Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Choo Choo And The Caboose

The Choo Choo And The Caboose

I wonder if anyone has read the 10th Amendment recently?  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  You might call this the “In Charge” Amendment.

The Tenth is the favorite amendment of recalcitrant and ambitious Governors who have decided that, in the immortal words of Frank Hague, the late Mayor of Jersey City, “I am the Law.”  The Tenth is also beloved by special interests that chafe at Federal regulation when there are more sympathetic state regulators.  And the States Rights folks especially admire the Tenth when the President is of the opposite party.  The Tenth is, pure and simple, about who has power and what they can do with it.

This week, the Tenth is going to get a test, as the Supreme Court will consider it in relation to Arizona’s SB-1070, Arizona’s new immigration law.  Governor Jan Brewer and Sherriff Joe aren’t fans of Mr. Obama.  So when it comes to international relations between the United States and Mexico, Governor Brewer wants to be in charge.

Meanwhile, the other news out of Washington is that Congress has reconvened, with the same spirit of selflessness and cooperation it adjourned with.  And with Mitt’s nomination now virtually assured, he might have hoped to tack back to the middle.  Mitt lives to tack, but House Republicans have put the kibosh on that. “We’re not a cheerleading squad,” said Representative Jeff Landry, an outspoken freshman from Louisiana. “We’re the conductor. We’re supposed to drive the train.”  In Washington, freshman Representative Landry and his fellow “conductors” are in charge. 

As we continue our travels, we find that the Minnesota Vikings, whose storied history includes the mighty defensive line known as the Purple People Eaters, have been looking to munch on the taxpayers of the North Star State.  Unless the legislature coughs up a $975 Million dollar stadium to replace the abject slum they are forced to perform in, they may just be forced to “take their talents elsewhere.”   True, Minnesota just went through a state shutdown that involved gutting basic services in order to pay for tax breaks. But the Vikings have needs that far surpass schools, cops, sanitation, etc. so Minnesota either needs to pay up, or suffer the consequences.  I suppose that makes the Vikings in charge as well. 

Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?  Looming budget crisis, Afghanistan, Iran, deficits, unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and instead of leadership, it’s become like blue light special time at the old Korvettes, except the merchandise is money, access, and power.   If it’s not nailed down, grab it and put it in your basket. If it is nailed down, pry it up off the floor and put it in your basket. 

Anyone out there daring to think big?  And, when I mean big, I’m not implying something like the Brinks Robbery, where you make off with the whole armored car?  Big, as in genuinely and realistically trying to plan for the nation’s long term economic needs and challenges?  Big, as in bargaining with the other side to achieve some consensus so the deal can stick long term?

It’s not coming from the GOP, where the leadership excels only in parliamentary tactics, robo-criticism of Mr. Obama, and a keen eye for personal advancement.  Come January of next year, the GOP plans to be in charge, so why bargain now when you can take what you want later?

And let’s not give Mr. Obama and the Democrats a free pass either. Where’s the vision?  Where’s the seriousness? Simpson-Bowles, imperfect as it is, would have been serious.  But, if the best thing they can bring to the table is the Buffett Rule, then they have run out of ideas as well.  Yes, we all know the GOP is dominated by people who want to turn the country into a theocratic, kleptocratic autocracy.  But for policy, Democrats, how about something more contemporary than a “Maude” rerun?

Tom Friedman of the New York Times just wrote a column suggesting Michael Bloomberg run as a third party candidate.  I’m for it.  I live in this great city, and, hypercritical (and Democratic) New Yorker that I am, I have to say for all Bloomberg’s many mistakes my city is safer and cleaner, the schools are better, parks and museums more beautiful and more accessible, the overall quality of life better than it was during the Administrations of his predecessors, both Republican and Democratic.

Bloomberg brings three things to the table that I see completely absent elsewhere. First, he doesn’t make a party game out of blasting the government-he accepts the fact that it has a role to play and tries to make it work.  Second, while Romney talks about being a businessman, Bloomberg is a businessman.  Romney was a moneyman and rearranger of assets.  Bloomberg is a builder-he put together an empire by assembling it piece-by-piece, adapting to market conditions, and taking different approaches to solve problems.  He is results oriented instead of hidebound to some sort of ideological purity-an approach we desperately need.  Finally, Bloomberg loves his city, and he wants to improve it-all of it, not just for the people who voted for him. That makes him a rarity among contemporary politicians. 

Run, Mike.  I don’t know if I would vote for you, but I’d love to see the debates-I’d love to see you get between the two candidates and demand they do better.  Right now, the Choo Choo always seems to be led for the benefit of the winners, and the Caboose is packed with everyone else.  How ironic would it be if Mike Bloomberg, multi-billionaire, ended up as the “Tenth Amendment” candidate-of the people, or, in Friedman’s words, “an unpaid lobbyist for the country — and for the next generation of Americans.”

Mike Bloomberg for Candidate?  Not the snappiest of slogans, but I think it can sing.