Over the Cliff—With the Parties of Lemmings and Lemons

How long has it been since the 2012 Election? Two weeks, a month, a year, an eternity?

It feels as if the election isn't really over. Remember all those debates, including the one that President Barack Obama snoozed through? Remember—try, try real hard—to remember what was actually discussed or settled?

Neither do we. At least, not so much.

In foreign affairs, it’s not so much that there’s nothing happening. Israel almost invad- ed Gaza before the President of Egypt helped negotiate a very tentative truce between Israel and Hamas, the warring factions which were hurling missiles at each other for days. Over a hundred Palestinians lost their lives and only a few Israelis. Hamas and its allies fired guns into the air as if it was TGIF day on their strip. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi used the occasion of getting some international accolades to make a bold sort of I-am-king power grab, over-riding judicial authorities. Thousand of opponents rushed into the streets. Morsi insisted the powers were temporary, which is dictator-speak for “Once I get the power, I’m not giving it back.”

In Syria, the government at one point shut down the Internet. Hundreds more have died as the conflict continued, with rumors that President Assad might be contemplating using chemical weapons.

In Afghanistan, the war continued apace.

Israel announced plans for further settle- ments in the West Bank, in the aftermath of a United Nations vote that gave nominal, non- voting and symbolic recognition and status to a so-called Palestinian state. As of press time, the truce is still holding.

Meanwhile, our president has taken a look around and seems to think he can get a permanent tax cut for the middle class as well as a tax increase on the wealthy without giving up too much. The Republicans are still peddling tax reform, closing loopholes and the like, as a way of actual revenue increases. While rumor has it that that some progress has occurred this week, if those are the talking points it’s going to be a bleak Christmas in Washington.

We are not economic or national budgetary experts, but we can stick our thumb into the air with everyone else. Here's the deal: we think that the election results, while not conclusive, did suggest that Americans want to see taxes raised on the wealthy, and they're in agreement with the president on that. What citizens are not in agreement with is both sides still playing political games with the going-over-the-cliff issue. Most Americans think that the cliff option is not an option. It would bring disaster not only to the economy as a whole—that big picture thing—but immediate and dramatic impacts on individual American wallets in the form of $2,000 plus for the folks who can least afford it, that fabled middle class or below, we the American people. Some of the folks on Capitol Hill are talking almost casually about letting the cliff option happen which should require some remedial tarring and feathering. Tea partiers are standing steadfast shoulder-to-shoulder with Grover “No New Taxes Unto Death” Norquist. Two of them managed to get kicked off the House budget meeting because they failed to vote for Paul Ryan’s budget plan as they believed it wasn’t conservative enough.

Television stations here have taken to running a clock ticking—x amount of weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds—to cliff time. This lets them run constant cliff stories, how much “average” American would pay in more taxes and so on, all of it dreadfully depressing to hear. None of them—anchors, reporters and pundits—ever say how much they would have to pay and what loopholes would close for them, something we’d love to know before they start once again to fulminate about the fairness of this plan or that plan.

There is no way to make the two parties—the president and Congress—to actually sit down and negotiate non-stop until they’ve got a deal or lose control of their bowels. But we are guessing most of us are tired of this dilly dallying, this refusal to back down. There is nothing to win here except our good will of which there is precious little left. We the people, we suspect, are running on fumes. We’re close to out of patience. We’re close to out of money. So, forget that silly phrase consumer confidence. We’re close to out of hope.

If these guys—Democrats and Republicans, alike—go home for Christmas they will have abdicated their responsibilities for political gain, for ideological fanaticism masquerading as principles, or just plain stubborn idiocy.

If that happens, if we go over the cliff, we have a two-party system, the party of the lemmings and the party of the lemons, impossible to tell apart. They should be forced to show evidence that having embarked on a journey over the cliff that they can fly, as least as well as pigs.

If they can’t, then we should lock all the doors to all the congressional buildings and government offices and never let them return.★

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Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:23:09 -0500

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