Steyn: Congress Spent “Two Months Negotiating 10 Hours of Savings”

Posted: Jan 05, 2013 2:10 PM

Writing in the Orange County Register, conservative-leaning political commentator Mark Steyn explains -- and exposes -- the utter frivolity of the latest “fiscal cliff” compromise. Here’s the most galling excerpt:

Washington keeps proving the point. The political class has just spent two months on a down-to-the-wire nail-biting white-knuckle thrill-ride negotiation the result of which is more business as usual. At the end, as always, Dr. Obama and Dr. Boehner emerge in white coats, surgical masks around their necks, bloody scalpels in hand, and announce that it was touch-and-go for awhile but the operation was a complete success – and all they've done is applied another temporary Band-Aid that's peeling off even as they speak. They're already prepping the OR for the next life-or-death surgery on the debt ceiling, tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday or a week on Thursday or the third Sunday after Epiphany.

No epiphanies in Washington: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the latest triumphant deal includes $2 billion of cuts for fiscal year 2013. Wow! That's what the Government of the United States borrows every 10 hours and 38 minutes. Spending two months negotiating 10 hours of savings is like driving to a supermarket three states away to save a nickel on your grocery bill.

It sounds foolish, doesn’t it? I mean, the Congress literally spends months debating the ins and outs of an impending “compromise” -- only to wind up with a deeply flawed bill that does virtually nothing to solve the greatest challenges of our time. (There’s also a zero percent chance that members of the upper chamber actually read every page of the legislation before they voted on it). Nice going, guys. Meanwhile, there’s also this important little nugget:

On Monday, 300 million Americans did not know what their tax rates would be on Tuesday. That's ridiculous.

Then, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spent the night alone in a room with Joe Biden (which admittedly few of us would have the stomach for). And when they emerged they informed those 300 million Americans what their tax rates now were. That's unseemly.

Then, in the small hours of the morning, the legislature rubber-stamped it. That's repulsive.

There's a term for societies where power-brokers stitch up the people's business in back rooms and their pseudo-parliaments sign off on it at 3 a.m., and it isn't a "republic of limited government by citizen-representatives."

No, no it isn’t. But at least now I fully understand why Congress’s disapproval rating has been hovering at -- or around -- historic lows since 2011. In any case, the point is how is it even possible that on Monday night pretty much no one -- except, of course, for those in high national office -- knew what their tax rates would be when they woke up the following morning? Is this really the way the founders expected the Congress to operate and conduct the public’s business? The answer is no, of course, but that doesn’t seem to bother them in the slightest. And why should it?

They’re just doing what they do best: kicking the can down the road until the next crisis comes along, while taking all the credit for averting a man-made catastrophe they themselves created. Brilliant.