Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oh, Please......

- There is something wrong with our government when a single politician can throw a hissy fit and toss thousands of lives into desperate disarray. I'm talking about the The Honorable Senator Bunning of Kentucky who held up a bill to extend unemployment benefits by blocking a Democratic request for "unanimous consent" to pass it.

Because of Bunning's filibuster, over a 100,000 recipients of unemployment saw their benefits stop, dozens of transportation projects came to a screeching halt (along with the wages that came with them)  and doctors who treat Medicare patients faced a 21% decrease in reimbursement.

Of course, Bunning wasn't really alone. It's likely the Dems could have overridden his filibuster if he hadn't had Republican assistance in maintaining it, even if his fellow R's didn't exactly come out to support him publicly.

And were the Democrats as outraged as they proclaimed? It's likely most of them were.....on the other hand, they were probably also pleased that this one turned out positive for them since it allowed them to paint the other side as callous and uncaring about working people.

Anyway, not to worry, it has been resolved to everyone's satisfaction now. Bunning's objection to the $10 billion bill was that it wasn't paid for (although economists say that every $1 spent on unemployment benefits put $2 back into the economy). So, the politicians worked out some esoteric payment plan involving rescinding a tax credit on a paper byproduct called "black liquor" (something the Democrats objected to because they had already set aside this source of income for something else).

At any rate, when the Republicans saw public opinion was turning against them, 21 of them voted with the Democrats to pass the bill. And the lives of the chess pieces, also called constituents, who were the lowly pawns in the political game went back to what passes for normal when you're unemployed, albeit, probably feeling even more insecure about their place in the scheme of things than before.

- And speaking of political gamesmanship, one of the ugliest sights that flow from Washington are those of our arrogant representatives sitting high on their thrones ripping some poor sucker to shreds for their own aggrandizement. In this case, it was the Toyota executives. And it's not that I don't think Toyota shouldn't be investigated and punished if they're found guilty of a cover up but we have agencies that specialize in that sort of thing and know lots more about automobile manufacturing than our senators. No, it just gives the exalted ones a good excuse to get on their soapbox and pontificate (loving the sound of their own voices as they do).

This is in stark contrast to what happens when it is one of their own. Then we see Nancy Pelosi being very even-handed about Charlie Rangel's, um, possible ethical lapses. In this case, she wants a full investigation before she makes any judgment because it just wouldn't be fair, you know, to find a man guilty before all the evidence is in.

- And it isn't just politician's that disappoint. There is also the Catholic Church which was my church once long ago before I realized how many issues there were on which I was in absolute opposition to the hierarchy.

Because truly, how can you support a leadership that makes a decision such as this one?

On March 4, the District of Columbia will begin granting marriage licenses to same sex applicants. In retaliation, Catholic Charities is ending all spousal benefits for their employees. From this day forward, no husband or wife, gay or straight, will have the option of carrying their spouse on their insurance policy, or I guess be listed on any other benefit Catholic Charities may offer.

I find this thinking incredibly hateful and short-sighted. From now on (current employees are grandfathered), every person who works for Catholic Charities will be laboring under an onerous handicap of having either an uninsured spouse or finding expensive private coverage because the Church believes the preferred outcome is: if you can't hurt just one, it's better to hurt them all.  Ah, yes, I'm sure Jesus would agree with that philosophy.

- There are rumblings in the political world about Indiana's own Governor Mitch Daniels as a possible Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012. The rap on Mitch is that he's so sensible. Low-key, practical, accounting whiz.

Oh, really? Does anyone remember that Our Man Mitch was George W's budget director during the on-set of the Iraq War. Does anyone remember Mitch's answer when asked to estimate the over all costs of going to war with Iraq? Well, if you don't, I'll tell you. It was between $40 and $50 billion, and he even thought that might be a little high. Uh, how's that working out for you, Mr Accounting Whiz? You were only about $300 billion shy.

And Mitch has brought privatizing to an art in Indiana. He practically put a garage sale sign on the state the day he became governor, offering to sell off the employment service, the welfare department, the lottery, our state highways.

I have the most experience with the Welfare Department and I can tell you, that it is a mess (although I'll grant you that it was a mess before too). Offices were merged so that it is difficult for low-income people to get to them; there aren't enough caseworkers to go around; the ones who went with IBM (the new management team) work tons of over-time and still can't stay caught up. I have never been able to figure out the criteria for removing or not removing children from potentially harmful homes. There seems to be no uniform standard.

To hear Daniels tell it, outsourcing government jobs was the easy answer but it didn't work out that way in reality. He was about as correct in that prediction as he was on the cost of the Iraq War.

What makes me nervous is that no one in Washington ever seems to be held accountable for their previous forecasts or the actions that didn't pan out. And that could result in Mitch Daniels in the White House doing to the country what he did to Indiana for eight years.