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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
Commentary

In our dysfunctional government, the ‘bums’ aren’t the problem

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A new Associated Press-GfK poll reveals some troubling statistics for members of both major political parties, if they can be troubled, given what looks to be their lack of concern for what they are doing to the country.

The poll finds fewer people approve of President Barack Obama’s job performance (confirmed by a new Gallup Poll, which shows a 37 percent approval rating), but that Republicans score even worse, at 5 percent approval. The AP-GfK poll finds “few people approve of the way the president is handling most major issues and most people say he’s not decisive, strong, honest, reasonable or inspiring.” It looks like hope has vanished. We can’t say we weren’t warned.

The poll also shows many people are fed up with the government, leading to a return of the “ throw the bums out” mentality. But the problem does not lie with the “bums.” If it did, the newest elected “bums” would have fixed things by now.

It’s the rabid careerism of politicians and the entitlement mentality of too many voters that has consumed Washington and led to its dysfunction. Putting healthy people in an environment where plague rages ensures they likely will contract the disease. What is needed is an entirely new (really an old) approach to government by “we the people” and by government itself.

It’s difficult to change Washington because too many benefit from its current practices. Republicans who advocate for constitutional limits, spending cuts, lower taxes and the repeal of unnecessary regulations are lambasted — even by fellow Republicans — when they try to rein in unsustainable spending. The Washington establishment is powerful, and anyone who seeks to alter it risks isolation and condemnation.

The problem lies less in Washington than in each American citizen.

Since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, many Americans appear to have abandoned self-restraint, individual responsibility and accountability in favor of government as provider, protector and guarantor. The notion that people are owed what others have earned is primarily responsible for our enormous and growing debt. We once promoted individual initiative and people who overcame difficult circumstances. Now we seem to punish the successful and treat the unsuccessful as victims who have no hope of improving their lot without government. This is a fallacy of course, based on the results of the failed “war on poverty.”

Nothing would change Washington faster than the transformative idea that only we can make our lives better, by our financial and moral choices. It’s long past time for politicians to say “eat your vegetables — they are good for you” and for citizens to comply.

Cal Thomas’ column is distributed by Tribune Media Services.

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