Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Issues are Narrow; the Stakes are Both Broad and Deep

Look at this graph. Now consider that we might face $500 billion in tax increases and drastic cuts to Defense spending in 5 days in part because House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is either unable or unwilling to propose a bipartisan bill for deficit-reduction.

The issue? while Boehner has 241 Republicans in the House and need 217 votes to pass deficit-reduction through that chamber, about 3-4 dozen Republicans aren’t willing to vote for tax increases on the rich even though taxes will rise sharply on everyone else (and the Pentagon will be forced to scale back big-time) if they do nothing. Simply-put, he will either have to ignore almost 1/5 of the House Republican Conference and work-out some kind of deal with the House Democratic Caucus, or we will go over the Fiscal Cliff.

The American economy, a lot of middle- and working-class families and individuals, and the strategic posture of the United States in the World are all threatened right now because of a confluence of quick-fixes to past (Republican-initiated) partisan standoffs.  The differences of opinion between the parties on the issues are real and far-reaching, but both the course of past confrontations on them and the temporary measures scheduled to lapse within a week were short-sighted.  With a fairly-broad consensus of the public rejecting Republican rhetoric about “job creators” and a majority of Congress accepting the inevitability of tax increases on the rich, around 10% of the House of Representatives may have the power to force us to accept sharp tax increases and cuts to defense spending because they believe (or at least currently assert) that voting for a tax increase on the rich is a breach of principle while allowing a large tax increase to happen through stubbornness is not.  And the Speaker of the House is so far prepared to allow this rather than go hat-in-hand to the House Democratic Caucus seeking support, because that would entail too much bipartisanship.

Even if all this brinksmanship wraps with another (deeply-unfulfilling) last-minute deal, I see no end to these unnecessary and harmful political standoffs unless the Republican Party faces further political punishment on account of them.  I don’t see another way that will have lasting effects.

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Merry Christmas, Everyone

I’ve said more about Christmas before, but it warrants mention every year: Christmas is about the birth of a child in a stable in a backwater Roman province who will grow up to declare that every human life has meaning.  2,000 years later, the World has been made new by this idea.  This message of seeing potential for greatness in every human life didn’t sufficiently create Modernity (which won’t be recognizable in our political thought for over another millennium and a half following its appearance), but with Jesus’ message it is perhaps on the edge of our thinking and aspiration for the first time.

We celebrate Christmas just days after the darkest night of the year.  The message, I think, is clear: When people come together in full faith–in each other, not some divinity–they can completely remake the circumstances in which they find themselves.  This is among the youngest of the ideas bequeathed to us by Antiquity; indeed, this idea eventually transcended Antiquity itself entirely.  We can make the darkest time of the year into the brightest–but we need each other to do it.

Don’t trouble yourselves overmuch with 3 persons or 1 persons of some divinity, or of whether the Pope succeeds validly from Peter, or whether you rely on the clergy for the administration of sacraments, or of the nature of the Communion, but with communion itself.  Consider the provocative words of the man who said that, if a traveler asked you to go 1 mile with him, you should be prepared to go 2.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  Find your peace in others today.