Wrestlemania, Washington style

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for contrived political melodramas like the fight in Washington over the federal budget.

President Barack Obama, the Democratic Senate and the Republican House have been playing brinksmanship for weeks over how much to cut, with the threat of a federal government shutdown looming in the background.

The closer they seem to get, the further apart they seem to be as the national political debate resembles the WWE more every day, with clownish men and women bulked up on partisan steroids playing to the gallery with intentions that have more to do with drawing political blood and ducking blame than setting national spending.

Writing a budget is one of the main responsibilities of Congress and six months into the year they don’t have a budget for this year, much less an orderly process underway for drafting next year’s.

It’s hard to disagree with our own Sen. Daniel Inouye that this is no way to fund a government, and the unbecoming circus puts me in a “wake me up when they make a decision” state of mind.

I fully realize that tuning out the foreplay can be a dangerous thing. I paid little attention to the chest-thumping leading up to the Iraq war because deep down, I didn’t believe George W. Bush would be stupid enough to start dropping bombs.

Eight years later, I still don’t believe it.

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11 Comments on “Wrestlemania, Washington style”

  1. Kolea Says:

    Dave,

    I am paying closer attention to local developments, so correct me if I misunderstand what is happening in broad outline.

    The Dems proposed smaller cuts, the GOP wanted a lot more. The Dems gave in and met the GOP’s target goal for cuts. The GOP congresscritters then huddled and decided “They gave in so easily, let’s ask for more!” So they DOUBLED their demand for cuts or they would shut down the government.

    Outside observer, neutral, non-partisan and proudly independly, looks upon the situation and with Solomonic wisdom, proclaims both sides are equally guilty?

    (Notice how I didn’t even mention how the Dems had earlier given in on the GOP’s threat to shut down the government if the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250K were not extended, even though those cuts greatly expanded the deficit.)

    A pattern emerges. The GOP is in the grip of their hardline, Tea Party wing, which pushes them to make ever more extreme demands. The Dems capitulate, time after time. The right gets ever more emboldened. The corporate media refuses to referee what is going on. After all, there ARE two sides, each led (or misled) by a political party. So what can they do. except adopt the “he said, she said” both sides are equally valid?

    I gotta go back to the root cause of all this: Punahou! If only Obama’s mama had sent him to public school! He woulda learned how to stand up to bullies.

    “Hey Barry! You got quarter? Give me your lunch money!”

  2. Richard Gozinya Says:

    To appropriate Mr. Shapiro’s prose:

    “The older I get, the less tolerance I have for contrived political melodramas like the notion of “Shared Sacrifice” which actually gives the HGEA members a sweeter deal than they have at present.

    Or as the StarAdvertiser editorial put it today…

    “For taxpayers, however, the pay cut actually would be a raise over current levels…”

    And to add insult to injury, our Satrap of Shared Sacrifice not only poked the long suffering taxpayers, but made sure that any better deal made with another government union would be available to HGEA.

    Locally or nationally, any faith and trust in political weasels is misplaced and I apologize in advance for disparaging the weasel. Aiyah!

    /rant over,breathe deep, start weekend…..

  3. Michael Says:

    Should get the Majority Speaker and Minority Speaker in the ring and winner take all. I bet my money on Nancy. Boehner would end up crying after peeling unions.

    Our Government leaders should have a Furlough Friday so the Government of the People, by the People and for the People can get paid. We of Hawaii are not in a canoe but more like in quicksand.
    Our Government leaders don’t realize that the more they struggle the faster we sink.

  4. el guapo Says:

    Prior HGEA Contract vs Proposed Contract from the employee’s position

    9% pay reduction vs. 5% pay cut
    24 furlough days off vs. 9 administrative days off
    pay 40% of medical premiums vs. pay 50% of premiums

    Government pays about 2% more for 5.7% more work days. Pay does go up, but who got the better deal?

  5. Kolea Says:

    @el guapo,

    Thanks for bringing a little reality in to the theatrics around the HGEA proposed settlement.

