Few Americans really paying attention to politics. Do you?
By Michael A. Matteo
Imagine if Americans approached the monitoring of their legislators (at all levels of government) with the same energetic fervor that they displayed as they sought out pre-Christmas bargains on Black Friday. The impact would be so drastic that legislators would be running for cover and few would survive the fallout of the wrath of voters.
However, this will never happen because Americans have become complacent when it comes to politics and career politicians who have become entrenched fixtures who serve themselves above and beyond their responsibility to serve the people heavily count on this kind of apathy. Just ask yourself how many legislators are making due with less during the current economic climate?
On Black Friday (just like every other Black Friday from years past) droves of eager consumers did their homework by studying ads, clipping coupons and showing up in stores as early as midnight to get on lines to take advantage of “deals” that were being offered by retailers. Their goal: SAVE MONEY! This is definitely an admirable goal but the few dollars they save on that new plasma TV or on a new computer pales in comparison the amount of their money that, in the long run, will have to come out of their pockets to make up for a budget deficit that will be between 1 and 1.2 trillion dollars (approximately 6.7% of GDP) when president-elect Obama takes office in January.
Why has this been allowed to take place? Who has given legislators carte blanche with a national credit card that enables them to spend so much more money than the country takes in from taxes revenues? The answer, in both cases falls upon an electorate who has failed to use their voice at the polls to say, “You mismanaged my funds, I’m voting against you.” And this isn’t just the case with the federal government. It is what has transpired all around the nation with state and local governments too. How many states governors are wringing their hands because of budget shortfalls. California and New York are financial messes; Florida is headed to special sessions to see what can be done to meet budget shortfalls and the list goes on and on at all levels. Schools are being closed and services have been cut at the local levels in many counties. If these were companies wouldn’t their managers be held accountable for spending $10 when they had $2?
The newest wrinkle in the economy is the practice of economic blackmail where large industries mismanage funds, make business bad decisions, give CEO’s outlandish amounts of compensation and have the audacity to show up at the door of the federal government and say, “Bail us out” or the average American will suffer. The government caved and gave 700 billion to banks and financial institutions. Now the auto industry is doing the same thing.
Wouldn’t it be nice if federal, state and local governments managed their funds the same way that responsible adults budgeted their money? Personally, I’m extremely frugal. I have spent years saving money when times were good and have fallen back on that savings when times weren’t so good. I never spent more than I made and have always paid off my credit cards every month so I didn’t have to end up paying more than the value of what was on the price tag of the item I purchased. I wish my government; a government of supposedly responsible and professional people would act in a similar manner.
Given the ramifications of a trillion dollar deficit you would think that Americans would have stormed the government (or at least the polls in November) with the same aggressiveness that Long Island, New York customers displayed that resulted in the trampling death of a Walmart employee on Black Friday. Sure, we replaced a Republican who controlled the executive branch with a Democrat but what about Congress? How many incumbents were re-elected in the same body of government where all spending bills originate? And why weren’t Democrats held accountable for their role in the economic mess that has led to a record budget deficit? How bad will things have to get before the average American realizes that paying attention to what their legislators do is far more important than clipping coupons or studying circulars in the Sunday newspaper?
Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty full-length feature films, has taught screenwriting at the University of South Florida. He has also written or co-authored three books and will be producing a play that he wrote later this year. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.