U.S. debt from 1940 to 2010. Red lines indicate the Debt Held by the Public (net public debt) and black lines indicate the Total Public Debt Outstanding (gross public debt), the difference being that the gross debt includes that held by the federal government itself. The second panel shows the two debt figures as a percentage of U.S. GDP (dollar value of U.S. economic production for that year). The top panel is deflated so every year is in 2010 dollars. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The increasingly partisan struggle over America’s mountainous national debt and budget crisis reminds me of a famous quote by the Roman political theorist Cicero:
“The budget should be balanced, the treasury refilled, public debt reduced, the arrogance of officialdom tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt”
With the current outrage over the outsourcing of middle-class jobs to China and Mexico, insistence on acting as the world’s policeman resulting in foreign entanglements ironically causing more problems than they have solved; and never-ending foreign aid to foreign nations during a domestic economic downturn, is it time for the United States to return to its original foreign policy of isolationism during this time of economic crises?
Isolationism is a foreign policy of non-interventionism and economic protectionism in which a nation refuses to enter alliances or international agreements with other nations in hopes of avoiding wars not related to direct self-defense. Nations practicing isolationism avoid all foreign entanglements and focus all their resources into self-advancement within its own borders. Can a return to this way of thinking ultimately solve America’s national debt crisis? Is a return to isolationism even possible today?
Public Opinion — April 22, 1874 (Photo credit: Cornell University Library)
Bully pulpit, a term first coined by President Theodore Roosevelt, refers to a political office, specifically the White House, as a powerful platform from which to advocate a political agenda. In other words, the President of the United States is in the position to use his office to rally public support or sway public. Currently, Pres. Barack Obama has been using the bully pulpit in an attempt to educate the American people concerning public policy .
The framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended the president to have the power to influence public opinion in the way advancements in communication technology now allows. However, the framers never intended for women to vote or for for the United States to declare itself the worlds policemen. Nevertheless, here we are. Do you believe it is appropriate for the modern president to leapfrog the Congress and talk directly to the American people in order to influence public opinion on public policy?
Some prominent members of the Republican Party in the Congress have harshly criticized the Obama administration for its mishandling of the incident in Benghazi on September 11, 2012; even calling for a Watergate-style of congressional investigation. What do you think?
Divided government is a situation in which one party controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of the United States Congress. Relatively rare until the late 20th century, divided government has become the norm as support for political power consistently ebbs back and forth between the two major political parties by the American electorate. Some political organizations view divided government as beneficial since it inherently increases checks and balances between the President and Congress. However, as the recent debate over the impending fiscal cliff revealed, divided government makes it difficult for the US government to function effectively. In fact, it can now be argued that nothing can be achieved by a divided government without urgency to avert a national crisis.
The framers of the US Constitution envisioned the establishment of a working relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government. They did not create a system of perpetual gridlock. We must remember that political parties, the actual catalyst for divided government, did not exist at the time of the constitutional convention nor was the U.S. government designed with political parties in mind. George Washington said it best:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.
The very nature of the unintended American two party system makes divided government the new normal. As such, is divided party government effectively synonymous with broken government?
Although Superstorm Sandy caused a devastating disaster, it created an opportunity for President Obama to show his leadership skills as both the commander in chief and crisis manager. What do you think?
Look beyond today’s headlines with our analysis of American politics! This blog is a feature of Pearson’s MyPoliSciLab, the most popular online learning solution for American government courses. To learn more about MyPoliSciLab, visit www.mypoliscilab.com.