Raising a Stink
That's pretty much what goes on in government these days. We watched all that delicious drama play out over the last week.Down to the Wire. Avert a Crisis. Stalemate. Compromise. All the usual cliches.
Meanwhile, the really heavy lifting remains undone.
Lest you think this is about Obama, please disabuse yourself of that right now. The sentiments I am expressing have been expressed for many years. For decades. Not always in the same way, but always about the same Big Thing.
All the drama we witnessed, all the blow dried reporters breathlessly giving us the blow by blow commentary, was about PENNIES. Pennies at the edges. Planned Parenthood became the whipping boy. Congressional women stood in solidarity. We heard of their own personal pathos. We watched as they scolded their male counterparts. The arguments were all good. The sentiment expressed was one I agree with fully. I cheered along with you as this was played out.
It, and every other stunt, heartfelt speech, questionable accusation, and crassly calculated concession or demand were simply beside the point. All of it was cover for political cowardice.
Yes, I said it again. Political Cowardice.
Our country will not move forward with $38B street theater productions. Even a few hundred billion will matter little. Within the news coverage was a term I'd not heard before: "Trillion Dollar Issues."
Tackling those is what's needed. I'll expand that term from its intent when I heard some talking head use it in his more limited context. The Trillion Dollar Issues are the really big ones, money cost aside.
First and foremost is immigration. It is not my intent to suggest a solution. I have opinions, but so do you. They're immaterial right now. No American government has ever tackled the immigration issue head on. Instead, we get see politicians Giving The Impression Of Doing Something. Protect the children of immigrants. Very noble. Open a "path to citizenship" for those who have been here a while. n the next breath, another arm of government closes the path. The public is pissed. Cesar Chavez. The new armed to the teeth wannabe troops on the southwestern border. Increase the Border Patrol.
All of that is simply pecking at the edges. There is no one Big Policy because no one has been brave enough to tackle it. Political Cowardice. It is pretty much assured that no matter what solution one crafts to this issue, half the country, more or less, will despise the decision and those who put it in place. That doesn't make it right or wrong. That just makes it undone.
Energy Policy is another Trillion Dollar Issue. The special interests, each comically playing against each other (Coal vs Gas vs Oil vs Alternative) with armies, literally, of lobbyists working tirelessly to cloud the issues. We get ballsy self interest from T-Bone Pickens. Right out there and in your face. We get Big Oil and Big Saud paying for whatever they want this politician or that to do for them. The Alternative guys are like little dogs vying for attention in a pack of larger ones - ankle biting and barking in high pitched tones. Subsidies and Offsets and Offshore Drilling and Strategic Reserves.
All the equivalent of deck chair rearrangement. There was a vignette on television within the last few weeks that showed every president since HST calling for "American Energy Independence" and a moving away from the evils of "Imported Oil." Nothing happens because of political cowardice. Not the voters, this time. The LOBBYISTS. Imagine how dead the political career of a career politician who opposes Big Energy. The oil coverts to cash which converts directly to electoral success. To not do the right thing is pure Political Cowardice.
The Department of Defense and the Military Industrial Complex. You can't say we weren't warned. And by no less than a general-turned-president and big time consumer of the churn of the MIC. To not act on this Trillion Dollar Issue is political cowardice. Instead, we see arguments about how to pay to replace the legs of damaged soldiers. If you think the government gives a damn, look up Wounded Warriors. We're having what amounts to bake sales to pay for what the government ought to be paying - but someone cut that program. They didn't do a damned thing to stem the tide of maimed returnees, preferring instead to give their aftercare to some non-profit, private group.
Where is the War on War?
The hot Trillion Dollar Issue that no one has done anything about is what has been so ironically named: Entitlements. Think about that. Simply using that term to describe things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, Head Start, etc., etc., says a great deal about the national mindset. "Entitlements." It had to be a scientific, Frank-Luntz-Like effort to come up with that name.
What we don't know is what the national posture toward the care of us and all our fellow citizens is. We argue about the minutia, but no one addresses the Trillion Dollar Issue head on. Why do we fight about Planned Parenthood? We ought to be fighting about whether or not this country will or will not stand by its citizens in their times of need. Yes or No. Long ago, the answer was a nascent "Yes" from the Congress when FDR wanted it established. The answer was "Yes" when LBJ expanded it.
I'll actually give some credit to Obama and Boner. They're at least putting Social Security and Medicare on the block. They won't change it, of course. Their motives are terrifying (Yes, both of them want to move in the same direction, with the only question being how far.) But at least they're addressing it. Wrongheadedly, I think. Ill intentioned, I think. With some malevolence, I think. But kudos for at least going after it. In the end, this can, like all those before it, will get kicked down the road. Another Trillion Dollar Issue that they will make themselves appear to care about by artfully, with maestro-like skill, Giving The Impression Of Doing Something, while not doing anything.
Giving The Impression Of Doing Something. That's what's going on. Little different from Bread and Circuses. A Public Spectacle.
Ever has it been thus. Ever shall it be. This is just one moment in time, as important - or meaningless - as any other of the last oh-so-many years.
Giving The Impression Of Doing Something.