Practicality Before Principles

This month, ongoing disagreements in Washington as to whether or not the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be funded finally culminated in a 17-day shutdown that stripped the American public of essential government-funded programs and left hundreds of thousands of employees unpaid. In order to make this country more efficient, Republicans and Democrats alike must come together to form cohesive solutions. In order to achieve this, the two parties must begin to prioritize practicality over ideology. Viewing current political issues from a more practical and unbiased perspective will lead to greater advances overall.

Democrats created ACA in an attempt to increase the quality, availability and affordability of health insurance in America. When U.S. national debt amounts to nearly $17 trillion, however, Democrats must acknowledge that mandating standardized government care to all U.S citizens is an unrealistic goal. Democrats can and should continue to promote health care programs and subsidies, but they must also recognize the financial implications of imposing universal health care.

Similarly, Republican reluctance to raise the debt ceiling in order to bear the ACA’s enormous cost is valid, but their attempts to prevent universal health care were not realistic. In 2012, the Supreme Court declared ACA constitutional and, by the following year, 46 Republican-led efforts to repeal the bill failed. In the hours leading up to the shutdown, even though it was clear that ACA would receive the funding it required, members of Congress including Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz continued their attempt to eradicate the bill. Republicans should have opposed ACA by pursuing a balanced, effective strategy instead of insisting upon using methods that had already proved futile.

In the wake of the shutdown, it has become clear that the United States cannot afford to remain in political gridlock. Two million federal employees had their paychecks delayed, and at least 800,000 may never receive them at all, according to the “Washington Post.”

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration was forced to cease many food-safety operations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were unable to direct vaccine programs across the nation. Veteran and disability benefits were under constant threat of disruption, and the National Institutes of Health reported that it would have to turn away roughly 200 patients each week from clinical research centers.

The practice of prioritizing political ideology over pragmatic reasoning has fostered the mentality that Democrats and Republicans must oppose each other and, as a result, the two sides of American politics have become so obstinate that a compromise seems impossible to reach. Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization devoted to policy research, describes our government as the largest threat to our own economy and national security.

To achieve a more comprehensive mentality, American politicians have to take into consideration the hard facts and raw data they are presented with to establish common ground on issues, and then develop solutions accordingly. The distinction between Republicans and Democrats has become much more evident in the past few years, but politicians’ views should not be determined by that of their parties. To allow the U.S. political system to continue promoting one-sided, radical idealism instead of proposing effective solutions would greatly hinder progress and positive change in American society.

Marcello Rossi is a two-year Lower from Brussels, Belgium.