Thursday, December 20, 2012


Fiscal Cliff II

Their supporters and constituents are applying pressure on Speaker Boehner and President Obama not to yield on their fervently held positions.  Boehner's supporters want him to hold firm on any tax increase and to insist on deeper cuts in "entitlement programs," including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Obama's supporters want him to hold firm on rejecting any cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and to insist on higher taxes for the well-to-do.  If there is to be an agreement, each side will have to yield a bit and risk angering their fervent ideological supporters.

I'm not going to try to propose a compromise that both sides might be willing to live with, at least temporarily.  They'll have to find the compromise by themselves.  In a previous essay I repeated Bismark's comment that compared crafting legislation (i.e., reaching compromises that both sides will grudgingly accept for the time being) to making sausage.  It's better not to publicize all the ingredients.  The same bit of wisdom applies to the present problem.  What we need is less publicity already!  Boehner and Obama are probably both willing to agree on a compromise that will anger their respective supporters.  Neither one wants to give the suppporters of the other any talking points.  This is a case where an agreement should be reached without publicity, in the secrecy of the darkened smoke-filled room, or wherever secret agreements are made.  When the agreement is published, it should be filled with words, especially legalese words and phrases, designed to prevent the public from immediately finding out some of the less savory parts of the deal.

I'm sorry to say it, but this is a case against open democracy, with everybody following the Brown Act and voting openly on every little detail.  It's also a case in favor of something that Professor Harry H. Kimber once said: Democracy won't work unless there is agreement on fundamentals.  Professor Kimber gave courses in history when I was a student at Michigan State College (now Michigan State University).  The disagreement that bedevils us is the vision of what the future should be like for Americans.  Shall we enjoy the blessings of universal health care, adequate retirement income, and a cooperative society?  Shall we instead enjoy the freedom provided by lack of a nurturing or supportive government and instead rely on our wits and individual strengths to compete with each other for available resources?  We will have to decide that before open democracy will provide its blessings.
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