Is That the Alarm Clock I Hear Ticking, Or is It a Time-Bomb?

By Richard Thayer

Which plan was it that just fell through Friday concerning Congress’s efforts at avoiding a nation-wide default on August 2? Was it Plan B? Or was Plan B the one the Gang of Six was working on? Or was that the Bowles-Simpson Plan? Or was Plan B the “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill that got whacked in the Senate on Friday?

By my estimation, we must be up to at least Plan G. How many Plans can we come up with and knock down by August 2nd? Do you think we can get to Z? Heck, it’s worth a try.

Well, as you may have heard by now, unless you’ve just been watching the sports channels, the White House’s efforts at striking the “grand bargain” came to a screeching halt on Friday after one of the key players in the game, Speaker of the House John Boehner, decided he wasn’t going to meet with the president on Friday as planned. It has been labeled a “walk out” by the Speaker, but I thought you had to actually be somewhere and then walk out in order for it to be considered a “walk out.”

At any rate, semantics aside, Rep. Boehner did not return a call from the President of the United States on Thursday evening. As a matter of fact, he didn’t return the call to the president until Friday afternoon at 5:30. That’s when he presumably told the president he was walking out even before he got there. Talk about lazy. And, get this, he told the president of his plans after he told the news media. If you Google the phrase “politically incorrect” you will get several million responses, all of them featuring the picture of John Boehner.

In addition to the current meetings between the president and congressional leaders being called the “grand bargain,” it has also been labeled the “eleventh hour plan.” But I thought we had passed the eleventh hour several days ago. With the president’s call for something to be in writing and before Congress by no later than Wednesday, aren’t we actually only a few minutes from midnight by now?

Earlier in the week, the White House had said that July 22 was the day Congress needed to identify a path forward and begin work on passing the bill.

If my calendar is correct, July 22 was Friday and the day of this posting–Saturday–is July 23. And the path forward has not yet been identified. Which would seem to indicate that we’re now in very deep do-do. And it could get a whole lot deeper by next week if something isn’t done pronto.

The main obstacle to an agreement seems to be the Republican leadership’s opposition to tax increases on the wealthy. They keep referring to it as a tax increase on the “American taxpayer,” but everyone knows that’s not true, except for Fox News viewers (But from what I’ve seen, that’s a pretty significant number).

Despite the fact that President Obama has stated repeatedly that no deficit bill would be passed if there weren’t significant tax increases on the wealthy, the Republican leadership continues in its efforts to pass such legislation. One example of this is the “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill that was voted down by the Senate on Friday. It was all about cutting expenses and nary a word about revenues.

We once a had a bluejay living in our back yard. By all appearances it seemed like your average, run-of-the-mill bluejay except for one odd characteristic. Every day, for a week or more, it kept flying into the mirror image of itself on a pane of glass in the back door leading out onto our deck. Every day, for an hour or two each day, it would repeatedly fly into that pane of glass. Despite all that head-thwacking, it never did get through to the imaginary bluejay on the other side. All it got was a bloody beak and a bad headache.

Congressional leaders (including Rep. Boehner) will be meeting today (Saturday) at the White House. If they don’t find another way to get to the other side of that door that they’ve been bashing their heads against, we will be the ones who come away from this with bloody beaks and bad headaches.

And the pain will last for an incredibly long time.