Sunday, August 7, 2011

Is It Poker or Chess?

Were you as dismayed as I was over the events of the last week? Did the agreement on raising the debt ceiling give you a big sigh of relief or indigestion? Are you tired of party politics playing games on our dime?

Personally, over the many years I have observed the antics of our politicians. I remember back prior to the Watergate years. I cannot think of a more contentious time. I had read of the arm twisting by LBJ and the offerings of bridges and roads as inducements for votes dangled before reluctant legislators. Some even spoke darkly of actual bribes over the years. So, Congressional misdeeds are nothing new. I must also say that I have observed many fine legislators who were steadfast in support of principles and policies from which we have all benefitted. We can point with pride to the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the signing of the landmark Medicare legislation. Each of these accomplishments have helped to change our nation and been beneficial to rich and poor alike.

But now we are seeing those who believed it was their duty to only serve the tiny minority which elected them. They did not believe it was their duty to listen to those senior in tenure and experience, or rank. Churlish and childish, to our sorrow and their shame they heard only their own voices. Disrespectful as a class and disobedient as a party they threatened to take down the country's economy if they did not get their way.

Lest you have pity for these poor neophytes, let me educate you. According to opensecrets.org, more than half of the members of the Tea Party caucus are millionaires. The numbers of Americans, who are millionaires and above, amounts to approximately 1% of the total population of 309 million. The average worth of a House member is stated as over $700,000.00, while Senators enjoy an average wealth of over $2 million. The average salary of an American male who worked full time in 2009 was $46,000 approximately, while for a comparable woman it was $36,000. How does this equate to the House of Representatives which pays each member over $174,000 as a base rate, not including staff, postage and expenses? Some of the newest Tea Party representatives refuse to take a house or an apartment in DC and live instead in their government supplied offices, with utilities supplied by the taxpayer and shower in the House gym, also provided at taxpayer expense. Despite claims by Eric Cantor (a millionaire himself, by the way) that no one has asked him to raise their taxes, there is actually a group called patriotic millionaires who have written an open letter and called for tax hikes. They understand that our current system is unfair and unbalanced. They joined with President Obama in calling for revenues to be paired with spending decreases. A lot of these arguments can be read in this website posting (link).

Now we are faced with the matter of Standard and Poor's (S & P) down grading the USA AAA bond rating. This slap on the wrist from those who were complicit in credit default swaps, the foreclosure mess, and cut-rate mortgages would be laughable in any other context. The European Union recently threatened to sue them for failing to accurately report the stability of some of these suspect mortgages and other entities. S & P, when the initial math used to underpin their decision was found to be faulty, went on to say, "well the political climate is too unstable, so we are sticking with it." Fortunately the other ratings agencies are not jumping aboard this bandwagon, so in reality this will most likely not have a long-term effect. However, where is the public outcry at the ill-conceived actions of the Republican House? The majority of those polled do blame the Republicans for this manufactured crisis. According to an article in The New York Times -- this outcry is starting to come -- as more than 80% of the public do not support the actions of Congress and more than 40% are unfavorable to the Tea Party. Independent voters are turning away in droves.

What does this mean for the election of 2012? Will the voters have long memories? Will the Republicans over-play their hand here? Already Speaker Boehner is egging on his dark side forces to go out and push for the Balanced Budget Amendment, which again is not what our government needs to focus on when we have millions still unemployed. Just how many jobs will this amendment create? Just how many people returned to work with the assault on Planned Parenthood? Just how many consumers have been aided with the refusal to seat Elizabeth Warren as the head of the Consumer Protection Bureau she organized?

I am hopeful that the voting public will not say a pox on all politics and stay home next year. I would like to allow real debate to surface and those who vote against the interests of the country in Congress to be defeated. I do not think the American people want their government to be dysfunctional. However when the President is indeed the only adult in the room, we have to insist on a better discourse. When one side is playing poker and stacks the deck, we should walk away. Perhaps that is the real problem. The Republicans are playing poker and the President is playing chess. One looks for short-term gains and the other looks for long-term solutions and a winning strategy. I am with the President on this, how about you? I’m not a millionaire, but if you are, would you mind paying a few more dollars for the collective good of our country as a whole? Do let me know.

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