When Life Throws You a CurveJuly 26, 2011
Eternal SummerAugust 13, 2011
Have you ever read the newspaper and gotten angry enough to want to open a window and scream, à la Howard Beale in Network? Lately, I’ve been having that experience quite often. This morning, it was a New York Times story about a Congressional standoff that provoked this reaction—and, no, I’m not talking about the debt ceiling fiasco. The article, entitled “Stalemate in the Senate Leaves 4,000 Out of Work at F.A.A.”, details the aviation agency’s partial shutdown, caused by the fact that our elected chuckleheads in Congress can’t tell their elbows from their nether-regions.
As Edward Wyatt’s piece explains it, airport inspectors—you know, those employees whose job it is to monitor that insignificant thing we call “safety” at commercial airports—are being asked to work without pay and “charge their government travel expenses to personal credit cards” because Congress can’t get its act together.
But wait, it gets better. The lack of Congressional financing for the F.A.A. means that the agency cannot collect taxes on airline tickets—which adds up to about $30 million PER DAY in lost revenue for the federal government. These are the same clueless representatives (and I use the latter word loosely) who are too busy posing in front of cameras and speaking into microphones about their alleged indignation over the deficit to actually step back into their chambers long enough to reduce said deficit by 30 million bucks PER DAY. Need further proof that their “outrage” about our national debt is just a hypocritical charade? I didn’t think so.
And the kicker? The House actually passed a bill to extend the F.A.A.’s funding temporarily and allow the government to collect the ticket tax, but (you knew there had to be a “but,” didn’t you?) the “temporary bill also would end $14 million in subsidies that provided commercial airline service to 16 rural airports. The law was written in a way that appeared to single out for closing airports in the states of prominent Senate Democrats, including the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada.”
So this is what American politics has come to? Who cares if we threaten the safety of the general public, as long as we stick it to the guy across the aisle? Who cares if the country’s credit rating gets downgraded and we send the economy into a tailspin, as long as we can keep our rich, powerful donors and lobbyists happy? Who cares if people can’t get the medical treatments they need to save their lives as long as the healthcare industry can line its pockets (and our re-election funds) with obscene amounts of money.
I’m not naïve. I know that politics has always been, and will always be, contentious. But what we’re witnessing these days seems beyond the pale. I have news for those particular members of Congress who are acting worse than spoiled children for whom the mountain of toys they already possess is not enough (and you all know which politicians I mean). News Flash: Our country was founded on the idea of checks and balances—which is another way of saying compromise. It’s why we have three branches of government. Maybe your parents did a crappy job of raising you, and you never learned the basic fact that no team wins every game (not even my beloved Yankees), but allow me to educate you. Neither side of the political aisle is SUPPOSED to win every single point of every single argument.
Yes, I’m a liberal, but that doesn’t mean I am incapable of listening or talking to people who identify themselves as conservative. In fact, I’ve done it many times. I am willing to have a respectful dialogue and be open to what someone else has to say as long as he or she affords me the same courtesy. In the end, we may not change each other’s minds, but that doesn’t mean we have to view the other person as evil or try to stab them between the eyes. Having an honest and constructive debate doesn’t make either side any less committed to its core values—it just helps you understand why that person sitting across from you holds their tenets so dearly. It’s all part of these kooky nutty practices called “respect” and “being civilized”. Perhaps Congress should try them some time.
In the article about the F.A.A. stalemate, the head of the agency was quoted as saying the following about the safety inspectors who are being asked to work for free: “We are depending and living on their professionalism at this point.” It takes some nerve for the most useless employees of our government (I’m speaking of Congress, naturally) to ask of their federal colleagues more than they themselves have been willing to give.