At Your Service: Oct. 1, 2008

When I logged on to file the column that I had written for this week, I received the disturbing news that Congress did not pass what is commonly referred to as the “bail out bill.” While I know more than many about the workings of Wall Street, everything I know is not enough to understand the complexities of the need for this legislation. So, I do not have an opinion on whether it is the right or wrong thing for our government to do.
What concerns me is that the stories I read indicated that the driving concerns of many Congressional representatives are their own re-election and political positioning.
Politics, by its very nature is about compromise. In order to develop a system that works, such as our democracy, people must be willing to negotiate issues until they can find a solution on which they can agree. We have developed a social contract in which we agree to be governed by majority rule and elect representatives to do the work of determining the laws we will follow. In simple terms, that is the role of government.
There is much talk these days regarding a “mandate for change” and the two candidates running for president have built their campaigns around the type of change they will deliver when elected. The stalemate around this bailout bill seems to provide a classic example of the type of change I believe most of us want to see.
There seems to be universal agreement that we are in the midst of an economic crisis to rival that which occurred during the Great Depression. News that the bill had failed to pass sent the stock market into the largest point drop in its history. The times demand that something be done to remedy the situation before the crisis becomes cataclysmic.
What we got was more business as usual with some uncommon twists. The administration put forth a proposal, Congressional leadership met in round-the-clock sessions to hammer out an agreement they could agree upon and then failed to agree when it was put to a vote. What followed was a media blitz of finger pointing to place the blame for failure to agree on whatever side was opposite the speaker of the moment.
The real mandate is for leadership in the face of adversity. We need our political leadership to put aside their partisan and personal concerns and deliver a solution that serves the best interests of the country. It is time to step to the plate and do the right thing.
Our political leadership is no different than the rest of us. They struggle with conflicting concerns that range from personal to public need. Yet, they are different because they have taken a vow to put the best interests of their country before their own. The oath of office for Congress is quite simple, elected officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution.” It provides a framework for compliance, the Constitution, and enables the individual lawmaker to use their best judgment.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I vote for individuals based on what I believe will be their ability to use that judgment wisely. While I vote within a system that is based on two primary parties, it is the abilities of the individual running for office that determines for whom I actually vote. Sometimes this means that I cross party lines.
Good judgment and a willingness to exercise it are the essential elements that I am looking for in this election year and into the future. This means that I am counting on my elected officials to do the right thing rather than that which is expedient or convenient. It means they must work across party lines with creativity to find solutions.
The economic situation makes me, and many like me, angry because I believe that it has been caused by people putting their personal interests before that of their customers, employees, stockholders and the country. Our anger and possible disagreement should not, however, be the determining factor in finding a solution to the problem.
It does not bother me that the Congress is taking some extra time to develop the best solution, as long as the solution they eventually develop is real. By real, I mean one that will put us on a road to stability and long-term economic security. It means that they must put aside their concerns for re-election and party pandering and put the needs of the country first. Sadly, that is a call for change.