03/20/2005: "Road Trip in a Hummer"
The budget debate is starting to get surreal. One GOP federal legislator after another talks of “responsibility to future generations,” yet the tax cuts and projected deficits keep getting bigger. Both the House and Senate have added additional cuts to those proposed by the Bush Administration. Something is very wrong that tax cuts are even on the table, considering the explosion of the deficit as a result of the prior rounds of cuts. The only conclusion possible – a conclusion that historians will doubtless reach – is that the Republican Party has completely lost touch with reality. As an aid in understanding the reality of this unreal situation, here’s an analogy that likens achieving the budgetary goal on which all parties agree – no more deficits – to a road trip. Setting the scene, imagine that the journey began in Washington DC on inauguration day 2001 with the objective of driving cross-country to Pike’s Peak. Let’s also stipulate that the car’s driver has a strong preference for right turns, perhaps from frustration with the accommodations that left turns require (since both lanes need to be clear of oncoming traffic). Let’s say that the most recent segment of the journey began the day that the Bush Administration first admitted that the deficit they’d run up needed to be addressed. I picture this as the hard-headed driver being stuck in the middle of nowhere (say a Red State) after ill-advised seat-of-the-pants navigation. At first he tells the passengers of the vehicle that it was entirely appropriate that he’s only making right turns, that they’re not in fact lost, and isn’t the scenery they’re driving through nice? Eventually, though, every lost driver, no matter how macho, is forced to admit that the trip isn’t going as well as he promised it would. So does he change the behavior that got them all lost in the first place? Well, if the vehicle belongs to the GOP (in other words, a gas-guzzling testosterone SUV like a Hummer), the short answer would be “no.” When arriving at an intersection, they’d still only turn to the right, even if a left turn might work much better for getting them to their destination. And of course they’d be constantly making spurious stops at tacky attractions. For example, if a right turn takes them past a baseball event, they’re stopping! If there’s a dedication for the new oilfield in the wildlife refuge, they’re stopping! If there’s a state law they want to weigh in against, they’re stopping! Will they ever make it to the top of Pike’s Peak? Well, every day they’re boasting amount how much ground they’ve covered!