Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Political Lesson from My 3rd Grade Project

I was in 3rd grade and had to do a project on medieval times.  It was a rather important project, and all of the kids were so excited to show off what they’d done.  Some had written plays with elaborate costumes.  Others had written stories.  I didn’t do anything.  I literally kept putting it off until, a week after it was due—on a Friday—my teacher called my mother and told her I was getting a C because I hadn’t turned it in.  My family had plans to travel and visit some family that weekend, and we had to cut our visit short and come home early so that I could work on my project.  My mom was furious, and my dad wasn't happy, but being the VERY COOL dad that he was, he had this idea of melting lead tire weights and pouring them into a mold like medieval blacksmiths would have done.  So early that evening I made a mold of my hand in sand, my dad melted the weights with a blow torch, and we poured the molten lead into the mold and waited overnight for it to dry.  The next morning, I had an awesome (if seriously unhealthy) lead hand that I took to school and wowed my teacher and fellow students with.  I also wrote a short report detailing the process.  And I got a B+ for my efforts—would have had an A if I’d gotten it done on time.

I’m recalling this story now because a similar thing has happened with our government.  Our elected leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, have pushed back dealing with the Bush-era tax cuts and other spending cuts to the point where we are at a fiscal cliff.  If these issues aren't addressed, everyone's paychecks are going to shrink, spending cuts will affect everything from defense to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Nearly everyone will feel an enormous pinch.  And even worse, Congress must reach a decision with a lame duck session, which if you don’t know refers to a Congress with members who have lost their elections for an additional term or are retiring or who have reached their term limits.  A lame duck Congress can be good or bad, because sometimes these people who are on their way out will use their last few weeks to do something good—like keeping America from plunging over this cliff.  But given the divide between hardcore TEA Party conservatives and tree-hugging liberals (or any liberals) in Congress, I’m not all that optimistic any new laws will come out of Capital Hill in the next few weeks.

Most Democrats want to deal with the fiscal cliff now.  They want to get some laws passed that address the Bush-era tax cuts—allowing them to expire for the wealthiest but remain for everyone else.  They want to piece together new laws that will adequately cut spending where money isn't needed but not hinder places where it is.  They want to keep the economy from plunging over the side of the cliff and into a recession again.  Well that’s all fine and dandy, except WHY WAIT UNTIL NOW?  You have like six weeks to get some serious legislation written up and voted upon.  Talk about procrastination!

Most Republicans would rather extend these extensions for an extended period of time.  Sounds ridiculous, right?  Yeah, that’s because it is.  Look, we didn’t elect people into office to keep pushing back all of our problems because nobody can agree on what to do.  So you don’t want the Bush-era tax cuts to end for the wealthy?  Fine, how about just giving them half—going down from 3% to 1.5%.  That’s a compromise, is it not?  Why do you say no, no, no any time a Democrat proposes something, then turn around and criticize the president and other Dems for not getting anything accomplished?  You are like Cartman on just about every episode of South Park.  "We play by MY rules, and if you don’t like it, I’m going home."  Yeah, that’s NOT what we elected you for.

Congress, you deserve a C so far.  And if your Daddy doesn't come to the rescue, you may be looking at an F.

Sue me for thinking this way, but I firmly believe we should expect more from our elected officials than antics similar to what a 3rd grade student would do with his medieval times project.  I mean, who in their right minds would keep putting something off until a time when it could barely, painfully be addressed?  Or were the elections more important than dealing with the issues?  That’s probably the case.  I’m thinking both sides of the political spectrum figured they’d see changes after the elections, and whatever those changes were would aid them.  But now that our status quo is the same as it was a month ago, well, now what?

Hey, do you know who parades around, who stands up on a stage and touts individual achievements, who discusses all that’s been accomplished and waves to thousands of cheering fans until, that one important day, a vote is held to see who becomes the winner?  I’m not talking about the President or Congressmen and Congresswomen.  I’m talking about beauty pageant contestants.  Funny when you examine the similarities between those occupations, isn’t it?

I’d never want to be a politician.  Not because of the resulting stress due to so many of our country’s issues need to be addressed.  And not because of the political bickering.  I wouldn’t want to be a politician because of the time and money and effort wasted on attaining or holding on to a political seat.  I love fixing things, and I’d love taking a crack at fixing the country’s problems, but when politicians become celebrities, that’s one area where I’d turn and run away.  I couldn’t stand up there and lie about my record or attack a fellow candidate’s record just for a few votes.  I couldn’t deal with the makeup and the hair and picking the right suit and the right tie for certain occasions just because it'd go over a certain way with voters.  I just couldn’t do it.  And yet that’s what far too many of us judge our leaders on, is it not?  Politics should never be about a person’s place of birth, religion, skin color, appearance or anything like that.  It should be about a person’s ability to resolve complex issues under pressure.
So let’s hope our politicians can get past the right vs. left, conservative vs. liberal, Republican vs. Democrat, TEA vs. Coffee attitudes and get some laws passed.  And if they don’t, let’s please, please, please elect people in two years who don’t just talk eloquently but who have proven track records of resolving tough issues.

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