Did anyone expect the bipartisan "supercommittee" to successfully lay out a budget plan? We already know DC is ridiculously polarized, but this was just the banana on the sundae, and it's clear that voters can't digest this for much longer. That is not to say, however that I personally wanted them to flounder; any sliver of progress would've been appreciated, and the supercommittee failed to accomplish even that. This is a crisis not only on the national level but globally; with Europe facing its own fiscal dilemma, our allies need the United States' investment more than ever. And yet, with the whole world watching no congressman or senator on either side of the fence could put aside their petty differences and compromise.
The problem with the federal budget crisis --and the toxic nature of Washington in general-- is that it cannot be pinpointed to one single person. The average conservative would blame President Obama or former Speaker Pelosi, but the seeds were planted long before either took their respective office. The common liberal would blame former President Bush if only because the economy tanked on his watch, but it's far more complicated than that. For drawing a divide between the left and right I would give a certain amount of credit to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who infamously barred members of his party from associating with Democrats, even on a social level, with censure as punishment. Newt's successor Dennis Hastert didn't so much enforce the backdoor policy so much as let it pour over to both parties, and by the time Nancy Pelosi became speaker the damage was done.
For the economic stalemate, I have grown more exasperated with Grover Norquist with each passing day. If you'll excuse this HuffPo link, Andy Reinbach couldn't have said it better: Norquist has forced, bullied, and otherwise persuaded most of Republicans in Congress to swear they'll never raise taxes, hook, line or sinker. People tend to forget that the ongoing fiscal situation was brought upon by the defaults and bankruptcies of several major banks as well as irresponsible federal spending. Taxation was, if anything, a distant third in the blame game; lowering taxes is barely feasible at the moment, but eradicating them completely would only send us all further down the sinkhole. Norquist's theories on tax reform, while noble to a degree, are irrational and strident. If you want to cast stones, don't hurl them at the status quo so much as the people behind the status quo.
The 2012 election is less than a year away, and it's already sizing up to be the most important vote of our lifetimes. I would expect a greater purging of incumbents than in 2010; what is up for grabs is which party will suffer more casualties in Congress, and whether that will trickle up to the Oval Office. The Republican takeover last year was intended to clean up the Democrats; however, the GOP's chances in '12 have been hurt by their constant gridlock approach. At the moment I see no heroes, no knights in shining armor; just fools and puppets.
+ With minimal context, here is my seventh annual list of things I am thankful (and not quite as graceous) for:
Thanks: Groupon deals, Sudoku, my sudden turnaround in fantasy football (4-2 after an 0-5 start), the Chicago improv community, my patient roommate, and most importantly my friends and family.
No Thanks: Orly Taitz, "9-9-9," truly experiencing Chicago's infamous "lakefront effect" 2 1/2 miles west of Lake Michigan, the dearth of entry-level job postings online, corrupt college football programs, and forcing to budget myself to absurd extremes.
+ Finally, the jazz nerd in me has to acknowledge this. Earlier today the world lost drummer Paul Motian, the last surviving member of the "classic" Bill Evans Trio lineup of the late '50s/early '60s. Though he was a prolific leader and sideman for over half a century, he is best remembered for his percussion panache alongside Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro. Even more tragic is that he survived those bandmates by a solid three decades; LaFaro was killed in a car accident in 1961, Evans died of natural causes in 1980. Known for his work ethic, he was playing gigs at New York's Village Vanguard up to four weeks before his death. Motian painted colors on the drumset, and today the world feels a little more black and white without his presence.
Next week: the year in music, 1986. Happy Thanksgiving!