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Politics in the age of chicken

August 11, 2011
By Andy Heller , Daily Press

FLINT - Personally, I found the whole debt ceiling affair to be an annoyance, not a crisis.

I mean, honestly, did you ever think you'd know or care, or have to care, about what a debt ceiling is? Six months ago if you'd asked people what one was they'd have stared at you dumbly and said, "Um, what's above a debt floor?"

Most people, I suspect, are still only vaguely aware of what it is, even after a month of hand-wringing by the media about how awful it would've been had it not been raised.

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Andy Heller

Would the sky have fallen? I don't know. The truth is most people didn't know and don't care. And that's not a criticism. It's a compliment.

You and I shouldn't have to care about mundane, inside baseball stuff like debt ceilings. That's why we elect people to Congress - to handle routine stuff like that for us. And this WAS routine. Up until this episode, raising the debt ceiling was akin to you or me brushing our teeth.

The only reason it became an issue this time is because lawmakers have fallen in love with chicken.

The game, not the bird.

In the game of chicken, the object is to race full-steam at your opponent, usually while attempting your best "Don't mess with me, I'm crazy!" face. The first one who veers off loses.

In this case, it was the Democrats, not that that surprised anyone. Democrats have a tendency to not know what to do with power once they have it. So even though they hold the White House and the Senate, they still acted throughout this manufactured "crisis" as if Republicans were their daddies, as in "Who's yours?"

I think I know why. Democrats tend to be - sorry - wimpier and more prone to compassion, and even though it was President Obama who first conjured the image of retirees starving to death because they didn't get their Social Security checks on time, they were the ones who said, "Gosh, how terrible! We mustn't let that happen!"

Whereas the reaction of your average Congressional Republican - and the rich folk who support them - was more along the lines of, "So people have to lay off the gardener and the housekeeper for a time, so what? They'll survive."

They can be a bit out of touch.

Anyway, I've noticed that everyone has been searching for the true takeaway in this whole debt ceiling debacle, but few have put their finger on it.

Here it is: We have officially entered the age of chicken in Washington, a time in which nothing, no matter how small or routine, will get done without a "crisis" or a deadline.

One pundit I saw termed it the "politics of calamity,'' which sums it up nicely. That means until one side or the other has total power, we're likely to experience faux crises like this over and over again, with each one being more mundane than the last.

Think debt ceilings were dull? Just wait until they're threatening to shut down the government over whether to raise the price of stamps.

 
 

 

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