It seems we are living in the age of Tantalus.
Having angered the gods of Greek mythology, this once favored son was strung up so that food and drink were forever just beyond his reach. Doesn’t that sound exactly like the alleged spring weather we should be enjoying by now? What great sin did we commit to make springtime so elusive?
Equally beyond our grasp, in a country filled with people who recognize the values of common sense and compromise, is a set of politicians who will stop squabbling long enough to fix our broken economy. I know that normal April weather will assuredly come our way. I cannot say the same about a few good leaders who want to see Americans back at work.
More below the fold.
It has been 82 weeks since President Obama introduced his jobs package which was promptly bottled up by congressional Republicans. And Scott Walker’s 250,000 jobs pledge is now 117 weeks old and at least 186,300 jobs short. This doesn’t mean a high-priority Republican jobs plan at the federal or state levels is elusive, it means it is mythological.
Rather than work on jobs at the state level (real ones, we don’t need to revisit the fable of the imaginary mining jobs), the only news that came from the governor’s office this week was a report that we have now shelled out $850,000 in legal fees to defend his Act 10 assault on collective bargaining rights. Thanks to Justice Pat Roggensack’s five-to-one money advantage in her win over Ed Fallone this past week, Walker’s blank check from taxpayers probably won’t get much bigger before the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court decides the matter. This is good only because it might mean some money will eventually be left over for that elusive jobs promise somewhere on the governor’s to-do list, just past the latest round of national speaking engagements and fundraising for a potential presidential campaign.
It seemed like the only job that got the governor’s attention last week was for a circuit judge’s post in Dane County. For a second time, voters have tossed out Walker’s choice for a judicial vacancy. Walker responded by saying it might not “make a lot of sense to try and go through that appointment process.” Once it was pointed out to him that he wasn’t appearing “unintimidated” so much as “uninterested” in fulfilling the basic duties of his office, he backed down and showed a willingness to appoint retired judges to temporarily fill positions so that the court systems would not suffer from backlogs just because of a gubernatorial snit. The governor may finally understand that love from the voters of Dane County will never be in his grasp no matter how much money he spends or how many jobs kills or fails to create.
Washington was quiet as lawmakers finished their Easter recess, but the noise returns with this week’s introduction of a White House budget to compete with Paul Ryan’s plan which could have come from the Easter Bunny for being based in so much imagination.
The Obama proposal will come in somewhere between Ryan’s fantasy of cutting government spending to 19 percent of gross domestic product and the Progressive Caucus budget that would grow government investment to 23 percent of GDP. My favorite read lately has been a Matt Miller essay on that slim difference: four cents on the national dollar separates sides screaming that any compromise would take down the republic.
Republicans, Miller notes, need to recognize that Ronald Reagan’s budgets spent an average 22 percent of GDP. The progressives spend just a penny more when we have twice as many people on Social Security and Medicare as in the Reagan years.
Miller calls on Democrats to "...take on Medicare’s crazy overspending, compared with that of other wealthy nations, and revisit Social Security’s automatic benefit hikes for new cohorts of retirees — ideas that are fiscally prudent and generationally just, yet anathema to progressives." He may have a point about tweaking Social Security’s automatic benefit hikes when so many new senior citizens are not relying on cat food because they are millionaires. But the Chained CPI proposal is hardly seen as a "tweak" by progressives who are right to be dubious of any deal where Republicans would be serious about coupling so-called "entitlement reform" with closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest households.
Still, it seems that somewhere in between 19 cents and 23 cents is a figure that can get the deficit lower, close those tax loopholes, protect the safety net and finally get national and state leaders back to the business of putting Americans back to work.
It seems so tantalizing until you see who’s in charge of the capitol buildings in Washington and Madison. A Memorial Day snowstorm seems more likely than ever.