Monday, April 20, 2009

O Sancta Simplicitas!

She sighs, after kicking through the garage door and after ripping off most of her scales. That statement is appropriate in situations such as...let's say...when you get burned on the pyre for trying to reform a religion which hurt the poor and the poor collect wood for your roasting.

Anyway, there are days when I lose all faith in the ability of humans to use anything past their fingers for figuring things out. This is what set me off:

President Obama called his full Cabinet together for the first time Monday and instructed the department heads to cut enough money from their budgets to set a new tone in Washington.

But the target the president set for the cuts amounts to a fraction of the overall budget, leaving room for critics to question whether the reductions mean much at all.

Obama has asked for $100 million in trims from a budget expected to exceed $3.5 trillion. The Cabinet secretaries have a month and a half to come up with proposed cuts.

"None of these things alone are going to make a difference," Obama conceded, emerging from the Cabinet room. "But cumulatively they would make an extraordinary difference because they start setting a tone."

If they cut "$100 million there, $100 million here," Obama said, "pretty soon, even in Washington, it adds up to real money."

Republicans characterized the target in different terms. A "meager .0025%," said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "Pathetic joke," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

"Let's not forget that at the same time they're looking for millions in savings, the president's budget calls for adding trillions to the debt," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

According to the White House, federal agencies have already started working to trim fat from their budgets.

It's a thoroughly, gratingly annoying piece of news. First because saving money now is fairly close to suicidal behavior for a government, and, second, because Obama still feels obligated to pretend ('pretend' because the cuts are tiny) that he's going to really starve that beast, the bureaucracy, to a nasty end, even if it's not getting drowned in a bathtub as Grover Norquist would prefer.

Not sure why it's so very hard for politicians not to want to emulate Herbert Hoover. Sure, get rid of waste and inefficiency. But this is NOT the time to discourage consumption. Just go out to a mall and see why that is the wrong moral to draw from this story. Take a ride down the highway and watch the light traffic. Talk to some people and find how many are unemployed, underemployed or waiting for the axe to fall. Ask some shopkeepers how they are doing.

Saving is great. We should all save for the rainy day. But not on the day when the fucking storm has already pulled down the house roof.

Perhaps today is not that day, but neither is it one of those fat days when the sun flows down like yellow butter on both the deserving and the undeserving. Of course the Republicans view most of us as among the undeserving and all expenditure by George Bush as something that Did. Not. Happen. Jeez.