Yesterday, the joint select committee on deficit reduction announced that it had failed in its goal to cut 1.2 trillion dollars in spending over the next ten years. Why people are surprised about this is beyond me, but just as people seem unable to understand who is at fault for this failure, people should be asking what they can do about it. The simple answer is to not vote for your Congressman. It doesn’t matter who he or she is. It doesn’t matter if you personally like them or not. It doesn’t matter if you agree with them on anything. We need to stand up and show Congress that actions do indeed have consequences and when you fail, we will treat you as the failure that you are, not the semi non success story that politicians will try to spin it as. This entire disaster was avoidable, but as usual, politicians decided that our state of affairs wasn’t in as poor of a state as it could be, so they decided to make matters worse.
In the spring of 2011 you had something unprecedented occur in Washington. A group of Republicans announced that they were not going to pay the bills. They decided to take an arbitrary matter known as the vote to increase the debt ceiling and turn it into a mechanism to derail the President’s policies and with it, the economy and by doing that they hoped to derail any chance of Barack Obama getting re-elected. Simply put: Republicans decided that they would rather torpedo the economy than be forced to deal with a black man who holds more power than they do. It’s a striking moment in American politics. It’s a striking moment in American race relations. It’s a very sad day for the everyday American.
When Republicans didn’t get their way on the debt ceiling (meaning they couldn’t force the President to completely capitulate to their demands of more tax cuts for rich people and more program cuts for poor people), they turned to this idea of a “supercommittee.” While they took to the talk shows denouncing the idea that the President was “kicking the can down the road” when it came to our nations budget deficit, they decided that they should follow his lead and well, kick the can down the road. They came to the conclusion that they couldn’t part with their spending mechanisms and that it would be better to task someone else with doing that. Well, guess what? That idea failed too. This ridiculous idea that putting a lot of power in the hands of a few people with seniority status would somehow yield a result that has evaded every politician in the past would somehow produce a result that everyone could live with was a pipe dream. It was a pipe dream when it was thought up, when it was put together, and ultimately, it remained that way to the very end. How pathetic.
There’s a lesson here though. If you’re going to create an imaginary crisis in an attempt to ruin the economy and destroy a Presidency it helps to have an actual plan on how to do that. The biggest problem that Republicans had was not that they wanted America’s economy to fail so that they could torpedo Barack Obama’s Presidency, their biggest problem was that they didn’t do their homework and come up with a way to do that effectively. In the eleventh hour, House Speaker John Boehner put together bills that in any other Republican Congress would have passed easily, but in this Congress, failed. Does this have anything to do with how well John Boehner is handling his job as Speaker of the House? Perhaps. Does this have anything to do with the idea that some Republicans have disdain for many of their own members because of what they are doing to their country? I certainly hope so.
It’s easy to blame one side or another, heck it’s easiest to blame both parties, but assessing blame in this matter is counter-productive. In case you haven’t noticed, Congress doesn’t care what you think of them. People don’t get to 6% approval without being completely callous about their interactions with their fellow human beings. The problem that we face is that those on the right, the so-called “tea partiers” don’t just want to cut government, they want to eliminate it. When you listen to Republicans talk about government and how they’d like to see it work, it’s fairly easy to see what they want. They want a government put together under the Articles of Confederation, not the Constitution of the United States. Republicans want a large, one body legislature where the government has no power to tax, no power to do anything of any significance save to declare way and rather than just admitting this they simply try and demagogue their opponents. This is absolutely absurd.
What’s even more ridiculous is that “small government” conservatives unable to get a deal using well, small government, decided to put all their trust into a new committee with expanded powers. This is to say that rather than trust in the government they have or work towards creating a smaller government in the future, their solution was to create more government in the form of the joint select committee on deficit reduction. What were they thinking? Don’t they see that by creating something that goes directly against your principles to get something that no one wants was a bad idea? Or are they just so blind to reality or so perhaps so maligned on one side or the other that they felt they had no choice? We’ll never know the answer, but what we do know is that their idea, however conceived, was a dismal failure.
As I said from the outset, assigning blame to one side or the other isn’t particularly helpful, but it’s important to understand who started this mess. Republicans decided that they were going to take a usually routine vote and make it a litmus test for party loyalty and this is something that we haven’t seen since Franklin Pierce made the Kansas-Nebraska Act a litmus test for party loyalty. That whole Kansas-Nebraska Act didn’t go over very well. It was a bad law put together for bad reasons and attempted to solve a bad problem by making it even worse. When you take the ordinary processes of government and turn them into political kickballs, bad things are going to happen and we’re seeing the fallout from that right now.
It’s not that America has a spending problem or that America has a “failure of leadership” that rests with President Obama as Republicans would like you to believe. No, America has a Congress problem. Congress has been trying to get it’s act together for decades and has failed and now it’s time for us to vote everybody out of office. That’s right: everybody. I don’t care if you like your representative or not, if this isn’t the most blatant misuse of power you’ve ever seen then you haven’t been paying attention. We need to stop asking “what does this mean for America?” and start asking “who can we put in power besides these jokers that can actually come up with a reasonable solution while not creating unnecessary problems for us in the process?”