The more things change, the more they are the same. – Alphonse Karr
I was prompted to look up the source of that adage a couple of days ago when I received notice that my December military retirement check would be deposited early rather than late. It
seems that the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act changed the rule about the timing relative to a holiday. In the past, deposit would have been delayed until Monday, the next business day, but that was changed to the business day previous to the holiday. The effect this year was to throw it from 2012 back into 2011, last Friday, thus giving me 13 paydays instead of 12 in CY 2011. The notice was accompanied by a tax warning to that effect. It appears to be a case of good intensions gone bad; by paying me three days early Congress is forcing me to settle up for a month’s pay, tax-wise, a year early.
Well, it’s not really a big deal. I am ever grateful that my country cares enough about my military service to allow me a pension. But I count the change as a symptom of how Congress “works”, if you can call it that. The temptation to constantly tinker with laws and regulations is irresistible and may in fact be facilitated by
the desire to cite “accomplishments”. That started me wondering what our own Congressman Billy Long might have done along those lines. However a web search for “congressman billy long accomplishments 2011” only turned up a (critical) blog named BusPlunge about our representative. It did cite an interesting quote from Mr. Long, however:
“Do what you can, have fun with what you are doing for as long as you can, and don’t let the place screw you up too bad.”
Actually, not too bad. I kind of wish the committee that put the mammoth Defense bill together had adhered more to Billy’s philosophy. Instead what we got was traditional tinkering with little details and pork-barrel projects, all the while our national debt soars and the major problems, like healthcare, go unaddressed. Evidence of just how bad our financial condition is came to me the other day from blogger Herb VanFleet via blogger Anson Burlingame in the form of an article from The Fiscal Times. It says our “unfunded obligations, commitments and contingencies” as a nation amount to some $550,000 per household, and that compares to a median household income in America of $50,000 a year. Yipes – a ten-fold debt-hole!
Thus the picture, Congress fiddling while the nation circles the fiscal drain. The body politic meanwhile, eschewing sacrifice, keeps waiting for a traditional resurgence of the economy, now showing some timid signs of life. But, the economy is a sputtering engine, and it will die if not given enough gas, even as the GOP embellishes the untrue meme that Obama’s overspending caused the whole problem.
I find it discouraging that nobody in the GOP field, with one exception, has had the political courage to speak frankly to the
voters about common sense and the need for entitlement reform, budget paring, and increasing revenue. The exception of course is Jon Huntsman. See what a call for shared sacrifice gets you, Jon? The back of the pack, that’s what. As Shakespeare said, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Politicians are shackled to the tyranny of the majority and the plot is predictable.
And the beat goes on. CNN reporting on new laws for our new year lists, among other legislative tinkering, a new California law mandating,
” . . . that schools add ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans’ to the list of those whose contributions ‘to the development of California and the United States’ must be taught in schools.
How’s that for a tinkerer’s damn? So much for the three R’s. The disease is endemic.