Who Didn’t Read the Memo?

Published: April 8, 2011

By Jim Lichtman
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Q: Who gets the blame if Congress chooses to shutdown the federal government?

Before I answer that question, let’s take a look at some facts.

Although Congress has been in session since January, absolutely nothing meaningful has been accomplished. With Republican control of the House, Speaker John Boehner has talked repeatedly about his promise to cut government spending: “We need to cut spending. That’s what the American people want. That’s what the economy needs.”

In an April 5th public statement, Boehner said, “We’ve introduced a bill that includes $12 billion in cuts over the next week.”

Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize winning fact-check organization found that “Indeed, while the bill does include $12 billion in cuts, it also includes $7.6 billion in additional spending for the Defense Department… We find that Boehner, who decried budget ‘gimmicks’ in his statement, is conveniently leaving out the spending increase and painting a misleading picture of the bill.”

The usually outspoken leader of the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid, offers only carefully guarded statements. “I am pleased that we are still working on getting there…. It’s not easy to do, but it’s doable,” he said of efforts to reach an agreement.

Okay, so what does Politifact say?

Although difficult to fully analyze due to a lack of complete information, PF says,“At the beginning of this year, Republicans put forth one set of numbers for spending cuts, then re-grouped and put forward another, larger amount. In that regard, Obama is correct that the number has changed. But it’s not correct to refer to the initial number as the Republican position because it only reflected a starting point for party leaders.

“On Feb. 3, 2011, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., announced targets for reducing spending would be $35 billion less than the previous year, and $73.6 billion less than the president’s budget request.

“Those amounts were to be communicated to various subcommittees who would decide which programs would get cut and which would get funded. But instead, some Republican members rebelled, saying the amounts weren’t large enough to meet campaign promises they made in 2010. Tea party supporters pressed for the larger cuts.

“By Feb. 10, Republican leaders put forth new numbers with additional cuts, which became the legislation they put forward in H.R. 1. The new spending cuts removed $99.6 billion from Obama’s budget request….

“So Democrats aren’t wrong when they say Republicans initially proposed one set of numbers, then later came to another. But it’s a stretch to say they were the firm position of House Republicans.”

So, once again, Congress continues to play the Blame Game, and once again, those who can little afford it – like the families of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – are caught in the middle.

In January, 2010 I wrote the following Memo to Congresswhich probably sums up most Americans feelings –

Ladies and Gentlemen of Congress:

The American people are sick and tired of hearing excuses for your lack of effectively working together.

They’re tired of listening to the arrogant sound bites at “impromptu” press conferences.

You were not elected to hold press conferences and talk about what you can’t get done.  You were elected to get things done.

You were not elected to posture, or huff and puff about what you don’t agree with. You were elected to find agreement.

You were not hired to work for your own political needs, party agenda or special interests. You were hired to work for the needs of all Americans.

If you cannot work effectively with majority members; if you cannot work productively with minority members, then step aside and allow others to do so.

Right now, the country needs statesmanship over partisanship.
Right now, the country needs a Congress that is willing to demonstrate the kind of selfless integrity Americans can trust.

“Effective leadership,” management consultant Peter Drucker said, “is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

So, who gets the blame if Republicans and Democrats fail to pass a budget?

A: They ALL do.


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