Editor: I worry about citizens being part of a game in which we can’t tell whether we’re the ball in play or the spectators. Are we being played with or are we bystanders — witnesses to a cynical manipulation?

This game is an unconscionable distortion of what politics is. If, as it appears, Republicans in the House are pledged to say no to any proposal that dares to tamper with taxes, and yet to pronounce repeatedly they are appalled by the irresponsible spending of government on public programs that they condescendingly refer to as entitlements, what can we expect but stasis?

Many developed nations are in similar straits — they can’t afford themselves and don’t know quite how to change course. But they are not considering tossing out free education and health care. They think of both as inalienable rights. Why do so many Americans view them as a socialist plot?

There is some indication that as we approach the Aug. 2 deadline — the cliff, as it were — that the blame game is morphing into constructive discussion. It appears we will, just in time, raise the debt ceiling and then work on reaching an uncomfortable but viable agreement about how to spend and save in the next year.

They say democracy is messy and that is actually one of its strengths; authoritarian states and dictatorships are all too neat — open and closed — no discussion. But the current situation is beyond messy — it’s really a mess — and a near-tragic waste of time and energy.

Polls are showing that citizens want our leaders to get on with the work we elected them to do. We must put pressure on them to do that.

I expect a lot more of the country I love. And I’d like to think it expects more of me.

The Times-Tribune

July 25, 2011

Game deteriorates into stagnant mess