Our Clown-Around Congress

Posted in the Minneapolis Forum

Consistent

Minneapolis, MN

#1 Jan 5, 2013
By Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON—To say that Congress looked like a clown show this week is an insult to self-respecting clowns.

Painful though it may be, let’s review what just happened. Our august legislators—aided and abetted by President Obama—manufactured a fake crisis. They then proceeded to handle it so incompetently that they turned it into a real one.

The bogus “fiscal cliff”—and please, let’s never, ever use those words again—was designed as a doomsday mechanism to force Congress and the president to make tough decisions. But resistance to the very concept of decision-making was so fierce that our leaders could only manage to avoid hurtling to their doom, and ours, by deciding not to decide much of anything.

Obama “won” this bloody and unnecessary battle, but what did he really gain, aside from bragging rights for the next few weeks? More important, what, if anything, did the nation gain? Practically zilch, except a reprieve from hardships that its elected leaders were bizarrely threatening to impose on the citizens who elected them.

There is widespread agreement that the federal government faces two huge tasks. I would rank them in this order: First, encourage the sluggish economic recovery to gather steam, on the proven theory that solid growth makes our other problems much easier to solve. Second, take prudent steps to begin addressing our long-term debt problem and put entitlement programs on a sustainable course.

Some people would reverse those priorities and put debt reduction first. I think that would be a mistake. Let’s have that argument. But we should all be able to agree that “none of the above” is not the right answer.

It’s the answer our leaders gave us, though. The bill that Congress passed and the president signed contains no significant new stimulus to boost the recovery. And while it raises some new revenue by increasing tax rates for households earning more than $450,000 a year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill actually adds $4 trillion to the debt over the next decade, mostly by keeping the George W. Bush middle-class tax cuts in place.

This is not laboring long and hard to produce a mouse. This is laboring long and hard to produce a piece of paper on which is scribbled:“IOU a mouse.”

Adding injury to insult, the pathetically unproductive 112th Congress slunk out of existence without even holding a House vote on $60 billion in emergency relief funds for communities ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. If our government cannot even provide aid and comfort to citizens whose lives have been devastated by natural disaster, what can it do?

We are a nation of optimists, so our reflexive tendency is to believe that the 113th Congress, which convened Thursday, must be better. I suppose it might. I fear it might not.

Read more at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/our_clown...

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