Friday, July 29, 2011

The President needs to learn speak...

This is a political post.

Well, maybe not speak as such, but as my brother puts it, what Obama needs is a class in how to tell a story. I don't think Morgan Freeman writes his own stuff, but certainly he needs to stop into DC and help the Prez get his cadence right.

The debt ceiling debacle keeps exposing completely broken parts of our already dysfunctional government, and what the President really needs to do is get on television and explain what's really happening. He needs to start with a basic lesson in government, segue into what the debt ceiling really is and what it needs to be raised to do, and why he offered that grand bargain the Republicans didn't accept.

A basic reading of the Constitution will reveal to even the most casual student that spending bills originate in the House of Representatives. The President has not been imbued with an Executive Branch American Express Card and the right to spend all, what's the technical term..."all willy-nilly." The President's job, which we all should have learned in high school civics - at least we would have before we fired all the teachers - is to EXECUTE the budget written by Congress. Boiled down into terms we can all understand, it's Congress gives him some money and a list of how to spend it. Now, he can offer a budget proposal, and many Presidents have, but Congress writes the budget. Congress decides how much money we spend, and on what.

Which brings us to the debt ceiling. Now, when Congress wrote the budget they were aware that the debt ceiling would be met before the year was out. And now to simply meet that agreed upon budget we need to raise the debt ceiling. We aren't talking about any NEW obligations or plans, this is borrowing to meet that basic budget. And we have known this would need to be addressed since January, and done nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing, as the Republican controlled House has passed fewer than 25 pieces of legislation total. On anything. (for comparison, the Pelosi led Democratic congress passed more than 150 in the same amount of time). It probably doesn't help the Republican argument that their side also insisted on keeping government revenues low by extending the Bush tax cuts, which the President grudgingly agreed to, but that's a whole other issue.

Which brings us to the "Grand Bargain". The theme the conservative talking heads have been hammering home the past two weeks is leadership, as in the President isn't providing any. But what do they mean by leadership? To these penny ante pundits, at least to ones repeatedly invoking it, it is just a "talking point." I really would like to see Anderson Cooper or one of the other TV hosts call them on it one night. To these mindless myna bird-eqse commentators the definition of leadership is like the definition of listening my father used to use when I was a teenager : If I didn't immediately agree with him, then I wasn't listening. To them it used to mean agree with my plan. I say used to, because lately its just something to say to tarnish the president's image.

(Note: You can generally tell when something is a talking point, because more than 4 conservative commentators will use the exact same language).

Leadership? In my book, leadership is doing what needs to be done. Much like the conservatives clamored, we can't go on spending forever. The markets just won't take it. We need to borrow now, but having a saving plan in place for the future. The Democrats know this. So, assuming a LEADERSHIP role and a realistic outlook, the President created "the Grand Bargain". Despite claims that the "liberals" have an agenda, or just don't get it, the President and those pesky liberals are more than willing to cut spending. But, apparently when the President offered the Republicans a deeper cuts figure than they demanded, because the facts and not ideology demanded it, suddenly there was a problem. Wait, what?

Mr. President, had the government defaulted AND we lost the NFL season, this would have been a 1000 times worse. Trust me on that.

Yes, the President and the Democrats are willing to cut expenditures. Drastically. Even more than Bohener's Plan which was supposed to be seriously fiscally responsible. Remember that Grand Bargain? Almost twice what the Republicans wanted. So why did it matter that the Bargain included some revenue increases, when the net gain in cuts still equaled more than the original Republican concept? That same damned myopic ideology. No tax increase and oppose Obama. And people are about to find out, ideology doesn't keep the lights on or put food on the table.

Obama's calculations won't let him pull the 14th amendment option, because the last thing we need is more government stalling behind a failed impeachment. But considering how little has been accomplished, and how little more will be accomplished between now and the next election, the option does look attractive.

Looking ahead, the current stalemate - if it gets to Aug 2. - will force the Treasury, and the President, to make some hard choices. But the Bond holders WILL get paid, and I doubt the soldier's paychecks will be short, but after that it everything is open. Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security and Veterans Benefits all are on moving ground, and will lead to some trying times and possibly a few untimely passings. Government contracts, i.e., the defense industry may not be addressed - possibly leading to unnecessary expensive litigation. One hopes that Congress suddenly finds their paychecks missing as well. Wouldn't that be neat?

And despite the idea that history will blame the President, the right now and immediate future will blame the Congress. Those who thought the President was exaggerating about the consequences have seen $700 billion disappear from the markets in the last few days behind this hesitation. Continually insisting upon an unworkable plan won't help matters. Worse, the Tea Party likes to believe that a heavy cutting forced by a shut down will only eliminate the programs they don't like, but will soon find out the "awful" truth of just how much they to have come to depend on the government - just like everyone else.

And if the new congressmen think this is little bit of horse trading going on now is deplorable, let one week of Social Security and Medicare checks go missing. Then they'll see some real politicians emerge. The establishment has hung around so long for reason, and being an ideologue is merely the latest passing fancy.

We are down the nitty gritty. Let's hope the nitty wins out.

No comments: