Is our system of government broken?

Sen. Evan Bayh says Congress is trapped in partisan gridlock that keeps it from addressing serious problems. Chief among those problems is the deficit, which is averaging about $1 trillion a year. Today’s Question: Is our system of government broken?

  • garyf

    Yes and no,

    The mechanics of checks and balances is working. It is supposed to be hard to pass legislation, that’s why there is vetos, fillebusters, etc. I chuckle when the party in power belly aches and wants to eliminate things like veto, allotment, and fillibuster rules because in the current environment, they do not benefit from these constrictions. What they don’t realize is that their vision on too short, some day they will not be in power and will come to like those tactics.

    Are we living past our means at every level of government? You betcha. Way, way too much government in our lives. Governmenment is not the answer. But, the strategy of getting more and more people addicted to government is working. We can’t cut a thing without piglets squeeling as they are pulled away from the sow.

    Need versus nice folks. It’s time to re-prioritize what we want government to do. We won’t provide lasting jobs without private sector jobs. The governement can’t spend us into prosperity, the government can’t tax us into prosperity.

    You can’t kill the goose that lays your golden eggs.

  • Steven

    Yes. Too many politicians prioritize winning over good public policy, even if it takes the personal destruction of the opposition. The common good is held hostage to political ambition.

    The health care debate provides a case in point. The Democrats proposed a set of moderate, market-based reforms that did not include “single-payer,” or even a “public option,” greatly disappointing many on the left. Even though the plan was very similar to proposals made by Republicans in recent years, Republican activists labeled the proposal “socialized medicine” and thereby succeeded in killing it. I’d like to believe that the American public is too smart to fall for such ploys, but in this case, enough of us did fall for it that it worked.

  • Steve the Cynic

    No. Broken would imply that at some point in the past it broke, which would further imply that before then it was intact, which is patently false.

  • Matt Berres

    Yes, too much corporate money has been allowed to influence our politicians. What the people want and need has become completely secondary.

  • zombie

    Broken? No. However, it’s disheartening when an entire group of people play the “I’m going home and taking my ball with me” game instead of sitting down and compromising with the other side.

    Maybe a law should be passed to not allow children into office.

  • Sue de Nim

    Mark Twain’s observation is still accurate: we have the best Congress money can buy.

  • Chad

    Yes– especially at the state level. Minnesota is now apparently governed by a monarchy, and constitutionally mandated services are being cut as “the fat in government.”

    This is how bridges fall and poor people die.

  • James

    No, but we do need to get back to the basics. Our elected officials need to be held accountable for their actions and lead within the means of the people.

    We are far better off than the PRC or the failed USSR.

    As a voting tax payer “I’m as mad as hell – And I’m not going to take it anymore” .

    Change is coming… I just hope the Phoenix will be stronger.


  • Our debt money system has broken everything including the government.

    The surest way to overturn the existing basis of any society is to corrupt the currency. It engages all the hidden forces of economics on the side of destruction and does it in a manner in which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

    Our medium-of-exchange was switched from an evidence of wealth to an evidence of debt by bad laws passed by Congress from 1853 to 1933.

    We must start creating and spending not lending all new money into circulation as a debt-free final payment. Otherwise, there will be no Life after Debt.

  • I believe they are intentionally destroying us economically as a way to convince us that our Constitutional Republic is broken that we must have a new form of government.

    We can change the outcome by realizing how foolish and enslaved we have become by accepting the use of an ‘evidence of debt’ for our medium of exchange. I believe MPR undersatnds this. However, MPR will not talk about nor address what it is we actually use for a medium-of-exchange. They’ll talk all around it but never on it. I know. I’ve tried to communicate with MPR on this issue but they won’t talk about it.

  • Tony

    No, the system itself is not broken. The partisan gridlock that you see so much of is a reflection of the electorate. I think you can plan on that getting worse; here’s one possible explanation on why.

    Our culture right now is focused a lot on all things “technology.” That’s reflected in the texting that teenagers do, the pay TV subscriptions that define too much of our leisure time, and lots of other things. Lots of instant gratification.

    One thing that all too often seems to be missing for much of the electorate (in spite of the 24-hour news analysis that’s so widely available) is historical and cultural reflection combined with meaningful, responsible thinking about the future.

