JIM CREES: The Fiscal Fandango

Congress debate and vote offer no long term solutions

Well, we survived the “fiscal cliff.’ Frankly, I’m not surprised. I suppose I’m horrifyingly naive, but I believe there was about as much chance of the country falling over the so-called fiscal cliff as there was of the world coming to an end on Dec. 21, (thanks to the fulfillment of some Mayan prophesy which wasn’t a prophecy at all.) I am not a political scientist. I am not a economist.  I’m not all that smart, nor do I make claims to being any of the above. I am, however, a casual observer of the shenanigans that take place on a regular and continuing basis in Washington, D.C., (and Lansing for that matter.) So ...I wasn’t worried. Months ago, I told my Dearly Beloved not only that we wouldn’t be going over any “fiscal cliff,” but I also pretty much predicted how the “crisis” would end. Again, it’s not that I’m smart. I knew, however, that there are always objective issues in any crisis that are way, Way, WAY beyond the control of the geniuses in Washington. Look. Objectively speaking, there was no way in the world our “leaders” in Washington could have allowed themselves to destroy the nation’s credit rating. Despite the pundits; despite the Wall Street mavens; despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the electronic media, there was no way they could have allowed the financial standing of this country to simply collapse. I know it. They know it. You probably know it too. So, what happened? At the last possible moment the latest fiscal salvation act was passed. (Wasn’t it cute the way they worked the New Year’s holiday and the late European stock market opening into the calculation?)  Important people from both sides of the aisle strolled out to face the cameras and pontificate on how only through the miracle of a bi-partisan effort, the team in Washington saved the country from financially imploding. What shinola! Bi-partisan nothing. Both Dems and the GOP passed legislation that was determined by The Market, not by any goodwill or cooperative spirit. And the proof of that pudding is certainly in the tasting. Get a taste of this. The act passed basically gives lawmakers a three month reprieve during which they can simply continue on with the same stupid conversation they’ve been having since the incredibly banal “Super Committee” days, (with our man in Washington Dave Camp as a ‘active’ member.) Indeed, the debt ceiling argument has already taking off - the same argument as before. “We have to reform entitlements,” say the one side. “We have to raise taxes,” say the other. And then ...nothing gets done. Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, even Cal Thomas penned a frustrated column in which I found a good number of points with which to agree. “Everything that everyone loathes about Washington was present in the “fiscal cliff” bill just passed by Congress,” wrote Thomas. “It is 153 pages long; most members probably hadn’t read all of it before voting on it; it was delivered in the middle of the night; it was loaded with pork -- the mother’s milk (to mix a metaphor) of politicians -- and while the country is already swamped with massive debt, it contains massive giveaways to satisfy interest groups and campaign contributors ... “As with previous congresses, this one (again) delayed the debt issue for two months and will have to face it again, along with what to do about the debt ceiling. Only expletives that can’t be printed in a family newspaper accurately characterize this bunch, so I’ll have to settle for pathetic, unprincipled and irresponsible.” Now I don’t usually agree with Thomas, but I sure do this time around. A day or two after the New Year’s holiday, the mud started flying, (and I use “mud” so as not to offend my more sensitive readers.) Republicans say they are drawing a line in the sand, will not cooperate, and will not budge. Dems claim the GOP team is simply creating gridlock. Republican Congressional leader Mitch McConnell says talk about tax increases is done. There will be no more discussion on the topic. President Obama counters with, “One thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress would pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up.” What the heck does all that mean? Basically ...nuthin. The stupidity reached new heights when Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, said he believes the best thing that could happen at this point is a partial shut down of the American government. Really!!??!! Look, ladies and gents, if you think the biggest problem facing this nation is financial, you’re right only in part, and only short term. I would suggest, however, that the biggest long-term problem facing this nation is our leadership. The financial problems are simply an expression of the same.