Yesterday, senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell made their speeches. Reid "can't imagine their (the Republican congress) consciences". McConnell reports telling the President that "this is a conversation we should have had months ago". Implying that the President's aloofness is to blame for this dancing on the edge of the "fiscal cliff". Essentially they each spent their floor time chastising the opposing party.
If you lean left, Reid's right on the money. If you lean right, McConnell's simply stating the facts. If you understand that the actors who sit on both sides of the aisle are, first and foremost, concerned with the political ramifications of this fix they've gotten themselves into, you realize that what we're witnessing is nothing more than a game of political chicken. And in the game of chicken, the flinching generally comes a second or two before the would've-been collision. Hence, here we are on December 28th.
If you haven't come to this realization (what truly motivates politicians), then you sincerely believe that these men and women who we've deposited onto Washington---the ones who sit on the side you lean to, that is---have the character and fortitude to put the nation's best interest ahead of their own. Hmm...
Now think about it. Think about running for office. Think about what it would take to get yourself elected to the Senate. For starters it would take some serious money to fund your campaign. So you'll be fundraising. And who would offer up the cash necessary to promote your ambition? John Dillinger said he robbed banks "because that's where the money is". Now if being a bank robber was a requisite for holding public office, a bank robber your man would be. But since illegally stealing other people's money lands one in a U.S. penitentiary, as opposed to the U.S. Senate, he had to resort to less extreme measures, like asking bank and other industries' executives---and other interested parties with money---for donations in return for promises to legally steal taxpayer money (to subsidize his supporters' aims) once in office.
Let's say that you're a different sort of candidate, you're honest. And that you're an advocate for limited government, a free-market ideologue. You understand that government subsidies are nothing more than methods of redistributing taxpayer money to politically favored industries. So you vow to put an end to corporate welfare. Now how much money do you suspect you'll raise from CEOs? You got it, zip!
Ah but then the general public, $25 at a time, will fund your campaign. Well, the thing is, you recognize that social security, medicare and medicaid present unfunded liabilities to the tune of some $85 trillion, and, therefore, serious reform---which you vow to undertake---is needed. And you understand that being unemployed, while still no picnic, is less painful today than it's ever been. And, therefore, knowing that you get what you pay for (that is, extend unemployment benefits and you extend unemployment) you'll push for the ending of unemployment benefit extensions. And you feel the welfare system is doing little more than perpetuating its own existence. Now how much do you suspect, at twenty-five bucks a pop, you'll raise from the general public? You got it, zip!
Ah but you're a gazillionaire. You can fund your own campaign---you don't need to kowtow to any special interest. Okay, but remember, you can't simply buy your way into office---somebody's got to vote for you.
So here's the thing: Your man in office got there by making all the right promises to all the right people. Promises that public policy would be tilted in his supporters' favor. Like it or not, that's the path to public office. And that my friends is the single reason we are where we are. Our "leaders" are weighing the political ramifications of the short-term economic ramifications of whatever they'll ultimately sign on to. As for potential long-term ramifications, well, they're hoping those will land on someone else's watch.