    In a generation to come we may see some change in this; that change might possibly begin with an increased emphasis on social studies in school. Such an increased focus won’t happen, of course, unless we make it so. But right now our culture is more focused on all things “technology.” So our social/political future doesn’t look as good as it could, perhaps.

  • We have the greatest form of government ever invented but because of a small group of bankers have either bribed or tricked our congress into turning over the creation of money from the government as a payment to the people into the hands of the banksters who only create the money as interest bearing loans always ensuring a constantly growing unpayable debt absolutely enslaving the American people and almost nobody sees it.

    We could begin to fix this tomorrow if MPR would just start focusing on solutions.

    How about having me on as a guest to explain some of this stuff in detail?

  • Deb

    Yes, it is broken because it has become a power struggle and the important things of managing the country have been lost.

    Everyone needs to stop and remember that the country is in crisis in many aspects and ego’s need to be left behind.

    The negotiations for a bill have become political campaigns rather than comprises to help the country and the people.

  • Isn’t it amazing that people can look back in history and see how our personal, corporate and national debt have grown continuously, yet cannot recognize that there is a problem with our monetary system?

    Our manufacturing base here is dying. More and more of it is moving to China. We are building their economy, so we can borrow more from them. IRONIC!

    Wake up America, we are killing our own markets. It is corporate greed, and a monetary system that is bankrupting this nation through theft by deception.

    Where is the leadership that vows to protect this nation from enemies, foreign or internal?


  • Al Heebsh

    The party that purports to be based Christian values ignores a primary message of Christ – care for the poor and sick! Why? Because they value their political association more than their alleged Christian values. Obviously the system is broken when party members feel they have to deny their deeply held values in order avoid agreeing with political opponents on such an important issue.

  • J.O.

    What was it that Churchill said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried…”?

    It is supposed to be partisan, so the minority party retains at least some voice, but anonymous holds just to spite the President is going too far.

    I was watching an “American Experience” show on the CCC and was struck at how similar the atmosphere is today to that of the FDR years. Just replace Huey Long with Tea Partiers and the Great Depression with the Great Recession… now if only there was a new CCC, then I might have a job right now!

  • Matthew

    Yes, it’s broken. In a really fundamental way: Representation is massively unequal. And, because of it, any legislation that doesn’t please a handful of people who are lucky enough to be small-state voters is tied up.

    An example: Minnesota — not a big state, but not a small state — has about 5.2 million people. South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana *combined* have 3.2 million people.

    Even though we have 2 MILLION MORE people, we get 10 electoral votes (for now) and those states get 16. We get 2 senators, they get 10.

    And that’s just Minnesota vs. its western neighbors! Why on *Earth* is this considered fair representation? And why on Earth do we expect anything to get done even if majorities of people in support it when Montana or Maine can just hijack the national debate any time? Though we make up the majority of America still means we still have to give last word to small states. The Senate and electoral college are perfectly gerrymandered to ensure victory for the most isolationist, most socially conservative, most don’t-tax-me-but-pay-for-my-roads parts of the country.

    It would be one thing if those states were historically unique or culturally distinct. But they’re not. Their borders were drawn arbitrarily less than 200 years ago by the same “Washington elites” who are now so loathed.

    Broken? It is. But it’s not just the money or the incoherence from binary partisanship — it’s a fundamental problem that starts with the Senate and was compounded by Manifest Destiny: The states are too unequal and too different.

  • Lawrence

    Yes, our system is broken and a lot of it is our fault. We really don’t take the time to find out everything about our candidates for higher office, principally who are their largest financial contributors. More importantly, we the voters, continue to get caught up in emotional tug of wars with racist and economic class arguments. Social services is costing too much money, yet, we’ve spent trillions of dollars on two wars that have yet to yield any winning results. Tax cuts supposedly stifle job growth, but we, the voters won’t ask why 8 years of tax cuts failed to generate jobs or who are the tax cuts really going to. Public education should go, but none of us want to copy Japan’s educational system, which is more successful than ours. We’re so afraid minorities, or illegal immigrants, or people we don’t know will use our tax money on nonessential items that we aren’t willing to invest in the things that would make our country great again.

