Thursday, December 19, 2013

No Time For Rewards

As almost everyone in the political media predicted - including us - the Senate passed a stinker of a budget bill Wednesday afternoon and promptly sent it to President Obama to be signed.

Outdoing even our prediction on Wednesday and before the President had even signed the bill, both politicians and members of the media were already congratulating each other on cable TV on Wednesday afternoon, for finally accomplishing a budget bill. As we'd stated bluntly early Wednesday morning, and Ezra Klein reiterated Wednesday afternoon, just because Democrats and Republicans were able to come to a deal, that isn't necessarily a good thing.

For millions of retired service members, the budget bill really puts the screws to them - not to mention the millions of Americans who are about to get their long-term unemployment insurance cut off as a "gift" from Congress, since neither side could come to an agreement on that issue.

To make things worse for both the unemployed and the retired service members that the budget bill screws over, since the unemployment rate has fallen to 7% - a good thing - the Fed decided to follow through with their planned tapering off of stimulus funds over the next few months. That action, in the short term, will likely increase interest rates for everyone in America just a bit next year.

In short, this is no time for applause or rewards, at least for Congress, regardless of what some of our colleagues are saying.

Then again, this budget issue isn't the only topic our media colleagues are getting wrong right now.

Look at all the year-end writeups bemoaning President Obama's fifth year in office. Yet as both Steve Benen and Jamelle Bouie pointed out, all the doomsaying about the President's year is incredibly exaggerated and disproportionate - and the claims of disaster certainly don't reflect what's likely to happen in Obama's next three years.

Just look at Obamacare. A few short weeks ago, many pundits and Republican politicians were insisting the new health insurance program was going to fail in spectacular fashion. Yet patients are now pouring onto the exchange in ever-increasing and record numbers, and the Affordable Care Act looks more likely than ever to succeed.

Consider the 2014 Senate race too. What looked to some Republicans like a healthy chance to grab control from the Democrats, now appears to be a pipe dream, at best. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell looks to be in serious political trouble heading into his re-election campaign. What's worse for Republicans, President Obama is going to nominate Senator Max Baucus to become the Ambassador to China, effective almost immediately. That means the Democratic governor of Montana will appoint a replacement for Baucus - likely a Democrat -  who could then run for that same seat as an incumbent, who will have a significant advantage over any Republican challenger.

If it seems to you like the political races and debates that have happened this year didn't turn out in any way like you thought they would, you're not the only one, on either side of the aisle.

That, in short, is our point today.

The year rarely ends the way anyone thought it would at the beginning. That's why politicians run for office and why bills are debated in Congress. That's also why athletes and teams compete like they do.

While many people are taking vacations, or even slacking off at work just a bit, we hope the best our colleagues, both in politics and media, take a lesson from Congress, on what not to do.

This is no time for rewards. Right now is time to prepare for the next round.