Roy Green: Stability and pragmatism in the United States needed for progress


“Gridlock”. A term increasingly applied to describe the relationship, or more accurately, absence of one between Democrats and Republicans in Washington. defines gridlock in business in these terms “in business as in traffic, little to nothing gets done when gridlock happens.  This can be highly problematic and costly for a company or industry.  For example, gridlock can occur if there is infighting within a company, with two groups competing to gain control of the company.  This infighting can effectively create a situation in which business transactions cannot be completed until the problem is solved.”

“Until the problem is solved.”  In business problem solving is recognized as a daily priority.  A company cannot afford to bog down because of “two groups competing to gain control of the company.”  In politics, particularly Washington politics currently, the arguably most powerful entity in the world is bogged down precisely because two groups are competing to gain control of the United States government.

Recently, as Democrats and Republicans in Congress battled each other in a public brawl over the nation’s debt ceiling, representatives of both parties unhesitatingly engaged in on-camera and microphone finger pointing, each accusing the other of accelerating the decline of the nation.

The issues they without reservation chose to manipulate during this utterly self-serving war of words were that the United States is in financial decline, the nation’s debt is spiralling out of control, millions of relatively recently employed Americans are without a dependable source of income, the American housing market is a train wreck and the social contract, the fundamental glue which binds a society, may begin to tear should conditions not improve.

U.S. President Barrack Obama did precious little to lead from the White House, allowing the churlish party first, nation second nonsense to continue unabated.

In fact it has been argued Obama is cleverly but not helpfully manipulating now predictable Congressional impasse to political and electoral advantage.

Certainly stating all Americans are owed “a fair shot”, as the President did earlier this month, might be interpreted as the occupant of the Oval Office aligning himself with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Arguments and public posturing statements of Washington’s professional politicial elite bear little if any resemblance to increasing challenges faced by so-called average Americans.  While a so-called Congressional Super Committee wrangled bitterly over even fundamentally necessary budgetary spending cuts from a federal government daily roaring deeper into the financial debt abbyss and placed the blame for a lack of pragmatic and cohesive bipartisan decision-making on the “other side”, the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ hunger and homelessness survey disclosed 25 of 29 cities surveyed between September of 2010 and August 2011 recorded an increase in the number of requests for food assistance.  Emergency food assistance!

More than a quarter of those requiring such food assistance were employed.  Consider then that over 24 million Americans are out of work or underemployed and the Conference of Mayors report on emergency food assistance numbers takes on a greater and more worrisome dimension.  But the most essential staple of life is still available to all Americans who require assistance in putting food on the table, correct?  Apparently not.  The Mayors report reveals 27 per cent of those in need of emergency food supplies went without.  This after the amount of food people were eligible to take home on each visit to food banks had been reduced. 

The American philosophical right and left are so polarized, so intransigent, so determined to score electoral victory in November 2012 that common sense, common goals and even common decency are sacrificed in the pursuit of Congressional majorities and residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Things aren’t rosy in the rest of the world.  Europe has tottered from crisis to crisis, the Middle East is in turmoil, Russian and Chinese leaders must concern themselves with restless populations. Vladimir Putin’s electoral victory was met by protest in the streets and China’s Communist regime must be concerned that a significant percentage of its population is not benefiting directly from the nation’s significant economic gains in recent years.  

It has been three years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers signalled the recession and the world struggles still to recover.  A combination of continued unemployment sustained by underperforming economies has the clear potential to become the catalyst for increased social unrest and globally.

In Canada we may be excused if we’ve become somewhat smug about such developments.  This nation has remained relatively protected from the rest of the world’s struggles.  

However, even with interest rates at record lows and Canadian banks far healthier than most of their global counterparts, a warning has been issued by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney. Canadians, Mr. Carney declares, have witnessed household debt climb and to the extent that we outpace the Americans and the British on that score.

2012 clearly is a difficult year to forecast.  What we do know is that our best friend and closest trading partner will be thoroughly engaged in election politics for almost 11 months.  Election politics which have the potential to become more heated, more partisan and even less predictable.  At a time when stability and pragmatism in the United States would be welcome and valuable for the rest of the world, we can and must hope politicians in Washington will recognize this need and act accordingly. 

Roy Green is a contributor to the National Post and the host of the Roy Green Show, a national program weekends on the Corus radio network.