Congressman Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, probably gave the best answer he could on "Meet the Press" last Sunday regarding the tightrope any federal politician these days walks between Uncle Sam's grotesquely irresponsible overspending and the demands from back in the district to bring home the bacon.
Congressman Aaron Schock probably gave the best answer he could on "Meet the Press" last Sunday regarding the tightrope any federal politician these days walks between Uncle Sam's grotesquely irresponsible overspending and the demands from back in the district to bring home the bacon.
"At the end of the day, my constituents and their children and grandchildren will be on the hook for the debt that's being created by this majority," he said, "and they deserve to have their fair share of federal spending."
That's why he was at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield last week touting a $350,000 green technology education grant that as a congressman he voted against, and why fellow "Meet the Press" guest Rachel Maddow was able to chastise him and other Republicans for their "very hypocritical stance" on the red ink Washington is accumulating in unprecedented numbers.
Apparently Republicans have talked about how to respond to such allegations in their caucus, and this is what they've come up with. You hear the same defense so often it can't be coincidence. They'll forgive Americans who still aren't buying it, who interpret Schock's explanation as sounding an awful lot like "if you can't beat them, join them."
Republicans are right in recognizing that the fire that is the national debt is getting mighty hot; what they're wrong about is rationalizing their complicity in throwing more gasoline on it anyway.
We do not think we're wrong in our analysis that what Americans crave most right now is leadership, of which there is no better kind than that which expresses itself through example. Every time Republicans show up at one of these ribbon cuttings or press conferences to laud a project they opposed, well, let's just say they should get used to the charges of "hypocrisy." They cannot divorce themselves, try as they might, from their roles in aggravating the problem.
If Schock's statement represents the prevailing attitude on Capitol Hill - and we believe it does - then the nation is headed for bankruptcy. And trust us when we say few but the utterly brainwashed will tolerate the tortured defenses and parsed explanations of those who were responsible for it. Of course the largest part of that responsibility right now falls on Democrats, who invoke different defenses but in fact have gone on a spending binge like few if any before them, for which they should absolutely be held accountable.
Indeed, thank goodness for New York Times columnist David Brooks, who was the only one at the "Meet the Press" roundtable to cut through the partisan blame game happening before him. "This conversation exemplifies what's wrong with Washington. It's like two guys fighting in the ocean to see who drowns first. ... Both parties are responsible for the fiscal suicide."
That perception was reinforced this week by former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyoming, who on Thursday was named co-chairman of the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which had to be created by executive order because Congress simply would not go along. "There isn't a single sitting member of Congress - not one - that doesn't know exactly where we're headed," Simpson told the New York Times. "And to use the politics of fear and division and hate on each other - we are at a point right how where it doesn't make a damn whether you're a Democrat or a Republican if you've forgotten you're an American."
If only we could be assured Congress was listening. Indeed, we fear that G. William Hoagland, a GOP fiscal policy adviser who's been witness to past bipartisan budget summits, is right when he notes that "I used to think it would take a global financial crisis to get both parties to the table, but we just had one. ... These days I wonder if this country is even governable."
On Wednesday the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - the vaunted stimulus bill - had its first anniversary, though few outside the White House were celebrating. The bill has become the GOP's favorite punching bag, but in fact this budget meltdown has been decades in the making. Between hyper-inflated health care costs and the retirements of the Baby Boomers, all knew this day was coming, if not quite this soon with a recession that just doesn't want to quit. Big as the stimulus package was - nearly $800 billion - it pales in comparison to those other costs.
If our politicians cannot get their act together to address this problem, if nothing comes of the deficit reduction commission, if they prove they have forgotten they are Americans, they will give voters little choice but to declare war on incumbents, Democrat and Republican alike. There ought to be hell to pay.
Peoria Journal Star