Way To Go, Russell!

Google is a great device, and I use it to keep track of family and friends.  Today I Googled Russell and found this excellent little article about his forthcoming show.  I can’t tell you how cool I think it is that Russell and his three friends get their own Group Show at the Palmer Gallery at Vassar. I particularly liked this passage from the linked release:

art only belongs to us
when we don’t know the outcome.
in one way or another
it restores ambiguity.

I actually agree with that thought-provoking sentiment.

The show, called “this the range and recent,” starts on February 24, includes a reception on February 25, and ends on March 4.  Unfortunately, Kish and I won’t be there for the opening night or the reception, but we will make it there for the weekend.  We’re very excited about seeing the show.

Not Serious

After posting a piece this morning, immediately below, about why the “bipartisan budget commission” is a bogus idea that reflects badly on the capabilities of the President and the Congress, hours later I read this piece about how the President would announce today, in Nevada, $1.5 billion in new spending to “help spur local solutions” to the housing foreclosure problem in five states:  Nevada, Arizona, California, Michigan, and Florida.  What could be a clearer indication of why the “bipartisan budget commission” is a joke?

We’ve now seen how things will work.  The President will fly around the country, campaigning for Democratic Senators and Representatives and announcing new spending in their states and districts.  In the meantime, the “heavy lifting” of deficit reduction will be left for out-of-office political has-beens like former Senator Alan Simpson, who will be powerless to do anything other than recommend methods to reduce the deficit.  We all know how this will play out — the new spending will occur, while any proposed spending cuts won’t ever be enacted.

I sympathize with people who have lost their homes because they lost their jobs.  But how many of the people in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida who are experiencing foreclosure problems fall into that category?  How many of them stretched too far in buying their homes, or hoped to “flip” the houses when they bought in what used to be super-heated housing markets, or misrepresented their assets and income when they applied for their home loans?  How many of the banks involved just made bad loans?  Why should taxpayers in Ohio bail such people out, particularly when we have to borrow even more money to do it?

I think President Obama has shown his true stripes.  He doesn’t care about budget deficits or the federal debt, he cares about politics.  He doesn’t have the stomach to make the tough choices  because he cannot stand to suffer the political consequences that inevitably will result.  In that regard, note the sentence in the fourth paragraph of the linked article:  “He will be back in town-hall mode, a venue that aides say allows him to connect with people and distance himself from the messy process of Washington governing.” What could be a clearer indication that President Obama is taking the easy way out?

Fresh Or Feeble?

Peggy Noonan usually offers interesting observations about politics and the national mood.  Her most recent column is about President Obama’s decision to appoint a bipartisan budget commission and about the national mood on spending.  In brief, she believes that the appointment of the commission may be viewed as a fresh approach that is helpful to the President and that there is a deep concern in the country about runaway government spending and the resulting massive budget deficits and mounting national debt.

I agree with Noonan on the latter point, but not the former.  I think people are extraordinarily worried about the direction of the country and the obvious inability of our elected representatives, from the President on down, to act responsibly and courageously when it comes to spending.  We are seeing no signs that Congress and the President really share our concern — as opposed to mouthing the standard platitudes — and will do something about it.  That is why I disagree with Noonan on the former point.  I think most people will view the bipartisan commission as a feeble dodge, a way for the President to pass the buck on his budgeting responsibilities.  The reality is that we do not need another commission to hold hearings and eventually author a long report that no one will read.  Instead, we need elected representatives who actually do their jobs, make tough choices, and take the political heat that results because they know as a country we have no other choice.  In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has done exactly that, in an effort to bring New Jersey’s budget woes under control.  No one in Washington has stepped up in similar fashion.

This is a big part of the reason why I think President Obama is falling so dramatically in the polls.  Many of the people who voted for the President had faith in his ability to do things differently and to make a real, meaningful change in how our country and our political systems operate.  So far, he has not delivered.  Appointing another “bipartisan commission” of former politicians and Washington insiders doesn’t seem like any change at all, much less anything meaningful.  I think the President risks losing the faith of most of the people who voted for him, and once faith is gone it is hard to regain.