Posts Tagged ‘Government shut-down’

AMERICA’S REAL CRISIS

On Tuesday night, Donald Trump offered his pitch on TV that America needs a wall across our Mexican border because we face a grave crisis. The president was right. But not necessarily about the wall.

Most Americans agree that the United States has a right to control its border and who may enter the country, including refugees. This does notrepresent an anti-immigrant stance. Despite Emma Lazarus’ moving poem, we no longer can open our borders to all the world’s tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We’d be swamped. Moreover, the nation has changed. In 1906, my father—as a small child—sailed into New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty. America’s western frontier had been deemed closed less than 20 years earlier. The Wright Brothers flew the first powered airplane little more than two years before. Now, we’re a post-industrial society.

Will more wall—we’ve built over 700 miles of barriers, many during the Obama administration—best secure our border with Mexico? Maybe. Read Bret Stephens about Israel’s “smart fences” in yesterday’s New York Times. The problem is, Trump spews hysteria, obscuring reasonable discussion.

Effective leaders examine potential solutions to problems rather than pre-determine them. They call on experts—widely scorned by those on the right—listen to ideas, then propose approaches based on reality rather than ideology or politics.

Congress doesn’t help. It continually fails to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. Some members feel heat from the far left, who want open borders. Others fear the far right who, like Trump, would accept limited numbers of ethnic “Norwegians,” who meet their definition of true Americans as white Christians.

Lately, Trump said he’ll accept a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. Yet former White House chief-of-staff John Kelly stated that the idea of a concrete wall was shelved a year ago. Trump kept trumpeting that wall to incite and deepen his base rather than widen it. He insists that Congress appropriate $5.7 billion for a symbol of border control, not a well-thought-out solution. And Mexico will pay now thanks to the recent trade deal. Really?

Engaged in a pissing match with the new Democratic House majority, Trump insists that the 800,000 federal workers going without paychecks today support him—and will if the government shut-down continues for months, even years. Really?

Frank Bruni wrote in last Tuesday’s New York Times that “it’s not really a wall that Trump is after, if indeed it ever was. It’s a victory for victory’s sake. It’s a show of his might. It’s proof of his potency.” Bruni added, “Seldom has a president’s ego been this tender, and seldom has it required so much shoring up. There’s not enough concrete in creation for that job.”

Like the Energizer Bunny, Trump keeps on going. On Wednesday, he said he has a right to declare a national emergency. Yesterday he said he well might exercise it.

A workable new immigration policy demands stepping back to lay out the facts and objectively determine our options, no matter how imperfect. That our president is incapable of doing this represents a true national emergency. His insistence on a wall as a political sop to his base sends a loud message that the Oval Office is swamped by ignorance and incompetence. That’s America’s real crisis.

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AND THE WINNER IS…

On Wednesday, Congress finally agreed to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling. Many House Republicans yielded and joined with Democrats to end Washington’s latest stalemate. Yet TV showed House Speaker John Boehner fist pumping. “We fought the good fight,” Boehner said. “We just didn’t win.” He seemed to suggest that Republicans really didn’t lose, either. That left me curious about the political outcome.

Yesterday, The New York Times saw definite losers. “Republicans Lose a Lot to Get Little” headlined a story by Jeremy Peters. A Times editorial addressed “The Republican Surrender.” Its lead: “The Republican Party slunk away on Wednesday from its failed, ruinous strategy to get its way through the use of havoc.” But The Times represents only one voice in the United States. A brief survey of other newspapers and related websites revealed a variety of opinions—and non-opinions.

Closest to home, the San Francisco Chronicle headlined, “End of shutdown boosts Democrats.” Of course, this is Nancy Pelosi country. So I went online to get the word from between the coasts.

Dallasnews.com (The Dallas Morning News) simply stated, “Federal employees get back to work after 16-day shutdown.” No winners and losers here. Still, an editorial offered, “Budget deal is reached, but internal split is harming GOP.” Orlandosentinel.com (The Orlando Sentinel) led with, “Lock your car while pumping gas, cops warn.” I had to scroll down to find, “Post-crisis, Obama tells Congress to get to work.” Is the State of Florida in a state of denial?

Kansascity.com (The Kansas City Star) showcased a sex assault case. But an editorial—if you looked for it—asserted, “GOP political tantrum has damaged America.” Ajc.com (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) stayed with the story: “Obama: ‘American people are completely fed up.’” Columnist Jay Bookman offered the moral: “Excessive certitude proves to be a damn poor substitute for intelligence.” Memphisdailynews.com (The Daily News) led with Shelby County foreclosures dropping 10 percent in the last quarter. Again, I had to scroll for news of the agreement. Commercialappeal.com (the Memphis Commercial Appeal) didn’t run a story at all.

