Fiscal Sniff (January 8, 2013)

Fiscal Sniff



Last year I began writing a weekly political column for online liberal magazine, Given the gift of a regular outlet for Washington thoughts and musings, I began to recast the mission of this blog as a means of sharing my personal story, a story in which I figure as a central character but am by no means mistress of ceremony. In the process of deconstructing and examining personal foibles, tics and trials, the goal is to arrive at a more holistic understanding of the self, with a loftier promise of making educated, well-considered moves that will sustain or augment mental, physical and spiritual health.

This self-involved introduction is offered by way of placing a forthcoming rant into context.

Though I strenuously seek to separate roles and personalities that are best kept compartmentalized in the interest of efficiency, life, as we all know, has a habit of defying our attempts at organization. And so it is that until this morning, my political self was left completely paralyzed by the disgusting gamesmanship and ultimately pathetic resolution to the year-end “fiscal cliff” crisis. For two full weeks, I was rendered unable to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard if you will), to produce thoughts – coherent or otherwise.

Allow me to quote some of my own Facebook comments, dated January 2, 2013 in an attempt to account for this malaise:

“I loathe the treasonous House Republicans. I loathe that Congress manufactured this crisis in the first place 18 months ago, then waited until the last possible second to reach a deal that does nothing to solve our long-term financial problems. I loathe that for all intents and purposes, the Bush tax cuts have been codified for all eternity. I loathe that the wealthy class has been redefined and insulated while regular stiffs like you and I will lose more take home pay. I don’t care that the House GOP ‘looks bad’ in all of this. I am approaching a resentment level that demands nothing short of a public hanging for the way this half-wit, wackadoo minority has been able to hold every initiative, so matter how small or crucial, hostage. General public opinion and the voice of the electorate has been silenced. Our process is a mockery and it’s hard to envision a real way out at this point.

If we had done nothing at all, the threshold for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans would have stayed at $250,000, rather than the final $400,000. But the tradeoff would have been deep and immediate spending cuts that would undoubtedly have plunged this still wobbly recession back in the direction from which it’s struggling to escape. The House GOP knew this and in the end, strong-armed the 400k mark, at which I must add, they remain dissatisfied (because nothing short of 0 taxes assuages this nutty group). These ‘concerned citizens’ were so worried about our long-term fiscal health that they were willing, for the second time in two years, to display us to the world as a nation that does not know how to address its own problems. They win. Again. Meanwhile discussions about spending cuts are temporarily off the table, but I will be the unpopular liberal who actually admits that we need structural solutions to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security and a realignment of our defense budget. But do you think this group of charlatans is going to be able to come up with anything like a sensible plan? I do not lay the blame at Obama’s feet. He is not able to pass legislation singlehandedly. The hypocrisy is fucking disgusting, pardon my French. These clowns didn’t veto a single spending bill under Dubya, a huge part of why we’re here (the other part being the economic meltdown that Dubya’s policies wrought) and yet somehow we and the media have allowed this to be framed as the inevitable outcome of tax and spend liberal policy. It’s truly sickening.”

I can’t say that my sentiments differ substantially today than they did when I wrote those words a week ago. And I find myself wondering: if Congressional games have the comprehensive power to disgust and disillusion writers like myself, who follow political developments for a living and nurture a genuine passion for American democracy, what is the effect on those outside the political circle, particularly individuals and families struggling to hold onto homes and jobs, terribly concerned with immediate survival and the future solvency? Have they, out of necessity, long ago relegated the lethargic legislative process of our leaders to white noise? Or perhaps a more pertinent question might be: is this exactly what today’s elected officials are counting on?


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