Type to search

Polarized Washington Ignores Long-Term Issues At Its Peril

Memo Pad Politics

Polarized Washington Ignores Long-Term Issues At Its Peril


Scandalfest continues. Official Washington is still flitting from one minor controversy to another, with the news media breathlessly reporting the latest leaked email or unsubstantiated accusation. Clearly, the chattering classes have declared the jobs crisis ended and the economic recovery complete.

While the Obama administration hasn’t popped open champagne bottles to celebrate, the air of silliness that hangs over the Beltway is a reminder that the worst is over. After all, the stock market is soaring. Consumer confidence is climbing.

The latest national unemployment number is down to 7.5 percent, the lowest level since December 2007, when the economy started its steep descent. Indeed, the sustained economic uptick may have a direct tie-in to Washington’s current obsession with less consequential matters: The economy is strong enough to have persuaded Republicans to stop blasting President Barack Obama over joblessness, so they’ve had to find other issues with which to batter him.

Here’s an update from outside the Beltway Bubble: The jobs crisis is not over. Average Americans are still struggling through an ugly economic transformation — a structural change decades in the making that jumped into overdrive with the Great Recession. Millions of Americans of working age remain unemployed, while others patch together two or three part-time jobs to keep food on the table. Still others have found full-time jobs but at far less pay than they used to earn.

A recent Quinnipiac poll provides a clear look into the minds of voters, who have little interest in the imbroglios of the moment. Rightly, 44 percent believe the revelations about the Internal Revenue Service, which singled out conservative organizations for unfair screening, as most important among the current controversies. Only 24 percent cited the deaths of four Americans at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, despite the GOP’s obsession with it. Far fewer, just 14 percent, listed the Justice Department’s scrutiny of reporters.

But here’s the news you may have missed: An overwhelming 73 percent said that boosting the economy and creating jobs is more important than any of the other three issues. If politicians were as poll-obsessed as they are rumored to be, they’d at least pretend to be devoting most of their time to helping middle-class Americans get back into stable jobs with good pay.

Cynthia Tucker Haynes

Cynthia Tucker Haynes, a veteran newspaper journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a Visiting Professor of Journalism and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Georgia. She is also a highly-regarded commentator on TV and radio news shows.

Haynes was editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper for 17 years, where she led the development of opinion policy. More recently, she was that newspaper’s Washington-based political columnist. She maintains a syndicated column through Universal Press Syndicate, which is published in dozens of newspapers around the country. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, Haynes has also received numerous other awards, including Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists.

  • 1


  1. Lynda Groom June 8, 2013

    Can somebody please put a copy of this article under each door in Congress? We can’t make them read, but we can at least give them the chance again to ignore the American people.

    1. FredAppell June 8, 2013

      It wouldn’t do any good against people who are only in it for themselves. Remember, we’ve already tried to shame them and that went nowhere. They know how you feel, they simply don’t care.

  2. gmccpa June 8, 2013

    Please. The last thing the Republican majority congress wants is for the economy….or anything else for that matter…to improve during Pres Obama’s term.

  3. latebloomingrandma June 8, 2013

    So what jobs can’t be outsourced to overseas? Infrastructure!!! Why are we waiting until all the bridges collapse? There is so much work that needs to be done in this country, that people would be back to work in droves. It’s a no brainer. Could someone just gob smack these teapartiers? And send that Grover creature packing.

    1. sigrid28 June 8, 2013

      I’m with you, Mrs. Gorgeous Flower of September. What bothers me is that it takes $1,000,000 to produce each bill that reaches the floor of the House or Senate. So there sits the American Jobs Act, which has already cost a million dollars to write, proposing infrastructure projects completed with joint government and private funding, putting up to 2,000,000 people to work and pouring funds into the many American businesses that would provide products to complete these projects (like cement or products from Home Depot) and services (like surveying or repairing road construction equipment). Though proposing action on a smaller scale than in the Great Depression, it’s our WPA. Once enacted, its coverage could be expanded.

      Republicans, who also want to be stingy with FEMA funds, could bolster the economy where it is most fragile, at the sites of natural disasters, by expanding FEMA’s resources to help rebuild in areas where whole communities–in some cases, whole regions of the country–have been devastated. In essence, these are infrastructure jobs as well, that would put many to work. And the FEMA program already exists for this work that can and should be done right away.