Only a TV news clip—from St. Louis yet—was available at cincinnati.com (The Cincinnati Enquirer). On the other hand, azcentral.com/arizonarepublic (The Arizona Republic) led with: “Obama signs bill averting default on debt, ending shutdown.” Neutral stuff. The site also ran an Associated Press report by Donna Cassata noting, “To Senate Republicans, Cruz and [Sen. Mike] Lee [Rep.–Utah] are near pariahs” but that “Among ‘tea party’ Republicans, Cruz’s popularity has climbed, from a 47 percent favorability rating in July to 74 percent, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.” A presidential run gaining steam? The top story at deseretnews.com (Utah’s Desert News) concerned football changing the life of a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome.

After all this, I’m thinking that winning and losing is a matter of perspective. But two things seem certain. The sound we heard coming out of Washington wasn’t cheering but the clink of the can again being kicked down the road. And if anyone got the short end of the stick, it wasn’t the Republican Party—it was the American people.

In a previous version of this post, I referred to Ted Cruz as a Republican senator from Florida. Cruz represents Texas. I must have confused him with Marco Rubio. Now how could that happen? 

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Read the first three chapters of SAN CAFÉ and of SLICK!, named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the 25 Best Indie Novels of 2012, at davidperlstein.com. Order at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com or bn.com. 

“GLITTER”—A FABLE

Once, the people of a great land divided power between their king—chosen after each fourth harvest—and heroic knights. The king reigned in the Great Castle. The knights gathered in the Great Hall to debate at a trapezoid-shaped table. A round table would have upset the narrow hall’s feng shui.

Many knights wore beautiful armor. Some of their helmets, however, had loose screws. These knights could not always see what was before them. A few strutted in armor rusted by uncontrollable drooling. The marketplace speculated on injudicious parental mating.

One day the king proposed, “Let everyone in the land be given a daily banana.” Despite the kingdom’s wealth, not everyone could afford bananas, rich in health-enhancing potassium. A majority of knights assented. Bananas were made available to all. Still, some knights insisted that the doors to the treasury be locked and bananas restricted to only those subjects who could afford them. “Let them eat cake!” they cried. “Sugar promotes energy. Besides, we question the blasphemous tenets of modern dentistry.”

“Bananas for all!” announced the king. “It’s the law of the realm.” The opposing knights countered, “The law isn’t the law unless we say it is.” In protest, they established the Cake Party. Donning bakers’ garb and brandishing studded rolling pins, they bellowed, “The king must be removed and the Great Castle turned into a bakery.”

Some knights who opposed distributing bananas nonetheless believed Cake Party members to be several ounces short of a cup. Still, they feared making enemies. Chief among them was Sir John, who sat at the head of the trapezoidal table. “Only if the kingdom forswears spending on bananas,” he said, “can it amass more gold. Then everyone can buy their own bananas—although scientific evidence concerning potassium is questionable.” Hoisting a screwdriver, he sighed, “If only the king would negotiate and do as I say.” Then he watched as the Cake Party catapulted stale loaves of bread at the Great Castle’s walls.

The king, many knights and most of the people objected to these attacks, but Sir John held firm. Hadn’t he the kingdom’s best interests at heart? And if the Cake Party pried him from his chair, wouldn’t conditions worsen? But in truth, Sir John loved his special chair at the trapezoidal table more than gold or even croissants. The chair was covered in glitter and sparkled with bits of shiny metal and glass. Privately, Sir John granted that the Cake Party might be a cup or even two short of a quart. Yet he lusted after his glittering chair.

The kingdom foundered. Dragons, now emboldened, flew overhead, belching fire and brimstone. The rich hunkered in bunkers, their gold in iron vaults, while farmers’ fields and craftsman’s studios went up in flames. “Fools!” the people cried. In response, the Cake Party baked cakes and iced them with the words, “It’s a matter of principle.”

This, of course, is only a fable. And everyone knows the old saying, “All that glitters is not gold.” But legend has it that each morning, Sir John would stand in front of his glittering chair, wave at the dragons and with a long-handled wooden spoon wipe the spittle from his chin.

Many thanks to Michaela for inspiration. This post, however, expresses only the opinions of the author.

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Read the first three chapters of SAN CAFÉ and of SLICK!, named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the 25 Best Indie Novels of 2012, at davidperlstein.com. Order at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com or bn.com.