(As usual, the arrangement with the syndicator means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
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UNDERSTATEMENT FROM RICK PERRY?
BY BOB FRANKEN
Maybe we've mis-underestimated Rick Perry. Maybe his gaffe-a-minute debate performances and the various campaign positions that are downright goofy have caused many to dismiss every word that comes stumbling out of his mouth. But let's be fair and give him credit where it's due.
Take, for instance, his Nov. 15 speech in Iowa, where he promised to eliminate various government agencies, set a limit on the now-lifetime terms of federal judges and cut the pay senators and representatives receive in half. That last one is the biggie. It would make them part time because, as he explained, “They are completely detached from the people.”
Let's hear it for Rick. But has he gone far enough? The polls consistently tally a contempt rate for Congress at about 90 percent. Put another way, nine out of 10 probably believe Perry's part time should be NO time.
Get over it, people. We need a Congress. The Founding Parents made the very first article of the Constitution about the legislative branch. But they were envisioning an effective one. Silly them. What we've gotten less than three centuries later is one that makes a mockery of the entire system of government they created.
Look at the latest example to pile on the modern-day garbage heap of futility. That, of course, would be the failure of the so-called Supercommittee to cobble together the beginning of government financial rescue. The members finally admitted defeat, and whimpered something about the need to continue to save the country from future economic collapse. “You can't just ignore this crisis,” Co-Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., said as she and the others closed shop.
The alleged Supercommittee, with its November deadline, was created in August as a way to avoid the immediate disaster of national government default. It was endowed with special procedural powers to concoct a package of cuts and taxes that would chip away at the massive federal debt that threatens to crush the country. Erskine Bowles warned, “I am worried you're going to fail -- fail the country.”
Bowles knows from failure. He is still, after all, the co-chair of another last-ditch deficit crisis effort that went down in flames, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Don't you love these names, with their high sounding grandeur so diminished by craven politics?
Even after the United States of America's pride had been tarnished due to a downgrade of the near sacred sovereign credit rating by Standard and Poor's, and even with the threat of further reductions looming, our fearful leaders still found it impossible to craft a compromise.
But “compromise” has become a dirty word. Instead of trying to bridge the gaps, the two sides blow up the bridges and dig in. Consensus seems impossible.
Another part of the problem is the perceived lack of crisis. The Supercommittee was supposedly operating under a threat. The law required that if it didn't reach a $1.2 trillion agreement, there would be a mandatory slash in that amount that would wreak equal havoc with both social programs as well as the Pentagon's budget. But this “sequestration” (Beltwayspeak) isn't required until 2013 -- plenty of time to come up with ways to avoid parts of it and, in any case, pain that doesn't have to be inflicted until after the election.
The psychological damage from this latest Supercommittee dashed hope is expected to be minimal for the very worst of reasons. Truth be known, no one had much hope this effort would succeed. By now we expect failure from D.C.
That's why the Rick Perrys in this campaign can slip so badly and still get some traction. All he has to do is lay claim to being a “Washington outsider.” He and the others really force an important question on all of us: Can't we have better choices?
© 2011 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.