Posted on Jul 19 2011 at 02:07:57 AM in Politics
Many years ago I took up playing a regular game of poker with some friends. Specifically, Texas hold 'em. I've played enough to develop some skill with the game, made a little bit of money here and there, and put up a decent showing in a few tournaments. So I have enough experience with it to recognize that the current fighting over raising the debt limit in our nation's capital is similar to a very high stakes game of poker.
First of all, politically speaking of course, it remains to be seen who is actually holding the winning hand. Both sides, specifically President Obama and House Majority Leader Cantor, are currently locked in that familiar struggle to win by getting the other guy to fold. My admittedly amateur, I am neither a professional poker player or politician, read of the situation is as follows: The President appears to be semi-bluffing. He might not have a strong hand yet, but it could quickly develop into one. He is trying to take the pot before he has to show his cards in early August when there is a chance he might lose. While the government's default on its financial obligations would likely have profound negative ramifications, it remains to be seen as to whether or not Social Security checks would actually stop going out. The general consensus seems to be they would continue to be issued, yet I suppose the chance exists that something actually could happen to prevent it. So when the President said he couldn't guarantee Social Security payments, while he may have been speaking truthfully, I think he was indeed trying to "scare old people" because they have the largest voter turn-out in any election and an extremely powerful lobbying group in the AARP. By bringing them into the issue this way he did President Obama was, in effect, making a big raise to try and get Congressman Cantor to fold.
House Majority Leader Cantor, I believe, is acting like he's made his hand. The question at this point is whether or not it's strong enough to win the pot. He could win with a pair of deuces raking in at least the backing of his district, or maybe that of conservatives in general; or he could win big with a full boat and have all of public opinion behind him. Bottom line: he thinks he's got a winner and it doesn't look like he's going to fold.
The problem here is that the chips they're throwing around in this game, like splashing the pot, aren't little pieces of plastic. It is real money that has real consequences for real Americans. In fact it's not even their money, it's ours, and its wrong to gamble with other people's money. Since it's been said that Washington D.C. is a city of soundbites, here's one for its consideration: QUIT JERKING AROUND! You're public servants for crying out loud, behave as such and try for once to not act like the Greek gods and goddesses you all think that you are. You fail to realize that America is bigger than your own delusions of grandeur. In fact, contrary to popular belief, America is bigger and more important than either the Democratic or the Republican parties. That means that the correct course of action is to do what you think is right by your country and that is rarely the same thing as party orthodoxy or ensuring a victory in the next election.
I really hate to admit this because I very much try to not be the type of person who wishes suffering on anyone, but part of me hopes that a deal cannot be reached and we experience the full consequences of that pathetic inaction. I am reminded of a quote from a movie that came out a few years ago: "...it's only on the brink that people find the will to change. Only at the precipice do we evolve." Right now our country and government is in serious need of change and evolution because it is highly dysfunctional. It needs to move beyond being a government that only serves the needs of two political parties and become one that serves its people. The question that remains is: are we yet at the brink or precipice needed for this to happen? I wonder if it would take a hardship so dramatic as the financial Armageddon that is predicted from a government default to finally convinces us that our political status-quo no longer works.
Any decent poker player will be able to tell you stories of hands where they either lost it all or came pretty close. The really good players will have very few of these stories because they learned and studied the hard lessons that came from these mistakes and made sure not to repeat them. I really hope that I am wrong, but maybe America needs a bad run at the table so that we might get not only a higher caliber of individual running for elected office, but also that we may learn to elect them more wisely.