Washington vs. America

Washington is an island drowning in its own self-interest, surrounded by a hurting and unhappy nation of deeply patriotic citizens who hunger for shared national purpose but find our politics to be sickening, insulting and corrupted.

Today huge numbers of the workers of our nation are jobless. The finances of our nation are sinking to banana-republic incompetence. The unity of our nation is being shredded by squabbling factions masquerading as leaders.

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The people of our nation view the bastions of power, from Washington to Wall Street, with contempt because they believe, correctly, that those bastions are contemptuous of them, and that those bastions are citadels of selfishness and corruption.

Mr. President, you might pretend you don’t care what is said about you on television or written about you in The Hill newspaper, but you know, and I know, you do. Mr. Speaker, did you rise to the second-most-powerful post in America only to face the prospect that someday you might deeply regret that when you were given the gavel, you became another player in a poisonous kabuki drama that our people despise and history will condemn?

I believe the greatest columnist in history was Walter Lippmann. He sought to put real-time events in context and shed some light on who we are as a people and what we stand for as a nation.

In this spirit, Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of Congress and dear readers, I recommend a book written by Roy Spence, one of America’s leading advertising executives, titled “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For.”

Spence says that once our economic Armageddon ends, the organizations that survive will be those that stand for a higher sense of purpose, based on the truth that our lives can be made better with a shared commitment to a common good.

What is missing in politics and business is any courageous attempt to inspire a unity of national purpose.

The president talks a good game but combines Sputnik-moment rhetoric with school uniform-magnitude policies. He falsely believes that demeaning the most faithful members of his party brings bipartisan agreements when all it achieves is lower voter turnout for his party, a weakened negotiating position with opponents and results that bring mediocrity or surrender.

The Speaker falsely believes that the road to success is for him to capitulate to the most extreme faction of his party in the hope the president will surrender to him, when the result is gridlock on great matters and rising odds his Speakership ends after the next election.

It is un-American for the greatest nation on Earth to debate whether the U.S. should act like a bankrupt debtor. Even a mediocre agreement could trigger a rating-agency downgrade, market crash or spiraling recession.

Surely our “leaders” can agree on a modest $500 billion of revenue from wealthy Americans or giant firms that pay no taxes. Surely they can accept a modestly greater contribution to Social Security and Medicare from those with incomes higher than $500,000 or net worth of more than $1 million.

American workers are enduring a lost generation of joblessness. Americans hunger for new jobs programs. Yet neither the president nor Congress offers any jobs program of significance.

Americans hunger for programs to reduce foreclosures while a Grapes of Wrath-style disaster engulfs the nation. Yet neither the president nor Congress offers anything to help.

Let’s address all these big issues with a shared spirit of national purpose. Let’s try the best ideas from all sides.

The people with the pitchforks — a vast a majority of the nation — are surrounding the capital. In the epic battle of our age — the war of the worlds between America and Washington — America will win.

How many crashes must we endure, and how many “change” elections must we have, before the ship of state returns to the home port of America: One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all? 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.