I’ve been staying away from the debt ceiling debate, pretty much. All spring and summer it’s been the same old tug of war, each side wanting compromise, without actually giving up anything.
Then in the last month or so, the President has been making noises about getting serious about reducing the deficit, by combining massive spending cuts, including adjustments to Social Security and Medicare, with other revenue-generating actions like closing loopholes in the tax code that allows business to funnel their profits off-shore, and increasing taxes on the richest of the rich. See, that’s a compromise… each side gives up something it believes in.
You can imagine how that went over with the Republicans.
The Republican stance highlights just how indebted they are to big business and the wealthiest 2% of Americans. To the Congressional Republican, it’s more important to keep their rich benefactors happy than it is to help the other 98% of the country. Only they can’t exactly SAY that, so they just bellow about not raising taxes and keep quiet about who the actual target is.
I’m convinced these Republicans actually want the economy in ruins because it helps their chances in 2012. They’re not even being subtle about it any more. Look at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bright idea… When the “negotiations” were stalemated last week, (meaning the Dems didn’t roll over and give them everything they wanted for nothing in return), he pitched the idea of ceding complete control of the debt ceiling to the President. That way, they could spend the next year and a half using it as a campaign issue.
And it would be perfect for their tea-bagging constituency because it’s something you can yell over and over again and it almost sounds reasonable. Before you know it, Fox “News” would be calling it “The Obama Debt Ceiling,” like it was only invented in 2011 as a nefarious Kenyan device to rob red-blooded Amurcans of their hard-earned dough. I can just see the specialized graphics package now.
A lot of liberals have been going ballistic over the fact that Social Security was even put on the table. But I’m not one of them. I’m no financial genius but even I can see that if something isn’t done to tweak the system, it’s going to run out of cash before I ever see a penny of it. So whether Cost of Living increases are lessened or eliminated, the retirement age is pushed back, or wealthy seniors receive fewer benefits, something has to be done to mitigate the effect that retiring baby boomers are going to have on Social Security funding. So I’m all for some short-term hardship if it will push edge of insolvency down the road by a few more decades.
And liberals aside, that idea is not going over very well with the AARP either, who are fighting tooth and nail to keep things as they are right up until, I presume, they run out of money. Politicians will let that happen, too, because heaven forbid that they tick off the AARP. Retirees may forget a lot of things but they do not forget to vote. And no matter how well off they are, they will vote to make sure that no one messes with their Social Security checks. You can take that to the bank.
Now contrast that dynamic with a story I read a couple weeks ago, about retirees living in Japan. You know how they’ve had that little problem with a nuclear reactor over there that’s gone all kerflooey? Well, it’s still kerflooey and riddled with radiation inside and out. You think they have many volunteers to go in there and clean it up?
Actually, they do. While our AARP members are mobilizing to keep their checks coming, Japan’s retired engineers and technicians are volunteering to put on the radiation suits and go into the damaged power plant to work on the cleanup and repairs.
“Why risk the health of the younger generation, they ask, to perform such work in a perilous radioactive environment?”
It’s not like they have a death wish; they’re just being pragmatic. At their age, their cell functions have slowed down and the radiation would take longer to have an effect on them. In all likelihood, they’d be dead from other causes before the radiation could kill them.
So far, the Japanese government has not taken them up on their offer.
One 72-year old engineer said, “This nuclear reactor was the brainchild of our generation, and we feel it’s our job to clean up the mess.”
Do you seriously think something like that could happen here? I doubt it. Their culture is to take responsibility and come together to fix a problem. Our culture is to assign blame and fight over who has to fix it (and then over-pay some black-hat defense contractor to take the problem off our hands).
Then again, the Japanese seniors usually live with their kids.
Maybe we should just keep the checks coming.
On an unrelated note, I saw this Doonesbury cartoon a couple Sundays ago. I was going to run it the week after, but that was when my PC went down. I’m posting it now, in honor of my bloggy friends from Great State of Louisiana, Jessica and Mrs. Bachelor Girl, both of whom are definitely descended from unicorns.