The most predictable governing body on the planet, the U.S. Congress, is once again doing some of its sleaziest sleight-of-hand work at year’s end, with the comfort of knowing that we lowly proletarians are focused on holiday festivities. The average American is totally confused about the flurry of year-end legislation and political posturing coming out of the Nation’s capital, and with good reason: Politicians work hard at creating confusion.
Now, let’s see if I understand this. The Dems want to “cut taxes” by extending a “tax holiday” on some of the money that workers pay into the Social Security retirement “fund.” Could it be that Democrats aren’t as liberal as some of us have believed them to be? After all, they can’t be so bad if they actually favor a tax cut.
I wish that were true, but it isn’t. The truth is that it’s nothing more than a gimmick to keep American piglets mesmerized while feeding at the government’s entitlement trough.
I realize that many true-blue conservatives and libertarians believe that any tax cut is a good tax cut; and, in theory, they’re right. But cutting payroll taxes is an illusory tax cut. It’s attacking the symptom (payroll taxes) rather than the cause (Social Security). And, like it or not, for now Social Security is a fact of life in the People’s Republic of America.
That being the case, if not enough money is extracted from workers to pay Social Security benefits to those who currently qualify for them, it has to be taken through an invisible tax (“inflation”) or paid for by politicians’ favorite tax targets: our children and grandchildren (by borrowing the money needed to cover the shortfall).
So far, so bad. Now, to the second part of the year-end razzle-dazzle game: extending unemployment benefits. Has any Republican Congressperson taken the trouble to ask: “What do unemployment benefits have to do with extending the payroll tax cut?”
Will Republicans ever say no to an extension of unemployment benefits? Absolutely, positively not. After all, principles can get in the way of capturing votes. Progressive Republicans in the House and Senate are very convincing when they rail against wealth redistribution in front of the TV cameras. Then, they turn right around and vote for it even more convincingly. The truth be known, Republicans have never met a piece of wealth-redistribution legislation they didn’t like.
Segue to the third piece of Congress’ year-end game of razzle-dazzle: the Keystone XL pipeline, which has absolutely nothing to do with either payroll taxes or unemployment benefits. It’s just more of the same. Spin, twist, obfuscate and lie convincingly enough, and the anesthetized public, too fatigued from Christmas shopping and football, can be counted on to not understand that a hemorrhoidectomy is being performed on them — again.
What the Keystone XL pipeline issue does is give accommodating Republicans the escape hatch they always seek in order to be able to falsely claim victory in their losing efforts against Democrats. After all, how can you not applaud Republicans for agreeing to a bill that gives the illusion of moving forward with an oil pipeline from Canada, a project that promises to create thousands of jobs and help wean America off its dependency on foreign oil?
If that’s what it did, maybe you could forgive Republicans for once again extending unemployment benefits in exchange for getting their way on the Keystone XL pipeline. But that is not what it does. As always, there’s an out for our humble leader in the White House who now claims to be the fourth most effective president in American history (after Lyndon B. Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — meaning that Barack Obama believes he’s been a better President than such run-of-the-mill guys as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson).
The out I’m referring to is that the wording in the bill requires Obama to grant a permit for the pipeline unless he decides that it’s “not in the national interest.” Gosh, I wonder what the likelihood is of his deciding it’s not in the “national interest?” Sounds a bit like “that depends upon what the meaning of is is.”
In other words, the legislation merely speeds up the decision process on Keystone, but does not determine whether the project will be approved. And the State Department, which has the final authority over approving the project, has already made it clear that it would not be able to conduct the necessary review if given only 60 days, the timeline set by House Republicans. That sounds to me like “case closed.”
Interestingly, Obama’s former National Security Adviser, Jim Jones — who almost never contradicts his one-time boss — said last week in a press call sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute: “… any threat to this project, by delay or otherwise, would constitute a significant setback. The failure to [move forward with the project] will prolong the risk to our economy and our energy security [and] send the wrong message to job creators.”
Risk to our economy… risk to our energy future… send the wrong message to job creators? Sounds to me like Obama’s Christmas wish list. After all, you can’t expect a mere $4 million Hawaiian vacation to satisfy a highfalutin community organizer of his stature.