As we all gather this holiday season, and some members of the family take it upon themselves to take the eggnog train to toontown, we wanted to look back on some of the very real things the government “of the people” failed to correct this year. A little reflection can help us remember exactly what needs to be done when the new year starts.
As will come as no surprise to those who have braved military housing, 2023 was another year filled with unanswered questions as to the DoD response to mold, pests, failing infrastructure, and other concerns. As problems continue to mount, many remain unaddressed by the Pentagon in any meaningful way. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) formally requested the DoD supply information on the health effects of low-quality housing on servicemembers and families… Only to be told they don’t keep track of that sort of information. A GAO review of the barracks earlier this year highlighted sewerage issues, broken locks, and mold, which brought former Green Beret Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla) into the fight. Rep Waltz, Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness sent a formal request to the DoD to answer for these concerns before the committee. With the current upheaval in Congress over the budget, it is unlikely this will be made a real priority, until the election cycle, at least.
This year saw some ridiculous gas prices around the country. Luckily for the US consumer, the price of fuel has gone down an average of $0.54 since 2022, but that hasn’t come without some unimproved surface to drive over. Price issues from the war in Ukraine have stabilized, only to see another war begin in the Middle East. The issues are complicated and are outside of US control, so where is the government to blame?
Lacking meaningful regulations against ripping people off, corporations will always try to rip people off. Creating artificial scarcity, blaming “inflation” for record profits, and oil lobbyists cause our fuel supplies to be more volatile than needed. Our elected representatives should be spending their time on helping the people by tamping down this sort of unamerican behavior.
We all witnessed the disaster the House has become over the last several months, but one thing to remember is that this was directly related to the budget. Each side of the aisle trying to get their ideals pressed forward in terms of dollars for programs resulted in a Speaker being fired, the House being in paralysis while the clock ran out, and a last minute deal was struck to squeak out a CR. Continuing Resolutions are agreements to fund the government at the current rate for a set period while the next year’s budget is completed, sort of an extension on a due date. It may seem based on the theatrics that this would be a rare move, the budget has only been passed on schedule four times since that schedule was enacted… in 1977. If I have to file my taxes on time, then the government should have to do the same with the budget.
In 2021 everyone was facing difficulties. The pandemic of COVID-19 had disrupted lives and economies on a massive scale, followed by the Ukrainian conflict, shortages, and closed factories. 2022 saw the single largest inflation spike since 1981, 7.8%. Since that time, 2023 has seen a steady decline in the inflation rate, to its current 3.2%. The overall yearly average is still high, but for the moment the decrease is a good sign. Or is it?
All these numbers point toward goods being cheaper for Americans, and that’s a good thing. However, the government’s role in that process is at best complicated. The Fed tends to use raising and lowering the interest rate as the master key for fixing the inflation rate… But all that tends to do is make the market worse for the average taxpayer. Homes become dramatically more expensive, for example. With a national debt through the roof, no budget passed, and fist fights about to break out in the halls of government, perhaps before the citizenry pays through the nose, monetary policy could use some thorough reforms.
Failure to Pass Meaningful Prison Reform
For America being the “Land of the Free,'' why have so many Americans been found innocent after spending years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit? It’s been two years since an Executive Order sought to ”... reduce profit-based incentives to incarcerate by phasing out the Federal Government’s reliance on privately operated criminal detention facilities.” However, this was only limited to federal facilities, and did not impact the multitude of for-profit detention facilities nationwide. Yes, people make money by keeping our prisons full.
As with many businesses, many things slip through the cracks. For example, the Constitution requires prisoners to receive adequate health care, yet some are given energy shakes to fight cancer. Solitary confinement as a punishment was abolished for being inhumane to the point of torture, only to be brought back in force. Living conditions can be as bad if not worse than our failing military barracks. While politicians use this and that excuse to ignore this controversial topic, incarcerated people are suffering on a unique level; one they are forced to remain in.
These and other issues result in unsafe conditions not just for the prisoners, but for the guards and administrative staff. The security in many prisons is already inadequate, and corrections officers can attest that unrest in the inmate population never ends well. Some states are taking steps forward, but until guidelines are changed, the system will continue to break.
Growing Tension and Division in the United States
The most direct and immediate failure of our elected representatives this year is clear to see. Infighting, grandstanding, desperately trying to step on one another’s necks to stay in the news cycle… But to what purpose? If theatrics could propel the government, I would approve of a clown battle every session, but as we can see that is not the case. Americans face a great many modern challenges ahead, and no matter where your individual ideals fall, we can all agree that a house divided is slowing us down. Adding to this logjam is the division of the American people, but from what does this division arise? Watching those we chose to lead failing in their duty. Leading us in disparate directions. 2024 needs to be the year we tell our government to go back to civility, for the sake of our sanity, or lose their jobs come November.