Guest View: Friday the 13th – Trick or Treat?

We were scuba diving almost 100 feet underwater, 30 miles from nowhere. An environmentally unconscious stranger in the dive group grabbed an octopus. It sucked in sea water, then squirted it out to jet onto Tom’s mask and clamp its tentacles around his head, like a bucking bronco rider hanging on for dear life. Its suckers started tugging the life-giving air “regulator” from his mouth. His tank was running out of air. And an “emergency ascent” might give him the “bends” and kill him.
The sea monster – unforgettable eye-level suckers and oyster shell-piercing beak an inch from Tom’s eyes – instantly chameleoned to exactly color-Xerox his head and dive-mask. Which made it time-and-air-consuming for the other divers to help wrestle the camouflaged octopus off his head without hurting it.
(The Pentagon must be sparing no expense to perfect a military version. Before Austin Powers’s archrival, “Dr. Evil” does.)
So, that helpless, “how-do-we-get-out-of-this-incredible-(economically)-underwater-mess” feeling Americans shared, during the Tea Party’s October shutdown of a huge engine driving our economy, was nothing new to our family. And now we, like other Americans who have been “mistaken for suckers” (this time, by the Tea Party) are skeptically wondering, “Is the TP’s dropping back from its Showdown at the No Pay Corral and punting the budget deadline to Friday, December 13th a treat – or another political trick?”
Congressman Paul Ryan, (Governor Romney’s vice-presidential running mate), and Democratic Senator Patty Murray chair Congress’s Budget Committees. It’s their joint bipartisan committee’s job to agree on that budget.
Murray is a petite, self-described “mom in tennis shoes”. So she’s a veteran of countless tough budgeting decisions.
Ryan is often described as a tall, lanky version of widow’s-peaked little Eddie Munster in the 1960’s TV monster-comedy “The Munsters.” Most of Ryan’s private sector experience was selling baloney.
(No kidding. Ryan even drove an Oscar Mayer Wiener-mobile.)
The two sides are starting out $91 billion a year apart. So they only have to inch toward each other a couple of billion dollars a day till Friday the 13th. That’s chickenfeed in Washington, right?
Because the Tea Party’s latest government shutdown stunt alone cost our economy – so far – an estimated $24 billion, 120,000 jobs and up to 0.60 percent economic growth. More than the almost-recessionary 0.37% growth in last year’s entire fourth quarter – the hangover from “business uncertainty” caused by the New Year’s Eve 2012 Tea Partiers’ “fiscal cliff” nail-biter.
It’s hoped that a Friday the 13th compromise budget will prevent another government shutdown on January 15th and another credit report-shredding debt default crisis on February 7th.
But the budget Ryan trial-ballooned last year would slash investment in our kids and in America itself to the bone-marrow, to give the generals and admirals trillions more than they dreamed of in their wildest fantasies. It would “end Medicare as we know it”. Ryan has also pushed “ending Social Security as we know it” to turn America from “an insurance company with an army” into “an army with an insurance company.”
President Reagan’s budget director objects that we already lavish more on defense than the next umpteen – actually, 13 to 17 – countries combined. And an ex-Deputy CIA Director just agreed with history’s lesson that it’s more investment in our citizens’ education, in scientific research and development, and in our physical “infrastructure” (such as transportation, communication, water, and school facilities) that will build our economy and keep our beloved country strong and safe.
Last year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to Ryan after he claimed that his budget was inspired by his Roman Catholic faith. The bishops’ epistle advised him that his “death by a thousand cuts” budget better enshrined the selfish dogma of Ryan’s ideological icon, Russian atheist author Ayn Rand – (in whose honor Kentucky’s TP Senator Rand Paul was named) – than the gospel’s core values of love and compassion.
For example, the Ryan budget would slice and dice the meager SNAP benefits that buy our unsubsidized Central Coast food products for seniors, disabled and unemployed veterans, and other unemployed victims of the Bush Crash. To hand out even more corporate welfare, the bishops noted, to keep subsidizing rich Corn and Cotton Belt congressmen’s plantations.
Literally like Eddie Munster taking candy – or pureed broccoli – from a baby. Or from the Addams Family’s old Uncle Fester.
We’ll see by Friday the 13th how much of Ryan’s baloney the Senate’s “mom in tennis shoes” has to swallow. How much more baloney can we afford?
Karen and Tom Lantz, Hollister

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