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Thursday, November 29, 2012


Although he has traveled a bit in Mexico, Fr. A. has never seen the famous Acapulco cliff-divers.  He regrets this for many reasons, and is therefore delighted that Acapulco seems to be his new home.

No, we haven't taken a(nother) exotic parish call.  It seems that Acapulco has come to us, as Washington's leaders gather in conclave to work out an agreement regarding tax and spending policies.  The nation is sliding toward what Ben Bernanke once -- and the mass media ever afterward -- called "the fiscal cliff."

And while most people expect a last-minute deal to be struck, we at the Egg do not.  We think these crazy-arsed sumbitches are going to run straight over the edge.  It will be like the last scene in Thelma and Louise, which is a pretty funny way to think of  Boehner and Obama.  (Still easier to think of them that way than as than Butch and Sundance, though).

The bottom line is that we don't think either side will be able to stomach, or sell to its constituents, the level of  change that is necessary.  The modern Republican party is held together by two things: fighting  abortion and lowering taxes.  Violate either of these commitments, and a national GOP candidate is doomed.  If the Democratic party is held together by anything -- a debatable proposition -- it is by a general commitment to the ideals of the Great Society, extrapolated considerably.  On one hand, the President has no future election to contest; on the other, he needs to govern for another quadrennium. Not to mention that neither Mr Reid nor Ms Pelosi has imminent plans to retire from public life.

So, yes, many Republicans in Congress have begun to repent their vow to the pagan deity that is Grover Norquist.  But we would be surprised indeed if they were willing to do what must be done -- which, in our opinion, begins with letting the Bush tax cuts expire, continues with a return of the top marginal rate to a Reagan-era 40% or so, and continues with the destruction of another golden calf, as the last decade's massive increases in military spending are rolled sharply back.

Likewise, we'd be surprised if Democrats, despite their customary spinelessness, could bring themselves to do their bit.  Government programs need to be cut, including Medicare.  And more than a little.

Fortunately, there is a way for our fearful leaders to make all this happen, and still take no personal (or electoral) responsibility.  And that is to jump right off the damned cliff.

If they do not come to an agreement, then the policy designed by the late "supercommittee" will automatically come into force.  Taxes will go up, spending (half of it military) will come down, the the US budget will slowly begin to move toward balance.  This is called "austerity," and although it's not a particularly wise or effective policy during an economic crisis, it is the policy that the IMF and other rich-world agencies have imposed upon struggling nations for decades.  So at last we Americans get to put our money where our mouth is.

Mind you, nobody will be happy.  The faithful of both parties will cry bloody murder, and not only they.  Taxes on the middle class will go up so much -- around $2,000 for a typical family -- that people will buy less stuff, and the recession will return (or deepen, if you don't think it ever went away).  If you're jobless now, you'll more-or-less certainly be jobless in July, too.

But here's the thing:  we'll have some resolution.  The government won't be paralyzed every few months by debt-ceiling negotiations that fail anyway.  Our bonds won't keep losing value.  Everybody will lose, but posterity will (probably, maybe) win.  And the key point is that the people doing the negotiating don't have to do anything, least of all negotiate.  They can stand by their guns, keep their doctrinal purity, and still even out the spending-to-revenue balance.

Once upon a time, politics was called "the art of the possible."  In America, at least, those days seem to be gone.  Our government, particularly at the federal level, is so hopelessly divided that it seems incapable of any meaningful action.  Politics is no longer about getting things done; it is about posturing in public, and scoring points for your own party -- but it is not about making deals or, bless you, actually governing.

So, since politics has failed, we only have one alternative.  Next month, we are jumping off the cliff.  Hold on to your birettas.

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