On Responsibility

Since Arnold Swartzenegger, Anthony Weiner, and pundits on the campaign trail mention responsibility in recent announcements, here is a short bit on this interesting word.

Responsibility: A particular burden of obligation upon one who is responsible (answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management) (American Heritage Dictionary)

Responsibility: The quality or state of being responsible –as a moral, legal, or mental accountability, liable to be called to account as the primary cause (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Our elected officials do not seem to have a handle on neither responsible government nor governing with responsibility. Whether the inability to make a strong, good-for-the-country based decision is due to fright, lack of guts, selfish preservation, or any other inadequate reason, our elected officials are an embarrassment for their lack of responsibility and continual commitment to their party’s supply chain and their re-election. As I have stated before, politicians are first, foremost, and possibly only about their party – thus, is there any surprise at Washington’s continual failure to handle responsibly the key issues of our times?

I recently found two interesting columns focusing on responsibility. The first (from NPR) looks at Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and his recent snafu. In the other column (in USA Today), Jonah Greenburg offers no solutions, but examines the big picture. His last paragraph is loaded.

More and more, it seems as if our politicians want to be the divorced parent who only visits on weekends to do the fun stuff: Give out goodies, go to the movies, enjoy pony rides and ice cream cake, while expecting somebody else to be the tough parent who has to deal with the costs and the consequences. That is a natural human desire, particularly for politicians, a breed of professionals who have an unhealthy need to be liked. The problem is, that’s not what they’re being paid to do.

Swartzenegger and Weiner taint the work and credibility of many politicians. Nonetheless, maybe acting responsibly is expecting too much, especially in light of important topics as debt ceiling, defense, education, government spending, health care, jobs, Medicare, military engagements, revenue enhancement, and Social Security. Since we elect these officials and most seeking re-election most commonly win again, maybe we the people are getting exactly what we deserve.