Opinion: Nation’s blessing are a mixed bag

November 22, 2012


— Among the things for which Americans can, on this feast day, be thankful is Washington’s resolve to temper severity with mercy: It will seriously — this time we really mean business, we are not going to be Greece, or worse, Illinois — restrain spending but will not balance the budget on the backs of popcorn eaters. Growers of this essential snack may yet retain their subsidy, lest the price of a tub of the stuff at the movies soar by a nickel, even a dime. Can’t have that. Or this: “I,” said Terry List, “would not recommend to my pupils to become a teacher in Michigan” because a proposed pension reform would delay her retirement past age 47. Under Michigan’s mandatory evaluation system, all the teachers in Hazel Park School District were given the top rating — “highly qualified” — yet the high school was given an “F” for student achievement.

Ignoring William James’ admonition that one should do an unpleasant duty every day just to stay in moral trim, millions of voters did not dutifully vote. In a burst of ennui, turnout declined for the first time in 16 years. Who says you cannot make a souffle rise twice? Barack Obama was re-elected. Having spent four years making a sow’s ear out of the silk purse of public support with which he began his presidency, he won by essentially vowing for his new term what an NBA player promised his new team: “We’ll turn the program around 360 degrees.” Joe Biden called his boss’s decision to kill Osama bin Laden the most “audacious plan” in 500 years. Pick your counterexamples.

Tina Brown applied her editor’s magic to Newsweek, R.I.P. If only she now could become editor of The New York Times. In a radio broadcast, a Times food columnist said government should “protect us from things from which we can’t protect ourselves.” He meant sugar. Michael Bloomberg, scourge of big sodas, undoubtedly agrees. Angela Prattis, the lunch lady of Chester Township, Pa., was threatened with a $600 fine for giving sandwiches to hungry children but was told she might get permission after a hearing that could cost her $1,000. Proco “Joe” Moreno, a Chicago alderman and ethicist — an unusual combination of vocations — vowed to block Chick-fil-A from building a second Chicago store because the company’s president, like the laws of 37 states — and like the U.S. president until six months ago — defined marriage as between a man and a woman. A Brazilian notary recognized a “civil union” of two women and a man.

You can be queasy being green: A reusable grocery bag was blamed for an outbreak of norovirus-caused diarrhea and nausea. But lighten up, Kermit, it’s lucrative being green. Al Gore (estimated net worth, $100 million) has invested in 14 renewable energy firms that have benefited from $2.5 billion in taxpayer benefits. For the seventh consecutive hurricane season, none hit Florida. After Katrina in 2005, climate-change prophets said major (Category 3 or higher) hurricanes would increase. None has hit the U.S. since that year, the longest period without one since reliable records began being kept in 1851. World corn prices surged 25 percent as America put 40 percent of its crop in gas tanks as ethanol. The Obama administration, claiming creation of 2.7 million “green jobs,” said that category includes sellers of antiques — recycling, you see.

Big Teacher is watching: Some Orwellian school districts asked children to wear bracelets monitoring their physical activity and reporting it to a website. North Haven, Conn., ordered a family to stop keeping “livestock” — a pet rabbit — on its property.

Literature flourished this year as sales of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy passed 40 million. Hot for egalite, France’s new socialist government proposed banning homework because it gives advantages to students from homes conducive to study. Congress found that Amtrak spends $16.15 to make a cheeseburger it sells for $9.50. Houston’s new “pole tax” — $5 per customer at strip clubs — will fund rape investigations because the clubs promote unhealthy attitudes about women. Los Angeles County’s $1 billion pornographic movie industry may decamp for more libertarian precincts now that voters passed a measure requiring performers to wear condoms.

Florence Green, the last World War I veteran anywhere, died in England two weeks shy of 111. Finally, at Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, Ohio, Megan Ryan has Down syndrome and the title of Homecoming Queen, which by itself redeems 2012.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.    


Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

University of California professor Robert Reich said Tuesday night that Republicans would be the losers if Congress failed to negotiate a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

“I think we are moving in the right direction and we are moving in the right direction because the Democrats are holding most of the trump cards,” he said. “If nothing is done, remember, we go back to the Clinton tax rates of the 1990s, which were not all that bad, in fact the economy did quite well under those tax rates. If nothing is done, basically the Republicans lose.”

“And, if the Republicans try to make a case that they are not going to vote for an extension of middle class tax cuts unless the rich also get a tax cut that puts the Republicans in the position of showing America that they are going to hold the middle hostage and they sure are shills for the very rich — something that a lot of people suspect anyway, but that kind of demonstration is not going to be good for the GOP,” Reich added.

Across-the-board spending cuts are set to go into effect at the beginning of 2013 if Congress fails to pass a budget that reduces the federal deficit. The extension of the so-called Bush tax cuts is also set to expire.

Democrats have said they won’t accept any fiscal cliff deal that doesn’t let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire, though they want to keep tax rates for middle- and lower-class Americans unchanged. Republicans have said they will oppose any increase in tax rates, but are open to reducing tax write-offs to increase revenue.

“Just by limiting deductions for the wealthy you can’t get anywhere near the $1.6 trillion,” Reich remarked.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

Believe it or not, the federal deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II....If U.S. history offers any guide, we are already testing the speed limits of a fiscal consolidation that doesn't risk backfiring. That's why the best way to address the fiscal cliff likely is to postpone it.

....Other occasions when the federal deficit contracted by much more than 1 percentage point a year have coincided with recession. Some examples include 1937, 1960 and 1969.

This three-year window feels a little like cherry-picking to me. I'm not sure it has any special value aside from the fact that it happens to give us a comparison with the peak deficit year of 2009, therefore making this year's decline look especially steep. Still, there's no question that no matter what window you look at, the deficit is shrinking at a pretty rapid pace, as the chart on the right shows.

