| After a pleasant weekend spent mostly away from the 'Tubes, I awoke this morning to much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that the Congress may be close to passing a budget/deficit/debt resolution bill. No one seems happy with it, and I'm not either, even though the specifics remain illusive. Paul Krugman thinks it's a disaster. Booman attempts to see the glass as half full. A valid point of contention is the call for a "Super-Congress", 12 special folk who have the ability to make or break the nation's economic future .. to a point. That's insidious and likely not very Constitutional. An invalid point of contention is that Congress is enacting the wrong policy, the point about which Krugman is very shrill. I agree that this austerity push is the wrong direction for economic policy, but that isn't the claim being made. The claim at hand is that these people don't have the authority to do this contrary to the people's needs and the people's will. Yes, they really do because ~we~ gave it to them when ~we~ elected them. Just ask the voters in Wisconsin. Sometimes politicians lie. Okay, most of the time, politicians lie. It's often helpful to remember political reality is what it is, and saying you want to do something you fail to do is not always a lie. That's because, quite simply, others carrying the authority ~we~ gave them might just disagree.
As of this writing, the Senate will pass this deficit reduction 'compromise'. Nate Silver is handicapping that the House won't. I'm not going to bother linking to Twitter because that could all change in the next hour. But what is, or at least should be, clear is that Congress is pursuing this effort. That is as it should be. Not the result, of course, but the effort certainly. What has struck me strongly through this whole debate is the importance given to one man, truly desperately, by both the right and the left. This is all about President Obama. We have been lied to, duped, by a meme far beyond the idea policy should be what we want it to be. We have been duped into thinking that we have a unitary executive. I can't count the number of times I have written that the President is the executor of the will of Congress, and that Congress is the representative body of the American people.
All sorts of progressive folk this past two days are writing that they will never again vote for Barack Obama. I'm not disagreeing with them. I just think they're following a path set by the right that will damage the country far more than accepting the austerity thematics/dramatics. These folk are buying into the idea that we have a unitary executive. They have accepted what the right has worshiped as gospel for at least 30 years. They think we have a king we can vote for. We don't. In fact, we have a populace that increasingly accepts that we don't have a role in governance, and we elect 'leaders' who have no principles by which to govern. We blame the President for not being what he/she was never meant to be.
Alex Knapp makes really great points:
Any prioritization scheme amounts to the Treasury making de facto appropriations decisions.
I think this is worrisome. But on the other hand, it goes to a trend in our politics that has been escalating since the 1960s. More and more, Congress has been willing to simply forego its role in making policy to the President. This trend has only been highlighted during the Obama Administration, because Obama, more than any President in recent memory, has been deferential to Congress' role as policymaker. We saw that in the Health Care Bill and Stimulus Packages, and we're seeing it now in the debt ceiling fiasco. The result is an almost desperate flailing by Congress to get the President to do something. That's a bad thing for Constitutional governance.
Third and finally, however, there's a lot of rhetoric in conservative circles about fidelity to the Constitution. Well, it's clear who's supposed to originate budget and revenue related policy: Congress. Not the President. Congress. All the Constitution allows is for the President to veto budget laws. Yes, we've established a tradition of the President putting forth policy, but it's just that - a tradition. And not a healthy one.
That's the point that keeps getting missed with the frustration, desperation and agitation over this debt ceiling fiasco. It isn't Obama's job to fix this problem. It wasn't his job to fix health care, or DADT or DOMA. It isn't the job of the President to "fix" Congress. It's ours. And holy crap have we dropped the ball. 'Fixing' Congress should be the clear principle we follow. After all, it's stated very clearly in the Constitution that that's our job, our goal and our agreement by which we will live with ourselves in this country.
President Obama has already said that this debate may be the one that 'gets him fired' next year. If the 'Tubes are to be believed, it will be. To me, that's fine. He's already done more for the effort of forcing Congress to represent in 3 years than any President I remember in the last 30. He's tried to get Congress to do it's job. We progressives love to talk about how we want to hold politicians "accountable". Obama has actually attempted to do that. I respect that effort. It won't make me vote for him; I have other reasons to do that. But his efforts speak clearly to my principles, chief among them supporting the rule of law as defined by the Constitution. I don't like this budget "compromise", which is more of a capitulation. But if we want different, perhaps we'd be better served by getting the Tea Party and corporate Republicans out of our governance.
I've no interest in having the same tired arguments about how corporations force every hand in the voting booth save our special digits, when we bother to bring them. There is no point to discussing how big money purchases our politicians. If all that caterwaul is universally true, then there isn't a damned thing we can do anyway, and all this smack talk about how Obama is dead to our principled selves is just ego blather. Our politicians will do what we want when ~we~ remember who they serve and why. They take an oath to serve the Constitution. It's hard for them to remember that, I'm certain, when the electorate forgets that we implicitly serve the Constitution as well, as it serves us. A unitary executive doesn't serve anyone, and there is strictly no principled point to demanding that it will. That's where the Republican/Tea Party fails the principles of the Constitution. If the American people didn't agree with them, the Overton Window wouldn't be drifting to the right. I wonder why many on the left are so willing to follow those lemmings off that cliff.
I haven't any doubt that there will be those who read this and say to themselves "He's just a Demorat/Obamabot defending President Betrayer". Hardly. Turner, over at 4 &20, sarcastically asked:
Would President Bachmann please you?
My answer: Yes, IF I could have a Congress that actually represented the will of the people, and was actually capable of accomplishing anything.
(X-posted at A Chicken Is Not Pillage)