It’s sad having to ring in the new year ashamed of our Sword of Damocles government.
For the uninitiated, Damocles was a courtier to King Dionysius. Damocles remarked how fortunate the king was to have such power and wealth. The king arranged for them to trade places. After Damocles sat upon the throne, the king hung a sword over his head, dangling by a single strand. Damocles quickly gave the king his throne back; the point being made how worrisome and dangerous it was to be king.
Our government, since it cannot govern as the Founding Fathers intended, decided to hang multiple swords above our heads in the form of the “fiscal cliff.” Though the Senate, House and president dealt with the first sword by passing a deal at the eleventh hour should give us no solace.
The expiring Bush tax cuts could’ve been dealt with last year. The Senate passed a law extending the tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans and the House could’ve saved us unnecessary drama by passing it.
Next up is the debt ceiling. Raising the debt ceiling allows the United States to pay bills that we’ve already incurred. For the first time, Republicans used the debt ceiling as a hostage in 2011 and extracted concessions at the cost of our AAA credit rating, harm to the economy and our national prestige. Now they’re poised to do it again and again, risking a global depression by turning the U.S. into a deadbeat nation.
Then there’s sequestration. These are automatic, deep spending cuts in defense and domestic spending that have been triggered because Congress couldn’t settle on any other cuts. This week’s deal postponed them two months.
Deadlines focus the mind. A newspaper columnist tends to get a lot more productive the closer his/her deadline approaches. Deadlines are necessary for a lot of different endeavors. But to run democracy by deadline and governance by hostage-taking is insane because often you settle for anything just to make the deadline.
California is a textbook case of how not to run a government, but even we manage to cut spending and enact new revenues in a more reasonable manner than the federal government.
Locally, we were faced with ruin and again the people and local government stepped up and through cuts and passage of Measure P, we’ve managed to govern ourselves.
But in Washington, we’re prepared to once again go through the high-stakes fight over the debt ceiling and demonstrate to the world that the world’s premiere democracy may just be in its death throes. President Obama says he’s not going to negotiate over the debt ceiling. Knowing the president’s pathetic history of negotiating, I don’t believe him.
But to end this Sword of Damocles, governance by hostage-taking, the president needs to stick to his word. Shoot the hostage. Call Congress’ bluff. Let them push the country to the brink of oblivion and beyond.
No more governance by pledge or artificial deadlines with catastrophic consequences. Just sit down, debate, negotiate, compromise and do your job. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is a writer who lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]