Sunday, February 1, 2009
Can't you feel that sun a-shinin'?
Ground hog runnin' by the country stream
This must be the day that all of my dreams come true
So happy just to be alive
Underneath the sky of blue
Every year on the second day of February, marmot aficionados of every make and model gather in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and wait with baited breath for a certain groundhog by the name of “Punxsutawney Phil” to emerge from his burrow. As weather folklore has it, if Phil fails to see his shadow, winter will end soon. If, however, it’s sunny and Phil does see his shadow, winter continues for another 6 weeks.
Well, my fellow Disgruntled Dylanologists, we need not wait. It just so happens Groundhog Day came early this year.
Punxsutawney Phil may not see his shadow tomorrow, but America certainly saw theirs this past Wednesday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerged from the hallowed Capitol chambers and proudly announced the passage of the $819 billion economic stimulus package.
So what do the irrational idiosyncrasies of some tired, world-weary woodchuck have to do with Washington? A lot more than you'd think.
There’s no question a euphoria has been sweeping across the country in recent months. This past November, America made a deal with their elected officials, a political quid-pro-quo if you will.
The bargain was simple. Differences in point of view would be met with tempered measure; partisan decisiveness, however, would no longer be tolerated. Said another way, put your pettiness aside and get on with the business of governing.
That was the hope. The House vote Wednesday told another story. The final vote: 244-to-188. Every single Republican—all 177 of them—voted against the stimulus package. Hardly a ringing endorsement of a ‘new morning’ in America.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact, however, that $819 billion is a lot of money. The passage of the stimulus package (and it will pass in some form— that’s precisely what this whole debate is about) will not only define the Obama presidency, the programs the stimulus package will fund will define our nation’s priorities for generations to come.
Transforming our economy with science and technology; modernizing roads, bridges, transit, and waterways; developing clean, efficient energy— these are big ideas. And while big ideas necessarily come with big price tags, these programs are the most expensive public works programs in our nation’s history. How the money is spent certainly is something worth fighting over.
Ironically, the lines drawn by the partisans in Washington are not over the cost. Nor is the debate so much over the programs themselves, either. Not the big ones, anyway. We all know our country’s infrastructure is in shambles, that our education system is a disgrace and that our ability to compete in technology is severely hampered by shoddy networks and a lack of adequate resources.
The fundamental cause of partisanship, it seems, resides in the pork—those hidden programs the politicians put in to placate their political backers back home.
The fact that the American public isn’t even blinking over spending $30 billion for roads and bridges, $9 billion for public transit and $1 billion for inter-city rail must have the politicians salivating. Exactly where that money will be spent undoubtedly has them sharpening their tenterhooks.
Of course, the notion of demanding accountability isn’t such a bad thing. Truth be told, a little accountability will likely go a long way toward renewing a sense of trust and competency in our elected officials. The memory of the $700 billion that recently went to the shylocks on the Street who got their pound of flesh without having to account to a soul (accept perhaps their own— but that’s another grunt altogether) has proven far more enduring than the banks they so shamelessly ran into the ground.
Just as we have every right to hold the feet of our elected officials to fire, they have the right to demand the same accountability from the people to whom they will give the money. But rather than hammer out the details on how this massive economic stimulus package will be spent, the politicos who told us they wanted to bring a ‘new way of doing business’ to Washington are clearly still in the business of lining their pockets instead of finding ways to put money into ours.
And while this incestuous approach to governing—this “we were put in charge now let us do our jobs” mentality—has become analogous with pigs at a trough, the stimulus plan has been liken to a Trojan Horse, I would maintain our friend, Punxsutawney Phil, is better metaphor for what we can really expect from Washington.
Thanks in large part to the 1993 film of the same name, the concept of ‘Groundhog Day’ has come to mean “doing the same thing over and over.”
And while we probably won’t have to relive the next eight years in the tortuous manner Bill Murray was forced to relive the same day over and over again until he recognized the errant ways of his past, there is no question the nation economic winter of discontent is still upon us.
The good news, of course, is that tomorrow is another day...
So happy just to be alive
Underneath the sky of blue
On this new morning, new morning
On this new morning with you.
When it comes the Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil is certainly the most well known. But he isn’t the only one. A few other famous groundhogs and their squirrelly counterparts in the House of Representatives:
Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
Glenn Thompson (R) Pennsylvania 5th
Jimmy the Groundhog of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Tammy Baldwin (D) Wisconsin 2nd
Staten Island Chuck of New York City, New York
Michael E. McMahon (D) New York 13th
General Beauregard Lee, PhD of Lilburn, Georgia
John Linder (R) Georgia 7th
Dunkirk Dave of Dunkirk, New York
Brian Higgins (D) New York 27th
Malverne Mel and Malverne Melissa of Malverne, New York
Carolyn McCarthy (D) New York 4th
Sir Walter Wally of Raleigh, North Carolina
Brad Miller (D) North Carolina 13th
Pardon Me Pete of Tampa, Florida
Kathy Castor (D) Florida 11th
Octoraro Orphie of Quarryville, Pennsylvania
Joseph R. Pitts (R) Pennsylvania 16th
Holtsville Hal of Holtsville, New York
Timothy H. Bishop (D) New York 1st
Buckeye Chuck of Marion, Ohio
Jim Jordan (R) Ohio 4th