      Finally, it is summer, which used to be the time when schools were refurbished for the coming academic year. Would that improving those public structures could be folded into immediate action on the already written American Jobs Act, to complete this work by September. All of this work could be going on while Congress is on its long summer recess, it Republicans and Democrats could just get it together to act now.

      1. Independent1 June 8, 2013

        sigrid, you pointed out a lot of good things Republicans could do to help America if they wanted to; but my guess is they won’t because there is NO PAYBACK. The GOP seems willing to only support legislation if it’s for industries that donate a lot of money to their campaigns. Unfortunately, a lot of what you point out as needing to be done and that’s included in the American Jobs Act would be work for local construction companies that don’t make big donations to political parties. So of course, the GOP isn’t that anxious to funnel money to them without a guaranteed kickback in the way of campaign donations. The GOP is all about money, money in THEIR pocket.

        1. sigrid28 June 9, 2013

          You may be right. You are probably right, Fred. Republicans have been so inactive that I thought–even though it be wishful thinking–to remind us all, of things that actually COULD be done. On this comment thread, our friends from across the aisle give us (and themselves) such a steady diet of negativity, I feel obliged sometimes to offer up a worthy goal on which we all might eventually agree–just to clear the pallet.

  4. Lovefacts June 8, 2013

    It’s time conservative middle class and working poor stopped voting based upon on abortion, prayer in the school, being a Christine nation, etc., and focused on financial issues. Republican politicians don’t care about the social or moral issues of these conservatives. These politicians only care about staying in office so they can continue to rob this nation. Thus, the oligarchy can continue to run the country through their multinational corporations for their benefit, not the rest of us.

  5. Bill June 8, 2013

    Is this a surprise to anyone? The GOP will do anything to try to hurt the President at the expense of the American People, how anyone can support them is beyond me.

  6. Michael Kollmorgen June 8, 2013

    I keep harping on this belief only because this is true.

    At the rate things are going in this country, we are headed for revolution.

    As the polarization between parties deepen and the work Congress is supposed to do doesn’t get done, people are going to become even more disenfranchised than they are already.

    One indication of this is the value the typical american puts on politics. Politicians never had such a low opinion of them in the history of this country. It used to be a respected position, one that meant ultimate public service. Not anymore!

    And, we won’t be able to turn to religion either for guidance only because over the past 30 years or so, since Reagan embraced the Evangelical Movement in his administration, religion itself has become just as dirty as the politics they became involved with.

    We need Heroes badly to look up to and emulate. Yet there aren’t any. We downplay the importance of a solid education in favor of the latest high school football score.

    We are in BIG TROUBLE.

  7. howa4x June 8, 2013

    This is because the republicans have no real plan. They are trying austerity in a time of job recovery and more people are being laid off than hired. They have convinced themselves that deficits are the only thing that matters. This causes them to squash any attempts to stimulate the economy. They are susceptible to a charge that they did nothing to help struggling Americans. Other than repealing Obamacare 35 times what have they done? There is no grand bargain, and they are obstructionists to any legislation that might help people. They are the party of no and that is what they will be known for. No new ideas. If they are only trying to appeal to their base the news flash is it is shrinking. So good luck!

    1. charleo1 June 8, 2013

      You nailed it, with your very first sentence. Republicans have no plan.
      They would deny it. But, like Barry Goldwater used to say, “In their hearts,
      they know they stink.” But, they just can’t help themselves. In fact, the
      House just in the last week, or so, voted to repeal ObamaCare, again!
      Speaker Boehner explained, that there were some new Republican
      members that had just been elected. And, they wanted to be able to return
      to their gerrymandered, districts, and report that, they too had voted to
      repeal, ObamaCare.

      1. Michael Kollmorgen June 9, 2013

        I suppose all the money these rats have can perfume over any stink in their own minds, no matter how bad it is to everyone else.

        It’s sort of like republican shit don’t stink, but everyone elses does.

  8. rustacus21 June 12, 2013

    Long-term vision being critical, & absent says it all. What can be expected when placing (voting for) children to do the job of adults? The adults end up spending ALL of their time trying to educate the children on things necessary in the engagement. But these are arbitrary, ignorant, willful & just plain dangerous children we’re talking of & the American voters enabling them just don’t get it…


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.