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I keep asking myself why America is stuck. We can't seem to get anything serious done.
We have a big budget deficit, crippling national debt and a jobless rate that is still too high. And even though we're the wealthiest country in the world -- read options -- we can't agree on how to solve any of those problems.
We are wobbling our way out of the biggest economic slump since the Great Depression -- two steps forward, one step back. And at a time we should be pulling together, we are pulling apart. We don't even have a comprehensive and serious program for economic growth.
Americans' disenchantment with the federal government is deep -- President Barack Obama's approval rating is at 41 percent and dissatisfaction with Congress is a whopping 79 percent, according to a CBS News-New York Times poll last week -- at a time corporations and billionaires are spending hundreds of millions to lobby for tax loopholes and air attack ads in this year's elections.
I care passionately about our country, its future and how it's regarded across the world. I remember visiting Europe for the first time as a teenager. An elderly woman crossed the street, and believing I was American, proceeded to thank our country for what it did for Europeans.
"You tell them at home, young man," I remember her saying, "that we are truly grateful." She was talking about World War II and the Marshall Plan, America's initiative to aid Europe after the war.
I travel extensively, and no one has come up to me lately to thank our country for anything.
When I read that it's a positive development that the House of Representatives has voted not to put us on the road to default, I gag. Should we be expected to applaud because Washington politicians didn't allow default on our legally incurred debts?
I often ask myself whether there is something I should be doing. I vote. I write. I've explained public affairs to my children. (When one of them asked me what she should be when she grew up, I told her she should be a climatologist. That was not a big hit.)
It struck me that while I read that some elected representatives think we should not pay our debts and should default, or want to cut food stamps but keep farm subsidies for the richest farmers, I don't have any contact with people who think that way. I don't actually know anyone who elected the representatives who think that way.
And then I wonder whether the people who think that way know someone who's not a politician who thinks the way I think. Suppose none of us ever talk things over with the people with whom we disagree?
Professor James Fishkin runs Stanford University's Center for Deliberative Democracy, which researches public opinion and democracy issues. The center assembles a representative sample of the public around controversial issues, gives them briefing materials and then lets them discuss and listen to each other. One effort was called "What Next for California," which brought together people from all over the state to talk about gridlock and what they needed to do to get out of it. At that session, as in others, attendees worked through deeply held differences and came up with pretty good ideas.
You and I live in a country that is paralyzed by angry division. Perhaps one way to dislodge us from paralysis is to reinvent town meetings, where you meet neighbors and those who think differently from you. It wouldn't be easy; it would take real effort from all of us.
But we're in deep trouble. It's time to roll up our sleeves and pull together to get ourselves out of this rut.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Except at the YMCA our women's locker room (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrybuck, a2nite, CenPhx

    has benches that are way too narrow. Whenever I say something to another member about getting together and installing wider benches. They run from me like I'm a socialist trying to drag them to HELL.

    Isn't this the stuff bake sales were designed to solve? Why do we think bake sales are for cancer treatments of photogenic well-like teenagers?

    Now they have the 2nd (safety net for sloppy) Amendment, and can't be infringed to actually treat their gun like a gun and not a video game controller.

    by 88kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:54:47 AM PST

  •  No, that's not what we need in my opinion. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrybuck, Gooserock

    That's a recipe for "centrist" hegemony forever and I'm not interested.  I prefer representative democracy in which we do our proselytizing best and hope to win.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:00:31 AM PST

  •  The debt and deficit are not the biggest... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, CenPhx

    ...concerns, but I would agree that unemployment is. How would you suggest that common ground can be found with conservatives/Republicans. Seems like Democrats are trying to solve problems, and Republicans just want to create problems. Hard to 'roll up our sleeves and pull together' with conservatives who seem hell bent on destroying our country. I look forward to your participation in the comment section here.

  •  You know what this country really needs? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, avsp

    Paragraph breaks, that's what.

  •  Odd suggestions from someone who has (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, terrybuck

    26 diaries and 26 comments, including tip jars. Peter doesn't believe in responding to comments or questions in his own diaries or reaching out to participate in the DKOS community.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:24:10 AM PST

  •  A plan: Become a member of the 1%, then fight your (0+ / 0-)

    brethren to get them to release their strangle hold on the future.

    Obama: self-described Republican; backed up by right-wing policies

    by The Dead Man on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:11:46 AM PST

  •  Republican gridlock (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, terrybuck

    "The congressional GOP has smothered a more rapid economic recovery", January 18, 2013

    Congressional Republicans have made it clear that they intend to use every bit of leverage they can to force cuts to domestic spending in the coming year. This leverage includes threats to not raise the statutory debt ceiling and/or force a federal government shutdown after March 27.
    If this ideologically driven objective of deeply cutting spending is met, this will represent just one more way that the GOP Congress has managed to delay full recovery from the Great Recession. The evidence continues to pile up that that these spending cuts, forced on a still-depressed economy, can easily throw the nation back into an outright recession and prolong the nation’s economic misery.
    -Filibusters of unemployment insurance and routine economic support (111th Congress)
    -Discretionary spending cuts (112th Congress)
    -Hijacking the debt ceiling and extracting the Budget Control Act (Summer 2011)
    -Blocking the American Jobs Act (Fall 2011)
    -Demanding offsets and “pay-fors”
    -Hamstringing monetary policy
    PBS’ Frontline has an interesting piece on the GOP response to President Obama’s election in 2008, reporting that, “After three hours of strategizing, they decided they needed to fight Obama on everything.”

    You Don't Happen To Make It. You Make It Happen !

    by jeffrey789 on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:54:24 AM PST

  •  Hey Peter, have you ever heard of the (0+ / 0-)

    bipartisan group called NoLabels?  They've been making significant inroads in Congress recently and are always looking for supporters.  Sometimes you can identify members on TV, they wear these cute little orange NoLabels pins on their lapels, you can't miss 'em.  You should check them out!

    Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will. - - Antonio Gramsci

    by lehman scott on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:01:24 PM PST

  •  "big budget deficit, crippling national debt" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


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