Zac Byer: The Regret Ceiling

Bipartisan meetings continue to fail to produce results on the debt crisis

If you watched the TV show Lost, you probably sat through some episodes (or seasons) and found yourself, well, lost. That’s the same way I feel trying to wade through the muck coming out of Washington lately. Some days, the debt crisis seems like a grade-AAA fiasco. Other days, I wonder if this is all just a bunch of pre-primary fear-mongering.

Last night, President Barack Obama started his first prime-time address on the debt crisis with guns ablaze against George W. Bush’s tenure. Speaker John Boehner did not mention the words “revenue” or “loopholes” or “tax code” once. Really? Compromise? President Obama, don’t you remember your campaign line about this being the United States of America, not the Blue States or Red States of America? Speaker Boehner, don’t you remember when, only days ago, you put your support behind a plan that sought to raise nearly $800 million in revenue? IS ANYBODY LISTENING?!?

It’s hard to keep track of all the plans the Beltway crowd has sent our way. Grand Bargain? Give me a break, Mr. President. Henry Clay would be disappointed. Constitutional amendment? Uh, remember the 18th Amendment? That’s what happens when people make lofty decisions without considering all of the potential consequences. The Gang of Six? They say a group starts losing productivity when the membership exceeds seven people – maybe that’s why the plan makes some sense. But, until the Six make like Ross Perot and explain the plan to the public, our skepticism will remain.

As America approaches her debt ceiling, we are nearing our Regret Ceiling. Most people think that Congress will raise the debt ceiling by August 2nd. If our representatives and president fail us, here are a few of the regrets to expect:

President Obama will regret ramming Obamacare down Republicans’ (and, frankly, a majority of Americans’) throats. He will struggle mightily in 2012 to turn out young voters in swing state college cities like Columbus, Philadelphia, and Ann Arbor, let alone Independents across the country. And he will lose, and his health care mess will be nixed.

Speaker Boehner will regret letting the House freshmen act like the big men on campus. He will lose any modicum of trust he has within the more moderate wings of the Republican and Democratic Parties. And he will face an internal challenge for the Speaker’s gavel in four years, assuming the Republicans still control the House then.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will regret his buddy-buddy relationship with the ever-polarizing Nancy Pelosi. If he would have kept his distance from her when she was at her worst, he could have opened his hand to some Republicans and brought them into his camp for legislative battles. He will forego another bitter re-election campaign in 2016.

But, much more importantly, what will WE regret? I wager that, no matter our age, we will ALL regret electing politicians whose mouths are bigger than their minds.

If Obama or Boehner or Reid or any of their bureaucratic colleagues in Washington want to limit their (and our) regrets, here are a few things they should consider. Granted, I’m just a twenty-three-year-old law student, but maybe Washington could use some younger voices. . .

• Somebody needs to emerge as the voice of the twenty-somethings’ economic future. Everybody is talking about Medicare and Social Security. Nobody is talking about how my generation is going to make enough money to pay off its student loans or become homeowners or start businesses.

• How about a one-for-one on the revenue side? Close the loopholes in the tax code that allowed GE to skip out on paying any taxes last year, and offer tax refunds to Americans who pursue higher education in math or science. That will help create real, supply-side jobs in sorely depleted American industries, consequently increasing revenues.

• When is somebody in Washington going to realize that it is a worthy goal for the government to come in under budget? Federal agencies spend all of the money they are appropriated by Congress because the cash comes with a use-it-or-lose-it disclaimer. Don’t take four junior special assistants in the Department of Transportation on the next trip to check out a new bridge – save our money, and only take three.

To regret is to be human, but to be human isn’t necessarily to regret. We can get this done. If we can’t, then hold on tightly.

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