mercredi, juillet 13, 2011

Who made him "King" of anything?

As the debt ceiling limit clock hands head towards midnight, it seems as though we are morphing into a nation of children -- pulling on the rope that is government, one side daring the other to see who can bring it down first.

I can't believe that we have allowed ourselves to move this close to what may (or may not) be a catastrophe for our financial system without coming up with a reasonable compromise. And on one point (but wait) I am firmly in the Democratic camp -- Republican extremism in the defense of "no new taxes" is a scary vice.

Looking at a Gallup Poll released just today, Nate Silver of the New York Times crunches the numbers and finds that the deal offered by Obama seems to favor the bar set by Republican voters (and recall that they are a pretty conservative group):

"Now consider the positions of the respective parties to the negotiation. One framework that President Obama has offered, which would reduce the debt by a reported $2 trillion, contains a mix of about 17 percent tax increases to 83 percent spending cuts. Another framework, which would aim for twice the debt reduction, has been variously reported as offering a 20-to-80 or 25-to-75 mix.

With the important caveat that the accounting on both the spending and tax sides can get tricky, this seems like an awfully good deal for Republicans. Much to the chagrin of many Democrats, the mix of spending cuts and tax increases that Mr. Obama is offering is quite close to, or perhaps even a little to the right of, what the average Republican voter wants, let alone the average American.

However, all but 7 Republicans in the House of Representatives, or 97 percent of them, have signed the pledge of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform stating that any net tax increases are unacceptable. One might have believed this to be simply a negotiating position. But the proposal that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell floated yesterday, which would give up on striking a deal and instead rely on some procedural gymnastics to burden Mr. Obama with having to raise the debt ceiling, suggests otherwise. Republicans in the House really may be of the view that a deal with a 3:1 or 4:1 or 5:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases is worse than none at all."

I know that many conservatives don't accept that David Brooks is a true conservative, but on this point, he's spot on.

Who the heck elected Grover Norquist King of the House of Representatives? That's going to be a question for the historians. Whether Norquist really holds such Svengali-like power over the Republicans in Congress, or whether they are generally all of the same ilk anyway, they seem willing to blow up the joint to save it -- which is a little frightening.

Whether the financial markets would tank without a deal, or not, it seems to me that it's up to those we elected to run this country to figure out a way to make running it, not "winning" on ideology, their chief priority.

Oh yeah, and that's just the Republicans.

At some point, if we want to do something about the deficit, we're going to have to reform Medicare. And, even though Social Security is not the proximate problem, the fact that younger folks pay into it, and have little reasonable expectation of being able to profit from it, just doesn't seem fair.

The ethic of shared sacrifice isn't just about altruism. It's about us, as Americans, making justice and fairness priorities so that in generations to come, we will prosper -- and that means that affluent seniors might consider supporting a deal that requires them to pay out a little more, or retire a little later. I'm not encouraged by the tenor of "keep your hands off my Social Security" slogans, or the wrath visited on anyone who dares to suggest reform (of any kind), to believe that the public looks kindly upon a future-oriented answer.

There are many creative solutions to the problems affecting this country -- unfortunately, these answers are being drowned out by the din of competing "me, me, me" ideologies.

I'd like to think we are better than that. But it disturbs me that we're leaving it to the last minute to find out.

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