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Kicking cans, or kicking cans?

Original post made by Tom Cushing on Nov 15, 2011

Observing political jargon is a fascinating business, as lawmakers struggle to find ways to frame issues their way, and appeal to their respective bases. Pithy terms like "job creators" to refer to The Rich, and "class warfare" to suggest that those creators should shoulder a greater share of the overall tax burden are shorthand phrases that can capture an essence of a position, and conform to the increasingly ephemeral attention spans of the voting public.

The GOP has become particularly adept at generating these framing devices, pursuant to the remarkable talents of linguist and pollster Frank Luntz. As skilled negotiators know, if you can frame the issue-at-hand favorably to your position, you force your counterpart to play defense -- it's an "away game" for them on your home field.

A catch-phrase of relatively recent coinage (lest I be once again mis-characterized as living in some imaginary time-warp) is "kicking the can down the road." Its meaning refers to idle activity that defers a day of reckoning to some future time "down the road." Last summer, Congress performed that feat in addressing the ridiculous debt ceiling debate, by appointing a bi-cameral group of legislators to an over-generously termed "super-committee."

These twelve Congressfolk have been tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade, presumably because numbers with Ts in them are more impressive than B-numbers, like $120 Billion per year. In theory, these deficit reduction effects can be achieved by either-or-both of spending cuts and tax increases (or "revenue enhancements" to the faint-of-wallet). The GOP has, however, stacked its side of the group with anti-tax stalwarts who have so far held firm to their genuflections in the direction of Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform (read: "Tax Reduction"). Both sides have apparently presented their vastly different approaches, and then retired to their respective corners.

The super-committee's deadline to quit booting that poor, abused container is Thanksgiving week (cranberry sauce?), lest they trigger automatic and draconian reductions in "Defense" and so-called "Entitlements" (more jargon!) that nobody claims to want.

Setting aside the argument that leukemic demand in the economy is the real, urgent problem facing this polity, such that now is precisely The Wrong Time to reduce any counter-cyclical government spending -- especially that which palliates the real suffering abroad in the land -- this latest effort seems doomed to failure. It appears that this badly-divided, doctrinaire Congress' primary talent is can-kicking.

Already there are contingencies being proposed to ameliorate the failure – from repeal of the super-committee's charter to simply ignoring any conclusions it reaches, or fails to reach. So the limit is really not a limit, and this purported game of chicken is really only a practice scrimmage with deficit doves and hawks.

I would respectfully suggest that the real solution to this Congress' dysfunction is another kind of can-kicking – this time by the electorate, applied in 2012 to derrieres of Incumbents who will have once-again demonstrated their abject inability to govern.

Comments (3)

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Nov 16, 2011 at 10:06 am

Your "real solution" that we vote out incumbents is a joke. What are the people of Danville supposed to do? Vote out Obama, Boxer, Feinstein, and McNerney? All are saintly Democrats, right?

One problem with American democracy is we have a say in electing only 3 of the 535 members of Congress. Thus, no matter how much you may dislike the radicals from other states and districts, you can't vote them out.

The 532 people you do not elect are not accountable to you, but they wield tremendous power over you. They can take radical positions that appeal to their narrow base of supporters with little fear of repercussions from people who disagree. They have entrenched themselves in power through money and influence. No wonder 83% of Americans have unfavorable views of Congress, while most favor their own elected representatives.

One solution to this mess is to move power back to the states where elected officials tend to be more accountable to voters. States can further delegate power back to local elected officials, who tend to be even more responsive to voters. This might be done via block grants, similar to what Jerry Brown has proposed for many aspects of California government.

Unfortunately, people like you continue to peddle the myth of the beneficent Federal government, ignoring the corruption, cronyism, and unaccountability. The "solutions" you continue to offer call for the Federal government to take an even greater role in our lives, further expanding this mess.

Also unfortunate, the Tea Partisans have decided that the only way to "fix" the problem is by forcibly depriving the Federal government of revenue. This has lead to a dangerous game of chicken, where the creditworthiness of the nation has been called into question.

God help us.

P.S.

Why do you attack the GOP only? Democrats are just as guilty of spinning political jargon:

Saying the rich should pay their "fair share" of taxes, obscuring the fact that Fed. & State governments tax rich people's wages at 50%. Isn't 50% fair enough??

Not all of the "1%" are "millionaires and billionaires." To be in the 1%, one must earn $382,000 per year. Nice income, but hardly a Wall Street big shot, especially in the high cost Bay Area.

Democrats no longer "raise taxes" of course. They "raise revenue." Who could possibly be against raising "revenue?"

Killing unborn potential humans is merely "Pro choice." Who could possibly be against allowing people to make choices?

Carbon dioxide (what we all exhale) is now "pollution."


Posted by John, a resident of Danville
on Nov 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

The term "Super Committee" is a typo. The correct term is "Stupor Committee," as its useless members are in a partisan stupor, along with all the worthless do-nothings who occupy space in Washington.


Posted by Reaity, a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 22, 2011 at 12:18 am

spcw, your comment earning 1% is $382,000.. MOST of our local i.e. fire, and many state 'public union' members are in that league with their retirement packages, and retirements far exceeding most of us.
They are a bit schizo hogging in on occupiers, yet themselves being part of the 1%,....that takes gall.


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