President abandons promise
President Barack Obama has been preaching about bipartisanship since early 2009 on his campaign trail, saying "I know [Vice President Joe Biden] will be able to help me turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people." He also recently hosted a bipartisan health care summit to allow for both parties' input on his domestic priority. The importance of bipartisanship in Congress is not to be underestimated, and Obama has his heart in the right place. Washington has become so entrenched on opposite sides of the fence it is no wonder nothing gets accomplished. However, as good as his intentions may be, and even though he has taken steps to promote compromising, they just aren't enough.
Cooperation is a two-way street. Obama needs to realize that the problems in Washington do not lie solely in the Republicans' stubbornness. He wrote an economic stimulus bill, a health care overhaul bill and asked conservatives to meet him halfway, but what he expects is for Republicans to meet him on the other side of the aisle — to simply change their ideologies and be satisfied with his proposals. Of course, Republicans cannot and will not do that, so they became the party of "No."
After his health care summit, Obama claimed to have incorporated certain suggestions from the Republican party, yet the essence of the plan is still the same: extend health care to millions of uninsured Americans and subsidize it with a tax on high-income citizens. There exists not a shred of free-market based regulation, yet Obama insists his plan is middle-of-the-road. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, however, knows how liberal the bill is. She is calling for members of Congress to forfeit any chances of reelection in order to pass the bill. "We're not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress," she said. "We're here to do the job for the American people." Wait a minute — according to a March 1 Rasmussen poll, only 44 percent of voters support the proposal. And if Americans wanted this bill, why would the congressmen and congresswomen who pass it have to sacrifice their jobs? Surely they would be reelected if they did a great service to Americans. Obama has said he is okay with being a one-term president, as long as he helped people. It almost sounds like he expects people not to be very happy with him.
Obama recently asked Congress to vote on his health bill in the near future, holding that all arguments have been exhausted and it is now time to give Americans a final up-or-down vote. However, Obama has also suggested he will be willing to pass his health care overhaul through a shady tactic called reconciliation, which could be one of his most hypocritical moves yet. The health care bill represents a tremendous transformation of our government and might be an omen for our economy. This type of legislation should not be slipped through an obscure Senate finance loophole. There is no pressing urgency for health care reform, and as such, Congress should ensure it offers reasonable solutions that do not drown the American people in a mountain of debt. This inconceivable amount of debt will end up being our generation's burden.
I love this country because it has the most unadulterated freedoms, including the freedom of choice. Our economy employs a free market system that breeds competition, and that competition benefits the most people and does so more efficiently than any nanny state ever could. From Adam Smith, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." The great majority of Americans do not want to be forced into a government health plan. They like keeping the money for which they work hard. I personally don't even like abandoning the 6.2 percent of my paycheck to Social Security, because I know I don't need the government to keep a less-than-mediocre retirement budget for me. Most people are responsible enough to plan and save for their own retirements. This particular government program was developed in response to the Great Depression and has lingered on far longer than it should have. It is nothing more than a drain on this country's, and its people's, wealth.
Back to the focus of this column: Obama has little to show for his campaign promises of closing the gap between the right and left, and the trenches are just as deep as they were in January 2009, if not deeper. Congress certainly isn't off the hook here, either. Clearly our representatives are doing their constituents an enormous disservice by bickering with each other. A Feb. 24 Rasmussen poll shows 71 percent of voters think Congress is doing a poor job, and it's no wonder why. The national debt has exploded to $12.5 trillion, they can't reach an agreement on a health bill — or even decide whether there should be one — and for the most part, they are all voting along party lines without any respect to their constituents' views. I may sound like a broken record, but I remind readers again that there is one way to fix our government — start anew. Vote every single member of Congress out regardless of party affiliation. Only then can we hope to have a government for the people and by the people.
James Winters is a School of Engineering sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering.