The Morning Grumpy – July 27th

27 Jul

1. Yesterday, I was asked to break down the debt ceiling debate into simple terms for someone who hadn’t been following the ongoing nonsense. I fumbled for various analogies, but settled on the final Mexican Standoff scene from Reservoir Dogs as the basis for explaining the political fight. However, the above scene fails to explain what is really going on right now. We’re mired in an epic battle for the soul of America. No, I’m not overstating it.

This is about the top 1% of our economic strata fighting for final control over our political process. It is corporatism vs. populism, it’s a defining moment for America and the populists are finding themselves severely outgunned for the fight. Why? Because the man we elected to represent us in this fight, the progressive President that we had hoped for, who promised to change the fundamental course of our politics turned out not to be the one we’ve been waiting for.

When Obama said “Change”, he meant a more intellectual discussion, filled with mutual respect for all viewpoints, a more gracious tone, a more civil debate filled with the beautiful results of continual compromise. What he didn’t expect was to find himself mired in “debate” with an opposition party which simply refuses to grant him legitimacy. He simply cannot govern when the minority party refuses to engage in the process. As Josh Marshall said yesterday,

“Yes, at some level it’s (the debt ceiling debate) a game of chicken. Something we can all understand pretty intuitively in human nature and game theory terms. But to really get what’s really going on you’ve got to understand one key point: one of the two cars doesn’t have a driver in it. Which changes everything”

Where we go from here, I really don’t know. One thing is for certain, we’re surely in uncharted waters and it doesn’t look like the Skipper knows how to navigate.

2. To that end, here is the speech the President could give to the nation which would pull us back from the brink.

Congress has not passed an increase in the statutory debt limit as the deadline approaches. Members of the House majority have informed me that they will not agree to an increase in the debt limit without imposing restrictions on the government budget that will threaten our nation’s recovery, imperil the national defense, and cause widespread suffering. I have offered to negotiate in good faith, as I did during the budget crisis, but they have shown no interest in real negotiations.

As of midnight tonight, the government’s statutory borrowing authority will be exhausted. If no measures are taken, the government must either default on its bonded indebtedness or on its obligations to seniors on Social Security, to unemployed workers dependent on federal insurance payments, and to American service personnel serving in areas of armed conflict.

The Constitution explicitly requires me, under my duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” to meet and pay all debts of the United States.

This requirement is absolute. It is contained in Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment, which directs, in no uncertain terms, that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

3. Alan wrote about the Mayoral Leadership vacuum that plagues our fair city. It is a topic we have visited in various ways over the years; from the lack of definition of our civic brand to our lack of a coherent planning and development strategy which hampers any efforts to make citywide or regional improvements. Every problem in WNY, no matter what you can think of, has a political cause and requires a political solution. We still lack a leader who can help get the all the wood behind one arrow and define measurable goals for the city and region.

You’ve no doubt noticed by now that I’m fascinated with the ongoing battle to save Detroit. Their problems may be similar, but their approach to solving them is radically different from our own. They have a Mayor with a vision who is setting measurable goals for success and holding everyone accountable for creating an environment in which Detroit can again prosper. Read about the Detroit Works Project and read this article about how the project is being implemented. Maybe we can learn from the failures and successes in Detroit and apply those lessons to making a Better Buffalo.

4. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo visited Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse to formally announce the membership of this much-ballyhooed Regional Economic Development Councils.  Cuomo has created ten regional councils which will be tasked with developing “economic master plans” that are specific to the local community.

Those councils will report their plans to Lt. Governor Duffy and each region will compete for a share of $1BN to implement their plan. To get a batter understanding of how the plan works, click here to read the full proposal. During his visit to Buffalo, Cuomo announced the brain trust which will make up the WNY regional council. The team will be co-chaired by local developer Howard Zemsky and UB President Satish K. Tripathi. You can find out what other local luminaries made the council by clicking here.

