Saturday, June 25, 2011

It’s My Tea Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To

If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes with me, you’ll know I have, shall we say, more than my fair share of pet peeves.

Some of them include drivers who insist on driving slow in the left lane, people who feel compelled to talk on their cell phones in crowded restaurants and customers who waste your time by asking you every conceivable question about a product only to walk out and buy it someplace else for a few dollars less (Can you tell I used to work retail?).

But my number one pet peeve – the one that drives me up the wall the most – is when grownups insist on acting like little children when they can’t get their way. Hell, four-year olds would have more sense than these idiots.

Case in point, Eric Cantor’s recent decision to take his ball and go home during the debt ceiling talks, because after getting an agreement in principle to significantly slash government spending from Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats, he balked at even the hint that such cuts would have to be accompanied by revenue increases, e.g. eliminating the Bush tax cuts for people earning over $250,000.

For the last five weeks, the Treasury has been ostensibly shifting around various funds and juggling accounts to come up with payments on the interest the United States government owes. Out of all the non-discretionary spending that the federal government does, none is more mandatory than that payment. Failing to make it would signal a default of epic proportions that would send shockwaves through the international markets and trigger an economic collapse that would eclipse the latest recession by a significant margin. And yet, with all that is at stake, the House Majority leader, when he didn’t like what he was hearing, stormed out of the talks like a spoiled brat.

As if that wasn’t brazen enough, Cantor’s stunt was followed closely by the announcement that Senator Jon Kyl was also pulling out of the deficit talks. It seems spoiled brats travel in pairs these days. Seldom has such stupidity and immaturity posed such a menace to so many, but these are the perilous times in which we live. Spurred on by the hubris of a Tea Party movement that neither possesses the intellectual capacity to appreciate the enormity of the problem at hand, or the emotional inclination to acknowledge the long-standing virtue of give and take, GOP leaders, on the whole, find themselves locked in a quandary. If they bend even a little in an attempt to avert financial disaster, they will most assuredly face serious primary challenges next year; if they fall in line with their brethren, they face the wrath of the voters in the general election who will hold them accountable for their obstinance. A catch-22 to be sure, but then that’s the price you pay when you bed down with the likes of Mount Rushbo.

The problem is that the whole damn country is paying the price for these juvenile delinquents’ behavior. While almost everyone can agree that long-term deficit spending must be curtailed, only the most ardent and defiant of supply-side apologists hold onto the canard that tax cuts pay for themselves. In the last ten years alone that fairytale has robbed the Treasury of $4 trillion in revenue. Add the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and you have almost half of the national debt right there. Now add in some long overdo defense cuts and trim the fat out of some other sacred cows that probably needed a shave anyway and you’re well on the way towards balancing the budget. Maybe not this year, or even within the next couple of years, but most likely within a decade. And that’s a goal most “reasonable” people can wrap their heads around.

It seems to me that the only responsible thing to do is for all parties involved to put away their preconceived notions and do what most of the country is demanding of them: solve the problem instead of pretending that failure is an acceptable option. Because it isn’t, and if by August an agreement is not reached to increase the debt ceiling, all hell will break loose. If that happens an awful lot of people are going to be profoundly affected, and the vast majority of them will vote accordingly in 2012.

Now that Barack Obama has decided to get personally involved in the talks, he might just try this novel approach. How about a dollar for dollar split? For every dollar of revenue increases you give me, I’ll give you one dollar of budget cuts. Take that Tea Party, put it in your pipe and smoke it. And for those on the Left who would scream bloody murder at the concept of such deep and potentially draconian cuts to badly needed social programs, it is also time to grow up and swallow hard. If you can bring about an end to the Bush-era tax cuts and trim a badly bloated defense budget, it is foolhardy to assume you aren’t going to take some lumps of your own.

If Obama truly wants to be perceived as the adult in the room, he can do what most adults do when surrounded by little children: he can take charge. He can start by reading out the spoiled brats who keep insisting on listening to their misinformed friends who got them into trouble in the first place. And that includes friends on both sides of the school fence.

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