The Economic Stimulus -Public Works
The current society is characterized by a dynamic political system in which political parties devise innovative techniques to woo the electorate. A common feature of the political system is that the existing political parties struggle to be disciplined and responsible, but in doing so, a situation is created whereby much political interest is focused on individual groups rather than the electorate. Such an observation was noted by Professor Richard Hofstadter, a famous American historian (Brown 4). In such circumstances, a situation is created whereby most governments perceived to be popular in the world are in real sense never friends of their people, and the people become characters of fate as opined in the Federalist Number 10 (Madison). As such, the electorate becomes a subject of the government and never realizes that their government has a propensity of engaging in vices rather than virtues.
The economic stimulus package of the United States is one of the most talked about incentives that that are anticipated to revive the American economy and disengage the population from the effects if the economic downturn. The stimulus is anticipated to create job opportunities, protect unemployed and retrenched workers by its unemployment benefits scheme, and provide many other incentives to promote consumption, thereby spurring economic growth (Baker and Broder). But the fact that the stimulus is seen by the Republicans as a project of political interest by the Democrats raises a number of questions. An obvious point is that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are out to entice the electorate by their policies notwithstanding the fact they also intend to build the American economy. This is because while many Democrats oppose the stimulus of 2009, they were part of the Congress that passed and supported the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008.
The fact that the recent economic recession adversely affected the United States economy cannot be gainsaid. It is along this line that the economic stimulus is focused on areas that will create massive job opportunities such as public works. President’ Obama’s ambitious plan is meant to expand traditional occupation programs for middle class Americans through projects such as building and repairing of roads and bridges, creation of modern day jobs in technology, and many other projects considered under the “green jobs” program to lower the effects of global warming (Baker and Broder). This wonderful scheme if implemented in its entirety would lead to a significant change in the United States economy. But why are many Republicans opposed to the projects under the economic stimulus of 2009? This opposition depicts a point that many policies are implemented by governments to suit their interests rather than those of the populace.
Professor Richard Hofstadter could have been right when he pointed out that powerful countries such as the United States and China may be considered in some instances to be symbols of systems that react in certain ways to their environments, and perhaps have to some scope wishes of their own. As such, they may “decide” to implement some policies or push for the implementation of such policies with respect to the status of other nations (Steele 219). What the United States currently doing can be attributed to the realization that many emerging economies such as China are threatening to take control of the world market, which traditionally has been a position held by the United States.
The rush to increase jobs and improve consumption is necessitated by the fact that many investment opportunities in the United States have been taken by rapidly growing markets such as China- a standpoint taken by many Republicans (Montgomery). In addition, the move to increase unemployment benefits is being criticized as protecting a section of the populace in one area while subjecting them to higher taxes in the others. Moreover, the ambitious plan to invest massively in public works is seen a mechanism that will lead to underemployment given that there is a large section of unemployed elites yet the project mostly targets menial jobs. But proponents of the economic stimulus still argue that the benefits to be derived from the scheme outweigh the losses (Montgomery).
Why elites from two parties should take different standpoints over an economic issue of national interest exemplifies how politics is being oriented towards political party interests rather than the electorate. It like an act of dictatorship disguised as a democracy whereby the United States populace has to live with what is believed to be good by a popular political party rather than by what the electorate itself yearns for.
A point in Federalist Number 10 suggests that a pure democracy can be considered as a society comprising a “small number of citizens who assemble and administer the government in person” and “can admit no cure for mischief of faction”. This point further goes that a common passion by the small group of citizens will in many cases be embraced by the majority of the people and all communication emanates from the government itself. Moreover, there is nothing to check various inducements used to sacrifice the lesser party or “obnoxious” individuals (Madison).
The above points from Federalist Number 10 depict the nature of democracies such as the United States in which political parties use their power to influence and win the electorate. Given that the stimulus package unveiled in 2008 (Economic Stimulus Act of 2008) failed to deliver results as anticipated, there is no evidence that the current package (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) will work. In particular, the massive investment in public works is amenable to discussion, but since political parties use their own perspectives to argue out national economic issues, they encourage pluralism that excludes citizens from matters such as the relevance of the economy.
Pluralism entails having a society’s power held among a number of groups of people rather than possessed by the electorate. This was clearly depicted when Congress hurriedly passed the stimulus bill for the 2009 stimulus Act (Minton). The Congress did not question or at least did not meticulously evaluate the issues of economic recovery addressed by the Democratic Party in its support for the stimulus (Montgomery). According Hofstadter’s philosophy, major political traditions in the United States have a common opinion on the rights of property, which suggests an attitude of economic individualism and an attachment to competition (Singal 976; Brown 235-236).
Further, Hofstadter’s philosophy is that citizens of the United States have been forced to accept the economic merits of the capitalist environment as qualities pertinent to their survival (Singal 976). Despite the fact that this thought was made a long time ago, the situation is pervasive in the American system today: a condition in which citizens are always made to believe that economic stimulus packages are the best mechanisms to revitalize the economy.
The fact that different governments make shifts in the stimulus by emphasizing on investment in different areas (such as public works) does not mean that the plans will be effective. It is merely an illustration that citizens have become subjects of a few groups of individuals leading them in the form of governments. The dominance of individuals in political parties has caused the parties to make decisions that favor them and give them competitive advantage at the expense of implementing plans that have long-term economic benefits. According to Hofstadter, political parties create a struggle between the poor and the rich; and between capitalists and democrats (Lachs and Talisse 366).
Political parties in the United States exacerbate pluralism by having the supreme law of the land or the constitution amended without consent from a majority of the populace who are served by the constitution. For instance, sections of the United States law were amended in order not to collide with the stipulations in the economic stimulus package, particularly with reference to the provisions for expenditure of the stimulus funds. This means that the majority of the people are excluded from planning long-term events that are otherwise looked at only in the short run.
According to the Federalist Number 10, democracies have always been epitomes of contention and turbulence. They have been incompatible with needs of the masses and disregarded their rights to property and personal security (Madison). Not all these features may be characteristic of the current United States government, but there seems a lot of gimmick to please the masses by implementation of projects that are not worthwhile such as the projected massive investment in public works as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package. In essence, this is not the kind of government described in Federalist Number 10, which is open to different prospects and promises the cure desired by people (Madison).
In essence while the government’s plan to invest massively in public works is a worthwhile idea, there is need to involve the people in the decision making process in order to embrace the features of true democracy and avoid pluralism.
Baker, Peter and Broder, John M. Obama Pledges Public Works on a Vast Scale. New York Times. 16 Dec 2008.
Brown, David Scott. Richard Hofstadter: an intellectual biography: Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Lachs, John and Talisse, Robert B. American Philosophy: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Madison, James. “The Federalist No. 10: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued)”. Daily Advertiser, November 22, 1787. 2 May 2009. <http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm>
Minton, Barbara. Stimulus Package is Latest Battleground in War between Ron Paul and Big Government .Feb 12, 2009. 2 May 2009. http://www.infowars.com/stimulus-package-is-latest-battleground-in-war-between-ron-paul-and-big-government/
Mongomery, Lori. House Democrats Consider Large, New Economic Stimulus Package. Washington Post. 14 Oct 2008.
Singal, Daniel Joseph, Beyond Consensus: Richard Hofstadter and American Historiography. The American Historical Review, 89(4): 976, Oct. 1984.
Steeler, Guy L. Comments on Hofstadter. Synthese 53 (2), November 1982.