Please see NOTE at end of this post.
I have discovered as I trudge along this path of attempting political conversation that political conversation is virtually impossible, to be avoided like the plague.
People are stuck in believing what they want to believe, and nothing will shake them out of even looking at their individual notion of reality.
This tendency applies, unfortunately, to both left and right, though it is the far right that dominates the media.
Our collective attitude seems similar to what would happen if I ran into the middle of rush hour traffic this morning, steadfast in my reality that I am not going to be killed by some motorist who doesn’t notice that I’m there.
I can believe it is not going to happen, but the odds are overwhelmingly against me.
I will be as dead as the average roadkill.
Yesterday, the Minnesota legislature agreed to end the government shutdown. I thought the final compromise to be reasonable and necessary, and said so. Not settling would just continue the insanity on into the distant future. The composite bills were signed by the Governor. Here’s the newspaper report on the settlement.
The legislative leadership could have done the requisite bargaining back in May or even long before – the Governor signalled from the beginning of the session in January his willingness to compromise. He had numerous official compromise positions on the table, including an offer to mediation to help settle differences between the parties. To my knowledge the opposition stayed entrenched. They had some point to prove, which has now gone unproven (except protecting the wealthiest Minnesotans from a small amount more taxes.)
A key element of the Minnesota settlement is borrowing more money. A new crisis is guaranteed next legislative session.
(In the wings is an unsettled and very controversial proposal to get in the business of building a new professional football stadium. It is a demand of the Minnesota Vikings, backed by a threat that they’ll pack up and move away when their stadium lease expires in a year. That will not be a pleasant debate either. Prediction: the Vikings will get their stadium.)
Predictably, in the wake of the settlement both sides are righteously angry.
We have brought this on ourselves, of course. In our collective stupidity, we elected a Democratic Governor with lots of government experience and a clearly stated set of priorities, and a new Republican legislature dominated by people plenty of whom have never held state office before who had this or that score to settle and were diametrically opposed to the same Governor we had just elected on the same ballot.
It is as if the newbies could race into town, put their pet initiative on the floor, and get it passed in their first six months on the job.
They – We? – believed this nonsense.
So did the Republicans in Wisconsin, who believed that they could re-engineer government in the first few weeks they were in control of all branches of government.
We Minnesotans now have to watch the insane Wisconsin campaign ads on TV as the Recall election campaigns take place, including one a dozen miles from where I type this note. There is nothing smart about recall elections; there is also no particular option to recall other than to roll over and give up if a majority side believes it can steamroller the minority into permanent irrelevancy.
But the issue, now, is not what is happening in Wisconsin, or in Minnesota, but what is happening in Washington D.C.
There is a long but useful summary of what is happening in D.C. accessible here, and I hope you take the time to actually read it through.
The short summary as I see it:
1) the hated national debt is the difference between what the Congress chooses to spend, and what it chooses to pay (tax) for the debts it freely incurs. Only the House of Representatives can initiate spending bills. For almost all of the years since 1994, that House of Representatives has been Republican and it has run up huge debt, for which it now chooses to blame the Democrats, especially President Obama. An incredibly expensive (and stupid) war was “paid” off budget in the eight years post-9-11; Afghanistan is a tragic leftover of 9-11. For a while we lived in a time of false prosperity, on the national credit card. False prosperity is very satisfying, till the debt collector comes calling. Till now, the debt ceiling was simply and routinely raised.
2) A majority of the House of Representatives is unwilling to publicly acknowledge the reality in #1 above, and is holding everyone else hostage. And blaming an enemy – people like me – for the problems it freely created.
3) We Americans elected these people, who are ill-serving us. Polls routinely show that we despise Congress collectively. For some odd reason, we still elect the individuals who comprise Congress, and hold them in higher esteem. Our Congressperson is not like the others, apparently.
Maybe we’ll default on August 2, and the sun will rise, the birds sing, and the weather be pleasant on August 3 and on into the fall and winter.
NOTE: July 22 there will be a post at this space; then ‘radio silence’ until at least July 31 due to vacation and computer repair. My personal ‘tradition’ is that the computer, e-mail and all, does not follow me away from home. All best wherever you are.
Please see NOTE at end of this post.