Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A sugar-coated Satan sandwich?

CLEAVER: The best rhetorical line?
That was how Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., assessed the deal worked out by Congressional leadership to resolve (for now, at least) the federal government’s financial problems.

But he’s far from the only person engaging in hard-core rhetoric when it comes to the debt ceiling and the U.S. government. It seems that everybody has an opinion about this issue.

IN FACT, I’M guessing that most people don’t really comprehend what it is that the federal government is doing to try to stabilize its financial situation and probably don’t understand what the deal is that Congress negotiated during the weekend – and which the House of Representatives gave its final approval to on Monday, with the Senate expected to follow suit on Tuesday.

That is what encourages all of the pompous partisan political rhetoric from people of all sides of the spectrum who take advantage of the fact that they can spew trash-talk and few will be able to catch their factual errors.

That actually is the reason why I have deliberately ignored writing anything about this issue until now – the date upon which our government would have defaulted had nothing been approved.

Much of what I would have written would have been diatribes against the partisans – who probably wouldn’t have wanted to hear anything in opposition to their narrow-minded selves!

BUT THE SAD part is that even now that we have a deal and we most likely averted the most serious damage of a government in default (although the public perception that we have a batch of buffoons in our government remains in place), we’re going to continue to get the partisan rhetoric.

Because for too many people, the rhetoric is what this entire issue is about.
LOVITZ (as the Devil): An SNL comeback?

Start talking about an increase in the debt ceiling or trying to figure out exactly what cuts will be made in federal spending in future years, and you’re likely to put too many people to sleep.

Now I know that Cleaver is getting national derision for using such a bold line (if it gets parodied on “Saturday Night Live,” will Jon Lovitz as “the Devil” somehow be dug out of comic retirement). Even though the truth is that his line may well be the most humorous.

I’LL GIVE HIM that much credit.

Much of the rhetoric we’re getting these days is so dreary and depressing.

I have one “friend” (not just a Facebook-type friend, but someone I actually know) who has taken to denouncing the federal government these days because part of the compromise includes creation of a commission that will study federal finances further in the future.

As he sees it, this is just another “blue ribbon commission” approach to government that fails to result in action. Of course, he has his own ideological leanings, and what he would have been happy with is if the GOP-leaning stance of making massive spending cuts to programs they have their disagreements with would have been the extent of the solution. In short, taking advantage of financial crises to score political points.

ALTHOUGH THE ONLY people who really scare me are the ones who would have wanted to have the federal government default out of some weird belief that it will take a hard financial hit to all of us to achieve their goal.

Which is to dump on the president, who ultimately will have to sign off on whatever Congress finally gave approval to.

It is their belief that the public will blame Barack Obama for whatever happens. Which makes all of this rhetoric nothing more than a campaign tactic geared toward 2012.

And it also makes the cheap rhetoric coming from the president’s allies (and the president himself) little more than a tactic geared toward defusing the opposition’s cheap talk.

IN SHORT, I suspect many of us are collectively reaching for the Tylenol bottle, hoping that popping a pill will help us recover from our national headache. Our nation’s finances be damned.

OBAMA: The REAL target?
I do have to credit the president for one aspect of the deal – which requires $900 billion in federal government spending cuts during the next decade. Most of those cuts will be made later, rather than sooner.

Which means that even if Obama gets himself elected to another four-year term as president, a significant part of this deal isn’t going to take effect until AFTER Barack is out of office and his attention is focused on whether to develop his presidential library on the South Side (or in Honolulu, as some entities would prefer).

In a sense, he stuck someone else with the problem instead of having to deal with it all by himself.

THEN AGAIN, SUCH a delay is all too appropriate. For government really is the ultimate long-term enterprise. We’re supposed to be pushing for policies that will last for decades on end.

The problem with too much partisan rhetoric is that it is so focused on the short-term that it can cause a mess that we are forced to live with for years and years – even long after everybody has forgotten who even ran for president in 2012 and the only reason anyone will remember Cleaver is because he came up with that “Satan” line.


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