Have you ever been to the Goshen Fair? If not, you should go sometime or to one like it. When you do, you will see a healthy cross-section of hardworking, family and community oriented, mostly non-urban, Americans. I was at the Goshen Fair on Sunday. After trying my first deep fried Oreo cookie, I began chatting-up fair goers.
My assessment of the mood in Goshen is that everyone is at least concerned about how Washington is running the country, while many are highly agitated and angry. There is a palpable sense that Washington isn’t doing enough to create more jobs and get the economy going again. Instead, Washington is spending away our children’s futures on pet pork-barrel projects, fat cat bailouts, and an overhaul of our healthcare system for which there is no electoral mandate and has been no real public debate.
I happen to agree with the people I met in Goshen. Our leaders in Washington are on a spending spree while the average American is struggling to pay his or her bills and to restore financial sanity to their households. I have some suggestions for what can be done to reverse the credibility gap that has so rapidly developed between citizens and their representatives in Washington.
First, now that the destabilizing effects of the financial crises have passed, Congress should review and eliminate the spending provisions in the fiscal stimulus bill that weren’t going to provide stimulus in the first place or are no longer needed. Doing so could lower the cost of that legislation, some say by as much as several hundred billion dollars, and commensurately reduce the future obligations we are placing on our children.
Second, Congress needs a new approach to the healthcare debate. Most Americans agree that health insurance should be available to more people and health care costs need to be reduced. But it simply doesn’t square with most Americans that a large new government program is needed or that such a program will bring healthcare costs down. If anything, government programs tend to start small, like Medicare, and grow into large, poorly administered, and colossally expensive programs in one or two generations. It doesn’t take a policy expert to know that a new government insurance plan is likely to develop in this way. Furthermore, there is something that feels tricky in the way it is being sold to us.