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The Obama-Boehner debt talks: Where common sense ain't so common

July 28, 2011 |  6:02 am

John Boehner Obama and Harry Reid happily meet in Deficit Talks 7-23-11

In a local government cabinet meeting some years ago, the elected official asked his veteran budget expert what the public revenue and expense forecasts were for the next quarter.

The budget expert began rummaging in his notes and inquired, "What do you want them to be?"

There was dead silence around the shiny table until the savvy budget guy smiled. He'd captured the essence of many government numbers.

We're reminded of that revealing episode in recent days by the Howdy Doody Show playing out in our nation's capitol over the phony debt ceiling and the sham cuts and numerical maneuverings, as if they were the issues at hand instead of the genuine struggle for dominant political position come Nov. 6, 2012.

An American spectator these days need not be a tea sipper to conclude that most of....

...these D.C. people occupy a parallel universe with unique rules and values. Remember that spring debt ceiling deadline set by the Treasury secretary who was once far behind in his own income taxes?  That was an absolutely positively hard and fast date -- until it was changed to Aug. 2. Billions of dollars are tossed here and there like volleyballs at warm-up.

From a distance, what these highly-paid folks are wrangling about doesn't seem all that complicated in the common sense minds of millions of American voters. OK, some people on both sides spent way more money than the country took in over recent years. Here's an idea: Stop it.

Then, the question is how do we catch up on $14,200,000,000,000 in debts? As we wrote here several months ago, if you want your roof fixed, don't call President Obama. He wants to build immense new skyscrapers or legislative edifaces with somebody else's money.Golf Summit 6-18-11 Obama Boehner Biden and John Kasich 6-18-11

He doesn't do repairs well. The Democrat doesn't like any of the Republican deficit plans. But he doesn't have his own.

So, how exactly do you bargain in good faith with a car dealer who won't set a price? Who claims he already told you the price before? So he doesn't need to repeat it now?

As it happens, we've been participating in similar parallel personal discussions in recent weeks working toward a bi-gendered compromise that attracted far less media attention.

This was prompted by a letter from a major credit card company. That missive informed that out of the 16% goodness of their heart and based on us being fine upstanding Americans, the folks there were raising our credit limit to a sum of $US near the entire price of my first house. Without anyone even asking. Like found money!

Speaking of Howdy Doody, we come from a different generation, one where seeking an advance on a 25-cent weekly allowance was cause for considerable parental amusement.

If a Lone Ranger authentic signal gun with a secret compartment was on the market for 50 cents, that required two weeks of cost-cutting to zero.

Some of our highest gustatory priorities had to pay the price of strict stringency; no Hershey bars with Almonds, for instance. No Juicy Fruit. No Captain Marvel comic books. Deficit financing of Lone Ranger signal guns was simply not an option.

Not much changed when we entered the lucrative field of news-gathering. Our first job paid in the high two-figures. The second reporting job paid 19% less. Mealtimes declined to twice daily because the Dobbs House diner cashier did not deal in promissory notes.

So, when the credit card letter arrived offering a handsome five-figure sum of money, temptations were immense. Think of the things that could be had -- a romantic trip to Italy full of food, a certain red car, a TV screen the sObama Shoots basketballize of Bakersfield.

After all, such expenditures would stimulate the stagnant economy and create Joe-Biden-knows-how-many new jobs for some of the most vulnerable people in a low-wage culture far away.

Each expenditure, we asserted, was in effect an investment in our personal family infrastructure and in the nation's future, a statement of faith, principle and vibrant strength that we as a valued middle-class family unit would not be intimidated by the historic challenges facing our great land in the 21st century, that we would stand up tall and strong like our forefathers and spend thousands of dollars that we did not actually happen to possess at the moment.

It was, to be quite honest, a fairly stirring speech for someone who was never an ex-state senator.

The mistress of finance listened carefully to every word. She nodded in a balanced approach kind of way. Then in a harshly divisive fashion she threatened a veto. She asked petty, partisan questions such as, who would pay back the spent money we did not have, plus the enormous accumulating interest that we also did not have?

The answer to that was so blatantly obvious, she clearly was politically posturing. Talks nearly collapsed. The money would be paid back the same way they do it in Washington, by future generations. They can't vote yet. So what's the problem?

In the end after weeks of bargaining, cloture was invoked. Unlike Washington, we compromised in a common sense, very modern American fashion.

We did it her way.


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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press (John Boehner, Barack Obama and Harry Reid enjoy a good laugh during recent deficit negotiations); Pete Souza / White House (Boehner, Obama, Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in happier times, June 18); Associated Press.