It only took them about 520 days, but Congress has managed to throw together some last-minute agreement that kept us, at least temporarily, from going over that dreaded fiscal cliff. The way it was handled was ugly, disheartening and even more polarizing than anyone could imagine. In the past few days, as the seconds to the deadline ticked by, two branches of our government made concessions, then took them back, dug in their heels in some political game of chicken and, finally, voted on a budget that, in part, only forestalls some problems, and it happens all over again. There are still debates to be had about debt ceilings and budget cuts, among other things. The media are reporting that President Obama gave Harry Reid a set of proposed concessions which Harry took home and threw into his lit fireplace. Reid wouldn’t talk to Mitch McConnell, so Vice President Biden had to intervene. Outside of the Oval Office, John Boehner told Harry Reid, “Go f*** yourself.”
While the bad boys and girls up in Washington throw tantrums and demand their own way, the rest of us were trying to figure out if our doctors will get any money from Medicare or if our taxes are going to go up or if we’ll be able to afford that $7 gallon of milk. Many of them signed a pledge to that guy, Grover Norquist, and promised that there would be no new taxes. I don’t remember asking Grover to speak for me, and I don’t care what they call it – if the government is shrinking our pay checks and cutting our exemptions, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a tax. Of course, as politicians and lobbyists are joined at the hip, a little pork was added. Hollywood, the rum industry and Nascar were among a few of the interest groups to see tax breaks. To add insult to injury, as Congress and the Senate bask in the glow of a 9% approval rating, the President signed an Executive Order giving them a raise. Way to go. Job well done. Almost.
In the midst of all of these shenanigans, the pundits, and a few members of Congress likened the fiscal cliff scenario to that of the final scene in “Thelma and Louise”. I don’t know what movie they were watching, but they certainly flatter themselves if they believe that anything they did in the past few months was even remotely close to what happened to those two film characters. Thelma and Louise made the decision to go over that cliff together, with their hands clasped in solidarity. In fact, every decision they made was the result of an agreement between them, and the only time they hurt anyone was in self-defense.
A better analogy might be Toonces the Driving Cat. You see, Toonces drove over cliffs all the time, often with passengers along for the ride. He was reckless and drove too fast, without any thought of the consequences of his actions. He had a terrible time even getting his driver’s license in the first place. That’s how bad he was behind the wheel. But Toonces, just like the folks in Washington, got right back in the driver’s seat and aimed that Dodge towards the same cliff, over and over. The owners of that cat, much like the voters in this Country, rewarded his bad behavior by handing over the keys, often sitting right next to him while he drove, even when the car was about ready for the junkyard. The good news is that Toonces is long gone, his nine lives were spent years ago. Too bad we still choose the same fat cats in Washington, the ones we still let drive the car.