Dell's Original Uncoverage Logo by Antonio F. Branco, Comically Incorrect

Monday, November 21, 2011

It’s Not Easy Leading A Nation From The Golf Course

It’s Not Easy Leading A Nation From The Golf Course

“Get the focus back where it should be - On a president’s administration and congress that are less popular than genital warts.”

By Dell Hill

With the distraction of the “occupy” protests taking center-stage, few have paid much of any attention to the work(?) of the president’s failed super committee.  A committee that had literally no chance of agreeing on the time of day, much less how the United States was going to regain control of its fiscal crisis.

It would be wise to refocus our attention to that which - in the grand scheme of things - is truly important.  Leave the occupy protest to the cities and states involved.  With the Obama administration and unions supporting it, there’s no need in any of us being too concerned.  And if the cities and states are willing to stand around with their thumbs jammed up their butts while acres of public property is destroyed, why should we even care?

Yes, I’m fully aware that their actions will cost a small fortune to repair, but those repairs pale by comparison to what’s taking place inside the Beltway.

Get the focus back where it should be - On a president’s administration and congress that are less popular than genital warts.

Here’s a synopsis, as of today.

Consider the impact -- the Super Committee co-chairs still have not agreed on a way to put this whole debt reduction effort out of its misery (and that's the expectation now: failure). But the ramifications of failure so far have largely gone unnoticed.

The thinking now seems to be to announce something after the markets close Monday, even though the markets don't seem to care and have already absorbed this failure.

But here at the end of the congressional session, Congress has only approved three of 13 annual spending bills. They'll be focused on that even more-so now, especially given that the current continuing resolution that keeps government running expires on Dec. 16.

Congress is also going to need to deal with extending the expiring payroll tax holiday that was in the original stimulus bill. It will need to renew expiring unemployment insurance benefits, though some conservative Republicans have called for reforming that system first.

It will need to stop the doctors receiving Medicare payments from being hit with a whopping cut  -- something on the order of 25 percent -- to their federal government reimbursement payments. (This is the annual "doctor fix" fight.)

As well, Congress will need to "patch" the Alternative Minimum Tax, so middle class taxpayers aren't swallowed up by it.

And if that weren't a long enough list, Congress must also deal with a host of other tax breaks that need to be extended (research and development and other items critical to businesses). This is the so-called "tax extenders" fight that happens each year.

Here's the clincher -- since the Super Committee's debt deal bill was supposed to be the legislative vehicle for all of this -- uh, what now?

Technically, Congress cannot legislate on appropriations bills, but high vote hurdles could be overcome to do this. If enough members want to block something, they stand a better chance here.

Lawmakers could turn to a defense policy bill -- called the defense authorization bill that's currently on the Senate floor -- to deal with some of the backup, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can't afford to spend much time on that bill.

Add to that the lawmakers who insist on finding offsets for all this. Though many inside and outside the Super Committee, namely Republicans, were willing to go along with using a war account called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO -- called "oko" like Yoko) -- money from winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, they'll be less willing to do so now.  Republicans and some Democrats generally refer to that kind of budget savings as "gimmicks."

With about one month to go on the legislative calendar, the Super Committee's failure is an even bigger deal than it would seem on its face.”

And let’s get something clearly understood.  Obama and the Democrats held a sold majority in Washington for two solid years.  They could have passed any legislation - including a budget! - they wanted, but chose to kick the financial can down the road for fear that the electorate would discover the exact costs of such legislation and head for D.C. with pitchforks.  Meanwhile, the spending continues to the point where a second downgrade of the countries credit rating is being threatened.

The big shots will spend hours playing the “blame game”, but the important thing right now is to forget playing political games and right the ship.  The country is dancing perilously close to the precipice of financial disaster.

Such action will take leadership, and at present there is no leadership.  Your president leads from the golf course or whatever re-election tour he happens to be on at the moment, so you can forget about any direction coming from the top.  The Senate Majority Leader is so politically bent that his mental competency is being called into question.  The Speaker of the House steps into obvious political traps every time he takes a step and the entire Republican party seems more interested in made-for-TV campaign debates than what’s taking place right under their noses.   

Apparently, the message sent to Washington in 2010 has fallen on deaf ears at every level....and that includes Republicans and Democrats alike.

It’s a shame we didn’t get the chance to go to the polls THIS November to register our disdain.

Positive action is needed now; not next year.  It’s entirely possible that next year will be too late.

UPDATE:  From today's Washington Post:

The Post’s Robert Samuelson echoes that view: “He has the bully pulpit, but he hasn’t used it.” Quoting from an Obama interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper, Samuelson calls the president’s responses to specific questions on his plans for debt reduction “noncommittal gibberish.”

The supercommittee is not so much a failure of the legislative branch as it is of the president's ability to lead the country. Each side in Congress represented its constituents well. It is, however, a very good argument indeed for dumping Obama. As Samuelson puts it, “The president won’t talk specifics, but government consists of specifics. The reason we cannot have a large budget deal is that Americans haven’t been prepared for one. The president hasn’t educated them, and so they can’t support what they don’t understand.”

Republicans and Democrats in Congress should be crystal-clear: The president’s been AWOL from the most important domestic challenge we face. Frankly, I suspect that a stronger Democratic president would have been able to broker a deal. Actually, a stronger and more courageous president would have embraced Simpson-Bowles. But not Obama. Maybe we should get a president who doesn’t run overseas or finger-point but who leads."

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