Saturday, January 19, 2013

Charlie Brown, Lucy, and that football

Ok, guys, we are going to talk about Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football. It's a useful analogy, in that it captures quite beautiful what the GOP feels. They are deeply aggrieved that they sometimes vote for tax increases, but the promised spending cuts don't show up--again and again. [Just an aside to remind us all to thank Charles Schulz for capturing this kind of frustration perfectly. Great work! Enjoyed and remembered by millions. Brilliant in its simplicity.]

I'm going to grant as a truth that Democrats haven't followed through on promised cuts. I don't actually know that they made promises, but I can be damned positive that spending cuts were never more than isolated and therefore never reflected in the bottom line. If I'm wrong about this, I don't mind being corrected as a side discussion. However, the main point is that spending seems only to go one way, but some of us want to find the reverse gear and learn how to use it... and others of us don't seem to be interested in learning that gear.

However, I'm not going to put all the blame on the Dems though they thoroughly earned the nickname "tax-and-spend." The reason is, in a deal, both sides try to nail things down pretty well, with clear numbers in black and white in specific categories. It's kind of surprising that the GOP would make these deals and then find out they were snookered. I know it can happen, especially if you're negotiating up until the last minute instead of starting early. But starting early on legislation cuts into demagoguery time, and most politicians seem to treasure their demagoguery time. (I hope I'm not being too heavy-handed with the lesson here.)

So the Dems have tricked the GOP many times and never produced budget cuts. Why the hell haven't the GOP gotten wise? Why doesn't the GOP nail down those damn suckers before the votes? How many times are they going to be played the fool before people give up on them?

But here's an even bigger question--there were plenty of years when there was no Lucy holding that football. The GOP had the House and Senate, where all the legislation was written. Why didn't the GOP write those promised cuts into the legislation during those years? For that problem, there is NO LUCY TO BLAME.

Really, maybe Lucy is a red herring. Here's what I think: the GOP said it wanted cuts, but their behavior said otherwise. They were happy to accept promises instead of holding out for cuts, which indicates that appearances were more important to them than results.

Is the GOP finally ready to demand cuts? Maybe. In August 2011, they demanded, negotiated, and received specific cuts, though the bulk of the cuts were delayed until 2013. (Still a problem with acceptance of real cutting, it appears.)

Will the GOP ever get the cuts it wants? It definitely won't if it leaves the writing of the bills and the scrutinizing of the bills to others. But if you want something badly enough, you do what it takes. So bring on the sequester, and let's see the teeth start cutting! Bring on the GOP list for the next budget cuts! Nail those things down, and finally get some practice in making cuts stick. Quit kicking like Charlie Brown, and start kicking like pros.


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