Archive for October, 2013

problems_solutions

Real Problem – Hunger in America.  That 49 million Americans, including 16 million children, can be food insecure in the richest nation in the world is simply a disgrace.

Manufactured Problem – Debt Ceiling.  The debt ceiling is not in the Constitution.  It’s an arbitrary limit on the amount the Treasury can borrow in order to pay the bills as a result of budgetary items already passed by Congress.  The limit originally was created because Congress no longer thought it was practical to approve every debt issuance by the U.S. government, so they ceded control to the Treasury up to a given limit, the debt ceiling.  It was never meant to be used as a tool by one political party to extract concessions from the other. 

Real ProblemAffordable Care Act website – This is the website where those who need to obtain health insurance would be able to compare plans, shop, and purchase that insurance.  All reports are that the website roll-out has been an unmitigated disaster.  The funny thing is that opponents of the Affordable Care Act have been so focused on the misguided shutdown/debt ceiling strategy that they haven’t hammered this legitimate issue (and would probably be a good ‘exhibit a’ for a ‘government can’t do anything right’ argument against this legislation).

Manufactured Problem Affordable Care Act – Don’t get me wrong, I think the legislation is flawed (mainly in the sense that instead of focusing on the “affordable” part, the focus was just on getting the uninsured insurance).  Still, it seems like the worse case scenario is that everyone who was uninsured remains uninsured.  However, I just don’t see of the doomsday scenarios actually playing out.  And the website can be fixed.

Real Problem – Long Term Solvency of Social Security/Medicare – It is indeed an almost certainty that given the age demographics of our population that these programs will cost more in the future.

Manufactured ProblemShort Term Solvency of Social Security/Medicare – But the problems do not start tomorrow.  Any solution should not be half-baked and rushed through Congress.  Personally I also think these two programs are too important to include in any “grand bargain” that a lot of folks, including President Obama, seem so fond of.  We have time to deliberately develop different options, weigh the merits of each, debate the pros and cons, and come up with the best solution.  (We also need to keep in mind that cutting benefits is not the only way to solve this, but you can also raise revenues, or some combination of the two.)

Real Problem – Media Echo Chamber – I think the bad part about the Fox News’s, MSNBC’s, talk radio, certain websites, is that you can now receive media coverage through your own political prism without your viewpoints ever being challenged and lose the sense that others may disagree and actually have good reason to do so.

Manufactured Problem – Lack of Realism in Movies – Ok, I do think this can be somewhat of an issue when a movie is made about real events (Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, JFK, etc.) because unfortunately we tend to forget the “based on” part of the “based on a real story” in our minds.  But somehow this idea has been extended to clearly fictional movies, such as the recently release Gravity.  Gravity makes no claim to be based on any true story.  Yet we have some, including a famous physicist, nitpicking every detail in Gravity that is not quite right.  To paraphrase the MST3K theme song, you should repeat to yourself that it’s just a movie, you really should just relax.

boehner

Well, our government is failing us again.  At this point, it’s not even a surprise anymore.  Heck, really if government ever shows signs again of working properly, that’s when the news networks should go all “breaking news” on us.  While some want to blame both parties (and I can kind of see that from a ‘we sent these guys to Washington to figure this kind of crap out so we can get on with our own lives’ perspective), I find it hard not to pin this one squarely on the GOP.  After all, they are the ones who somehow decided that doing their jobs or not is subject to negotiation.  They are also the ones who somehow think it is plausible that a President that has become so synonymous with a law/policy that most people call it by a nickname that has HIS NAME IN IT will just sign off on getting rid of said law/policy.  It’s a ridiculous notion.

To go further, many say this is the fault of 80 or so  “tea party” representatives who signed off on a letter urging this ridiculous fight to take place.  However, by my count, there are 435 total representatives in the House of which 233 are Republicans.  If my math is right then, 80 ain’t the majority of nuthing and should have the power to do nuthing…..unless you let them.  So I think House leader John Boehner, and to the lesser extent the other Republicans, deserve more of the blame.  Conventional wisdom says that if a clean continuing resolution to fund the government was brought to the House floor today, it would pass.  BUT it would pass because of Democrats joined by enough Republicans to give the bill the votes it needs.

My thought is John Boehner decided it doesn’t look good for him as a leader or his party of a whole if he needs Democrats to pass a bill he brings up to a vote.  He can’t get the 80 or so “tea party” to vote in unison for a clean continuing budget resolution, but he can get the other GOP folks to go along with the 80 or so “tea party” folks to vote for their silliness.  And he has decided that he would rather have 100% of the Republicans vote together, no matter how silly and no matter what impact it has on the country, then to have a split GOP vote that keeps government doors open.  I guess he thinks it creates the illusion of leadership over the party even though this is far from it.

Now I think Boehner has decided that he just has to get something out of this.  Otherwise we went through all of this just to pass a bill that would have passed months ago without shutting down the government.  We even have this quote from GOP representative Marlin Stutzman, “We have to get something out of this.  And I don’t even know what that is.”  He also mentioned that the party couldn’t be “disrespected”.

But having a unified party or not being disrespected and/or looking bad, none of this has a darn thing to do with the good of the country.  Neither is the idea of “winning” the shutdown (Obama is right to say that there is no “winning” here, this is not a game and it affects real people and has real consequences).  If he ever decides to put country first, John Boeher could end this by simply bringing the Senate continuing budget resolution bill up for a vote.  I also think the other GOP members could help put an end to this by simply refusing to go along with the tea party games.   Until then, I guess our only hope for stopping this is a procedural maneuver Democrats have started to try to bring the bill up for without the need of Boehner to bring it up, though that will take at least a couple of weeks to work its way through.