Dear Big Daddy,
A few nights ago, a family member wished me a Happy New Year. Besides being a couple days early, it also seems hopeless. How can I when I know this year will be the same old budget stalemate as last year?
–Angst-ridden in the Annex
Every year, most people make the same old resolutions – lose those 5-15 pounds, take more time for your family, mix in the occasional glass of water in between cocktails. And do you know why they make the same vows every year? Because they’ve broken them every year.
In that context, the budget negotiators are a lot like you and me.
What you really need is an attitude adjustment. No, I’m not going to tell you to always look on the bright side of life. Any adult whose worldview consists of rainbows and unicorns needs to lay off the shrooms and Zoloft. No, your problem is that you’re expecting too much. Part of growing up is realizing that any solution is someone else’s problem, epiphanies rarely last past when the hangover sets in, and you never actually grow up—you’re just you, but more wrinkly.
So what if the budget is stuck in the same gear as my career as a motivation speaker? What we’re you actually expecting to accomplish this year anyway? Yes, the budget threatens to bulldoze all other business for the foreseeable future. This actually saves you from more heartache. Remember the last person who broke you heart after months or years together? Wouldn’t it have been so much easier if they’d told you to take a hike after your first date?
Now apply this same concept to the legislative process. Most years, most bills, you staffers put a whole bunch of time and toil into something that goes nowhere. You research, write your analyses, attend the committee hearings and whisper well-reasoned arguments into the ear of your member, who’s probably so busy thinking about their next campaign they barely have any idea what you’re talking about. You sit through the increasingly insane and incoherent phone calls and emails and public comment sessions. You sweat the votes, and then the governor’s fickle pen. The end result—usually, the same no law you started with.
Now imagine you’re freed from all that. You still have to work, to research and plan. But if you’re as geeky as I know many of you are, that’s the part you love. You’re stuck in the dreamer stage, imagining, in JFK’s words, what might be. Whether it’s free organic vegetables for crackheads or prison terms for organic farmers, the utopia in your mind is never exposed to the sterilizing light of political reality.
I don’t know which side of the political fence you’re moping on. But even if they do pass a budget, it’s not like there will be money to do much of anything. If you’re a Republican, you can take comfort in the fact that the thing you hate most—government, you masochist—will inevitably shrink. If you’re a Democrat, the next few months will provide ample opportunity for a favorite pastime—feeling superior.
But think about what will happen in less than three weeks: a new era of a bipartisanship brought forth by a man whose very DNA is bipartisan (his votes, liberal). After a quarter century of essentially re-fighting the Civil War with elections and lawyers instead of muskets and cannons, our country is ready to enter of new era of giving lip service to working together. We may not have stopped digging, but at least we might get a smaller shovel.
So, Angsty, I’m sorry you’re feeling crappy. But at least feeling crappy is something we can all share.