The Disconnect

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 18, 2009

images23The disconnect between what is inside the Beltway and who is outside that twisted petty politrick of partisan rubble is a rather peculiar human state. To say D.C. is self-insulated from the rest of that which it governs is somewhat of an understatement. It’s peculiar because the nation’s capitol is a rather transient town, a shuffling hub of where it starts, where it ends and where it’s at. With a nativist Washingtonian pitch to kill any classroom dissent, a college professor once piped that while ” … New York City is retail, D.C. is wholesale.”

Cool, he’s right on many levels. But here’s a dribble of dissent: if that’s the case, how come Washington can’t get past its perception of itself or what it’s doing? There’s something insanely self-absorbing and masturbatory about Washington, the adulation it gives itself in abrupt defiance of the world around it. There’s a distressing Copernican play about it, but it’s the Washington we hate to love, love to hate. Without it being Washington, what is it then?

Still it’s no different from any other big town defined by its industry and chiseled further by its character. Centers of pop-culture dominance ripe for criticism and a curious sort of envy. Problem here is that Washington runs things, hence the expectation of representation is justified. This town’s disconnect with that expectation breeds a somewhat troubling trend, its inability to clearly elucidate its intentions wrapped in the eager gamesmanship we see each headline. Mostly conservative Republicans relegated to a whining minority appear to rant and stage fits on anything that they define as “liberal.” Democrats, barely managing the bloat of total power, are too ideologically disjointed to liberally respond, but smack back with lectures on the virtue of bipartisanship. The two parties are like angry tennis players sliding crazily on a clay court, banging away through annoyingly long sets. Point is, they don’t see or really care what we think after going at it for so long. And, we become mere spectators of the sport.

Giving fair credit to the president, this dude is moving at political light speed. Although old school wisdom teaches that the details always slip through the cracks of the bare knuckle bum rush, we understand that the times require dramatic measures. So, we’ll tolerate the missed step or two and deal with the consequences of political rapidity later. Still, the interesting thing about this massive push to revive our free falling economy is the disparity between how much the public knows about the politics behind it and the economic fundamentals which caused it. On the up side, this White House gets props for the great, open and rather transparent civics lesson taking place. But, the politics may be obfuscating the gritty reality of job loss, foreclosures and financial decay. As a result, fair-minded average folks struggling each day don’t understand the mechanics of this debate about what to do.

You know that when folks are hard pressed to ask the wonks and experts if they’ll be seeing any money in their hands anytime soon. One frequent question: why not give us the money? It’s a valid question given the fact we don’t know much about the use of the first $350 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program money. When you think about it, simple math could have invested a nearly $200,000 emergency foreclosure prevention loan per foreclosing household. But, o.k., sure – that’s too simple. And since we’re told that three quarters of the economy is driven by what we spend, the frustration level turns into outright resentment.

Economists smartly claim that it’s a tough proposition to simply cut stimulus checks and expect folks to spend it correctly since, on average, we only spend 40 percent of every dollar we make and save the rest. The purpose of stimulus is to act as a giant intravenous pump of fiscal adrenaline – saving money defeats the purpose. But, here’s where we the peeps get confused: isn’t one of the reasons we’re in this fix at the moment is because not enough of us saved? Our McMansionized appetite for leisure and excess outpaced sensible spending. We struggle to find the balance between the “you’re not saving enough” finger-point-in-the-chest lecture and a “spend it now” mantra. Economic reasoning clashes with the practical argument of what’s happening on the ground. Maybe that’s part of the problem.


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