What is politics? Is it about colors – blue, red, purple? Is it about giving money to the poor or giving money to the rich? Is it about abortion? Gay rights? Is it about making your voice heard every four years? Is it about the great political divide? Or debate?

Our generation has seen ideology dominate political thought. Politicians have become more concerned with proving the veracity of an agenda than with making the world a better place and expanding the horizons of average citizens, and our government has suffered. Americans’ perception of government has been tainted, and our worlds have become small.

The truth is that my political persuasion as a liberal has (almost) as many flaws as the conservative persuasion. With a little introspection and simple objectivity, I think that is clear. The far left’s views of total regulation are just as ridiculous as the right’s views of deregulation. Neither view will fix our economic problems. The best proposals lay somewhere between those two extremes.

I see this time in America as historic. This is a time of creation and renewal – even in the midst of this recession. And in January we will finally have a president conscious of the significance of the coming years and aware that the challenges we face are not hardships but opportunities to shape the future.

President-elect Obama met with governors from blue states and red states to discuss their economic challenges on Tuesday. Governor Schwarzenegger was there, and I hope he was listening. California is currently facing a dire financial crisis and education is again on the cutting block.

The Associated Press reports that among the Governator’s and Democrats’ proposals to relieve some of California’s financial problems is to “Reduce K-12 education funding by $2.5 billion and funding for the University of California and California State University systems by $132 million.” That is unacceptable.

Instead, I think California should raise the license registration fee at the DMV to 2 percent of the vehicle’s value – the very suggestion that sealed former Governor Gray Davis’ political demise. We should also revoke state legislators’ 6 percent pay raise from last year and the recent pay hikes of 214 Capitol staffers as reported in the Sacrameto Bee on Monday.

Our legislators should vote to cut the Governator’s $212,179 salary and the Lt. Governator’s $159,134 salary, as reported by the California Department of Personnel Administration. I agree with my conservative counterparts that government is getting too expensive. I also think this is the perfect time for closing those ever-elusive corporate tax loopholes, a favorite talking point of politicians. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually accomplished it?

Regardless of the final budget decisions on these matters, legislators need to leave education alone. Of all the state funded programs, education is the most important. It’s the only hope America has for the future and it’s the great leveler of our society. I would also argue that education isn’t fully funded right now – forget the proposed cuts.

But instead of reflecting on this pressing budget crisis, our state legislators are haggling over ideology. The AP reports that Democrats have proposed to combine cutting programs with raising taxes at a dollar for dollar ratio. But Republicans have vowed never to vote for a tax increase.

Republican minority leader Mike Villines said, “This is not blind ideology on the part of Republicans, but our sincere belief that higher taxes will hurt the economy and lead to more uncontrolled spending.”

The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks. A combination of conservative and liberal ideas – that is, cutting programs and raising taxes – is the only way California is going to end this financial crisis. Raising taxes and keeping programs the same makes no sense, and neither does cutting programs and keeping taxes the same.

Both of these options would generate minimal state revenue. Therefore, Republicans must be standing on the quicksand of their ideology. At least Democrats are willing to bend and cut some programs for the sake of the state.

What is happening in our state legislature is representative of what we don’t need in America anymore – an ignorant adherence to a set of foolish ideas. It’s juvenile roughhousing with issues of great importance.

At Tuesday’s governors summit, President-elect Obama made brief remarks to Republicans about the political system he wants to inspire instead.

“We are not going to be hampered by ideology in trying to get this country back on track. We want to figure out what works. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have some disagreements, but what it does mean is that if you can show me something you are doing that’s working. then you’re going to have a ready ear,” he said.

Politics represent what is possible in society, but our rhetoric has been dominated for far to long by rigid ideology. The only way California will pass the budget and America will climb out of this recession is by bridging the great political divide and trying out new ideas – irreverent of political ideology, and these precarious times have provided the perfect laboratory for experimenting.

Stephanie England is an English junior and a Mustang Daily politcal columnist.

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