Posted December 10, 2013on:
Good afternoon Widdershin friends. Here’s hoping everyone is warm and not suffering from what seems like a malady du jour. Cozy up with an adult beverage and watch an old movie — the best advice Dr. Prolix has to offer on this fine Tuesday.
As is the ritual in my life, Sunday morning is a cavalcade of one news show after another. I can’t help it — that’s the way I’m wired and instead of fighting it, I’ve come to silently suffer this abnormality. If there were support groups for such a thing, I’m not sure I would have the power to join one because admitting I have a problem would be steps 1 through 11, my twelfth step would inevitably involve a vat-o-scotch.
This past Sunday was particularly unenlightening. The questioning went something like this, “Well, Congress critter, thank you for joining us today. What I would like to ask you is, if this, and this, and this, and this happened, could it lead to something like this happening if this also happened?”
To which the Congress critter replied, “Thank you for having me and that is a particularly insightful question you have posed to me right off the bat. Not only could something like that happened, if this happened, and then this happened, it could be worse than just that happening, it could be the end of constitutional government, locusts could descend, cows could run dry, and Adam Levine could be named Sexiest Man Alive.”
Why is there such a rush to get to something bad? Why is there such a rush to form up a “Parade of Horribles” based upon half a dozen predicate contingencies none of which are remotely possible without shifting the time/space continuum or selecting a Kardashian as an offering to the Middle Earth gods.
It just isn’t politics where there is overwhelming, absolute giddiness about all things bad happening. For instance take the exalted realm of free enterprise capitalism. Listen or read the business news and it is festooned with, “We have learned that the executives of XYZ corporation are fearful of the reaction of Wall Street to their stock price so they have concentrated on this quarter’s earnings.” Call me crazy, but nothing scares me more than a corporation with a strategic plan based around concentrating on the next 120-days in order to forestall potentially bad news.
Or take education for example — we seem to have a new educational initiative with every change in an administration. Last time I looked, once you put a child in the educational pipeline, it took twelve years to come out on the other end.
Or take infrastructure spending for example — we seem to have developed a surefire way to determine bridge replacement — when the roadway decking becomes impassable due to flooding from the bridge having fallen in the inconveniently placed river.
The list goes on. We have become a society obsessed with the here and now. We have forgotten only a few years ago what it was like to fill out an eighteen page insurance application detailing everything down to our bowel movements, handing it to an agent who mailed it or if they were really technically savvy, they faxed it, and then waiting ten days for a reply on whether or not our pre-existing third nipple precluded us from coverage.
This whole culture of here and now is going to be front and center this week in the brewing budget “howdy-doo-dah.” It is too much for our Congress critters to try and do big things so forget a “grand bargain.” It is going to be a whole lot of gnashing of Congressional chompers to get to an une petite budget deal. In an overall budget of $1.0 Trillion, this budget deal over which the Potomac has run red from the ink of slashers, entails a whopping $65 Billion. It doesn’t even get rid of all the sequester cuts.
One thing though, if a small deal is possible maybe bigger deals can be possible going forward. And barring that, if a small deal is possible, maybe subsequent small deals can also be possible. The real reason to be optimistic — at least Congress isn’t doing anything to harm the economy. You have to look for sunshine where you can find it.
As a short-term budget deal is announced this week I’m going to be watching for two things — how the upcoming cutoff of unemployment benefits and food stamps are handled. Those two issues will be a good measuring stick on whether or not Congress is up to the task of no longer inflicting damage upon the economy because unemployment benefits and food stamps are two of the most robust forms of economic stimulus.
The other reason these two programs are good measuring sticks — you don’t need a six part question predicated on “what ifs” to tell if something bad is happening to the Sixty-seven Million poor or near poor. For these folks, who weave in and out of being able to feed their families on a monthly basis, the only “what if” question that matters to them is: What if they can’t?
This is an open thread.
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