In December 2015, the Republican majorities in Congress reached agreements with their Democratic colleagues and President Obama to increase the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars. Democrats were thrilled by spending increases all across the government. Republicans were pleased with special interest tax breaks. Many tax payers were pacified by assurances that no one will have to pay for all these thrills and pleasures. That’s the responsibility of the nation’s creditors, whoever they are.
Earlier in December, Generation Citizen announced the launching of New York’s Vote16USA, a drive to lower the voting age to 16. The objective is to revitalize American democracy by involving more and dumber voters in the electoral process. The December 7 elections results in Venezuela, however, are causing some concern among those who hope an influx of juvenile voters will give put social justice advocacy over the top in the United States. Even though Venezuela allows sixteen-year-olds to vote, the anti-socialist opposition won 112 of 167 congressional seats.
It was reported at the beginning of the month that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) financial books are such a mess that the HUD Inspector General has given up all hope of auditing them. The I.G. reports that its “…audit report contains nine material weaknesses, eight significant deficiencies in internal controls and six instances of noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations. These weaknesses were due to an inability to establish a compliant control environment, implement adequate financial accounting systems, retain key financial management staff and identify appropriate accounting principles.”
The good news is that no one is going to lose his or her job. They are federal government employees. Tax payers inclined to defend unsatisfactory income tax returns on any similar grounds have received notification from the Internal Revenue Service: DON’T BOTHER. Contrary to superficial appearances, they are not government employees.
Your columnist received a letter from Rep. Chellie Pingree on December 9, 2015, announcing that she has introduced H.R. 4184, the Food Recovery Act. This woman never fails to astonish. While her House colleagues have given up bathroom breaks, sleeping, Christmas parties, lobbyist meetings, committee hearings, and smutty e-mail messages to read all the way through the 2,009 pages of the new omnibus spending bill, Maine’s prodigious first district congressmammal has devised comprehensive (yes, “comprehensive!) legislation to reduce the 133 billion pounds of food wasted by Americans every year. She got this idea from inspecting the left-overs from her fund-raising fetes, or so I assume. Go to pingree.house.gov/foodwaste to learn more and decide whether any part of HR4184 makes any sense at all.
On December 4, the New York Times printed an editorial on its front page calling for drastic gun control measures, including confiscation of weapons. Shortly after the CBS/New York Times poll reported that 50 percent oppose “a nationwide ban on assault weapons,” while 44 percent support such a ban. This is the first time any poll showed a majority of the American public opposing a federal ban on “assault weapons.”
The Times’ last front-page editorial, in June 1920, scoffed at the Republican National Convention’s nomination of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge for the presidency. Harding and Coolidge beat Democrats James M. Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt by 60 to 34 percent and carried New York state by 65 to 27 percent. Some commentators begin to suspect that the Times editors have an exaggerated idea of their importance and influence.
Donald Trump opened a new front in his pre-nomination offensive against Hillary Clinton. He topped his earlier criticism of the poor woman’s pantsuit-addiction, his derogation of her strength and stamina, and his insinuation of a lesbian love relationship with Huma Abedin by impugning her toilet habits. His comment was thin in details but rich in suggestion: “I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s disgusting.”
This is the first time in the history of American politics that a contest for the presidency has produced public criticism of a rival’s toilet habits. Indeed there is no record that even Adolf Hitler had anything to say about Joseph Stalin’s toilet habits, or vice versa.
The campaign has months to run. The politically alert public eagerly awaits the next step in Trump’s relentless escalation. Hillary is too well-bred to reply directly and personally, but we are all agog to see what retaliation her opposition research teams are preparing for her surrogates. This could get so nasty that family newspaper may no longer be able to report on it.