Why we all can't just get along?

Something has been bothering me for the past several weeks as the lame duck session of Congress played out. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I was watching some of the Sunday morning interview shows. As the pundits were punditing about gridlock and conflict, the guests from the left blamed the right for blocking everything with threats of filibusters and the guests from the right accused the left of ramming legislation through the process without any input or consideration of their point of view.

You know what? They were all correct! But why? And why now? That's what had been bugging me, then the answer hit me like a two ton heavy thing. It is the stakes... they are too high.

Most of what Congress has been/is still fighting about during the 111th is very substantial and will have a big impact on the future. Plus, the number of dollars in play is mind boggling and there is little hope of abatement in the near term.

On Meet The Press was Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ. This is a man who certainly has his plate full, especially since he was re-elected earlier this year for another 4 year term. I follow him on Twitter. He is a very proactive manager of his city and he seems to really listen to his constituents. I understand that he is a Democrat, but that fact does not ooze out of his pores with everything he says and does.

Also on Meet The Press was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman. He is a conservative, but often has his bona fides called into question by the more strident of conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others. There was also Mark McKinnon rounding out the 'right' side of the balance sheet (as it were) on MTP. Mark, a former Bush and McCain campaign leader, has started a non-partisan organization called NoLabels. The same strident conservatives have made light of this new organization and the tweet-stream earlier this week, after the official launch of NoLabels, was a bit brutal on.

So... when the right is in power the left blocks legislation, ambassadorial appointments, hearings on judicial appointments (judges and US Attorneys) and trade agreements just for starters. When the left is in power, similar things happen from the right, but the left, with the help of a more sympathetic press, screams obstructionism and it becomes an issue that really bothers the 'nattering class'. To quote Rodney King, "Why can't we all just get along?"

Why can't cooler heads prevail, such as the three men previously mentioned above?

I think that the amount of power vested in the federal government and in our elected officials in Washington, DC has reached a tipping point. The first wave of repercussions from this fact was borne out in the November elections. The Democrats were slaughtered. They lost state houses, governorships, city and county majorities, the House of Representatives (by over 60 seats) and nearly lost the US Senate as well. The next wave could slaughter Republicans as handily as the Democrats were routed.

Something else that helped me recognize the problem was the Omnibus Spending Bill that was defeated this past week. It was a last-ditch effort by the waning Democrat majority to push through a single appropriations bill that was infused with pork and earmarks totalling billions of dollars. What struck me about this bill the most was what the pork and earmarks were being spent on. Many of the most egregious expenditures have become legendary. Spending MY money on this stuff just is NOT what the federal government is supposed to be doing. The Edgar Allen Poe Cottage Visitors Center? Huh? His freaking cottage??? Maple Syrup research in Vermont? (What else can be said about maple syrup?) If this crap is so damned important, let the states and/or the constituents that stand to gain from it pay for it.

Last time I checked, the Constitution of the United States (there goes that pesky document getting in the way again) leaves everything to the states that is not enumerated as a federal responsibility. NOTHING except a Vermont state law would restrict Vermont from studying maple syrup to its heart's content (and spending its citizen's money in the process.)

I have always been a huge fan of NASA. As a kid, I had a model of the Saturn V rocket with the Apollo spacecraft hung from the ceiling of my bedroom with 'invisible' line. Was the race to the moon a federal responsibility? A case can be made that there is a national security component to space, even stretching it a bit further to justify landing on the moon, but what about probes to Pluto? Satisfying scientific curiosity about space really is NOT something you can substantiate by a careful reading of the Constitution's enumerated federal powers. As I have previously written, if it is important enough that it should be in the Constitution, then let's amend it to say so.

The mantra of the nascent Tea Party movement is not so much to elect conservative politicians, but to 'conserve' the intent of the founding principles of our government. This necessarily begs for a smaller federal government. A smaller federal government with scaled-back power will cause fewer and fewer polarizing debates in Congress because there won't be nearly as much to fight about and holding that reduced power will not be quite as attractive as attaining a seat in Congress is now.

Another aspect of putting power back at the state and local level would be to de-homogenize this nation. Sure, we need standards and I am not trying to be absurd. But think about it, the railroads came up with time zones, not the feds. Licensing for medical doctors was a peer-group thing before the government got involved. Highways, national defense, postal service, weights and measurement standards, financial regulation, etc. make sense and fall reasonably under the Commerce Clause, but gay marriage? Liberal welfare benefits? Free health insurance? Fairness in hiring? Minimum wage? Retirement benefits? These should all be state functions.

Let there be competition amongst the states for citizens. If you want to live a liberal, bohemian lifestyle, surrounding yourself with other like-minded people and you don't mind paying a lot of your own money to support it, move to the Free State of California. Want a conservative, law and order life and don't mind living near a dude with 3 wives? Move to the Free State of Utah. Don't like the '3 wife' thing but still want the security and order? Move to the Republic of Texas. Want gay marriage and no big box retailers clogging up the countryside? Check out the People's Republic of Vermont. Birds of a feather will definitely flock together. They always do.

I am serious. We have blended our vast and diverse nation into a pablum-like state. We have brought ourselves to the point where virtually no one is really happy. So, how to become happy? Pursue it! But not by removing money from some to giving it to others, regardless of the nobility of the cause. If the cause is noble enough, sell the idea to a state, municipality or individual that will pay for it. Then, pick up and move there so you can enjoy the fruits of your effort and leave the rest of us alone.

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