Monday, August 8, 2011

Partisan-patory Government

I was channel surfing yesterday and landed on one of the cable news stations (I can’t remember which one), which was playing rapid-fire sound bites from politicians discussing the recent U.S credit downgrade.  First a Democrat blamed the Republicans, then a Republican blamed the Democrats, then another Democrat blamed the Republicans, and so on.  Some liberals have actually referred to it as the “Tea Party Downgrade.”

Then, when I did my morning scan of Yahoo! News today, I noted that two of the top five Most Popular headlines were "White House adviser blames tea party for downgrade" and "GOP candidates slam Obama in reaction to S&P downgrade."

To all that I say, listen you idiots … you’re all complicit.  Democrats and Republicans.  Conservatives and liberals.  Our current financial mess is the fault of ALL OF YOU.  It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House, or who controls Congress, or which political movement is carrying the momentum today.  You couldn’t cooperate, so you ended up making a panicked short-term deal at the 11th hour that is pretty lousy for everybody.

Democrats: We cannot remain solvent without making difficult decisions about the social safety net.  I don’t want to hear another liberal politician state “we won’t reduce the debt on the backs of children and seniors.”  It sounds noble, but it’s unrealistic because our current systems are so archaic.  Take Social Security as an example.  Seniors ain’t what they were in the ‘40s when life expectancy was 63 (Isn’t 60 the new 40, or something like that?).  We simply haven’t adjusted for the times.  So stop poo-pooing Republican proposals.  From what I’ve seen, many of the changes are long-term and wouldn’t impact the people with a current stake anyway.

Republicans: Tax increases won’t destroy the economy.  The economy has been faltering for the better part of 10 years, a period of relatively low taxation.  Our country’s economic golden age came in the ‘50s, when taxes were generally higher.  Getting back to that isn’t rocket science: close loopholes and make income taxes more equitable.  And if you really want to use low taxation as an economic engine, find a way to offer big breaks to companies that keep jobs in the U.S.  If CEOs complain that taxes are hurting profits, tell them a simple solution would be offering better products that more people will actually want to buy.

Of course, that’s oversimplified.  Effectively governing hundreds of millions of people is complicated business.  Nevertheless, I don’t understand why every issue facing our nation becomes another round of rigid disagreement and, ultimately, finger-pointing.

I have friends across the political spectrum.  Sometimes we disagree on stuff.  Sometimes we debate.  However, I can’t recall a single time where one of those debates didn’t result in each of us coming around – at least a little bit – to see the other’s point of view.

It’s called compromise, and last time I checked, it’s not an evil thing.  Consider trying it sometime.  You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Terror in Aisle Six

I’ve always found the rules of the road to be pretty basic: drive on the right side; look both ways at crossings; yield to the right if slowing or stopped; and so on.  The same applies to bike and pedestrian traffic.  In my experience, people generally understand and abide by these guidelines.

So what is it with the grocery store?  Does it exist in some bizarre dimension where the rules don’t apply?  Tonight, I did some shopping at my local Acme Fresh Market.  During my 25 minute visit, I experienced the following:

  • A woman near the pharmacy, sitting to take her blood pressure, who decided the best parking spot for her cart was sideways across the entire aisle, blocking my path, as well as that of a fellow shopper coming the opposite direction
  • A man zigzagging slowly down the potato chip aisle, looking at nothing in particular, but making passage impossible
  • A woman comparison shopping for a taco kit, standing firmly in the middle of the aisle as her children ran to and fro, in and out of the paths of oncoming carts
  • A woman in a motorized cart blindly blasting out from the checkout at about 15 miles per hour, nearly getting t-boned from both sides, and then shooting dirty looks at each of the two near-colliders (one of whom happened to be me)
I wish I could say these were unexpected occurrences, but it’s actually unusual for these types of things not to happen during my weekly milk and bread run (and in the grand scheme of things, it’s certainly not confined to the supermarket – it seems to happen at every big box retailer regardless of location, demographics or product offering).

But why?  What causes people to completely abandon all courtesy and common sense the moment their hands touch the grimy molded plastic of the shopping cart handle?  Frankly, it amazes me that you don’t see an occasional fistfight break out when two bargain hunters collide in their mad dash to get to the discounted Velveeta (something else I almost witnessed tonight).

I guess I can’t explain it, but I’ll offer this public service announcement anyway: be conscious of your surroundings and follow a few basic rules when shopping:

  • If you decide to stop and browse, move your cart as far to the right as possible.
  • If stopping in the vicinity of another cart, leave enough distance so that other shoppers can maneuver through.
  • If passing a slower moving customer, do so cautiously and to the left.
  • If you’re about to cross an intersecting aisle, stop and look both ways before proceeding.
  • Most importantly, never – ever – stop suddenly and without warning.
And, when your shopping is complete and you reach the cashier, have your wallet/purse/checkbook ready and move along as soon as the transaction is complete.  Trust me, the small stack of nickels and pennies the cashier just handed you is almost definitely the correct change.