had in elections, these questions would not even exist.
However, as with most decisions being made in our current age, they are hotly debated due to legislators who owe their re-election to the millions they receive in direct and indirect contributions from societal giants.
I’m not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories, but the extent to which a relative few individuals and groups have been able to manipulate our democracy is disturbing.
It is up to us to take charge of our government again through making our voices heard.
Whether we exercise our right to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, will determine whether we are able to be served by men and women who truly understand the problems facing our nation and are willing to work together for the betterment of all citizens, or if we will be stuck with elected officials who listen and respond only to those who can afford to line their pockets.