Off the Cliff?

Off the Cliff?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

If you were a betting person it is not clear whether you would finding anyone in Las Vegas or even at Ladbrokes ready to make a wager that Congress will actually reach an agreement with the White House before the ball drops in Times Square on Monday night. In fact for New Yorkers there are still better odds on last year’s Super Bowl winning New York Giants making the playoffs after the games end on Sunday–they need four separate game results to go their way– than the likelihood of seeing Congress on C-Span all day Monday actually reaching a compromise to keep the country from falling over the cliff.

There are two perspectives on this event.

First, at the end of the day, sometime over the next several months most of the issues which should have been fixed—taxes, deficit reduction/sequestration, unemployment extension, debt ceiling, AMT increases, etc. –all will be somehow resolved. The country will watch some new political scenarios as well as some re-runs and most if not all of the issues that have been pending will be reconciled.

In the meantime, there will be corporate unease and stock market jitters while the so-called lawmakers do their jobs. Accountants and bookkeepers will make money or work overtime as the deductions will be made and then returned after all the legislation is in place.

The American people will have suffered needlessly. Many people will endure further economic hardship and dislocation. Familial strife will rise and alcohol consumption will increase because Washington did not care enough to get the job done in the first place; regardless of the politics.

Second, there is truly a sense of sadness to watch a political system and group of elected public officials who are so intent on scoring points that they are not willing to do the jobs for which they were elected; to govern.  It is still totally unfathomable to me why the ten Democratic and Republican Senators who are now retiring could have not just stepped to the table and told their colleagues to do the job right. Even if they were ignored because they have no political liabilities any longer, it would have been nice to see a bi-partisan group of Senators like Olympia Snow, Joe Lieberman, Herb Kohl, Jon Kyl, Kent Conrad, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and the rest walk into the sunset of their careers by telling their colleagues to do the right thing. It might seem to be a bit self-serving to be attacking the system when you have nothing to lose and could have done more earlier yourself, but just, perhaps, it might have moved the Congress and the President to a level of genuine urgency.

It looks now that only a miracle will save a system gone totally off the tracks.

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