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August 2, 2011

The Debate Over the Economy

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Written for: Communicado Magazine
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I have made a point not to write about the debt ceiling or the national debt or the shenanigans of our national elected officials until today, August 2, 2011. Why? Because I knew they would string this out until the last minute and because I wanted to be able to say everything I needed to say in one shot. Here it go…

THEY settled at raising the debt ceiling, proposing budget cuts in the trillions and creating a bipartisan council to facilitate the budget cuts. Why did that take months? It’s pretty standard fiscal practice that if you’re having budget problems, YOU HAVE TO MAKE CUTS! No new news there.

But, I do have to give a special mention to President Obama for pointing out that his daughters – 10 and 13 – don’t wait until the last minute to do their homework. Congress shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do their homework either. As a reminder, it is Tuesday, August 2, 2011 and the final agreement was announced today. I thought the people we elected to Congress were the annoying kids who sad in the front of the class, not the losers who sat in the back of the class. Losers, back of the class for this go ‘round.

Even sadder are the reports about the tea party freshmen who just wouldn’t agree to anything. OK, Washington is all quid pro quo, but, to be obstinate just because you want to be different is short-sighted. This battle is so much worse because of the last election. There’s now a large class of newcomers who are eager/desperate/intent on proving themselves. Unfortunately, they’re trailblazing at our expense. They’re still bright and shiny and untainted by, “The way of The Hill.” No, that doesn’t mean they need to perpetuate the WDC BS, but, turning this whole process into a circus reminds me of the phrase, “The grass is not always greener on the other side.”

Raising the debt ceiling is a product of a growing economy. Like the Dow Jones index grows as a product of our growing economy. No one is complaining that the Dow keeps getting bigger. Let it get bigger. In fact, when Republicans argue that tax incentives for big business will put those businesses in a position to create jobs and incentives for consumers, I’m all for it. Problem is, we confirm these tax incentives for big business, but, they don’t return the savings to the marketplace citing profits not at expectation. They self-create the fear in the marketplace and consumer confidence hits the skids. Vicious cycle. There should be conditions attached to the tax incentives. It’s classic return-on-investment. Big business makes deals based on ROI, why shouldn’t the government? WDC is all about quid pro quo, ya know…

Another special note: The analysts at the Wall Street ratings agencies and investment firms should stay out of this debate. Why are they being given a platform at all? These are the same people who contributed to this economic mess – they should just keep their heads down and focus on helping their clients recover their losses, create bigger gains and restore consumer confidence. It’s funny they think they have the credibility to suggest they are considering downgrading the US credit rating from AAA to AA. They’re a joke. Pay no attention to them – keep buying, no selling. Just needed to say that. Back to the issue at hand…

Our political structure is a democracy. What a novel idea to create a smaller version of the Congress to oversee and implement the plan!? Who knew… I feel like I just finished watching a movie. The performances were not Oscar-worthy, but, I feel that the actors were really trying to get there. I think it’s more like, EMMY-worthy…

Maybe that’s why As The World Turns, All My Children and One Life to Live got cancelled – the networks need to make room for Barack My World and The Boehner of our Existence. I mean really, who can resist all that crying…

You know, in the middle 80’s, there was a soap opera called Capital that was set in WDC. It got cancelled and replaced by The Bold and The Beautiful, but, I remember thinking it was a good idea for a soap opera. In retrospect, there was/is no need for a dramatic series about our government and Washington politics. The everyday business of government and politics in WDC IS a daytime drama and when they can’t agree on anything, it also becomes a primetime drama. Who needs soap operas anymore.

Actually, if you think about how this has unfolded and think about the elements of the dramatic series, it fits. In the last year, viewers have been subjected to occasional cut-ins about the negotiations and fairly regular press conferences used for the purpose of pointing the finger at the opposition. And elected officials are always under the threat of violence by unstable individuals. Offices have been vandalized, there’s been a sex scandal or two and people have been shot. While getting shot in real-life is heinous, getting shot in TV land is a badge of honor… it means you’re the star. No disrespect intended, but, for dramas, someone’s gotta get shot — it’s a part of the formula. Like Dallas, Falcon Crest and Dynasty. Think about what WHO SHOT J.R.? did for Dallas…

So, I propose two new Emmy categories: Best Daytime Press Conference and Best Primetime Press Conference. The nominees are: Barack Obama, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Eric Cantor and Jay Carney. And the Daytime Emmy goes to – John Boehner for obvious reasons… And the Primetime Emmy goes to – Barak Obama for sheer frequency. LOL.

OK, no more jokes, I want to address a couple of things substantively:

The debt ceiling: It’s a fact that every president since the debt ceiling was established in 1917 has manipulated it. It has been both raised and lowered. Word is that Reagan raised it 17 times. This is the everyday work of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government. To make a spectacle of this discussion/process is nothing more than propaganda. We don’t need to see you making the sausages…

I don’t chronicle every iteration of my journal reports — no one wants to see that. I also don’t want to watch my accountant do my taxes in real-time. Just give me the finished product. As elected officials, I get that they need to be accountable. I want that too. But, spend the time working in good faith, get to a resolution that is about US not you, and make an announcement. Did we really need to know that John Boehner wouldn’t take Barack Obama’s phone call? I did not need to know that. Anymore than I need to know the names of Erica Kane’s many husbands.

It’s their everyday work. As someone who has covered The Hill, it really is one of the more boring beats around WDC. There’s just a lot of waiting. Waiting for a hearing to start – waiting for a hearing to end… waiting for a member to show up… listening to endless testimony. Other beats have been much more interesting to cover and to write about. It‘s also a fact that the staffers in the office buildings work like dogs. The members? …hhmmmm. They show up when they need to put on a performance. President Obama called it right when he said, “I’ve been here working, where are you?” Political affiliations aside – much of what the president is revealing about the Congress is true. I hope the people of this country can see that, even if they haven’t covered WDC. I also hope that when the people of this country realize the congress is the problem, they stop blaming President Obama for everything. He is at least making good sense and making some progress relieving problems caused by a predecessor who made no sense and made no progress.

Which brings me to the REAL issue: The 2012 election. This whole debate, for the past several months has been an exercise in positioning. The Republicans wanted to revisit this situation in 7 months to, 1) Create friction for Obama in the middle of the campaign season and 2) Divide Obama’s efforts so that he won’t be as effective at either. That’s filthy.

I’ve seen some polls that suggest the country thinks the Republicans are being unreasonable. Though we are a nation that re-elected George W. Bush, it appears we have learned from that mistake. Blind opposition seems to be the only way many Republicans are able to function. Valid consideration of issues and substantive decision-making — regardless of who said it — sit second chair to the right side of the aisle. I’m still waiting for a Republican to answer the question, “Do you think people with private jets should get special tax breaks?”

Now we’re in the middle of an economic crisis; no jobs, people are losing their homes, and the Republicans are more concerned about an election? Not that the Democrats aren’t concerned about the election, but, no sane person would want to go through this again so soon. It makes better sense to get through the election and let whomever ends up being president deal with moving the ball forward. The Democrats win this one whether they meant to or not.

The last thing I want to say is the same thing The House Chaplin said as he opened a recent session: HELP US LORD. 🙂



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