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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Watching the Ball Drop | 01-01-2013
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1961 - CalArts grad (MFA '92) and marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg, creator of Spongebob SquarePants, born in Oklahoma; developed prototype for Spongebob while studying at CalArts in 1989. Estimated net worth in 2012: $90 million [story]


The Rational Center | Commentary by John Zaring
| Tuesday, Jan 1, 2013

johnzaring2012Happy New Year! While most people were watching the ball drop in Times Square, I was watching a ball of a different kind being dropped in Washington: the “fiscal cliff” ball.

Somehow, despite the fact that in every corner of our great country Americans knew just how enormous the fiscal cliff stakes were, in Washington, not surprisingly, it came down to a mad scramble the final night of the year. Even though Congress had well over a year to settle this – plenty of time to craft a bipartisan agreement – they simply couldn’t do it.

And so last night, over the cliff we went.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said it best: “The biggest danger to the American economy is the American Congress.”

No kidding.

As you read this, America is technically over the fiscal cliff. By the time the Senate got around to approving a deal forged between the key players – President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – the House wasn’t even in session to vote.

Boehner had recessed his chamber hours earlier, deciding to adjourn until noon today.

I suspect Boehner’s move was more of a publicity ploy than a procedural move. By voting after the Bush tax rates expired, House Republicans can spin it as a vote for a tax cut instead of an increase – because, you see, officially everyone’s taxes had already gone up once the clock struck midnight.

Of course, this is making the leap that the House will ratify the deal today with a vote of its own, which is anything but certain.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so sick and tired of the 112th Congress that their final, closing gavel cannot come soon enough. The stubborn intransigence of this particular group of morons – and let me be very clear, so you tea party types don’t miss my point and attack me for being a “crazy liberal” or some such nonsense: they are ALL morons – is beyond anything I’ve seen in my half century on this earth.

What’s wrong with these people? Why do they refuse to put our country before their party?

I have one theory, and you might not want to hear it.

It is your fault. All of you. We Americans live our lives in blissful apathy, trying to get through each day in our own little bubble with as little drama as possible. As a nation, we don’t pay close enough attention to the politics of the day, and we demand nothing of our elected leaders. And as a result, they do pretty much nothing.

Then, despite their appalling lack of results, we go ahead and reelect these people – career politicians like our own 20-year representative in Congress, Howard “Buck” McKeon – even though most of them have done little to earn a return to Washington.

Where is the outrage? Why do we tolerate this?

Well, for one thing, congressional districts have been rigged in favor of the incumbent. Over the years, districts were snaked, sometimes comically, through neighborhoods simply to create a constituency of the like-minded. As a result, our two-party system often looks more like a one-party monopoly. Again, this applies to both Republicans and Democrats.

As a result, the politicians move farther and farther to the extremes of their parties, leaving those of us in the rational center unrepresented, frustrated, and lately just plain annoyed. As the right and left drift farther and farther apart, the political mood has soured, making compromise all but impossible.

You’ll surely remember when, in August 2011, Congress argued over raising the debt ceiling up until the very last minute and ultimately shirked its responsibility to legislate and did little more than kick the can down the proverbial road. Now they’ve kicked the can again, setting up what will surely be another high drama in just weeks.

Unfortunately, this Band-Aid approach to governance breeds uncertainty the economy can’t handle. Fixing our fiscal issues in stages leaves everything muddled, and investors, businesses and the markets demand clarity in order to operate effectively. While we might be getting a bipartisan solution to the tax increase today, it is not a grand bargain, not even close. We needed something to tackle the debt ceiling and spending cuts and all of the other systemic issues wreaking havoc on consumer confidence and instead, we got more of the same.

It appears everyone who voted for this bill has something they dislike about it, which to me is a good sign, since everyone is so entrenched in their ideology. However, this means that 2013 will be troublesome at best, and at worst, littered with a series of self-made disasters involving incessant squabbles, procedural fights and quorum calls.

With so much left unresolved, the next Congress will go right back into trench warfare, making bold, bipartisan compromise little more than a pipe dream. Until Congress gets past the debt ceiling and sequestration, it will be all but impossible to clear the deck to address the other important issues which demand attention, such as immigration and tax code reform.

Our leaders apparently enjoy playing with fire, so folks, buckle your seat beats and settle in for another tumultuous year watching the partisans (yes, from both sides) prevent the moderates from getting anything done.

To be blunt, this is your fault. You sent these morons to Washington. Happy New Year.

 

John Zaring describes himself as a reformed Republican turned moderate Democrat who believes democracy works best when its government actually functions because its leaders are working together. He serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee, Castaic Middle School’s Site Council, the Hart District’s WiSH Education Foundation, and he is the West Ranch High School representative on the Hart District’s Advisory Council. A self-proclaimed “New Democrat” a la Bill Clinton, he lives in Castaic with his wife of 21 years and their daughters, Fiona, 16, and Kylie, 12. His commentary publishes Tuesdays.

 

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