For well over a decade America has been a country paralyzed by irresolvable rancor between the right and left, leaving us bitterly divided across party lines. Politics have always been a nasty business, but the savage state of gridlock we have experienced in recent years is like nothing seen in over a century in our country. Where working together and reaching across the aisle was a badge of honor in the past, today those sensible individuals who seek compromise cannot make it past a primary election because they alienate their party’s most fervent and unbending supporters. While many Democrats are perceived to be liberal, distrustful and critical of business, they also believe in expanding government's role in the lives of ordinary citizens. Republicans are perceived to be conservative, expressing confidence in the American people to regulate their own lives as they pursue the opportunities embedded in a free market and capitalism. They believe our nation's founders envisioned a limited government, regulations only as needed, and equal access to all citizens to the opportunities of a system of free enterprise. These two opposite schools of thought couldn’t be more different. Add in all the social issues and it becomes obvious how far part the two main political parties are from each other. On Tuesday, Jan. 20, a perfect example of the division in our country was seen as the president delivered the State of the Union Address.
In his SoTU address President Obama pointed to the progress our country has made under his administration. The economy is improving, the war on Afghanistan is over, and we have become more energy independent, despite the barriers he put in front of Congress. Overall, President Obama declared that the state of the Union is strong and thriving. He laid out plans for growing the government for a common purpose and claims to have practical ideas in a 2015 budget that is fair to all. He plans to support a cure for cancer, tackle ISIS, Russia and Cuba as well as Iran while securing the US from cyber hackers, terrorism, Ebola and the dangers of climate change. Our president promised a commitment to justice while cherishing civil liberties and looking towards the future.
The President’s vision for success in America is based on a larger government. He believes that the best way to solve many of the challenges that face America is through raising taxes and expanding the government’s reach into the lives of citizens. Some of the ideas President Obama has for 2015 include helping the working class to feel more secure in a world of constant change through lower taxes and access to affordable childcare. He also plans on proposing legislature that will make two years of community college free to everyone. However, by now we should all know that “free” doesn’t really mean free, and that in the long run it is we the people that will have to pay for this proposal. The President should encourage people to work hard and save up to attend a college for a reasonable price.
President Obama also called for a simplified tax code that would increase capital gains on the top 1 percent and close loopholes. The only way that President Obama’s goals for the new Congress could be implemented would be through raising taxes on the wealthy. His plans to raise taxes on investments and savings will cripple the economy and job growth. This will create a perpetual problem as America becomes increasingly more dependent on the government. This new Congress provides America with an opportunity to become unified, as one nation, to create a more efficient and effective government. The goal for the Congress should be to create a plan that will allow the government to live within its means, while keeping taxes down to encourage a healthy economy.
I’ll be the first to say that I am not a huge fan of our current president, and I’ll even take it a step further…I think he is the worst president in recent history (we can’t forget Carter who was equally bad). However, I readily admit that his call for better politics really resonated with me and even had me shouting, “Amen!” President Obama said,
"Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different. Understand — a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives ... Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?"
Again, I say, “Amen to that!” Sign me up.
Whether you are thrilled with our president’s plans, or if they made you nauseated…today is a perfect day to begin to heal the divide in America. No matter your political philosophy on the fundamental issues facing America, you can make a difference by intentionally changing the manner in which you say what you say, and the manner in which you actively listen to others. I think the biggest and most important need facing Americans is for Americans to find a way to live civilly with each other. We must stop the rude and condescending free-for-all interactions that have become so common place in our society. We must develop friendships with a broad cross section of society. We must get to know our neighbors and the issues they are facing in life. We must seek to understand before being understood. We will change the world when we speak thoughtfully about the issues we face with those we know. An open and respectful dialog is the starting place to healing our nation. Progress as a nation will require us to work together to find solutions for the problems that face America. Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort…that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Together our future is bright.