Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is This Normal?

The U.S. is back in business for the moment, paying its debts as usual.  At least in the S.F. Bay Area, public attention is now focused on the BART strike, which began conveniently the day after the government shutdown ended.  Wouldn't want to confuse our crises, now, would we?  But the government funding mess isn't over.

The bargain that everyone in Washington was so relieved to achieve only lasts until February.  According to AlJazeera, the government is funded until January 15 (and still at the ridiculous, arbitrary sequester levels), and the debt ceiling has been raised until February 7.  How appropriate.  We get Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's off, then Groundhog Day will come around on February 2, and we'll go through the whole brouhaha again.  Just like the movie.

Convince me it's not true.  Why wouldn't it happen again?  The people who created this snafu are all still in office.  Sen. Ted Cruz still thinks he's God's gift to someone (I'm not sure whom), and certainly still thinks he can parlay this into a run at the presidency in 2016.  I was relieved to see that, pushed to the wall, Speaker Boehner was capable of calling an open vote on a straight bill to put the government back in business.  My confidence that he'll do it again is limited.

The Senate and the House, as they now appear, seem to be ungovernable, and unable to govern.  Their hallowed rules allow a single senator to put any action on hold, indefinitely, and without even revealing a name.  I do know that the structure of the Senate was designed to amplify the power of smaller states against larger states, but this is ridiculous.  The surreptitious last minute rule change in the House, which allowed only the Majority Leader to ask to bring a "clean bill" to a vote - which is normal procedure in the House for any member - was a blatant abandonment, not only of normal House procedure, but of democracy itself.  Without this rule the government would not have shut down.  This was just sleazy.

I heard one promising item among all the mess, and I'm still not sure I believe it.  The chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees (Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray) met for breakfast and will convene a committee to develop - wait for this - an Actual Budget.  Congress hasn't passed an Actual Budget since 2009 (or maybe since 1997 depending on the definition).  My confidence that they will actually negotiate and agree on something that would be good for the country is very small.  But they're saying all the right things.  They've given themselves a deadline of December 13.  If they can come up with an actual, bipartisan budget and get it through both houses of Congress, maybe we can relax and just run the country - at least until next October 1...

We can't keep doing this.  We made fools of ourselves in front of the entire world. Is this really what we want to become?

What really infuriated me is the way Congress callously threw tens of thousands of federal workers out of a job, for an unspecified period that lasted (in fact) for three weeks, while being paid themselves the entire time.  The days of the solid middle class are gone.  Very few working families can go for 3 weeks on their financial reserves these days (if they have any), especially when the safety net programs (welfare, food stamps) were also shut down.  Sure, they'll get back pay; but how does that help if they've already been evicted?  Not to mention all the unfortunate small businesses, in small towns around the national parks, whose entire livelihood depends on tourist traffic which was shut down on a moment's notice.  Congress has totally lost contact with the people they are collectively supposed to serve, and it is a national disgrace.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:30 PM

    No, it's not normal. Or rather, it shouldn't be "the new normal".
    (I really really hate hate hate "new normals".)