Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Captain's Log

There are plenty of Star Trek episodes where Spock will tell Kirk that a particular situation is under control, and as any good captain would, he responds by asking, "But for how long? For. How. Long?" The delivery is what makes William Shatner one of our greatest pause actors, and a national treasure for both Canada and the United States. But it is also a reminder of something much more dire: Our government is back up and running after an eleventh hour reconciliation of need and greed. The budget is fixed. But. For. How. Long? It reminds me of the times in my youth when my parents informed me that they didn't have enough money for a particular GI Joe or Hot Wheel set, and I replied the way any child raised in the idyllic suburbs of the sixties and seventies: "Can't you write a check?" It's the way our government is currently operating, though instead of writing checks, they are borrowing money from China. It's very easy to sit back and call the Republicans the bad guys because they want to take money away from poor people, and certainly the pictures of Ranger Bob and all the other government employees who would stop getting paychecks if the government had to shut down made everybody spring into action. The Democrats saved the day by limiting cuts to just thirty-eight billion dollars. Or maybe they simply saved face since they knew that we're still spending more than we're taking in. Still, with all the anxiety mounting in a very Y2K way, the looming deadline left our leaders with the choice of compromise or pulling the plug on hundreds of thousands of government jobs. Interestingly, if the budget talks had stretched on past the deadline and furlough notices had gone out and national parks had been closed, your senators and representatives would have continued to get paid. It was only at the last minute that a few Senate Democrats suggested a bill that would have halted their checks along with that of the president in the event of a shutdown. A nice gesture, to be sure, but one that turned out to be unnecessary, since morning came and there was no more anarchy than there was the night before, and all that fretting turned out to be for nothing. But. For. How. Long?

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