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Contradictions In Shared Governance
Paul Ryan vs. President Obama

By Paul Nehru Tennassee
Historian-Director of International Affairs
NAPFE Featured Writer


Guyana Journal, March 2013



INTRODUCTION

The US political system is lauded by many as an excellent example of shared governance based on the separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution. Unlike many other forms of governance, the US Congress has always been powerful. As a matter of fact, the Congress preceded the Presidency. There was a time when the President had virtually very little to do. However, over time the Presidency began to issue Executive Orders and expanded its authority and influence. In time, as the US emerged as a great power, the Presidency became imperial in the eyes of many. Nevertheless, as two dominant parties (Democrats and Republicans) became entrenched in the system, gridlock between the Presidency and the Congress was accepted as normal. Somehow, the politicians in Washington DC were able to compromise on major issues and policies. The Clinton Presidency had its downside on this. He resolved his gridlocks by embracing “triangulation”. However, since Barak Obama was elected to the Presidency, the Republican Representatives and Senators moved from responsible shared governance to outright opposition with a new posture ”to expose, oppose and depose.” The Tea Party Movement virtually became a Party within the Republican Party with Rush Limbaugh as its shadow/informal leader. Fox Television fostered and institutionalized the new, non-compromising culture. Mitch McConnell became the voice of that position in the Senate when he vowed no cooperation with the President. In recent days, the contradictions of shared governance has deepened as Paul Ryan, who lost the Vice Presidency and whose policies were rejected in the last election, now attempts to impose the said platform of unpopular policy prescriptions on the President and the American people.

THE ISSUES

We all are aware that the US economy is growing at snail's pace accompanied by high unemployment, increasing deficits and debts. The major reasons for the present problems are attributed to: the neo-liberal economic model that exports jobs and impoverishes the middle class; 9/11, two wars and corporate corruption that manifested its worst form in the 2008 financial-mortgage crisis. Both President Bush and President Obama bailed out the corporations but did nothing as dramatic and substantial for those who suffered foreclosures and were under water. However, President Obama advanced the policy that the government, as in the days of the Great Depression, should follow the example of President Roosevelt and intervene in the economy to create jobs. The Republicans immediately objected and advocated that the hands of the government should be cut from the economy. Additionally, they argued that the debt and the deficit should be addressed by partially privatizing Medicare, radical reforms of social security and drastically reduce allocations made to what they call entitlement programs. Congress controls legislation and the budget. So, in January soon after the elections, the nation was taken to the “fiscal cliff” before a very last minute compromise was agreed to. Then there was another threat that the House of Representatives will only approve a Paul Ryan brand of budget. Consequently, the American people became the victims of sequestration and it is predicted that in the coming months that those automatic cuts of the budgets of government agencies and services will deepen unemployment.

THE BACKWARD AND FORWARD MULTIPLIER EFFECTS

One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if folks do not have money in their pockets then they cannot make purchases. This means that goods and services will be less available in the market place. Overall production will suffer. The economy will grind slowly to very low or zero growth rates. Unemployment will continue to deepen, social problems will escalate and political instability will follow. On the other hand, fresh investments will produce a forward multiplier effect. The opposite will occur. The major problem in the US is that the private sector investors are sitting on trillions of dollars and do not want to invest or they look for greener pastures for super profits where they can pay “slave wages” and avoid paying taxes. At the same time, Republicans are telling the President and elected Democrats that the government should not intervene to invest except to reduce taxes for the rich and dismantle Medicare, social security and other social programs.

THE BIG QUESTION

How will the contradictions of shared governance be resolved, if Paul Ryan, as Budget Chair in the House of Representatives, insists on imposing his will on the elected President and the American people? If this contradiction is not resolved, then most likely, the apparent slow but solid growth that has been evolving since the Great Recession will be jeopardized with dire consequences for the US and beyond.

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"In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself". Frantz Fanon


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