Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sometimes, it's hard to resist the sarcasm, lame though it is...

Hang around in baseball chat rooms and bulletin boards, and you'll run across this scenario. A team with a gaping hole at some position adds a backup at a different position for a short contract at not much money, and the (half-)wits will race to see who can be the first with a post saying, "Hey, the Bison Hunters have signed Joe Shlabotnick - great job, [diminutive or 3rd-grade corruption of team GM's first name]! They're certain to win the World Series next year!"

Lame? Yes. Tedious, repetitive, not funny the very first time? Yes. It's about the lamest, least biting, least amusing form of sarcasm known to mankind.

So I really don't want to respond that way to this:
President Obama will name Alan K. Simpson, a former Senate Republican leader, and Erskine B. Bowles, a top official in the Clinton White House, to chair a special commission to solve the nation's budget problems, administration officials said Tuesday.
"Oh, that'll solve all of our financial problems!"

See? Lame.

But this actually differs greatly from the acquisition of a backup middle-infielder. After all, it may not be exciting, but you've got to have one. You don't have to have a "blue-ribbon commission" made up of out-of-office politicians. What that nominally provides is a bipartisan consensus on possible solutions, the "best of the best" working the problem with fierce focus and dedication. What it actually provides is political cover, allowing the politicians in power to continue ducking their responsibilities. Any time in the next 18 months that someone suggests that the Congress and the President aren't dealing with the budget deficit, they point and say, "Look at Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles! Slaving away, day and night, under our instructions! We're going to fix it any minute now, as soon as these dedicated public servants whom we've appointed report their findings!" And the spending, and the spending growth, continues apace.

At some point, the commission reports with suggestions which, if implemented, would make things appear a little bit better, but wouldn't actually fix the problems. Because the Republican and Democratic members of the committee have different ideas about how to approach the issue, and have been compromising from the start. Not to mention the fact that the commission is made up of politicians, so their last resort is removing money, and therefore power, from Washington.

And even if they were to come back with a sober, realistic document and a well-thought out plan, the commission recommendations are not binding on anyone. They carry no actual authority save that which elected officials choose to give them. So most, if not all, will be ignored or avoided or used to accuse the opposite party of bargaining in bad faith. What they won't be used for is actually addressing the financial issues that they are nominally aimed at. It is obvious to virtually everyone to the right of the President that the Federal Gummint, dagnabbit, cannot keep spending money the way they are now. So, in the end, Congress has to pass a budget with less spending. A commission cannot make them do it. Constitutionally, the Congress of the United States has to pass a budget. Period.

In the end, all that the appointment of a commission like this does is increase the budget deficit by providing another government body sucking up government resources. Admittedly, this committee is a pimple on a flea on an elephant's posterior as far as government spending goes, but it's a waste of time, and it allows the "responsible" parties, the Congress and the President, to kick the can further down the road instead of dealing with the problems now.

Bottom Line: "Blue-ribbon" commissions such as this provide the illusion of progress which prevents actual progress from taking place. In the end, it will be a waste of both time and money.

Appropriate, I guess. Wasting time and money is what Washington does best...

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