“This Is Getting To Be A Really Bad Habit”

Don't blame the Senators; after all, they got themselves in a bind.

Don’t blame the Senators; after all, they got themselves in a bind.

Thus  did The Blaze’s Becket Adams comment with exquisite understatement on the simultaneously unsurprising and horrifying fact that the 154 page bill just passed to avoid the worst aspects of the so-called fiscal cliff was almost certainly never read by any U.S. Senator before he or she voted for or against it. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), one of eight Senators who refused to vote for the bill, told reporters that they were given a total of “6 minutes to read this bill before we had to vote on it; not one single senator who voted for it had read it and that is unacceptable.”  Lee added what should be obvious to all, that when senators can’t read bills, “there are always bad things in it.”

Yes, I’d say that this is a fair conclusion, and indeed, we are learning of bad things in this bill, like pork.

The previous Ethics Alarms  post was about the criminal implications of using a firearm without due care. Passing national legislation affecting millions of lives and affecting the disposition of billions of dollars demands far more responsibility and care than using a gun, and the long and short-term damage caused by careless, ill-considered legislation far exceeds what any lone gunman can accomplish. This is so incompetent, so reckless, so arrogant and irresponsible, that no comparison, no condemnations, nothing can do it justice. Projectile vomiting comes close. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: America’s Leaders…Or, If You Prefer, “Happy New Year! We’re Doomed!”


UPDATE: 1/1/ 13  At the last possible moment —indeed, after the official deadline had past— a bi-partisan deal temporarily averting the worst effects of the fiscal cliff was achieved. The details of the compromise are here. But nothing I see in it would cause me to change any of the conclusions I reach below. It seems that the fiscal can was kicked down the road once again, for our craven leaders avoided doing their jobs:  dealing with the debt ceiling, reigning inexcessive government spending, and fixing a dysfunctional budget process. As the Washington Post stated on its front page today:

“The “fiscal cliff” was designed by Washington for Washington — it was intended to set up a scenario so severe that the president and Congress would, at last, have to take on the nation’s major tax and spending problems. Instead, lawmakers again found a way to sidestep many of the prickliest issues and in the process set up other, potentially more severe, showdowns in the new year.”

Additional taxes go into effect (supposedly an additional 600 billion over the next decade—a drop in the bucket), but no serious cuts in spending will be made, and the net effect is simply to delay considering responsible fiscal reforms until the next crisis. Our weak and feckless national leaders were minimally effective to the extent that they managed to avoid the worst possible result, looking as bad as possible in the process, waiting until the clock had run out. Do you find that encouraging, impressive and promising? I don’t.

It is disgusting.


The failure of America’s elected leaders to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” an artificial deadline that they set for themselves the last time they proved incapable of being fiscally and legislatively responsible, is frightening and dismaying proof of their utter incompetence, irresponsibility and cowardice.

While the worst condemnation ought to fall on the President, as he is in the highest office and thus bears the most responsibility when the government fails, the easiest way to spot partisan and biased individuals from now on will be to note those who claim that one party or one branch of government is more blameworthy than the other. I don’t want to hear it. All sides and interests had a duty to the nation, and they all failed us.

Recall that all of this begins and ends with the imperative of reducing the deficit in future years and beginning to pay  down the unsustainable debt. Neither party, nor President Obama, nor the Senate (which has not passed a budget in years), nor the Republican-controlled Congress, have been honest or realistic about the crucial and pressing need to reduce spending significantly (which requires reforming so-called entitlements, as well as other painful cuts) and to increase revenue through increased tax rates and reduced tax deductions. By their irresponsible and utterly stupid bungling of this escalating crisis, they have embarrassed the nation, weakened its defense, undermined its economy, risked the welfare of hard-working and vulnerable citizens, endangered the world and placed the future of the nation in peril.

It is unforgivable. Sharing the shame in this display of complete leadership incompetence are such culprits as the national media, which allowed both parties to avoid the topic of how sequestration would be averted through the entire election cycle; government watchdog groups, which made nary a peep as two years passed with the “cliff” looming, and  Congress wasted its time passing show-bills to thrill its most radical constituency, while the President campaigned and fiddled; and the unengaged, naive and polarized public, who have sent the message that there will be no consequences of a jointly-managed fiasco that threatens to crush generations to come…their children. A great job all ’round, Americans.

