To say that Congress looked like a clown show this week is an insult to self-respecting clowns.So begins Eugene Robinson in this Washington Post column this morning, whose title I have borrowed for this posting.
He begins by reminding us, as painful as it might be, that the so-called fiscal cliff was a fake crisis, manufactured by legislators (and "aided and abetted" by the President), who
then proceeded to handle it so incompetently that they turned it into a real one.. And we off to the races with another powerful column by the Pulitzer Prize winner.
He outright calls the fiscal cliff "bogus" - and asks that we never again use those words.
He says our leaders really did not decide much of anything, and all we as a nation gained from the show was to avoid temporarily the
hardships that its elected leaders were bizarrely threatening to impose on the citizens who elected them.He recognizes two issues the nation must address. His order is to encourage economic growth to encourage the "sluggish recovery" to gather steam, and then to take "prudent steps" to address the long term debt problem which includes appropriate entitlement reform. He acknowledges that others would put addressing the debt first, which he thinks is a mistaken approach. He then writes this:
But we should all be able to agree that “none of the above” is not the right answer.But that is what just happened. Please keep reading.
Robinson rightly points out that the deal negotiated by McConnell and Biden contains no significant stimulus and was scored by the Congressional Budget Office as adding almost $ trillion to the national debt because it sustained the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. He then offers and apt description:
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.”I was tempted to title this post "IOU a mouse." It is attention getting.
But this truly is a clown show.
Except of course that is as insulting to clowns as calling some of the more obnoxious members of the Republican House Caucus assholes is insulting to a part of our bodies that at least serves a necessary purpose of helping eliminate waste.
Robinson worries about what will happen next.
We all should.
Already we are hearing that on the one hand the President will not negotiate over the debt ceiling and that any cuts to programs must be matched dollar for dollar with new revenue, while the Republicans are saying that any increase in debt ceiling must be matched dollar for dollar with new cuts. Somehow it is hard to see in that rhetoric a path to avoiding what Robinson describes as yet another trumped-up disaster.
So far I have pointed at a number of the memorable lines in Robinson's column.
He reminds us that we are going to face what could be a rerun of the clown show within two months.
The heart of his column is in Robinson's final long paragraph, which is followed by two shor paragraph.
In the beginning of that long paragraph Robinson clearly demonstrates that he is a liberal:
Almost everyone, liberal and conservative, agrees that some spending cuts are needed but that they should never be imposed in such a ham-fisted, indiscriminate way; doing so would unnecessarily curtail needed programs, cause great hardship and gratuitously harm the economy.He I am afraid that at least as far as the membership of Republican House caucus and the heart of the Republican constituency he is unfortunately not correct. There are far too many who view many of the programs he considers "needed" as things violative of their concept of the role of government and who frankly do not care if cuts "cause great hardship" and have little concern about the economic harm they may do. For some, they believe their individual wealth will protect them. For others, who will experience real harm their vision of their own economic interests is clouded by rhetoric and hate, and the mistaken belief that their tax dollars are somehow helping those deemed "unworthy" - and yes, perceptions about race and origin play into this.
The paragraph continues with these words:
Almost everyone, liberal and conservative, agrees that failing to raise the debt ceiling — which would mean refusing to pay for spending that Congress has already approved — is unthinkable; such a move would throw the world’s financial system into chaos and potentially cause a global recession.Here Robinson is on somewhat firmer ground, although there are voices among elected Republicans who still argue that failure to cut programs to stay within the debt ceiling is the real threat to our long-term economic viability. Others across the political spectrum although particularly some on the Right believe that there is political advantage to be gained in how one approaches this, that if the other side gets blamed for a fiscal crisis that is good for their side in the long term, and pay less attention to the real harm that would be imposed upon money.
But let's grant Robinson's contention for sake of discussion. Let's see what this leads him to write in his last two brief paragraphs:
Everyone knows these things. Everyone knows it’s time to stop the foolishness and get serious.I think back to my childhood, to going to the circus. One of the most amazing things to see was the clown car. It would circle around, stop, and then an impossible number of clowns would climb out.
Would somebody please tell the clowns?
I look at Congress. I look especially at the Tea Party element in the House and the damage they have done to this nation over the past two years. I think I am again looking at the clown car, and wondering how it is possible for there to be so many clowns in Congress.
To say that Congress looked like a clown show this week is an insult to self-respecting clowns.
Except that if we do not seriously and honestly address the issues before the nation, which begin with the need for economic stimulus, what we have just seen will pale when compared to what might happen next.
Would somebody please tell the clowns?