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QUOTATION: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. - Walter H. Judd

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2004-11-19 - 1:45 p.m.

Where are the adults?

A couple of days after 9/11, I wrote in a personal essay, No Way to Make Sense of the Senseless, a plea for adults: “I think we need a lot of adult supervision right now. Are there enough adults?” That was in reference to 9/11, but it is every bit as relevant to the economy of today.

With the budget office warning that the federal government is on the verge of defaulting on its debts and the dollar is in the doldrums, the House and Senate voted to raise the federal debt limit to $800 billion, to $8.8 trillion. To my mind, this is equivalent to a couple, who have both just lost their jobs, going out and buying a new car. Or with not a penny in the bank, unable to make their house payment, and with no money for food or clothing for their children, they go out and buy a new RV or decide to remodel their house. Actually, the RV isn’t even for them. They are giving it to a friend, who did them a favor awhile back (like maybe the friend supported them in the last election!). Where are the adults? What ever happened to Clinton’s pay-as-you-go policy that John Kerry hoped to reinstate?

There is obviously something good for an administration to have control of Congress, but it has its downside, too. Congress has effectively given Bush a blank check to continue running large deficits, so that they can repay with pork for the folks back home in every Republican congressional district and no doubt a tad of corporate welfare to the big businesses that contributed to their campaigns. He doesn't even have the excuse that Congress won't let him. He just willy-nilly signs everything that comes before him.

The country is virtually bankrupt. At least, you and I would consider ourselves bankrupt if our financial situation were as dire. If you or I were running the Budget Committee, we certainly would call a halt to those special tax breaks, subsidies, and pay- backs for those political IOU’s until our house was in order. The word budget implies fiscal responsibility to most adults. Apparently not to those we’ve elected to the highest offices of the land. Where are the adults?

And worse luck…the President is rearranging his Cabinet so that it will just reflect his ideas – an echo chamber with only one note being played!

Bush's Echo Chamber

By BOB HERBERT

I look at the catastrophe in Iraq, the fiscal debacle here at home, the extent to which loyalty trumps competence at the highest levels of government, the absence of a coherent vision of the future for the U.S. and the world, and I wonder, with a sense of deep sadness, where the adults have gone. – Bob Herbert
A letter we received today from Congressman Mike Thompson (D - Ca.) in response to one we had sent him shows that he is cognizant of his responsibility to do something about the deficit, which as he points out is growing daily:

Given the challenges we face as a nation, and the division that is now seen throughout America, we must weigh the real needs of our country very carefully. We continue to deal with what is sure to be a long-term war on terrorism. In addition, we are facing the challenge of record debt and deficits. For the first time in history we are facing a $7.4 trillion national debt on which we pay $1 billion in interest every single day. The prescription drug coverage plan put in place by the Administration this year has been terribly confusing for seniors and less than 4 million have enrolled. Veterans returning home from Iraq are facing enrollment in a VA healthcare system that is underfunded by over $2 billion. Failure to address these and other critical issues does a disservice to all Americans. Furthermore, the efforts by some to politicize marriage issues will only divide our country further.

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