    A lot of conservatives like to insinuate the Democratic elected officials are pawns of the public sector unions, particularly HGEA. In this instance, I think the HGEA leadership were viewing themselves as having a responsibility to help the administration and Legislature resolve the budget crisis. The rank and file members may be a bit more concerned with the “micro-economic” problems of their families’ lives than the macro-economic problems of the State or the political problems this has caused for the elected officials.

    A lot of my friends who are government employees look at it along the lines you have spelt out with your math. They would rather have two furlough days and a 9% loss of income than a 5% paycut working more days.

    Welcome to “homo economicus,” the rational worker.

    I would not be surprised if this proposed settlement is rejected by the rank and file. Those who have bought into the rightwing framework and rail against “greedy union bosses” might find the union leaders are more willing to compromise than the workers they represent. Not that such a discovery would ever impact their anti-union stereotypes or rhetoric.

  6. David Shapiro Says:

    I don’t get the virulent demands in some quarters for more blood from public workers. A 5 percent pay cut and the higher medical premium is a significant dent in their paychecks when they’re facing higher taxes, gas costs, etc. like everybody else. The comp time isn’t ideal, but a precedent was set for compensating pay reductions with time off and it’s hard to undo. For the state to get back more than half of the days off while giving up less than half of the pay reductions seems advantageous, given that comp days don’t shut government offices and are less disruptive to public services than furloughs. The comp time needn’t be a cost item if it’s smartly managed and can’t be cashed out or carried over.

    HGEA members would probably be ill-advised to refuse to ratify. I doubt an arbitrator would give them a better deal than their leadership negotiated. It could get worse with two or three mayors arguing for more concessions.

  7. steve Says:

    Brilliant article, Dave. “Contrived political melodramas” is exactly right.

    As for the HGEA discussion, as an essential State employee and HGEA member, instead of furloughs I received a 5% pay cut. The only thing this new deal would mean for me is more paid time off and a little higher medical pay. I already get more paid leave now than at all my previous jobs, and as a taxpayer in all honesty it’s quite appalling, and a private business ran like this could NEVER stay afloat, much less be profitable…

  8. el guapo Says:

    One thing to keep in mind – the more government employees make, the more they spend, and that is good for everyone.

  9. Kolea Says:

    @el guapo,

    I wouldn’t push that point too far.

    Public worker salaries DO “multiply” through the economy, but so do those of private sector employees. And, for that matter, the earnings of small business owners.

    When my income is taxed to pay public worker salaries, that is money that was otherwise going to be spent locally as well.

    Except I would be the one eating in the local restaurant or quenching my thirst at the local pub.

    There is some merit in your point, however. Particularly when we look at tax policy and income distribution. Higher income people spend a smaller portion of their income than middle and low income folks. They tend to save and invest. Mid and low income people have “a higher propensity to spend.” Which is exactly what needs to be encouraged if we want to help our local small businesses to stay afloat. Those small businesses, in turn, provide jobs, which provides wages and creates MORE consumer purchasing power. Stimulating local consumption stimulates small business and the economy slowly climbs out of the recesssion. Cutting wages for a significant portion of the work force, in this case public workers, dries up consumption and it is a negative, downward dynamic which ripples through the economy, prolonging and deepening the crisis.

    So slashing public worker salaries would be one of the WORST things government could do under these circumstances. Taxing low and middle income people would be a close second. The BEST solution under our immediate circumstances, is to raise taxes on upper income people and non-residents while NOT raising them on low and middle income folks. The Senate bill, which would have raised the GET while protecting low and middle income Hawaii residents from higher taxes through greatly expanded credits and refunds, would have accomplished that.

    (I apologize, Dave, for helping take this discussion so far off-topic. I can steer it back on track by pointing out it was Ed Case who helped lead the fight for Ben Cayetano’s botched restructuring of the tax system in 1997. Does that get us back on topic?)

  10. Michael Says:

    Mainland thinking does not work in Hawaii.

  11. heybrah Says:

    With respect to Inouye’s quote, all I can say is “pot kettle black.” Inouye tried to ram through a omnibus spending bill before the November elections. As a leader of the appropriations committee, he’s had a hand in pushing through CR’s, and unusual spending bills, for example in FY 2007, another omnibus spending bill that stripped out all of the earmarks. What’s not unusual about this year? The Congress hasn’t passed a budget on time for decades.


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