Higgins: It’s not my faultWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“No, I didn’t. Honest… I ran out of gas. I… I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. It wasn’t my fault. I swear to God!”
– “Joliet Jake” Blues (“The Blues Brothers”)
Enough news cycles have now passed that a mostly disconnected public has lost interest in the hype of the Government Shutdown and manufactured threat of the Default. If you doubt me, ask how many know that since Oct. 17 when the agreement was signed, the limit was raised and the floodgates were opened that this debt jumped the rather amazing amount of $500 billion.
Now some might consider this selective inattention of the electorate astonishing, others the government’s apparent ability to stop time where government spending was concerned right before we purportedly reached our limit. Some might point instead to the dubious (and now proven fraudulent) claim made back in September by the president (and shared by Neil Irwin of The Washington Post): “Because it’s called raising the debt ceiling, I think a lot of Americans think it’s raising our debt. It is not raising our debt. This does not add a dime to our debt.” I however, am even more astonished by the lack of blame attached to the situation.
I’m not talking about Democrats blaming the Tea Party Republicans in the House and Senate for the shutdown. That’s little more than expected and rather tired rhetoric used to gear up the base running up to the 2014 election. Nor am I talking about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who years ago talked about the Republicans being “the party of no” before recently taking up that mantle himself. Why should they be held accountable, however, when no one recently or currently in office (elected or appointed) appears to be responsible for anything that’s happened in their areas of responsibility?
Four U.S. citizens, including an ambassador, were killed in Benghazi and a year later, no one’s to blame. In spite of previous attacks and the lack of a defensible position in Benghazi was known, nothing was done to correct it. In spite of the fact that we have fast-deployment teams stationed around the world, none of them were deployed. In spite of the fact that the safety of U.S. sovereign territory and the diplomatic staff is the direct responsibility of the departments of State and Defense, no one has been called out, held to blame or in any way punished. Hillary Clinton (State) and Leon Panetta (Defense) were in fact lauded for the performance of their duties when they finally resigned, in spite of having this glaring failure of leadership occur on their watch.
The National Security Administration (NSA) is clearly out of control with the electronic eavesdropping not only on unfriendly foreign governments and terrorists threats, but on friendly governments citizens in this country as well. Only the most broad and unconstitutional interpretations of the Patriot Act permit anything close to such spying. Only the most naive and low-information citizens can believe that the massive data storage facilities currently being built in Utah will not be used to retain data that the government is not permitted to obtain without a specific warrant. Yet no consequences appear to the forthcoming for the Director of the NSA (Gen. Keith Alexander), or for the current or former Secretary of Defense (Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta, respectively) who are ostensibly in charge of these illegal data collections.
As for spying on us, look no further than the IRS, new watchdogs of our private health care information. The only thing lower than their approval ratings appear to be their policies. It must be apparent to all but the sight-impaired that managers were either dictating policy or creating a pervasive atmosphere that sought to restrict the political foes of the president from exercising their free speech rights. Lois Lerner, an apparent key player in what the illegal effort to obtain information from these Tea Party Groups and an even more illegal effort to share it with the Federal Election Commission, was allowed to retire and begin collecting her pension without charges. After an almost smug claim of 5th Amendment privilege, Ms. Lerner admitted her innocence and rode off into the sunset.
As for the current situation with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its implementation, what can one say? Oh sure the website is an over-priced nightmare. (The fact that there’s a margin of error of $200 million for what it cost, in spite of its epic failure, might be a giveaway as to future cost expectations.) But whether it’s $400 million or $600 million for failure, we still don’t know what a working site might cost. Speaking of cost, we were told that premium costs would go down, but according to the Heritage Foundation, we can expect them to go up in at least 45 of 50 states. They have to in fact go up, since the plan the president said you could keep won’t be able to be kept after all. It’s all but impossible that it will meet new ACA regulations, and you will be required to take an approved and more expensive plan.
Is it incompetence or malice? I don’t know and I don’t care. What I do care about, however, is that everyone elected or appointed to a position in Washington, D.C., is pulling a “Joliet Jake.” Managers and department heads at the IRS, Health and Human Services, State, NSA and Defense are retained, promoted, or allowed to retire with full pensions in spite of the illegal activity and epic failures under their leadership. Incumbent legislators in the House and Senate who’ve failed to produce a budget, run up the debt and sloughed off their regulatory responsibilities to a faceless bureaucracy are re-elected with comfortable majorities. The Constitution is no longer treated as the rule of law that limits and binds the government, but instead “more of guideline.”
More than any time in this country’s history, Washington, D.C., has become not only a “logic-free zone,” but a “consequence-free territory” for those who live or work in it.