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Moore: What Happened to American Exceptionalism?

Monday, July 17, 2017

 

Thankfully, the National Governor’s Association meeting has come to a close.

There are no more road closures in Providence, or secret service agents hulking around the city, or any more international pezzonovantes like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Tesla CEO Elon Musk making Rhode Island appear more relevant than we really are.

Let’s call the event what it really is: a mutual admiration society where everyone tells everyone else how great everyone is and nothing important gets accomplished. It’s an event where politicians get easy, good press thanks to cleverly delivered soundbites. It doesn’t do anything for the masses.

Big shots like Musk advocate for their own interests--like, in his case, government subsidies to further his own brands.

Dog/Pony Show

The press mostly just fawns over the big names. The Providence Journal went to far as to run a story that was totally issue-free, instead just focusing on the physical attractiveness of the Canadian Prime Minister! We’ve hit rock bottom, right?

With all the focus on trivialities, you’d think all was well around here and around the world.

Yet has there ever been a time where Americans have had less faith in government? It’s hard to imagine.

On the statewide level here at home, the legislature still hasn’t passed a budget. This is because Senate President Dominick Ruggerio supposedly violated a backroom deal he had carved out with House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. Mattiello felt dissed by the gesture, so he refused to consider the amended budget and dismissed the House of Representatives until further notice.

Does anyone believe that that’s how the system is supposed to work? The two leaders agree on a budget before the public deliberations on the House and Senate floors begin, and passage is a foregone conclusion. If that’s the case, why even bother with the theatrics of a floor debate?

Gridlock

Thanks to this impasse, there is currently no budget and the state is forced to operate on the previous year’s budget.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the administration from passing out pay raises or creating nice, cushy new government jobs for the connected. Those are the government’s priorities.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza, is claiming that this stalemate is going to cause him to layoff workers in the school district, thanks to less funding than expected from the state budget, according to a report from wpri.com. Yet the mayor is also telling us that the city ran $10 million surpluses over the last two years. If the mayor is running surpluses, of $10 million, and expecting to lose $10 million in funding from not having a budget, it would be a wash. Hardly the reason to sound an alarm.

Nero Fiddled

On a national level, nothing gets done either, of course. It’s making America look foolish.

A report in bloomberg.com on Saturday quoted JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon as saying that it’s “almost an embarrassment” being an American and traveling overseas. Dimon pointed out that half of the students in inner-city American schools don’t graduate high school. We’re amidst a opioid epidemic that kills about 35,000 Americans on a yearly basis. And Congress cannot revise the tax code to make us more competitive with foreign economies.

Instead of being a country that faces big challenges head on with optimism and competence, America seems to be shying away and pointing fingers instead of solving problems.

We cannot build new infrastructure. We cannot keep people off dangerous drugs. We cannot reform health care. We cannot fix the tax code. We cannot stem the tide of rising inequality.

Whatever happened to American exceptionalism?

Russell J. Moore has worked on both sides of the desk in Rhode Island media, both for newspapers and on political campaigns. Send him email at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @russmoore713.

 

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