No matter who or what you blame for the current economic crisis, everyone can certainly agree that the political rhetoric and polarization in this country has created the worst possible climate in which to tackle the deficit reduction issue. Citizens are left to wade through the filth that is the 24-hour news cycle in order to get a glimpse of what lawmakers actually value when attempting to slash the budget. How can a constituent actually hear what his or her state senator thinks about education and health care when loud, angry voices are screaming "Socialists!" from the far right and "Greedy millionaires!" from the far left?
If you peel away all those layers of noise, you'll see that today's politicians are no different than they were 200 years ago - ordinary folks who are hardly experts in finance, science, education, agriculture, and who are simply pandering to their constituents, lobbyists, and wealthy campaign contributors. Not only are their daily lives incredibly boring and tedious, but they are constantly fearing for their jobs in the form of upcoming elections. Still, there are and will always be politicians who risk reelection by pitching ideas in front of the camera or contributing to the noise of rhetoric and polarization. However, there's nothing wrong with that. They are simply proving that they are engaging in the American political process.
It's easy to simply write off a legislator's actions as pandering to his or her constituents or craving the national spotlight, but they are all fully aware that there are massive issues that must be solved. Those that don't contribute to the solutions will certainly not be seen as effective representatives of the people they were elected to serve. However, the ideas and values of those that do contribute to the debates must come from somewhere, and whether they are the result of pandering or not, they are still valid and useful insights into the values and priorities of the American people.
Despite its enormity, the deficit reduction issue most likely provides the fastest and simplest route for discovering America's values and priorities. Social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are typically seen as a lumbering necessity by the Democrats and a limping beast by the Republicans. Many Republicans would love to simply scrap them and either start over with something more akin to how a private company operates, or abandon them entirely. Many Democrats would see this as a slap in the face of those citizens that currently rely on those programs. Is making sure everyone has access to healthcare socialist? No. Is scrapping the program due to its ever-increasing burden selfish? No. The reasons lie in every citizen's unique idea of the American Dream.
The one unifying goal in everyone's American Dream is to be able to reach a certain level of financial success and live comfortably. It's how one treats another person who has not yet achieved the American Dream that keeps budget issues in constant gridlock. A successful American, when approached by a homeless man asking for change, can either decide, "Sure, I have a few quarters," or "No. Go get a job." While the latter sounds harsh, it is no less valid than the former. The successful American who prefers to keep the extra money feels that his or her decision is justified because that money was earned from hard work. The successful American who hands over his change feels that his or her decision is justified because it will not harm the financial success and comfortable lifestyle that he or she has.
While so much could be read into this scenario, such as morals, religious influence, etc., the fact remains that both decisions are integral to the foundation of this country. The problem arises when one labels the donating American as a "Socialist" and the refusing American as "greedy." Those that use these labels to justify a person's actions are doing absolutely nothing but adding more noise. More importantly, however, they are wasting precious time in which they could be trying to achieve their American Dream.