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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Congressional Cram Session

Members of the US Congress remind me of myself when I was a student. It didn't matter how far in advance a teacher told me an assignment was due -- two days, two weeks, or two months -- I rarely got around to working on it until the deadline was in my face.  I vividly remember one mid-term essay we were assigned three weeks before it was due in sixth grade, but I didn't expend an ounce of energy ahead of time, planning to get it done at the last minute, and thrilled when when a major snowstorm rolled through and forced school to remain closed for several days. Even then, I still didn't work on it until enough snow had been removed from the roads for the schools to announce they'd open again.

We're seeing the exact same lack of advance effort from our elected representatives on Capitol Hill, who have known for 16 months, since passing the Budget Control Act in August, 2011, that the over-the-cliff date will be January 1, 2013. Yet they didn't plan ahead and develop a solution last year, or last spring, or last summer, or even last month. In fact, last week, they all went home for Christmas break without an economic resolution, despite promising they'd get it done. That's like a kid telling his parents he'll study for finals and write the big semester-ending essay while sitting in the car as the family drives to Disneyworld. Not only is the work unlikely to get done under those conditions, if it is, it's going to be rushed and sub-par.

So now, Congress has re-grouped in Washington on the final weekend of the year, trying to make us believe they're committed to working together. We know better. We know both sides are stubborn, more interested in protecting their jobs and parties' images than in cooperating and leading the nation. We also know there's no snowstorm coming to allow them to procrastinate further.

But they will anyway, probably by extending the current laws for a few months, announcing a new deadline, and then not doing anything else until a few days before the new cliff date. Is it any wonder approval ratings for Congress are lower than they were for that NBC sitcom with the monkey doctor?