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‘My way or the highway’ no way to end gridlock

Connie Tipton

Connie Tipton is president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. She contributes this column exclusively for Cheese Market News®.

August in Washington, D.C., is a quiet time when most of us take vacations and enjoy family and friends. We get away from it all, in a sense, putting troubles aside at least for a while. Sure, we stay more connected through technology than we used to do, but still it can be a refreshing break.

Now summer vacations are coming to a close, and it’s time to refocus on our many agendas for business and family. That reality unfortunately contains many trouble spots around the world where no one gets a vacation — a grim reminder of how fortunate we are to live in the United States of America and to be part of a great industry.

But I fear that we are losing ground as our country’s leaders react to events rather than doing the hard work of strategic planning and leadership. Blame and political points have become more important than accomplishments and accountability. None of the looming issues of growing budget deficits are being addressed as entitlement programs gobble up more and more of our available resources. Defense and national security need better prioritization instead of across the board cuts by a Congress that is increasingly split into factions that won’t work together and have no leadership coming from the executive in chief.

I understand why people just put these issues out of their minds and go on about their business, but I think this is dangerous.

Let’s dissect how Washington is (not) working.

The Senate is controlled by the Democrats and led by Harry Reid, D-Nev., who stubbornly refuses to let the historical “regular order” of Senate business occur. He routinely frustrates other senators who would at least like to bring up issues of importance to them and their constituents. This frustration has driven many of the more moderate senators to retire and encouraged the election of more radical senators on the other side of the aisle, bringing it all to gridlock. It’s like a big intersection with cars blocking traffic both ways.

In the House, the Republicans hold the majority and are “in charge” under the leadership of Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio. He has tried mightily to move legislation, but he has a big problem with an increasing number of his colleagues in both parties who refuse to compromise, leaving just one more big blocked intersection.

As if that’s not enough, there is one more major component — the lack of leadership from the President’s office in working with Congress to build coalitions on important issues. After five and a half years into President Obama’s tenure, it has become clear to everyone that he is not willing to reach out and work with Congress. Most in the House and Senate, even in his own party, will tell you they do not have a relationship of any sort with the President. This isn’t good. The result — everyone is practicing “my way or the highway,” and this kind of approach threatens our future.

What can we do?

Voters must take the responsibility for electing people who can do the job. We’re only a couple months away from elections for all House seats and 36 Senate seats, so there is a chance to change things around the margins.

That’s important, and we all need to be involved.

Equally important, we need to elect people who are willing to work with others to tackle big issues that those of us in private life have little ability to impact. We need a working majority of sensible people, not people who are dug in on one side or the other. We need people who understand business and appreciate capitalism. Be sure to evaluate candidates where you vote on criteria such as these, not just party affiliation or other issues of concern to you. The numbers must change to get Washington working.

Some actions already have helped to make a difference, especially during this year’s political primaries.

Organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have gotten involved to make sure we aren’t putting “fringe” candidates on the ballot who either won’t be able to win in November or won’t be able to get anything done if they are. Most of the pundits predict modest gains by Republicans in House seats and a possible gain of the six seats they must win in the Senate to shift control. A shift of the Senate majority could make a significant difference in how things operate, but it will take more to set our ship of state back on a productive course.

Making our democracy work better requires our constant attention and involvement. It’s not a one-election-cycle problem. The United States of America is a great country, and it’s up to us to keep it that way.

CMN

The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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