(Denver Post, Nov. 27) “Thanksgiving and Christmas 2011, now those were tough times. The House and Senate couldn’t agree on raising taxes. Denver and Aurora couldn’t agree on the Stock Show.
“Democrats couldn’t get excited about Obama. Republicans couldn’t get excited about anyone. It was grim, I tell you. Worse than 1933, with unemployment over 20%, Hitler and Stalin menacing Europe.
“Worse than 1942, with the world in flames, the Allies beset by Germany and Japan. Worse than 1968, with assassinations, race riots, failed presidencies, antiwar marches.
“No, youngsters, none of those dark days compared with the year we lost Steve Jobs. Elway was dissing Tebow. Big Air was cancelled. Black December, we called it. Be grateful you weren’t born yet.”
Will Grandpa be narrating such melodrama by a Colorado fireside decades from now? Hardly. So why the long face? We’ve survived worse than this. Purpose and grit will get us through. Coloradans have backbone. Our best days are ahead, there’s no doubt of it.
Yet four out of five Americans in a recent poll said the country is now in decline. Maybe we are beginning to see ourselves as a people that things happen to, rather than what we’ve historically been since Pilgrim times – a people who make things happen. It’s a huge difference; and fortunately, it’s still our choice.
Local reaction to failure of the congressional “supercommittee” to reach a deficit-reduction agreement, as reported last week by the Denver Post, portrayed Colorado as an almost helpless dependent of the federal budget. The state will be a less desirable place to live in dozens of ways, one gathered, if spending growth slows down to keep America from a Greek-style fiscal collapse. Woe is us.
The obvious rejoinder is twofold, it seems to me. First, let’s have some perspective here. Spending growth HAS to slow. Barreling along on the current unsustainable path is not an option. It would make all 50 of the states a worse place to live.
Second, since the budget binge is clearly ending, deal or no deal, let’s make a virtue of necessity and get busy positioning Colorado for greater economic self-sufficiency. The time should come when we’re NOT a groveling client of the Beltway. How about both parties in the legislature and the Hickenlooper administration vying to outdo each other on reforms toward that goal, come January?
New Year’s confetti will hardly be swept up, of course, when presidential politics goes white-hot with caucuses and primaries, Colorado included. Some say that movement on policy will then halt because of election-year posturing. But considering our state’s particular leverage in the 2012 race, why do we have to accept that?
We’ll not only be a battleground state again as we were in 2008. This time, Colorado could play the decisive role that Florida played in 2000. Strategists on both sides have spun out scenarios in which our nine electoral votes tip the balance of 269 to elect the incumbent or the challenger. (Lucky we stayed off the National Popular Vote bandwagon.)
So we will have, to put it mildly, the respectful attention of both Obama and his opponent – Romney, Gingrich, or whoever – all the way to November. As individual voters and especially through our organized groups, we should be thinking about what we want from them. I don’t mean our selfish wants, but our agenda for the civic good, for America’s renewal.
Our state is being paid yet another compliment, if you can call it that, as pundits left and right predict that the “fear and loathing” attack campaign Obama used to rescue Sen. Michael Bennet’s reelection here in 2010 will become his own national theme against the GOP in 2012. If true, too bad. Such scaremongering demeans our intelligence and our backbone. Will Coloradans stand for it? Stay tuned.
The congressional supercommittee did not have to be Superman, leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. The mission was more on the order of being lackadaisical traffic cops. See all those cars going 100 mph? Let's get the accelerator madness down to 96 or 97, OK?
Sorry, but committee members avoided even that duty. The Democrats wanted a ruinous, trillion-dollar, hit-the-rich-hard tax increase as the major part of a $1.2 trillion, relatively picayunish, 10-year deficit reduction in $45 trillion worth of corruptly tinged spending that threatens immediate crisis and long-term suffering.
Think of it as incumbency investment. Every dollar spent helps buy a vote from some constituency or the other. The rich have few votes, and why get serious about slowing down government growth when we can happily imitate the modern-day, near-collapse of Greece? We can also look forward to our struggling children and grandchildren cursing us as the most selfish, freebie-inebriated generation in American history when they have to foot the bill.
The Republicans on the committee were better. They at least favored some halfway meaningful cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the most threatening programs in our budgetary future. And despite the overreach of multiple pledges to avoid any and all new taxes, one brave GOP soul stood tall for tax reform simplifying our system, ending numerous corporate and individual deductions and raising revenue both by boosting the economy and grabbing more money right away through the revisions.
But no deal is not a new deal, and we're not going to be saved by the standby law that mostly skips over the entitlements, says phooey on a strong defense and makes it likely that George W. Bush-era tax decreases will be allowed to perish.
That law, referred to as "sequestering," does allow some reductions in Medicare fees paid to doctors and hospitals, meaning health-care providers that do not drop out of Medicare or go out of business will make up the loss by scheduling more appointments, it has been argued.
Don't worry about defense because we don't need as much as we have and there's lots of waste out there, some conservatives join liberals in averring. I, myself, think we still live in a dangerous world and have noticed our secretary of defense saying the cuts could make us weaker than in decades. While I am persuaded by experts that our defense structure needs reshaping to better meet current needs, I do not think lower budgets will accomplish that end. And since when does lowering a bureaucracy's budget do away with a bureaucracy's waste?
If the Bush tax cuts go away, the middle class will learn just how significant they were to them, despite prattle to the contrary, and if we get no leadership soon -- agreeing on $4 trillion worth of 10-year cuts in increased spending right away, and more trillions to come -- the recent news of a record $15 trillion debt will seem a sneeze prior to the heart attack.
Sadly, President Barack Obama, having failed at governing, has turned practically full time to the only thing he does well -- campaigning. He has repeatedly turned his back on opportunities to deal with the debt, negotiates mostly through the inoperable techniques of aloofness and lambasting, aims to please the crowd with dangerous, envy-mongering demagoguery, and has been earning the disgust even of devout followers, one of them being ultra-liberal MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews.
"He never tells what he's going to do with regard to reforming our health-care systems, Medicare, Medicaid," Matthews said before a national TV audience. "How is he going to reform Social Security? Is he going to deal with long-term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How? Just tell us. Why are we in this fight with him? Just tell us, commander, give us our orders and tell us where we're going."
My apologies for the Matthews understatement. In addition to offering no leadership, Obama has even pledged to veto steps in the right direction. Many cheer, but more and more, people seem to be catching on.