I received some interesting responses to my last post (BigNews! Elizabeth Warren and the Tea Party Agree) including more than a few from a serial harasser on Twitter. The emotion that supports both the Tea Party and the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party is palpable. The more thoughtful responses pointed out that, despite springing from the same dislike for the influence of money on politics, the solutions these disparate elements seek to deploy are far from similar.
So, I went on a quest to see what Sen. Warren would do to make the federal government more effective. Other than her well-known proposal to refinance student loan debt, I couldn’t find much that was specific. She speaks of the importance of the role of government in supporting solutions to society’s challenging problems; however, she hasn’t really outlined how she would have us do that.
A similar quest to find Tea Party solutions was also frustrated, but for different reasons. As one reader pointed out, it’s difficult to figure out which Tea Party is the real deal. It’s a very fragmented movement.
So, is there common ground?
I would like to see that government stop propping up failed banks and supporting corporate interests through subsidies and tax breaks. I would guess that Sen. Warren’s supporters would agree, as would the Tea Party (I think).
I would also like to see the federal government stop meddling in the education system and stop reengineering the healthcare system from the top down. I am not sure how that would come out on the Warren-meter.
But there is common ground. Can that be leveraged into political compromise that would yield a positive result?
When I wrote about the Millennial generation last year (I think I’m turning liberal, I really think so), I expressed hope that the current crop of coming-of-age citizens would move us forward. I wrote,
“Today’s urban youth will continue to be socially liberal. But, they are unlikely to tolerate the downsides of an unsustainable model that has its roots in the experience of their great grandparents. A generation of Americans that grew up with the Internet isn’t going to tolerate public institutions that operate on a 19th Century bureaucratic model. Nor will they tolerate a healthcare system that absorbs more and more of our national income without improving outcomes, a social safety net that will collapse of its own weight or an education system that doesn’t match graduates with jobs and careers.”
The oldest of the Millennials turns 35 next year, about the age when they start to have influence on businesses and other institutions. How?
A Millennial seeking to have an impact is Argentine political activist Pia Mancini, director of non-profit foundation DemocracyOS. In a TED talk in Rio de Janeiro, she points out that today’s democratic governments are so unresponsive to the populace that we only have two choices – silent assent or violent protest.
Silence or violence – not much of a choice!
She postulates that the 18th Century mantra “no taxation without representation” should be updated to “no representation without a conversation”. Technology has enabled us to have a global conversation on any topic. Why not include our legislators in the dialog? Or, conversely, why haven’t they included us?
Ms. Mancini and her colleagues have developed software, including a smartphone app that allows legislators to interact with citizens during debates on critical issues. She has convinced the Argentine government to experiment with it. She is hopeful.
My concern is that our politicians are too facile. They use punditry to convince us that simplistic solutions will solve the big issues of the day.
Do you believe that “income inequality” is a problem? The President tells us that raising the minimum wage is the solution.
Government deficits and debt will burden our children and grandchildren. Can we resolve those deficits only by cutting non-defense discretionary spending?
No, we can’t.
Rising ocean temperatures threaten our coastlines. Will government investment in green technology companies solve that problem?
No. It won’t.
We have seen masses of people marching in the streets in the last few years – Hong Kong, Cairo, Tehran, New York. What has it accomplished?
In the absence of violent overthrow, not much.
Can technology that connects us to our institutional leaders offers the opportunity that Ms. Mancini describes?
I don’t know.
It’s certainly a good place to start.
WHO WILL LEAD?