Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Congress: Turning "Procrastination" Into An Artform

By means of a bi-partisan vote Congress avoided the fiscal cliff; passing a bill that raises taxes on individuals making over $400,000 and households making of $450,000.  The bill also extends unemployment benefits for one more year.
The bill marked the first time that congress has increased taxes in 20 years.
The bill, which included not one dime in spending cuts, was passed in the middle of a debate that was supposed to be about REDUCING spending and the national debt.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill INCREASES the national debt by $4 trillion.
The Speaker o f the House normally doesn’t on vote on pending legislation.  Speaker Boehner voted for the bill.  He was joined in this debt increasing effort  by Republican Budget Chairman and fiscal HAWK, Paul Ryan.
Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against the bill…proving once again that Boehner has zero control over his caucus. 
Cantor had intended to amend the bill by adding $350 billion in spending cuts.  But Cantor is in bed with Wall Street; and the money guys told Cantor to back off, preferring the certainty of an agreement on higher tax rates over the uncertainty of a plunge over the fiscal cliff.  Still Cantor voted “no” as a direct snub against Boehner’s leadership.
Congress knew for the past two years that this deadline was coming.  Still they managed to wait until the deadline passed to come to an agreement. 
Republicans wanted to wait until the Bush Tax Cuts expired so that they were in fact voting for a tax decrease.  Conservative Lobbyist Grover Norquist, whose anti-tax pledge Republicans clutch to their breast like a newborn baby, gave absolution to this dubious tactic eliciting a sigh of relief from those who worship at Grover’s alter.
Republicans wanted to deal with entitlement reform.  On two separate occasions the president made offers that include reductions in entitlement programs.  Republicans walked away from those offers.  In the end the deal Republicans were forced to swallow was far worse than the deals they turned down last week…last month…or last year.
Congressmen from New York and New Jersey took to the podium with their hair on fire; incensed that the Speaker would not allow a vote on a $60 billion dollar unfunded aid package for those ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.  These gentlemen were among those who only minutes before were complaining about the nation’s massive debt and Washington’s runaway spending.
During the fiscal cliff debate House Majority leader Harry Reid, under whose leadership the Senate has failed to pass a budget in four years, took it upon himself to criticize Speaker Boehner’s refusal to bring any bill to the House floor unless it had the support of a majority of Boehner’s majority party.  Reid called Boehner’s leadership style “a dictatorship.” 
Later, when the two legislators bumped into each other by chance, Boehner told Reid to go f—k himself…twice.
Thus, we bring down the curtain on the 112th Congress of the United States of America…the most inept, ineffective and impotent do nothing congress in American history.
We can only hope that the 113th Congress will be more effective.  They will get their chance in two short months.  Because while the existing congress took the easy vote on taxes, they passed on dealing with the sequestration spending cuts, increasing the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution which funds the government and allows it to operate.  Each of these issues must be dealt with in either February or March. 
And the stakes will be much higher.  While the “fiscal cliff” debate that we just witnessed had an effect on our economy; the debt ceiling has international repercussions.  For if we default on paying our bills the consequences could result in a global recession.
So what have we learned…if anything?
We’ve learned that governing by “deadline” doesn’t work.  It makes for bad decisions.  By allowing our core issues to fester until we reach the 11th hour of a lame duck congress we have managed to increase our debt by $8 trillion dollars in the past two years.
Congress is in disarray.  They have proven their inability to lead time and time again.  If we are to right ourselves we need leadership.
It all starts with the president.
We need the president to use the bully pulpit to speak the truth to the American people.  Most Americans know that our current course in unsustainable.  Most Americans know what needs to be done.  Most Americans are light years ahead of the politicians in their willingness to do what is right. We just need the President to lead.
Because the only thing congress knows how to do is procrastinate.      

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