One of the more ridiculed schemes to emerge from the Bush administration was the color-coded terror alert system. But the idea isn't totally useless.
First implemented in March 2002 as a "readiness measure," it has been criticized for its wide-ranging ineffectiveness and susceptibility to political manipulation.
Now, really, if we didn't believe in wide-ranging ineffectiveness and susceptibility to political manipulation, we wouldn't bother voting. So, in the spirit of sustainability, there must be some way to retrofit this alert system for a more practical purpose.
You know what Americans could really use these days? A high-quality, five-tiered, color-coded warning system to caution us about the threat level coming out of Washington. As one of those clueless, frothing-at-the-mouth, slack-jawed yokel extremists, I know I certainly could use a color scheme to help me get a handle on such a complex issue.
--Code Green is easy: a low risk of economic attack. It's the default color code for those wondrous days when Congress is on recess and the president is enjoying Martha's Vineyard, Camp David or a Broadway play. We can home in on the "first pets" and swoon over Barack Obama's extraordinary reading list. Isn't he brilliant?
--Code Blue: a general risk of economic attack. This is always the first sign of impending danger. It's when we (the ones we've been waiting for!) are told we have no clue what's best for us.
This is when Nancy Pelosi speaks. This is when "something must be done." This is when elected officials go on imaginary listening tours and feign interest in the riffraff's concerns. This is when we, with only a faint understanding of specifics, are still open to some feel-good, nebulous health care reform.
It is, after all, a moral imperative. A sacred duty. A historical obligation.
--Code Yellow: significant threat of economic attack. Elected officials hunker down and pretend to write legislation that's been authored already by crony capitalists and progressive agenda groups.
Meanwhile, lesser elected officials take brilliantly ambiguous positions on legislation they will never read while waiting for literature they will intensely examine -- namely, poll numbers.
The White House starts doling out treats and threats. The general populace hears phrases like "public option" and "death panels" for the first time. The elderly learn how to use Google.
--Code Orange. "Scaremongering." High risk of economic attack. Congress tries to ram through legislation. But Americans begin to figure out that a public option means, in the long term, a mandated single-payer plan. Then political disaster strikes. Old folks figure out that Ivy League slicksters want to take something from them. They freak the heck out.
First Nazi accusation appears. Moral preening. Children dying. Town halls rocking. Nihilists rising. Wing nuts organizing. Jackboots marching. Members of Congress hiding. God Almighty says do it. Polls fall. Panic ensues. Change the subject. Bush is still evil.
--Code Red: severe risk of economic attack. Peter Orszag revises a forecast. He's only $2 trillion off his initial estimate. No rational human being ever trusts a White House forecast again. Nine trillion dollars in the red (maybe), U.S. national debt will nearly double over the next 10 years -- even without health care reform or cap and trade.
President unfazed. Nothing to see here.
--Code Pink. "Go it alone." Ignore public opinion. Reconciliation enacted. Reform is here. Unintended consequences, stifling bureaucracy, failed promises and more substandard care and rationing to the elderly. An unmitigated disaster. Cuba. No, worse: Canada.
Midterm election lost. Washington mired in debate. Nothing gets done. Hope.
And back to Code Green.