We enter 2013 with the permanent decline of the great American experiment evolving from a possibility to a probability, because, arguably for the first time in its history, the United States wasn’t lucky. This time, when the nation needed visionary, talented, courageous and bold leaders to address an epic crisis, there was nobody there but cowards, hacks, pygmies, narcissists, petty partisans and amateurs.

Happy New Year.



Graphic: According to Jewels

Ethics Dunces: The American Public

Is this a great country, or what?

Is this a great country, or what?

No surprises here, but still:

A sickening  McClatchy poll released today shows that a majority of the U.S. public opposes all measures that are necessary to address the nation’s debt and deficit crisis, except increasing taxes on the rich…which, by itself will be of minimal assistance in addressing the long-term problem. Its advantage, of course, is that it involves no sacrifices from the vast majority of the public.

Such irresponsible, lazy, ignorant and foolish judgment by the public, of course, would not be an insuperable problem in a properly functioning republic, in which dedicated, informed, selfless and courageous public servants were willing to come together, compromise, and make difficult but necessary decisions that might be unpopular with their constituents. Or if the nation had elected a skilled and persuasive national leader who could persuade the public to reject narrow, short-term self-interest as patriots and Americans, for the benefit of future generations.

We don’t have those things, however, so the public’s lack of responsibility, knowledge and common sense is, if not fatal, a serious threat to the national welfare and long-term viability of the United States.

At least we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves, and perhaps the Founders, for foolishly entrusting a representative democracy to a people too ignorant and selfish to keep it working.


Facts: McClatchy

Graphic: It is future

Where Is “Mr. C” When We Need Him?

"Sing to me, Mister C!"

Perry in 1993: “Sing to me, Mister C!”

The holiday music is upon us and unavoidable, and one of the recordings that it is annoyingly ubiquitous is Perry Como’s “Home for the Holidays,” though you often hear the Carpenters’ version too. Como was a big TV star in the Sixties— bigger, really, than Andy Williams, who died last month, but who managed to linger in the public consciousness longer. Perry, unlike Andy, never had his “Moon River”—he was just an easy-going, smooth-singing B-list Bing Crosby baritone without the movies,  the comedy, and all the iconic songs, but for a while tuning in to hear “Mr. C” sing the hit ballads of the day was a middle America tradition. As I heard Perry, smooth as ever, sing his one holiday standard, it occurred to me that without that recording, he would be forgotten completely today. Sic Transit Gloria.

Yet Perry Como would still have something to contribute. For example, his last hit record, “It’s Impossible,” could become a useful public anthem to croon to Republicans as we all head over the so-called fiscal cliff.  Here’s Perry:

And here’s what he could croon to the GOP Congress today, changing just a few words:

Irresponsible, take a pledge to never tax, it’s irresponsible!
Irresponsible, and forget about the facts, it’s irresponsible.

Can we pay back all the trillions, and not raise some extra billions?
Cut the budget and not bother with the debt? So irresponsible.

Will Obama make the cuts that must be made? He’s irresponsible.
Does his folly mean you still don’t have to trade? You’re irresponsible.
And tomorrow, when we’re belly-up like Greece, I’m sure you’ll tell us
That your pledge cannot be blamed for what befell us.
You’re a miserable disgrace—and irresponsible.

We miss you, Mr. C.

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Show Us The Way

“The operation was a success, but the patient died.”

“We had to destroy the village to save it.”

Massada. That worked out well too.

I’m sure the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union approves of these classic oxymoronic statements, because its members are currently patting themselves on the back for standing up to Hostess Brands, Inc and not giving an inch in contentious labor negotiations that had put them on the picket line. “I think we’re the first ones who have stood up and said, ‘We’re not going to let you get away with it,’” was the message the union’s resolve sent according to  Sue Tapley, the strike captain at the Biddeford, Maine Hostess plant. “You can fight them. You can shut them down.” “Unions have been losing power for years,” added  a striking worker outside of the same plant. “This is an exceptional case. If Hostess had been allowed to get away with what they’d been trying to do, other corporations would have lined up to try the same tactics. Hopefully, this will be an example to other companies not to break their unions.” Continue reading