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Steven Ahrenholz, a furloughed federal worker, protests outside the Department of Health and Human Services CDC offices Tuesday in Cincinnati.
Associated Press/Photo by Al Behrman
Steven Ahrenholz, a furloughed federal worker, protests outside the Department of Health and Human Services CDC offices Tuesday in Cincinnati.

The cure for our national dysfunction

Government

A new Associated Press-GfK poll reveals some troubling statistics for members of both major political parties, if they can be troubled, given what looks to be their lack of concern for what they are doing to the country.

The poll finds fewer people approve of President Obama’s job performance (confirmed by a new Gallup Poll, which shows a 37 percent approval rating), but that Republicans score even worse at 5 percent approval. The AP-GfK poll “finds few people approve of the way the president is handling most major issues and most people say he’s not decisive, strong, honest, reasonable, or inspiring.” It looks like hope has vanished. We can’t say we weren’t warned.

The poll also shows many people are fed up with the government, leading to a return of the “throw the bums out” mentality. But the problem does not lie with the “bums.” If it did, the newest elected “bums” would have fixed things by now.

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It’s the rabid careerism of politicians and the entitlement mentality of too many voters that has consumed Washington and led to its dysfunction. Putting healthy people in an environment where plague rages ensures they will likely contract the disease. What is needed is an entirely new (really an old) approach to government by “we the people” and by government itself.

It’s difficult to change Washington because too many benefit from its current practices. Republicans, who appeal to constitutional limits, spending cuts, lower taxes, and the repeal of unnecessary regulations, are lambasted—even by fellow Republicans—when they try to rein in unsustainable spending. The Washington establishment is powerful and anyone who seeks to alter it risks isolation and condemnation.

Would a third political party help shock the two major parties into behaving more responsibly? Possibly, but not likely. A new Gallup Poll finds: “Amid the government shutdown, 60 percent of Americans say the Democratic and Republican parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26 percent believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.”

A third-party president, or a few members of Congress who eschewed the traditional party labels, would likely find themselves in the same rut if attitudes toward government and entitlement do not change. The problem lies less in Washington than in each American citizen.

Since Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” many Americans appear to have abandoned self-restraint, individual responsibility and accountability in favor of government as provider, protector, and guarantor. The notion that people are “owed” what others have earned is primarily responsible for our enormous and growing debt. We once promoted individual initiative and people who overcame difficult circumstances. Now we seem to punish the successful and treat the unsuccessful as victims who have no hope of improving their lot without government. This is a fallacy, of course, based on the results of the failed “war on poverty.”

Despite the fact—and it is a fact—that government does many things poorly and at too high a cost, too many of us continue to turn to it for salvation. Politicians encourage this because addicting more people to government keeps them in power, solidifies their careers, and keeps the special perks flowing their way.

Nothing would change Washington faster than the transformative idea that only we can make our lives better by our financial and moral choices. It’s long past time for politicians to say “eat your vegetables, they are good for you” and for citizens to comply.

Such a message will be labeled “harsh” by some, but it is necessary to restore a sick economy and a nation that needs to return to its constitutional roots. This return is the cure for our national dysfunction.

Listen to a Cal Thomas commentary on this topic on The World and Everything in It:

© 2013 Tribune Content Agency LLC. 

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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