Former Speaker of the house of Representatives, during the Reagan presidency, Tip O'Neill, reminds us, from his grave, that all politics is local.
During his tenure, O'Neill worked with Reagan as two "old boys" to accomplish legislation that worked for the people of the United States.
Today, "local" has to be replaced with "personal"....in an every-ending slide into micro-management on the part of the people elected to "serve".
In Canada, in the most recent budget this week, the Harper government commits to pursue tax evaders, setting an estimate of $6.8 billion in unrecovered and undelivered taxes not currently being paid by those using whatever loopholes to escape paying. At the same time, in the same document, the same government eliminates 320 positions of tax collectors whose job it would have been to pursue those very same tax evaders, promising instead, a "snich" line to encourage "ratting" on those who don't pay their taxes. Overriding these small, completely incompatible facts, however, is a budget that sets a goal of eliminating the deficit by 2015, which just happens to be the year of the next federal election.
So, in reality, the Canadian government's primary goal in the budget is to see that it is re-elected in 2015, campaigning on a balalnced budget, achieved through who cares what measures, and who cares whether those measures are in the best interests of the country as a whole, so long as the government's selfish, narcissistic and "personal" ambition to retain power is fulfilled.
Similarly, in the U.S. politicians are running like scattering birds from a twenty-six wheeler bearing down on their 'meeting' on the freeway, away from any sign that they might put the country's best interests ahead of their own political futures, by supporting an assault weapons ban, by supporting a ban on large magazines, and by supporting a comprehensive background check that is truly effective.
Even the slaughter of some twenty first-graders in Newtown Connecticutt, in December will not prove adequate to overcome the potential that politicians in too many districts fear being primaried by candidates who are opposed to gun controls, supported by the NRA and candidates ready to step into the breach with their support. So the interests of the nation, the security of the children, and the honesty that assault weapons are not permitted by the Second Amendment, nor are large magazines are sacrificed on the altar of personal political ambition in the form of re-election.
Insurance for re-election, in the form of either national budgets that contradict themselves, and in the form of avoidance of legislating in the best interests of the people cannot be considered adequate rationale for politicians worthy of re-election.
In Canada, we need serious attention paid to the growing disparity between have and have-not Canadians, through increased support for education, health care, infrastructure and poverty and homelessness, especially in the First Nations communities. There is literally nothing in the Flaherty Budget to address that national disgrace. We also need a national stragegy to provide high-speed internet services to every corner of the country. There is nothing in the budget to address that national need. We need a national energy strategy that would see a pipeline from west to east completed to move "tar-sands" oil to eastern refineries for eastern consumption. There is nothing in the budget to address that goal.
There is a long-running national advertising program trumpeting "jobs, prosperity and growth" for which the federal government has paid some $78 million, that is really nothing more or less than a long-running ad campaign for their own re-election, using the public funds at their disposal, funds that could easily be re-directed into national needs, rather then feathering the nests of the government and it members.
In the U.S. the national needs have been so clearly articulated by the president both during the last campaign and since, and even with his re-election and the retention of the Senate by the Democrats, the Republican House is still holding the country hostage to the narrow, narcissistic and selfish personal political ambitions of their Republican members, along with some southern Democrats whose constitutents are firmed mired in conservative ideology and an addiction to their guns. A jobs bills has languished in the House since before the November election. An infrastructure bill is going nowhere. A bill to ban assault weapons and large magazines will not even be presented to the Democratic Senate by Majority Leader Reid, since he says there are only 40 votes to support it....
Government paralysis based on the private, personal, political interests and prospects of the elected representatives, 95% of whom are conventionally re-elected (their way paved through redistricting that favours encumbents) is both unsustainable and insufferably arrogant, frightened and self-sabotaging for the nation.
And the president is right on one thing: only through the political activism of the electorate will government move to follow and only through those who traditionally remain on the sidelines entering the playing field will the current crop of political actors be replaced, as they must be in whatever opportunities come along to vote them out, including the 2015 federal election in Canada.