New Norm in Washington: Do Nothing


I have a confession to make. Unlikely as it may be, I was actually born and raised in Washington, D.C. -- not only our nation's capital, but also the epicenter of our national dysfunction.

Growing up there has given me some unique perspectives, not the least of which is the realization that from a citizenship perspective, I am right there on par with my friends from Guam and American Samoa. That notwithstanding, the most striking thing for me, however, is that nothing in D.C. ever seems to go the way you think it should.

Snow falls, but plows don't come. Our former mayor goes to prison, comes back and resumes political life as if nothing happened. And one of the most valuable franchises in professional sports, my beloved Redskins, in spite of their financial strength have been downright awful for most of the last generation and likely will be for the foreseeable future. 

This upside-down kind of reality is never more apparent than when one begins to examine our little homegrown business: the federal government.

Every two years, we have these events called elections and the entire currency of the election cycle is a never-ending narrative of political posturing, gamesmanship and fundraising to achieve electoral supremacy every other November.

In a sane and rationale world, one might make a couple of assumptions about this process. First, you would think that if you were successful and your party maintained or achieved majority status, that you would use that status to "govern" and pursue and implement an agenda commensurate with your ideological point-of-view.  Additionally, you might also assume that they would use the intervening two years to create a "record" of achievement that would move the country forward and provide the basis for their reelection the next time around. I'm pretty sure this is how the system was supposed to work. But alas, as I said, nothing in D.C. ever goes the way you think it should.

It is not uncommon for one party to try and derail the agenda of the other party. In fact, that is the norm. What is common, however, is for both sides to appear to be working hard toward legitimate goals and if not for the hijinks and obstructionism of the other party, their agenda would be realized. The one consolation prize is they get to show their supporters that at least they fought the good fight.

A New Level of Disappointment

Well, it now appears we have a new norm. In February, in the wake of the State of the Union address, House Speaker John Boehner -- apparently without any guile, sense of shame or appreciation of irony -- proudly announced that the U.S. House will not be passing any major legislation this year. Nothing. Nada.

Huh? It appears that in the upside-down vortex of Washington, D.C., it is now best for his party's electoral prospects to do absolutely nothing and be completely upfront about it. Boehner seems only to be committed to monkeying around with meaningless legislation that doesn't create strife in his historically fractured caucus, and to pit Republican against Republican, meaning almost nothing. Perhaps they can muster the effort to name a post office or two.

This is disappointing on so many levels. First, in the macro, this is not how our government should work and this type of behavior -- by both sides -- is threatening to permanently damage our little experiment in self-government. These are the types of activities undertaken by legislative bodies in the third world and developing nations, not world leaders.

Politically, it actually makes Harry Reid and his almost pathological manipulation of Senate procedures to shut down Republicans seem insignificant. What Reid has done in the last few years to suppress minority rights in the Senate is jaw-dropping and somehow, some way, Boehner has made him appear to be the adult in the room. This is an amazing feat of political skill. 

If you're a small-business owner hanging on by a thread in real need of tax reform, immigration reform and protection from the crushing weight of Obamacare, you have been kicked to the curb like an old tin can. Boehner has just demonstrated that the friend and ally you thought you had, the one to whom you've been asked to write countless PAC checks, the one you may have asked your employees to consider supporting, just laughed in your face and headed down to Florida to play some golf.

Maybe it will be more politically expedient to help you with your problems next year.

So, just when it seems like we've hit a new low in my hometown, I am reminded that President Kennedy was once asked to describe Washington, D.C., and famously quipped, "It is a city of southern efficiency and northern charm." Fifty years later, that still rings, unfortunately, very true.

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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