This was a bad joke and no one's laughingPosted Wednesday, August 3, 2011, at 9:18 AM
The drama over the debt ceiling that has gone on over the last few weeks in Congress can best be described as a John Paul Sartre play -- theater of the absurd.
Or perhaps it has been more like a farce.
In the end, by the skin of its teeth, Congress managed to avoid economic catastrophe -- even though some Tea Party members (including at least one presidential candidate), seemed to think that economic Armageddon was a good idea.
The politics of polarization that have dominated the last ten years in Congress have demonstrated how difficult it is for anyone to achieve compromise these days, even though that's the foundation of how our system of government is supposed to work.
The federal budget is enormously complex, and some of the simplistic solutions that have been proposed originated in simple minds. We need a little more of Congress putting on thinking caps, rather than a jester's hat.
As part of the deal approved at the last minute yesterday, Congress guaranteed we'll go through this again -- before the next election. We can't thank them enough for that. But at least it pushed the Casey Anthony case off the front pages.
In fact, all they actually "accomplished" was irreparable harm to the nation's standing as the "gold standard" of the world's economy. Despite all our problems, until this self-created crisis occurred, U.S. federal government securities were still considered the safest investment on the planet.
The compromise included passing a "law" that will "force" Congress to do what it should have been doing all along. No points here for lawmakers passing laws to force them to do what is right.
It also called for a bipartisan commission to look into further means of controlling the spiraling national debt. But such a commission had already been created by the president early in his administration. The final report, the plan of the "Gang of Six," which included Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, outlined a comprehensive plan to draw down the nation's debt. As long is it is adopted in full measure, not picked apart and adopted a la carte, it would work, even if it meant some tough decisions.
But Congress ignored it after it was completed and rejected it after it was proposed as one of the compromise plans in the current crisis. It included items that were anathema to ideological zealots in both parties, such as making adjustments in entitlement programs and raising income by closing tax loopholes. So the work now "mandated" by Congress has already been done -- and rejected. This does not bode well for the new "super commission" the debt ceiling compromise requires. Voters should count on all the "penalties" for failing to come up with a plan to kick in -- just before the elections.
In the end, this was a political posturing joke. But no one's laughing.
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