And Graham is right: this means that the government "already has its foot on the brakes" at a time when our recovery from the Great Recession is still pretty fragile. Braking even harder isn't a great idea right now.

There's nothing wrong with negotiating over long-term deficit reduction, but that's all we should be negotiating over: long-term reduction. Over the next year or two, there's really no reason we should be shrinking the deficit at all.


Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

Corporate America has been leaving the USA quickly and forgetting to create new jobs on the way to China.

Therefore using borrowed money to create new long term employment or fill many many vacancies throughout government makes good sense. If the country simply reduces spending without a ton of new employment backed with long term employment = going nowhere. Investing in jobs and nationalized industry = a tax dollar payback.

The USA either puts people to work or continue to extend benefits which does not do anything to reduce the 20 million looking for decent long term employment.

Republicans have quickly returned to their long term position of declaring the day Obama was elected their primary function would be to make democrats look bad no matter the cost to the nation. Consequently their millions of NO votes became the disastrous campaign against women,The USA and jobs for Americans. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/09/did-republicans-deliberately-crash-us-economy

Placing control of the white house and congress above the nations economy and above the need to put 20 million Americans back to work celebrating Mom and apple pie is childish and fiscally reckless.... can we say fiscally incompetent.

Frankly this group of radical right wing zealots should never be returned to the white house or congress for they have demonstrated this uncanny ability to produce two major home loan scams and get the the country into major war campaigns both of which are tax dollar money holes.

Corporate America constantly expecting taxpayer bailouts is a money losing proposition.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Nancy Boy, is that you?

Your "secular progressive" line reminds me of bygone times...

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

Nope. not him. There was another who follows O'Reily like a sheep...

weeslicket 5 years, 6 months ago

in a spat with tange, you say this: "I have asked you on another thread to not reply to my comments in the future. See below: @ Agnostick: ... "


deec 5 years, 6 months ago

Golly, if I was fabulously wealthy, I think I'd find more interesting things to do than hang out on a small city newspaper forum posting derogatory comments about other people.

Reminds me of this fabulous Python skit:


Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

Judging from his posts, he reminds me more of this hilarious Python skit.

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

I take that back, deec. Judging from his most recent post below, this skit reminds me more of him.

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

Bless your little heart. I neither called you a twit nor an idiot. I said those videos by Monty Python remind me of you. There are lots of reasons why if you watch them.

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

It is humorous that you have decided what I am considering I have never discussed my religious beliefs here.

It is also amusing that you take a swipe at coupon clipping which has absolutely nothing to do with politics or religion. Also equally amusing is that statement about a Communist re-education camp in the same post. It certainly demonstrates that you have little to no understanding of what that term means. Coupon clipping + Communism = LOL

Honestly, if this is the best you can do, bless your little heart most certainly applies.

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

It is interesting how you label people who disagree with you as takers. You and your fellow faux conservatives have demonstrated you have little to no understanding how an economy works. Keep doubling down on the derp. It has worked so well for you.

The only thing you are correct about is that some things are better left to the adults. Thank goodness the adults are the ones who won the election this year.

deec 5 years, 6 months ago

Regardless, you come on here constantly and post nasty comments day in and day out. With your self-described wealth, THIS is how you devote your time? If I were wealthy, I'd have infinitely more interesting options than hanging out on a small city newspaper forum being unpleasant. But that's just me.

jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

Apparently, money doesn't buy happiness.

deec 5 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence is my home. I just can't afford to live there. I now live in Nebraska so we could keep Grandma's house in the family.

Once again, IF I were wealthy, I'd travel, visit museums, etc. I wouldn't spend all day, every day, posing vitriol on a forum.

The preponderance of hatred spewed on this forum is not done by the liberals. It's really too bad a person of means such as yourself has nothing better to do.

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

Oh look, yet another faux conservative playing the victim.

This happens every single time a zombie comes on. There must be a script they go by.

1) Insult others on the thread that don't agree with you lockstep;
2) Cry when they give back what they got;
3) Whine about how the big hateful liberals are so mean to poor lil' innocent you who is just here merely to express your opinion. Nevermind that most disagreeing with you are not liberals;
4) Whine about Agnostick is a big ol' meanie to you (This one happens every time in a lame attempt to get him bounced);
5) Lose your temper and shoot your mouth off;
6) get disappeadeded.

You'd think at some point the formula would change because the end result is always the same but judging from all the after election derp faux conservatives have spewed, it is apparent that they don't learn.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

You follow a script wonderfully. Have you thought about going into theater?

jonas_opines 5 years, 6 months ago

Anonymous Internet Poster: several hours ago

"I am wealthy and successful. (also, very attractive)."

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 6 months ago

Wow, George. The many complaints of a Disappointed Regressive.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 6 months ago

C'mon now, fussy dudes. It's Thanksgiving. The only divisiveness should come from those that slice the pie. Easy on the cloves with lotsa whipped cream.

I like pie.

Orwell 5 years, 6 months ago

OMG! George Will has found a few anecdotal instances of Things That Are Not Perfect, therefore Obama is an evil tyrant!

Let go of your pearls, George, and just tryptophan out for a couple of days – or decades.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 6 months ago

LOL!!!!! And you guys think WE massage numbers when we talk about Brownback in the same terms. :)

riverdrifter 5 years, 6 months ago

Gawd, what a downer holiday for George. Somebody must have peed in his casseroled green beans. Don't go out and hang yourself from the yard arm, Geo.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm thankful our country dodged the bullet. (Albeit with the possible help of Anonymous.)

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