If someone wants to lose weight, they can choose to cut back on eating or increase exercise. However, the best and quickest way would be to do both at the same time.
But don't tell that to the Republicans in Congress. Or to their bitch, Barack Obama.
As I am writing this, there are four days to go until the United States economy implodes. I am watching the weak be weak, the fools be foolish, and the incompetent proclaim their Tea Party bona fides, and I am sickened. It's been a long time since I actually worried for America—as a place, a concept, and an ideal. But I'm worried now.
The average American would look at the current situation, with the national debt spiraling out of control, and agree that something needs to be done. In the past, under similar circumstances, U.S. presidents (including Ronald Reagan) employed Keynesian principles by increasing government spending (and taxes) to get out of the hole. Reagan did it in the 1980s, and the economy responded. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton raised taxes, cut spending and balanced the budget—and the economy roared.
But then came George W. Bush, who lowered taxes for the rich, got the country into two wars (one of which was completely unnecessary) and then fiddled while the Republican Congress burned through taxpayer money at an unprecedented rate. I'm tired of hearing pundits and talking heads ask how long people are going to blame what happened to the economy on Bush. Fifty years from now, in retrospect, what happened beginning in late 2007 will still be on him. That's never going to change.
If you want to debate whether Barack Obama made things worse, that's fine. I think he did. He wasted far too much time and political capital getting the watered-down health-care law passed. He should have focused on the economy, and he should have gone big or gone home. He tried a mild Keynesian approach when an all-out assault was called for. (In other situations, increased government spending acted like a bandage on a paper cut. Obama's modest stimulus package was like a bandage on a gaping chest wound.)
Nevertheless, I will go to my grave believing—knowing!—that a vast majority of Republicans wanted the economy to get worse under Barack Obama, both as a way to ease the inevitable historic sting on George W. Bush and the Republican congresses that spent us into the hole in which we now are trapped, and as an easy excuse to attack Obama in 2012. I'm not sure if they were smart enough to actually sabotage the economy, but I am sure that they are reveling in (and capitalizing on) the misery with which most Americans are currently dealing.
Last December, after taking that ass-whuppin' in the midterm elections, President Obama got a few things done during a lame-duck session of Congress, prompting some people (including myself) to think that perhaps he wasn't in over his head after all. Silly me.
What we now know is that, in exchange for the ratification of the New START Treaty and the elimination of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he allowed the rich to keep their ridiculous Bush tax cuts, and he failed to deal with the ticking time bomb that was (and is) the debt ceiling. He very easily could have tied a vote on the debt ceiling to the Bush tax cuts, but he didn't (despite then having a solid majority in both houses of Congress), and here we are today.
Still, President Obama is like that girlfriend you once had who was insincere but a really good kisser, or the childhood buddy who became a slacker and a drag as time went by: We keep giving him one more chance. And so, when this current debt-ceiling fight loomed, I thought, "Finally, a chance to do the Democratic thumb test." (The thumb test is when a man gets his thumbs, puts them in the waistband of whatever garment he happens to be wearing, pulls forward and looks down. If there's something there, he's a guy and should act accordingly.)
This was going to be the ultimate no-brainer. Democrats understand that changes are going to need to be made to Social Security and Medicare. (Heck, when Social Security was instituted, the average lifespan of an American man was 58.) And Republicans should understand that taxes are at their lowest rate since the 1950s. A true leader would have outlined a plan where we cut spending and raised certain taxes so as to attack this problem from both ends.
And that's what Obama did ... for about a minute and a half. Then some Republican, somewhere, went out in the middle of the desert and whispered, "Boo," and Obama surrendered on the tax issue. It's a shame. He could have pretty much guaranteed himself re-election if he had staked out (and stuck to) a position that hit both sides equally and, in the process, did what was best for America in the short term and the long run. Instead, he went on TV and whined, "Compromise, compromise, compromise," when he had already abandoned the position of compromise the minute he dropped his call for taxes.
It's weird. I thought people started shrinking after their 50th birthday.