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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gail Collins, "Let’s Make a Deal": The "Game of Chicken" Is Over

Okay, the Republicans' "game of chicken" is over, and the debt ceiling has been raised. With US national debt just a tad under $17 trillion, or some $148,000 per taxpayer, the federal government can continue with its profligate spending, "shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren" and ignoring an insuperable "debt problem and a failure of leadership" (Senator Obama, opposing an increase in the debt ceiling, March, 2006). Of course, I steadfastly favored a compromise solution to be reached via round-the-clock negotiations, but instead, the can has merely been kicked down the road by another few months.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Let’s Make a Deal" (, celebrating the Republicans' retreat from the brink of a world economic catastrophe, even Gail Collins acknowledges that the problem remains. Collins writes (my emphasis in red):

"Let’s think positive. Americans want to get back to normal. We want to admire the fall foliage and plan for Thanksgiving and complain about Congress’s failure to pass a farm bill. There is nothing we find more attractive than the sight of a bipartisan majority, holding hands to kick the budgetary can down the road.

. . . .

The House whipped through its approval with virtually no comment. There is nothing more efficient than a sullen majority. Democrats said a few lukewarm words about the agreement. 'It does have my support as a means to an end,' said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Good work in repressing the temptation to gloat, House Democrats!"

In fact, there is no reason to celebrate. America's unsustainable debt has gone untreated, and like a cancer, it continues to grow.

A villain in Collins's opinion piece? Ted Cruz, of course:

"Would you say that Congress is more like the movie 'Gravity' (government employees helplessly adrift in space) or the movie 'Captain Phillips' (hero trapped in small, sweaty place with unstable people waving guns)?

I am going for 'Captain Phillips,' which has Tom Hanks stuck in the end in a lifeboat-capsule with three Somali pirates: the navigator who does not know how to steer, the strongman who keeps shrieking and threatening everybody, and a nice kid who is in way over his head.

Obviously, we the people get the Tom Hanks role. Everybody likes Tom Hanks. I will allow you to attach Congressional identities to each pirate. Feel free to bring up Ted Cruz."

But whose name is not even mentioned once in this op-ed, bursting with chuckles? Oh, that's right - no mention of President Obama.

Regarding Obama's failure to engage, Leon Panetta very recently stated (see:

"This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you have the right answers. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to really engage in the process . . . that’s what governing is all about.'"

Well, while campaigning, Obama liked to roll up his sleeves for the cameras. But get his hands dirty while Congress hammered out a debt ceiling deal? No way. Like Chance the Gardener in Jerzy Kosinski's "Being There," made into a magnificent movie in 1979 starring Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas and Jack Warden, Obama likes to watch.

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