Chicago, IL, July 25, 2011, 9 PM (CDT) President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House regarding the impending crisis caused by the new Republican Congressman (read “Tea Party members”) who are not willing to follow their leaders in working to reach a compromise with the Democrats in Congress on raising the debt ceiling.
First, we had Obama patiently explaining that the debt ceiling gives our country the ability to pay bills it has already racked up. Under Ronald Reagan, (who sometimes seems, to Republicans, to be the most revered of all of their recent icons), the debt ceiling was raised 18 times. Under George “W’ Bush, it was raised 7. Then came the influx of Republican Tea House Congress members, like Bobby Schilling of Illinois’ 17th Congressional district, a representative who actually voted on the wrong bill one of his first times at bat. Schilling has about 10 challengers gathering steam to run against him when he comes up for re-election, and it’s no wonder, given the bang-up job he has done to help cause this crisis. He is, in a microcosm, representative of the “I won’t compromise no matter what” school of blowhard, uninformed, green Congress people now steering the ship of state (Titanic) towards the iceberg. It is because of such ill-informed, dyed-in-the-wool unreasonable Republicans that the President of the country has to go on national television and beg for a debt extension that was given to virtually every other president of either party who preceded him. The motive, of course, is to make the incumbent look bad prior to the 2012 elections, but it is a game that hurts us, as a country.
Stating the obvious, Obama said, “We’re left with a stalemate” and urged voters to call theirCongressmen. In my case, that would be the aforementioned Bobby Schilling, owner of an East Moline pizza parlor previously, that employed 12 people and current target of a lawsuit for allowing his son, Levi, to fill a small toy truck full of gasoline during a birthday party which Representative Schilling and his wife hosted and chaperoned and roll the fiery (yes, they lit the truck’s contents!) truck towards a 14-year-old celebrant at the party who was subsequently burned over 2/3 of his body. Yet that would be the guy I’m supposed to call up and tell to be reasonable and rational and act like a responsible adult.(Ha!)
And make no mistake about it: irresponsible is what these actions are. Obama himself used the terms “reckless and irresponsible.” Given the lawsuit currently lodged against my Congressman for actions on the East Moline home front involving his 10 children and that birthday party run amok, I’d say that incident about sums up his performance to date in Congress, very symbolically a snippet of which was recently replayed on the Jon Stewart “Daily” Show, with various Congressmen using the euphemism “Job creators” rather than “rich people.” The final lingering image: Schilling of Illinois’ 17th Congressional District — although he’s not chasing a Tonka truck filled with flaming gasoline in the clip, something which would have been symbolic of the threat of his presence both at home and in Congress
Obama called the Republican intractability “a dangerous game that we’ve never played before and we cannot afford to play now.” He acknowledged that “It’s no secret that I don’t see eye-to-eye with the new members of Congress,” but said: “American has always been a grand experiment in compromise.” Noting “Every man cannot have his way in all things,” he urged the freshman Congressman like Representative Schilling to correct the impression that we have a dysfunctional government. Divided, yes, but not dysfunctional. “The whole world is watching,” said the Harvard grad. “We can still come together as one nation.” (Or, some of us can spend days in the hospital as the 14-year-old party-goer at Schilling’s house did).
From the NPR explanation of the Republican plan, it seems designed to make the president come, hat in hand, begging for a few more shekels in just 6 months’ time. The Boehner plan would require 2 votes; the Democratic plan would require just one that would give the government enough money to meet its obligations now. Obama once again pointed out how unfair it is to cut Grandma’s Social Security while protecting the wealthiest segment of America’s population and referenced “an economy held captive.”
The NPR program I listened to while caught in heavy Chicago traffic today (with gas at $4.29 a gallon) explained that default would be catastrophic and possibly affect our AAA rating as a nation, but the Boehner plan would be almost as catastrophic, with its insistence that various entitlement programs must be cut to lower the debt, but that big oil and big business will roll merrily along doing business as usual. No tax increases for those guys. Norah O’Donnell, paraphrasing President Obama’s words to the American public said, “Stop playing games. We’ve run out of time. We cannot allow the American people to become collateral damage.”
One other factoid that the NPR discussion made clear was this: the Republicans require that any bill be posted online for at least 3 days prior to a vote. They inflexibly refuse to waive that requirement in the face of a looming national crisis, which means that, as I write this late on July 25, the bill would have to be posted by July 26, 27 and 28 and that leaves only 5 days till D-day: default day.
John Boehner, wearing a blue shirt and a green tie with white polka dots and his usual Man-Ray fake-looking golfer’s tan gave the Republican rebuttal. He spoke of the need to “do something dramatic to reverse the fiscal trajectory.” That “something dramatic” might have been for Republicans to vote against the last President, George W. Bush, when he was getting us into expensive wars on several fronts, but that didn’t happen. Saying, “The President is adamant that changes cannot be made to our entitlement programs,” Boehner, the Rich Man’s Republican Chairman, made it sound like sticking up for Grandma’s Social Security check (no doubt a pittance) and speaking against those who own corporate jets skating tax-free was a “bad” thing. Most people drawing a Social Security check—and I’m sure they are not getting that much, if they’re anything like me—-are happy to have someone speak up for their “entitlement” programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. The way things are going, we’ll all have one foot in the grave before we are eligible to draw a single cent, and it is entirely likely that there will not be many pennies left in the bank to draw against, anyway.
Following the hangdog sheepish look that was our last glimpse of John Boehner, CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer in New York said, “They were very far apart going in to this debate. They cannot get the followers to follow the leaders.” Cross your fingers that the totally conscienceless new crowd in Congress abandons its weak “cut/cap and balance” routine (sounds like “duck and cover” from grade school) and grows up enough to vote on the right bill at the right time and to do so in a mature, intelligent, responsible fashion.