Columns / Discourse / January 12, 2011

Observing America: Lame duck session

The federal government has accomplished many things despite this being a lame duck session. Huffington Post columnist Jason Linkins said, “The lame duck session of Congress is in the books, with many touts lauding the post-election period of congresspersons actually doing things as the most productive lame duck ever.” For instance, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed the Tax Cut deal, which will cost the U.S. approximately $858 billion dollars over the next 10 years, according to CNN, adding to the $14 trillion dollars of debt. Also, they passed a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which allows gays and lesbians to openly serve in the armed forces, and further passed the START Treaty that limits the amount of nuclear weapons and adds more monitoring of nuclear warheads. Only the tax cut deals have clear drawbacks, while the other two are appropriate policy decisions.

To start, let’s discuss the Tax Cut Deal. The Obama Administration caved into the Republican Party’s demands. Let’s say it how it is. The Bush tax cuts, which cut taxes for the wealthiest of Americans in hopes of jumpstarting the economy, undoubtedly did stimulate the economy; however, these tax cuts have to be paid for. With all honesty, I don’t understand how the Republicans supported this tax cut deal while opposing big government projects like the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which added $787 billion dollars to the American debt. This tax cut deal costs more than the Recovery bill by almost $100 billion dollars. To truly stimulate the economy, one must pay for everything – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the healthcare bill, unemployment benefits. If the 112th U.S. Congress keeps spending money like the 111th Congress did during the tax cuts, then our debt will continue to increase and endanger America’s financial stability. America must decrease the debt and prevent a financial debacle similar to those currently being experienced by Ireland, Greece and Portugal. And to be clear this is not about being fiscally conservative, this is about common sense. If you can’t balance the checkbook then there are serious financial consequences. In America’s case, the checkbook hasn’t been balanced for years.

The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a victory for the U.S. I understand why the Clinton administration enacted such a law but 2010 was finally the time to accept gays and lesbians into the armed forces. If people want to put their lives at risk for the wellbeing of their country, then people must applaud these brave men and women, not condemn them due to their sexual orientation. This again is not about being socially conservative or socially liberal but about being pragmatic. The armed forces must not be scrutinized by partisan policies such as the negation of openly gay and lesbian persons serving in the military but must be given all resources necessary in order to accomplish military goals. More troops equate to more resources.

The START treaty is a bill that president Ronald Reagan would have supported. According to many historians, President Reagan was outspoken in his opposition to nuclear weapons. Nancy Reagan stated that her husband “had many hopes for the future, and none were more important to America and to mankind than the effort to create a world free of nuclear weapons.” The START treaty reduces nuclear warheads from Russia and the U.S. Let me break some news to those that still believe in nuclear armament: the Cold War is over and, due to our massive debt, it is time to cut defense spending and not increase the number of nuclear weapons. As former president Dwight Eisenhower once said in his famous farewell address, “Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.”

All in all, President Obama, you got two out of three right. The tax cut deal increases the debt and Republicans should have proposed cutting spending in order to pay for the cuts. But the passage of START and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell are clear victories for the U.S. There is only one thing that most Americans are asking themselves: “How did congressmen pass such divisive and numerous bills in a matter of a month?” Hopefully in the next Congress we have more Christmases and more holidays to force politicians to work together and pass legislation. This is what we as taxpayers pay them for: to act.

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