Sunday, April 10, 2011

Comparative Politics 101

So the US government won't be shut down after all - which is a good thing, I guess, when it comes to museums, parks, federal workers, federally-backed mortgage approvals and government services for the poor and elderly. Allowing it to be shut down would have also had some upsides, and I'm not entirely sure it wasn't a good idea to just let it happen (for once, I agree with Eliot Spitzer!) and what we've got is a country where liberal social principles are triumphing, but Republican (I can't say conservative - it's not, really) financial ideas are sharing that winner's circle.

This brings about an interesting little eddy in the writhing tides of comparative politics.

Before we found out that there would be no shutdown, I mentioned it to a student. She was taken aback - positively horrified - by the idea that a government would go so far as to not reauthorize spending to maintain itself.

"I thought that American politics was more mature than Taiwanese politics, and these things don't happen in America," she said.

"Yeah, well, that's not true. We're just as immature politically as the DPP and KMT. The arguments and divisions are different but the rhetoric is the same. The only thing that separates the Legislative Yuan from the Senate is that American Senators don't beat each other up..." (Which, actually, I'm not sure is historically true). "...although sometimes I think they should."

And it is absolutely true. For all the complaining that you hear about politics in Taiwan and how it's too rough, immature, pointless, boastful and full of empty rhetoric and political game-playing over serious investments in improving the country - honestly, you'd think that that was only a problem in Taiwan. It's not. We're just as bad, if not worse. I mean, is there a Taiwanese Sarah Palin? Although, for all his wishy-washiness, Obama is a better and more centrist leader than Ma.

Both countries are deeply divided over social and economic issues, and both of those divides follow cultural lines (in the USA it's generally regional and is in some way related to religion; in Taiwan it's mostly about who immigrated when). The words are different and the issues are different, but the BS is the same.


A lot of people like to boast that they are "socially liberal and fiscally conservative". This is apparently something that many people are proud of, and they think it makes them somehow more sensible than either party. I am not fiscally conservative - while I'm not in favor of debt, cutting government programs that many needy people rely on is not the way to go about reducing it. Lowering tax rates for the wealthy and corporations is definitely not OK - I'm sorry but supply side, Libertarian and trickle-down economics do not work. We've been through this. We talked about this in the late '80s and '90s. We agreed. Doesn't work. Money spent on social programs for the poor, elderly and unemployed put more money back into the economy than money spent giving breaks to wealthy people. So, America, WTF?).

I do believe that a time of recession and high unemployment is not the time to slash spending. I do believe that the spending the government has agreed to cut isn't the spending that really matters, and isn't the right thing to be cutting. I do believe that Obama should have called the Republicans' bluff.

I am happy that liberal values are winning out in the USA (because they're right, natch) and that for the first time in awhile, the Democrats actually stood up for women's rights and refused to allow the de-funding of Planned Parenthood.

I am not happy, though, that conservative fiscal values, at this time, are winning - and that they're cutting the wrong things and lowering taxes for the wrong people.

So yes, we might be basically just like Taiwan except we don't slap each other, but really, someone should just take Boehner and rough him up a bit, Taiwanese-legislature style.


Renee C. said...

I agree with you on how the US is divided on politics and how it's just like TW in some ways. I watched many election campaign commercials last October just before I returned to TW and got this thought that since when has the US started transplanting TW's election culture?? Really hope it's not gonna get down that road for real! Speaking of politics, please allow me to put some comments besides the article's point (being a political science major, i just can't help but letting it out). The US politics sometimes doesn't look good. However, it gives average young people who want to do things for their country more access to political world such as various internships.Students can get more traning before graduation and find positions suitable fitting them. This is what Taiwan can't give, at least at current stage and years to come, which can be very frustrating. Guess the differences come from different establishments of institutions and how farsighted a nations' politicians are.

CarbSane said...

Just a quick note to let you know your content is being stolen. One suggestion to me was to offer only a partial feed (easily changed in your settings)

Jenna said...

Thanks for the heads-up. That site has nothing whatsoever to do with what I posted so I wonder why they'd steal it (it would be more understandable if they'd stolen my post on vegetarianism). I've changed my feed to partial.

At least they stole a post I don't really care about that much - it's basically just me rambling! :)