At a time when our nation needs effective leadership the most, there is too much partisanship in Washington. America is struggling to accomplish several priorities that are so important, inaction will threaten the well being of our children in the very near future. On these issues, partisanship is the number-one impediment to progress.
Don't get me wrong. Healthy partisanship is a good thing. Democrats and Republicans need to keep each other accountable. Bad ideas need to be criticized, and elections need to be contested. That's democracy. But when the financial security of every American is in jeopardy, we need to work together.
There has been some bipartisanship in the effort to solve the current financial crisis, but partisanship has reared its ugly head here as well. We should absolutely investigate the policies that got us to this point, but finger pointing will not make the stock market go back up. This is a big crisis that will take big ideas to tackle, and people in both parties have some good ideas.
The gas crisis is another example. The prices we have paid recently for gasoline should surprise no one. The global supply of oil is limited. We have enough to last us for another century or two, but accessing it is progressively more expensive as the easy to tap sources begin to dry up. At the same time, huge and booming economies like China and India are dramatically increasing global demand. Republicans should long ago have been willing to invest more in new technologies and alternative sources of energy. The reason we were not? Partisanship. Democrats should long ago have been willing to access the oil we have here at home. The reason they were not? Partisanship.
Another example is the war on terror. The Global War on Terror is a cultural conflict that will not be won easily or soon. If President Bush is right, democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan will provide desperately needed bastions of freedom and democracy right in the part of the world that needs it most. Unfortunately, the war has also become a topic of partisan bickering. Republicans have been too quick to question the patriotism of the President's critics and were too slow to question some of the President's early assumptions. The political left has gone off the deep end with dishonest slogans like "No blood for oil!" and calling a national hero "General Betray Us." Even mainstream Democrats have carped so loudly about the war that victory in Iraq will be politically embarrassing for them.
A third example, and one that is critically important for every American, is the crisis in entitlements. Social Security is hurting. It cannot survive as it is presently structured, and every year we delay fixing it means exponentially greater damage. Most Americans know that Social Security is in trouble, but many don't know that Medicare (the system that provides healthcare for every American retiree) is in even greater trouble. It is impossible to overstate the importance of acting as soon as possible to save these two programs. President Bush was willing, following his reelection, to spend great political capital on saving them. He even drew the outlines of a proposal. The response from the other side was vicious, and the initiative quickly died. Social Security and Medicare are closer to failure today than they were then, and Congress is doing absolutely nothing about it. The reason? Anyone in Congress who might be willing to lead on this is now too scared to speak up.
I am a Republican and I disagree with Democrats quite often. But I am and have always been eager to work with Democrats whenever possible. We have immense and serious problems to address, including the issues mentioned here. These are far more important than one political party or the career of any single politician.
If bipartisanship is still possible in Washington, we must use it to address critical issues like attaining financial and energy security for America, defeating our enemies, rebuilding the economy, and saving Social Security and Medicare from bankruptcy.
Congressman Joe Pitts represents the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania.