Editor’s Comment

Is America’s Democracy Dysfunctional?

The American dream is slipping further away with Washington’s feuding partisan politics. Political decisions in Congress do not consider the well-being of the nation or common Americans. Owing to the political impasse, some business leaders suffer from indecision and are reluctant to infuse capital in an uncertain environment; they do not want to invest without knowing the next political move. Politicians show little interest in saving the debilitating economic health that cripples common people every day.

In the last century the country was on the pinnacle of modern civilization with cutting-edge technology and booming economic privilege. The same great nation is now struggling on all fronts, suffering from loss of competitiveness in domestic and international markets. Recent developments have centered around the so-called “sequester”, a package of budget cuts designed to reduce government spending that came into effect on March first of this year. This political stalemate and indecision cast a dark cloud over America’s democratic institutions, inviting ridicule from China’s leaders.

President Obama has now set his eyes on the challenges presented by climate change and energy efficiency, which could be important accomplishments for his second term. In March, he called dozens of experts and business executives to discuss promoting energy efficiency, modernizing the country’s electrical grid, utilizing shale gas, and stopping the leakage of methane and greenhouse gases.

However, the President has few options with the budget allocation to advance his clean energy ambitions, and he is likely to face strong resistance from Congressional Republicans. With reserves of 14.6 trillion cubic meters of shale gas in its soil, cash-strapped America could make a fortune exporting to gas-hungry countries in Asia and Europe. The production of liquefied natural gas is already sufficient for its domestic needs, and Americans will soon be producing far more. American environmentalists object that fracturing pollutes the environment, but the U.S. has a huge lead in hydraulic fracturing while other countries are still lagging behind. (See “A Golden Age of Gas” in our Autumn 2012 issue.) The Obama administration should approve the export of liquefied natural gas in the public interest to replace dirtier coal. Of all large-scale energy sources, coal is the greatest contributor to global warming.

While furloughs and shutdowns are unavoidable in U.S. government offices, similar mismanagement in the private sector will have sudden, crippling results for businesses and services. Without waiting for the federal government’s initiatives and decisions, others in the private sector are breaking through with innovative ideas and workmanship. There is hope today that these efforts may still carry America forward as has been the trend in the land of opportunity.

— Probir Kumar Sarkar

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