POGO REDUX

Last Monday, President Obama made a televised appeal to Americans in regard to the ongoing conflict about how to reduce the nation’s debt. Speaker of the House John Boehner offered the Republican rejoinder. OMG!

In asking Americans to urge their Congressional representatives to support a balanced approach to deficit and debt reduction—spending cuts along with revenue increases—Mr. Obama deplored “Washington” doing business as usual. In stating that Republicans had a plan to reduce the deficit without tax increases, one he would bring before the House for a vote—although the Democratic majority in the Senate would never go along—Mr. Boehner deplored “Washington” doing business as usual.

I’m perplexed. Just who or what is this Washington that both these leaders came out against? Mr. Obama, former U.S. Senator, is President of the United States. It’s hard to be any more Washington than that. Mr. Boehner has been a member of the House since 1990. He’s served as House Majority Leader, Minority Leader and then, since this past January, as Speaker. But apparently, he’s not part of the evil Washington so many Americans stand against.

So who then is Washington? Maybe it’s the people who never were Washington—the first-term Republicans backed by the Tea Party who put “no tax increase ever” dogma ahead of common sense. Once, Washington politicians understood the art of the deal. You give. You get. The rest of us do this all the time. But that’s not the Tea Party way.

Of course, Democrats can shoulder some blame, too. The federal debt is huge and growing. Not every tax dollar spent on entitlement programs is spent wisely. And support for the President, the Democrats’ party leader, has hardly been rousing. Get a grip, people.

Last Saturday, I led services at Congregation Sherith Israel. My d’var Torah or word about Torah—the portion was Matot (Tribes)—focused on the tribes of Reuben and Gad, which didn’t want to settle in the land of Canaan. They preferred to stay east of the Jordan River where they could pasture their cattle. Moses was not happy. But the matter was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction—including God’s.

The Reubenites and Gadites volunteered to serve as chalutzim—shock troops—at the head of the Israelite army when it crossed the Jordan to conquer Canaan. They chose to live adjacent to Canaan rather than in it but willingly assumed more than their share of risk to see that the other tribes’ inhabited the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to their descendants. There’s a lesson here.  Compromise can be okay. We are all connected and can—indeed, must—share our common burdens to promote general wellbeing.

Whoever Washington really is, they don’t get it. Ideology reins. Americans suffer. Selfish interests trump the common good. I fear for this nation. Why? In the immortal words of the late Walt Kelly’s cartoon character Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and they are us.”

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One Comment


  1. Carolyn Power
    Jul 28, 2011

    No one wants to get their hands dirty.

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