Kicking the Can Down the Road

Republicans wanted to extend Bush-era tax rates beyond December 31st. Democrats said only for families earning $250,000 (or less) per year. Dems focused instead on unemployment benefits (but wanted those added costs tacked onto the deficit). One news source noted, Democrats are “resigned to a deal” but “not eager to embrace one.”

Each party wants to portray its opposition as the scowling Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Their posturing follows release of November jobless figures, a report that unemployment hit 9.8% — while some experts admit the actual number may be twice that.

With a Christmas recess weeks away, lawmakers from both parties hope to leave DC wearing their Santa smiles and toting a bag full of “goodies” (false promises) . Recession? Haven’t you heard? It’s over! Crushing deficits? Not to worry … it’s Christmas-time!

The Recession came late to northwest Arkansas, but its impact rippled quickly through our local economy. My husband and I have girded our small business as best we can, but when customers can’t afford to purchase our products, we either suck it up or find new customers. A sour economy complicates everything.

I completed an industry survey today. The survey included questions about our relationship with our current staff … such as, does our business provide health insurance (no), life insurance (no), paid holidays (no), annual vacation (no), bonuses (occasionally), short-term disability plans (no), and retirement investing (previously). After answering the survey questions, at first I felt like a modern-day Scrooge. Upon reflection though, I knew if we had tried to provide those perks, our doors likely would be closed today.

Riding out this economic storm, we’ve adopted a “suspended animation” mindset. However long it takes, we’re unlikely to hire new employees, even though we’d love to create additional jobs! We will pinch pennies and avoid assuming obligations for purchases that can’t be paid off in the short term.

In other words, we won’t risk dipping our toes into this uncertain economic pond.

So the politicians in Washington have reached their “compromise” … an agreement on which they can claim (from either side of the political spectrum) that they‘ve achieved the supposed high ground. The cynic I’ve become knows it won’t matter. Like deck chairs on the Titanic, they’re simply recasting the status quo.

In another year, the pols will tackle the issue again — they’ll have to, given the time frame they’ve adopted with their compromise. Some faces will have changed by then, but unless they’re prepared to actually resolve the problems that confront us as a nation, it won’t matter. They’ll give the can another kick and blithely go about their “business.”

More and more, I view Washington pols as a modern-day versions of Frank Capra’s Mr. Potter. They had the chance for a meaningful and redemptive moment; in turning away from that moment, they knowingly consent to evil.

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