While it’s nice to see some new faces involved here, it’s not the most inspiring of lists. A mix of corporate welfare queens, campaign donors, heirs to spaghetti fortunes, government leaders, etc. The people chosen to serve by Cuomo were obvious choices, for the most part. But, it lacks anyone with a significant vision. These people are all practitioners, not thinkers. It lacks people who know how to “Question the question”, think differently and be innovative.

The bench for those type of people in this region is pretty short, because there is a paucity of youth, energy, entrepreneurial spirit, new ideas or fresh perspectives. That’s not a problem with Cuomo and his process for choosing, it’s THE problem which faces WNY.

5. Let’s lighten it up a bit, shall we?

6. The July 2011 FAIL Compilation

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Have a day!

12 Responses to “The Morning Grumpy – July 27th”

  1. Leo Wilson July 27, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    Re: the debt ceiling debate: To quote president Obama, “Elections have consequences.” In light of the last election, who is supposed to compromise away from a direction the people have rejected, looking for a new direction?

    At the same time, every proposed plan still leaves us on a perilous trajectory. They speak of cutting between 2 and 4 trillions over 10 years, while spending patterns will have us overspending by 10-15 trillions in the same period. There hasn’t been a single proposal that doesn’t just kick the can down the road again. A dog and pony show, with the citizenry as both dog and pony, competing trainers who aren’t willing to admit the venue, and the whole world a peanut gallery, half of whom are hooting to add untamed, starving lions to the mix.

  2. Derek J. Punaro July 27, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    Re: 2 – Obama better be ready to pull that speech out of his… hat if the GOP doesn’t stop screwing around. I’ve had it with Republicans on this issue. The debt ceiling is a stupid concept to begin with and should be ruled unconstitutional based on the reasoning in the faux speech.

  3. Chris Charvella July 27, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    Looks like Taco Bell represents it’s products with the most accuracy. As a matter of fact, I’m glad they put less dog food than advertised on the tacos I purchase.

  4. Mike In WNY July 27, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    The federal government has run up $61.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities. That amounts to $528,000 per household. Taxing the rich, who already pay a much larger pro-rata share of taxes, and raising the debt ceiling will accomplish nothing but allowing politicians to maintain the illusion that the economy is sound. This is a spending problem and neither Democrats nor Republicans have put forth any serious proposals to deal with it. Obama’s fear-mongering is deplorable and the Republican’s protective stance toward their sacred cows is just as bad.

    Kicking the can down the road is not an option, that road is a dead end.

  5. Chris Charvella July 27, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Like any dutiful Tea Bagger, Mike has forgotten that corporations have to pay federal taxes as well. That $528,000 number is wholly inaccurate.

  6. Mike In WNY July 27, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Chris, please enlighten us. I’m sure your actual figure is much more palatable.

  7. Mike In WNY July 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Furthermore, corporations get their money from the people who live in the households. A tax, or incurred debt, for corporations are ultimately paid by us.

  8. Chris Charvella July 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    As for your second comment, people have jobs that give them money to buy things from corporations because other people buy things from other corporations etc… What’s your point?

    Corporations use the roads and the skies to transport goods. They consume services just like individuals do. Do you think they should be able to consume at no cost?

  9. jimd July 27, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Does the 14th amendment put the onus on the President or Congress? I thought the Presidents hands were tied when it came to monetary issues. Regardless, what redress is there if whomever is responsible lets the country default? I mean who polices these two branches of government?

  10. Mike In WNY July 27, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Do you think they should be able to consume at no cost?

    All tax breaks, tax credits, subsidies, etc., should be eliminated – for business and individuals.

  11. Jennifer July 28, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    I agree, too many of the same ol’ players on that list (WNY regional council.) Who would you pick for the council?

  12. Christopher Smith July 29, 2011 at 12:57 am #

    Jennifer, I’d take a look at the young entrepreneur crowd and also some people from creative class industries. People who understand technology.

    Off the top of my head…

    George Chamoun of Synacor or Ben Porcari of IBC Digital come to mind. There are so many options out there for this list, but Cuomo stuck with known quantities, campaign supporters and establishment thinkers (with the exception of a few choices on the list)

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