As clearly as any issue you could name, the debate over the US debt ceiling exposes the radically different governing philosophies held by Democrats and Republicans. On the left it is taken as an article of faith that government must constantly grow and increase its sphere of influence as a counter to the power of private corporations, and to provide a constantly-growing safety net for Americans living at the margins. On the right it is taken as an article of faith that government must dramatically shrink in order to correct the decades-long diminution of personal liberty and the strangulation of free enterprise that threatens to undo all that is best about the American experiment.
At stake are the most cherished and bedrock beliefs of both sides. So how can there be any compromise? Either government continues to grow and our national indebtedness increases, a defeat for the right, or government growth is checked for the first time since the New Deal, a precedent that would be anathema to the left.
We have a divided government because we have a divided country. Government isn’t broken; it is merely the most public face of the radical philosophical differences that can be found in any Main Street café in America.
If we were debating abortion rights or NAFTA instead of indebtedness, each side would be equally entrenched, equally unwilling to compromise, because each side holds a mutually exclusive vision of what American values and American government should be.
This great legislative battle is exactly how a great debate should happen in this country, and is the exact consequence of electing representatives who take to Washington the viewpoints of their states and neighborhoods. The high stakes and dire consequences should the two sides fail to reach an agreement is entirely appropriate given the opposite views each side holds on the fundamental purpose of government.
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And again I say plainly, if you haven’t made Charlie a regular read, you’re making a mistake.