Opinion: Business Can Counteract Washington Gridlock

A participant at a Tea Party Express rally displays a sign critical of the Obama administration on April 13, 2010 in Albany, New York.

It was interesting to hear yet another former presidential administration official - among a slew of former political figures once they've gotten out of 'the game' -come out against the hyper-partisan garbage in Washington, and say we need to elect more moderates. 

There isn't a lack of ideas on how to do so. In fact there is quite a bit of agreement.

From Peter Orszag at Bloomberg:

The Harvard Business School alumni provided a set of recommendations for policy makers. They are familiar ones to those who follow policy debates -- including simplifying the tax code, reforming immigration policies, investing in infrastructure, and strengthening the use of cost-benefit analysis in the regulatory system.

So why doesn't it happen? Farther on down the article, Orszag hits the nail on the head:

What specifically could business leaders do to reduce the problem? The evidence suggests that although the public has become more polarized in recent decades, it remains more centrist than the Congress itself. That difference creates an opportunity for efforts to reduce the polarization in Congress to the level we see in the population.

The most realistic approach is to work to elect moderate representatives in House districts that do not swing hard one way or the other and moderate Senators in states that are relatively evenly divided politically.

He's right to highlight this as the main roadblock. Both parties are becoming more and more ideologically pure each year, making the gap between them larger and larger. For the first time, the National Journal's tracking of the ideological spread in Washington showed zero overlap... meaning not even the most liberal republican is in the same area of the political spectrum as the most conservative republican.

Without that overlap, it's clear that we're just going to keep getting continued and increasing gridlock. You can't find common ground if there isn't common ground to be had. This is especially true when your noisiest followers consider compromise to be a dirty word.

These thoughts contain echos of what Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has been saying, with his push for the wealthy should stop funding political campaigns until they start caring about the American people more than partisan warfare and their short term, narrow focus on just winning the next election. We'll find out if this, and general displeasure with Obama's performance in general, will translate into less than stellar fundraising for Obama's campaign, his Super PAC, and other Democratic political operations like the Democratic Congressional/Senatorial Campaign Committees and the DNC.

We may be seeing it happen to a certain degree on the Republican side already, with this year's primary spending way down from four years ago, but that couldt just as much be that potential donors are as excited (read: not very) as the Republican primary voter base.

There is no lack of workable ideas on how to start working on solving the big issues that our nation faces. None of them are as easy as the fairy tales that the Democrats and Republicans are trying to sell the American people in their efforts to get or stay in office, but they exist. What stands in the way of seeing them enacted is the political short sightedness, ideological rigidity and tribal US vs THEM mentality that has taken over Washington and the power structure of the two major parties.

Poll after poll shows that the American people see the broad strokes of this. The vacuum between the right and left is just now starting to populate with new organizations aiming to represent and fight for those of us that are unrepresented, or underrepresented, in government, but we have a long way to go. If business leaders want to see progress, they need to listen to Schultz, quit feeding the Leviathan and start helping develop an opposition to the two headed beast that has gotten us to where we are now.