Country Over Party

As a college senior, Areeba’s latest post really resonated with me. My friends and I, at the cusp of graduation, are about to get thrown to the wolves. Hundreds of thousands of us will be vying for jobs with much fewer available positions. Some of us will hide ourselves in grad schools, some may take offers as unpaid interns in the hopes of it leading to better opportunities, and, as Areeba mentioned, others of us will find unsatisfying and unfulfilling jobs.

This is my fourth year in college, and I feel like prospects for graduates have been dire each year. I remember thinking as a freshman that I was so lucky to still be in school, while seniors searched for jobs in a tanking economy. Surely, when my time came, the economy would have recovered and my friends and I would find jobs.

But it has dawned on me that our economy is still shaky, and that it will still be difficult for my classmates and I to find jobs that we want. Many businesses simply have neither the excess capital, nor demand for goods to justify hiring employees. To make matters worse, after the recent stock market crash, many 401ks have plummeted in value. Since some people have lost so much of their retirement savings, they will end up working longer than originally planned rather than free jobs up for the “waiting generation.”

Our unemployment rate is currently at a staggering 9.1%. This number is actually smaller than it should be, as some people have been so demoralized by the job search that they have stopped looking and others have gone to grad schools only because the job market is so bad. Clearly, our leaders need to come up with a plan to combat unemployment. President Obama unveiled his plan last night, in which he urged Congress to pass his $447 billion proposal that could potentially create jobs.

I don’t know much about the details of his proposal, so I cannot offer my opinions on what I think about it. However, I can offer my frustration with the pre-emptive opposition that he faced. I watched the Republican debates the night before, and I heard Mitt Romney criticize Obama’s plan before he had even heard it. This attitude disgusts me. If this is the attitude that our leaders have, how can we expect to see objective, responsible, and bipartisan legislation?

As the 2008 election was the first that I could vote in, I remember it well. I hadn’t followed politics much in high school and hadn’t really developed my own views on issues. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit galvanized and optimistic by Obama’s rhetoric. I kept hearing about how we weren’t the “red states or the blue states but the United States of America.” I bought into his speeches and believed he was the type of leader who could transcend our differences and help us come together. Three years later, I don’t think I’ve ever seen America so divided. Republicans seem determined to take back the White House, and even seem willing to sabotage Obama’s policies if it means he could save his presidency. I am not naïve enough to think that only Republicans are obstructionists when the other party is in power. I’m sure Democrats did similar things during Bush’s presidency. Politics is an ugly game, in which players would often rather win than help the people they serve. But we must expect more from our leaders. We elected them to represent our best interests, not to witness them bicker and fail to make progress.

There is a phrase soccer fans use that I heard often during last summer’s World Cup: “club over country.” Although fans root for their country throughout the World Cup, many would rather see their favorite club team succeed than their country. Our politicians seem to have developed a similar mentality of “party over country.” Many of our politicians would rather return to power than see our country succeed.

In this time of crisis, this mentality must change. The beautiful thing about America is that we are a democracy, and our voices must be heard. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week following the passage of the anti-corruption bill, “Parliament has spoken. Parliament’s will is the will of the people.” The same will eventually be true of American Congress. Sooner or later, the American people will voice their frustrations, and our political leaders will have to listen. Either our elected officials will realize that this isn’t the time to put personal career goals over the welfare of the masses, or our electorate needs to change who we vote for. One way or another, we need a return to thinking “country over party.”

Shaunak Varma is a Program and Research Intern with the SISGI Group. To learn more about the SISGI Group visit www.sisgigroup.org.
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