Jan 16, 2014 - By Steven R. PeckCongress members will boast about finally passing a budget, but they shouldn't
In the next day or two, after the U.S. Senate completes congressional passage of the first federal budget in more than four years, let's all resist the invitation to congratulate Congress for its wonderful work.
Rest assured, that invitation will come. The lavishly funded and enviably responsive congressional health care system may well be overrun by cases of dislocated shoulders caused by members of Congress patting themselves on the back.
All week long, the members have been parading to the microphones to stand in front of the TV cameras and praise themselves for doing something which, frankly, is nothing more than their job.
Readers may recall a comedy routine by the standup comic Chris Rock from some years ago in which he lambasted people who took credit for doing the simple, ordinary, proper thing.
In his undeniably profane act, Rock would imitate someone boasting something to the effect of "I have never been to jail," followed by Rock's response to the effect of "So what? You're not supposed to go to jail, you dumb blankety-blank."
Or, the braggart might say "I take care of my kids," followed by Rock's "that's what you're supposed to do, you blankety-blank."
In a similar vein, members of Congress might love to boast about finally passing a budget, but it simply is what they are supposed to do. It is their constitutional responsibility, one that they have steadfastly and infuriatingly refused to do for years, plunging the country into a continuing cycle of fiscal irresponsibility and manufactured budget crises that has worried and angered citizens, damaged the economy, and last year even ground the government to a halt for nearly three weeks.
Passing a budget, which Congress finally managed to do this week, should be no more cause for extraordinary praise than applauding an able-bodied person who stands up from a chair. If this is what constitutes outstanding performance from Congress, then that body has succeeded in lowering expectations to very near an all-time low.
On Wednesday, for the first time in a long time, our newspaper published a point-by-point list of budget items for the public to review. Readers who follow such things might have forgotten how interesting such a list can be. We have been force-fed a diet of argument, obstruction and inaction for so long that we almost have forgotten what it's like to review and discuss real spending plans.
Now we can review an actual budget in action, at least for a year or so. That's about how long the new agreement is intended to last. Will that trigger further, successful budget talks or another round of blaming and accusation that gets us nowhere?
There will be a Congressional election between now and then, and voters might do well to remember comedian Chris Rock's routine (maybe without so many blankety-blanks). What Congress has accomplished is nothing more than what it should have been doing all along. There is no need to hand out any medals.
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