  • Matthew

    Wait! Sorry. My math was off: Those states have 4.7 million — almost 500,000 fewer people than who live in Minnesota.

    And we have 2 senators to their 10?

  • Robert Rossi

    Sadly, yes. Our system of governance works best if the average voter puts the good of the nation before their own individual interests…but it relies on them, at minimum, looking out for themselves. Nowadays, the sufficient expenditure of money can make many people actively vote against their own interests, and the floodgates opening to corporate money will only amplify the problem.

    No single thing causes this failure: we the people can moan and wring our hands about the influence of money in politics, and it is true that excising such money would help a great deal. But we have already sold off most of our representation to the highest bidder, and it would be folly to expect the current Congress to fix this problem. We should focus on what we can directly control, and that is how we (inform ourselves in order to) vote. Nobody’s holding a gun to our head making us vote against our own interests…they are just relying on us to use paid advertising and high-pitched bias media as our main means of learning about the issues and candidates.

    Wake UP, America! We still own our votes! Stop selling yours to the highest bidder!

  • Alice Cowley

    If it were not for the Republican’s religious tribal warfare going on by using emotionalismn not common sense to get the people riled up, we could be working for the good basic needs of the PEOPLE. Of course the other problem has been compounded by the Supreme Courts recent ruling of giving the rights of the money to do the talking and muting the voices of the people.

    If our democracy is to survive we cannot loose our first amendent of the Bill of Rights. Especially the separation of church/state. We cannot go back to the dark ages.

    Sincerely, Alice Cowley

  • Charles

    In many ways it is due to the fringe sides having a voice now and digging their heels in. On the national level, there was a time a couple generations ago where US Senators would hang out together in the lunchroom and discuss matters, have disagreements but still be friends. That time is long gone as the fringes have taken a all or nothing binary approach.

    It is also happening on the state level but not as bad. When we had Arne Carlson, there was debate across the board, there were disagreements but the process worked. Even farther back both sides came together for the “Minnesota Miracle”.

    Today due to the governor’s future political aspirations, bipartisanship is out the window. It was evident last year when the DFL invited the governor many times near the end of the session to try to come together and compromise on a deal. Instead the state got unilateral unallotments. This session’s will be similar as the session will be based on outreach to the national GOP fringe base for the 2012 Primary, not the good of the state as a whole.

  • Rick

    Government is not working the way I would like it to work.

    1 It seems to me we have moved away from democracy to something else. Our elected officials operate as if we elected them to enact their own agendas, rather than to work out how to enact the voters’ agendas in a responsible, collaborative way.

    2 Members of Congress, in particular, seem to be more concerned with forcing their views onto each other, than finding the opportunities in one another’s points of view. They would rather dominate others than collaborate with them.

    3 One way to demonstrate our government process still works is to stop voting for members of the two warring parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. If they can’t play nicely together, than none of them should be in the sandbox. Let’s give them all notice in the next Congressional elections — vote for candidates who do not belong to either party. Not only will that send a very loud message that the People are in charge and the People are unhappy, it will also break up the log jam in Congress.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  • Arlene

    What has happened to our democracy when the minority rules? I was thrilled when we elected a majority of Democrats to the national govenment in 2008. But the Republicans have dug in their heels and refused to let the choice of the majority of the electorate take power. Why should the minority’s power be greater than the majority’s? Let’s do away with the current practice of allowing the threat of a filibuster to stop action in Congress. We should insist that those who want to filibuster actually have to show up and do so on the floor of Congress. Let the people see who is standing in the way of action.

  • justacoolcat


    Our politicians are elected to represent the people in their state, district, ect, but both Dems and Reps represent their respective parties.

    Now toss in a constant campaign cycle where a politician is essentially always on the campaign trail and you have a broken mess.

  • Kris

    There are some problems with the system, sure, but the biggest problems most likely arise from the fact that a representative democracy is only as good as the electorate that it represents. The American public is petty and stubbornly divided, and that is magnified in its representation. We cannot be persuaded to allow for compromise or be asked to sacrifice anything for the good of all. We distrust government and want nothing to do with it outside of voting for our candidate. But, we also whine about how government isn’t doing what we want it to. Accurate representation only comes from a body politic that is engaged and forthcoming about working together as a country. The system, with its jumble of contradicting wills and agendas, cannot be expected to make major accomplishments under these conditions.

