Of Budget Woes, Shutdown Woes, and Trump's Born-Again Birther

Earlier this week, I was talking to a neighbor of mine in Adams Morgan. The usual stuff—the Mayor, the budget, the at-large election, the government shutdown, the weather—almost everything but Charlie Sheen.

And like a lot of people in my neighborhood and across the city, he’s interested in the Mayor’s budget proposals—as well as the mayor’s perceived and otherwise problems. Or, as one of my other neighbors put it: “He hired the guy, that’s it.” And everyone thinks there’s going to be trouble over the budget.

Over what? The total of $187 million in spending cuts? Well, yeah. Gotta do it. The $18 million in cuts in education as well as public safety? Well, that’s troubling, sure.

How about the $113.4 million cuts in social services. You’d think that might be a little controversial, given that it’s the biggest percentage of cuts in the budget and is bound to hurt a lot of those who have the least already.

Alas, no. The biggest political struggle is going to be over the tax increases for those earning more than $200,000 a year.

That’s the big divider in the budget issue, the big combat zone when it comes to the city council, which has to approve the Mayor’s budget, and now likely to be a big topic on the campaign trail for the at-large city council seat.

It’s a city divider in a way, but maybe it shouldn’t be. The Mayor’s hiring scandal is a potential city divider and continues to be so. Councilwoman Mary Cheh’s hiring hearing commenced into part two this week, with the appearance of former Gray Chief of Staff Gerri Mason Hall, who was fired in the wake of controversy and investigations surrounding the hiring (and then firing) of Sulaimon Brown, the former mayoral candidate who has accused the mayor of “being a crook.”

According to written and television reports, Hall said that she had not spoken to the Mayor about hiring Brown, as she had been asked to do. Brown showed up at the hearing but left after he decided that it was “a witch hunt,” going to what he thinks might be the friendlier atmosphere of a U.S. Attorney’s investigation and a congressional committee.

Yet to be heard from are Brown and Lorraine Green, the Mayor’s close advisor and longtime close friend who ran his campaign, and who appears to be at the center of the controversy. Still not heard from in any definitive way is Gray himself, who has yet to make any aggressive attempts to clear up the unanswered questions surrounding the controversy.

When it comes to the budget, and to the budget battles on the hill which may yet (as of this afternoon) cause a government shutdown: if people with nothing are going to see drastic cuts in safety net services, why shouldn’t people with a little and a lot more than everybody else do a little and a lot more of their share? Of course, President Obama made this a campaign lynchpin and instead ended up having to extend President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy a little while longer. And tax cuts for the wealthy seems to be a core value for the proposed 2012 GOP version of a budget.

What is it about everybody sharing in sacrifice during hard times—you know, state budgets imploding, bankruptcy, high (if declining) unemployment—nobody is appalled about the idea of the rich getting richer and not even paying their fair share.

Why, in short, should General Electric, with profits in the billions for 2010, not pay ANY taxes? Because loopholes exist that allow them to do that? What would happen if you tried to end the loopholes? Stuck pig time, that’s what would happen. It’s all perfectly legal.

Where did we get this notion that raising taxes is a discussion and vote killer?

Why, in short, aren’t people doing Peter Finch’s out their window about this—and about CEO’s who have prospered mightily during the upward surge of the DOW, the fact that the only person going to jail during the economic collapse was Bernie Madoff? They’re angry all right—stoked by the Tea Party. They’re mad at teachers, policemen and firemen, not billionaires who outsource jobs that should have stayed here.

Not only that, but you rarely hear about corporate excesses—no taxes?—because corporations like GE own quite a bit of media outlets, notably NBC. According to a Washington Post story, the GE tax situation has rarely if ever been mentioned on the nightly news with Brian Williams. Shouldn’t Brian Williams say something about Brian Williams not saying something?

I’ve always felt when network news—especially millionaire star reporters, pundits and anchor people—tackles such issues as tax policy, they should first preface anything they might have to say by stating what their yearly income is—how many millions—and how they might profit or lose money from the tax policy under discussion.

Fat chance on that one. But the NFL football players, another group of overpaid millionaires, are on strike for their fair share of billions in television contract revenue, thus making a joke of the collective bargaining process that’s such a combative issue in the national politics.

And speaking of the nightly news on NBC, how about that Donald Trump? Two evenings ago a major segment of the news showed a poll, which showed that Trump, who cast about his usual rumors of a presidential run like pearls before media swine, is second among potential candidates for the GOP nomination, and something of a darling of the Tea Party.

Mind you, this was something like an 8% thing, right up there with such stalwarts as Romney, Palin, Bachman and Huckabee, and for something light years away. But still.

Turns out, as NBC political expert Chuck Todd pointed out, that Trump, who managed to go broke in Atlantic City just like all the other suckers, had a taped interview with Meredith Vierra set to air the next day on the Today Show (on NBC), in which he revealed himself to be something of a birther, asking the president to produce a birth certificate and expressing his doubts about Obama’s citizenship. This plays well with the tea party, but it’s not news. What it was was a plug for the Today Show disguised as news. I expect Billy Bush to someday become the anchor of the nightly news, because he’s really good at this sort of thing, with the added gift of having no shame whatsoever.

As I write this with one eye on the Internet, there’s still no word on a settlement on the hill. But they’re close. The only hitch: that dratted Planned Parenthood thing which is not about cutting spending and, of course, who gets the most blame if a shutdown occurs, which is not about spending either. It’s about politics and politicians. Only lawyers are detested more than politician, and on the hill, that’s a twofer.

Where is H.L. Mencken when we need him? Dead, still. And sit down, Bill Maher. You’re not it.

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Sun, 28 May 2017 23:45:05 -0400

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