U.S. Government Shutdown Crisis Should Trigger HK's Reconsideration

The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, John Boehner, announced that the Republicans and the White House have reached an agreement that averted a federal government shutdown. In the next 10 months or so, the two American political parties will still be locking horns over next year’s budget proposal, with neither side giving in; there will still be risks of a government shutdown. Recently, the opposing parties in Hong Kong have also made a political gamble by voting down an emergency funding plan, which the general public was not happy about. The confrontation between two parties in the Western part of the world triggers the general public in Hong Kong to review the structure of our own political system.

Right now, Hong Kong is in the same boat as America. If the two major parties remain hostile to each other, its consequences will affect the seven million people in Hong Kong. For a long period of time, some people in Hong Kong have thought that the Western two-party political system is the most superior, most ideal political system. Theoretically, if one party cannot fulfill its duty, it steps down and the other party takes over. It is perfect democracy.

However, elections come with empty promises.

The system might seem fine at first. However, in the long run, it makes politicians shift their main focus on how to get more votes instead. The two political parties refuse to get to the root of the problem; instead, they are paying for welfare, delivering harangues on economic simulations and tax reductions in order to please their voters. As a result, the government fails to balance its finances and a financial crisis and high debt ensue. In 2009, the federal deficit was $1.41 trillion. In 2010, it dropped down a little bit, to $1.29 trillion. Back in February, the Obama administration predicted in its budget proposal to Congress that this year’s deficit would reach a record high of $1.56 trillion, or 10.9 percent of the GDP. Japan’s debt total represents two years of its GDP, and America’s debt total represents 97 percent of its GDP. Many European countries are also in debt for more than one year of their corresponding GDP. Raising the tax rate is always the means to handle an increasing debt. Therefore, every country that goes by public voting is debt-ridden with a high tax rate. With a high tax rate, it is only natural for the investors shift their investments to Asia; it is hurting the competitive strength of the Western countries. The failure of the Western political system is one of the reasons for Asia’s economic rise.

Althought the opposing parties in Hong Kong have been praising the Western political system, they never talk about how the Western welfare system has destroyed their finances. The debate that almost caused a government shutdown between the two U.S. parties over budget planning is a concrete result of the deficit. Although the Republicans urged the Democrats to improve the economy and to lower the deficit, they failed to come up with any solutions. Back in February, the Obama administration predicted in its budget proposal to Congress that this year’s deficit would reach a record high of $1.56 trillion. How can you stimulate America’s economy when you cannot lower the deficit? The Democrats then fired back, reminding us that the deficit was created by the Republicans during their eight years in the White House: You cannot blame the Democrats, as it is impossible to lower the deficit; the most important thing is to stimulate the economy. Once the economy recovers, the income from taxes will increase and the deficit will lessen.

Hong Kong should avoid following the mistakes made by Western countries.

Regardless, the debate over the deficit exposed the problem of the American democractic system. It also makes us wonder, as most Western countries are falling into debt crisises, why most Asian countries are not only debt free but have also been experiencing economic growth of eight to 10 percent every year?

No matter what political system a country chooses, it has to be beneficial to its citizens, and it has to improve the quality of life for its citizens. Democracy is a means, not a goal. People all over the world are on a quest to find a way to increase the wealth of their society efficiently, a way to divide this wealth more fairly, a way to motivate workers’ productivity more wisely, a way to divide natural resource more thoughtfully and a way to push economic benefits to the maximum. Some people suggest that we can solve the problem by making the pie bigger. Those people fail to realize that a bigger pie comes with a higher cost, a lot of waste and most importantly, the risk of prematurely consuming the wealth and natural resources of our next generation. Once we divide up all the profits in our generation, there will be nothing left for the next. This type of political system cannot continue. The Western countries are facing the problem of not being able to keep growing. How should Hong Kong construct its political system? Also, how should we avoid repeating the mistakes of the Western countries? These are the new tests put in front of the seven million people in Hong Kong.

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