  • Craig Westover

    “Is our system broken?” is a classic four quadrant question; there are four possible interpretations, each requires a different approach.

    1) The system is being followed as designed and works as intended. It works.

    2) The system is being followed as designed and doesn’t work as intended.

    3) The system is not being followed and the process that is used doesn’t work.

    4) The system is not being followed, but the process being followed still works.

    I would argue that #4 is the current case, but #3 is on the horizon.

    We have ignored the spirit and letter of constitutional government (abandoned small “r” republican government for a democratic socialism that pays lip service to constitutional limitations on government); nonetheless the capitalist engine has kept running and kept this a prosperous nation. But it cannot bear the burden of excessive government indefinitely.

    To fix the system, we need to remove the government barriers we have set up, which productive people are ignoring or working around. We must restore small “r” republican government and look to productive individuals in a free market, not government, to create prosperity for the greatest number.

  • Steven

    Yes, it’s broken, because the Truth is irrelevant in American politics. Here’s why.

    The key difference between the two major parties is over how they answer this question: Which scares you more, big business or big government? Answer the former, and you’re a Democrat; the latter, and you’re a Republican. When Reagan took office, business was over-regulated, and government was too big. Thirty years on, the pendulum has swung too far the other way, and still some folks are crying for less government regulation, even after the “Great Recession,” which was the direct result of under-regulation. The truth is, we need the power of government and the power of business to be in balance.

    As long as each side’s hero is the other’s villain, a healthy balance will never be struck, and politics will continue to be nothing more than a shouting match. And because the Truth doesn’t make campaign contributions, both sides are deaf to reason.

  • Larry

    No, but its strained.

    Our founders ingeneously created a complicated system of checks and balances on several levels in an effort to rein in the possibility of kooks and nuts taking over in times of stress and strife … resulting in poor decisions, bad government and a despotic country.

    Unfortunately, it also works the other way. You can have a nucleus of good people attempting to do good, but the system allows the fringe kooks and nuts to set up roadblocks.

  • Darren

    Absolutely! Our system is fractured and needs to be fixed. The ruling elite are holding us back. They are more concerned with staying in power than doing what’s right for the American people. I’m not sure that just voting out the incumbents will solve this issue. When a new representative or senator takes office, they come with energy and good ideas, but get quagmired in the process in Washington and end up keeping the status quo. There is also no accountability all the way up to the president. I’ll be interested to see over the next several years if we have some sort of political revolution.

  • Glenn Farwell

    As a decendant of a signer of the Constitution- I have a rather personal interest in this “debate.”

    It appears to me that the check and balance system in government has digressed. In our system of government by proxy- the people have a say with the election- and the peoples’ voice stops there. It then becomes the power of special interests and fear-sellers to push through an agenda.

    A two party system makes me laugh- had Adams and Jefferson learned to get along we wouldn’t have such a prejiduced format today.

    In all- the peoples representation slid away- when dignity was the first to leave.

  • olcadguy

    No WAY , the system is working fine, we got the dim wit Republicans OUT,that’s BIG, and the new dems are doing what is good for the PEOPLE, not just BUSINESS, I am in

    the middle, a very small business man, but I have diversified so that I have survived, I would like to employ, but the gov’t wont let me.

    I do what I have to do to survive… I would like to employ 1-3 people, but beuocracy won’t let me. Why not bend the rules, anmd let me put people to work??>???

  • jack Goldman

    We don’t have government. We have government subsidies where winners take all. Israel is an excellent example. Israel is the world’s most subsidized failed state. America sends more stolen tax dollars to Israel than any nation in the world per capita.

    Government employees want money. Government employees are legal thieves. Democrats and Republicans work for the same company for the same reason, money.

    With debased currency and global competition the game is getting harder and harder to win. That is why politicians are more contentious like wolves fighting for fewer and fewer deer. Eventually we will all turn on each other as the system collapses like a forest fire to cleanse the system. Protect yourself. No one else can or will.