Redefining Politics

I have readings ready for class on Tuesday, November 4. I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s voting day, and the day represents a culmination of semester long work in terms of a course plot. In any event, given the elections, which feels strangely distant from reality, this post by Greenstein and Kogan at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reminds me of some frustration about political ecology, by which I mean the way people interact with and shape governance culture.

November 4 will be a good example of this ecology in the ambient round. The relationship on display between the states and the federal government is a part of the Christie/Obama narrative but not part of the larger narrative on display in the governance sales job.

I’ve learned over time that politics should be a form of problem solving. But it’s hard to solve problems when the wrong narrative is being written. We could ask this question and try to make people care. We could ask what drives “the nations long-term fiscal problems” outside of the immediate issue of a destroyed abode after a storm somewhere on the eastern coast.

Several conservative analysts and some journalists lately have cited figures showing substantial growth in recent years in the cost of federal programs for low-income Americans. A recent report the Congressional Research Service prepared for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) provides one such set of figures.[1] These figures can create the mistaken impression that growth in low-income programs is a major contributor to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

In reality, virtually all of the recent growth in spending for low-income programs is due to two factors: the economic downturn and rising costs throughout the U.S. health care system, which affect costs for private-sector care as much as for Medicaid and other government health care programs.

I ask: why should it matter that the narrative that defines a problem be taken more seriously?

When there are critical problems that need solving.

I leave the rest to suggestion.