Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2016

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No time to abandon adult discourse

Tea party faction looks to undermine 200-plus years of democracy

Who is going to write the checks to balance our mostly unbalanced country?

When the Founding Fathers met to create the U.S. Constitution, one of the foundations upon which they agreed was a system of checks and balances. That concept manifested itself in three separate but equal branches of government — the judiciary, the executive and the legislative.

The system has worked well for more than 200 years — with a hiccup or two along the way — but it now seems stalled. And it is stalled not because there are not checks and balances but because another foundation upon which they all agreed — the right to vote — has worked against the citizens of the country. At least, so far.

I realize there are still a few days left before the United States officially defaults on its debts and, so, anything can and probably will happen to avert what every financial mind of any note has opined will be an economic nightmare. If we think the past three years have been difficult, just wait until the world finds out we stopped paying our bills! That is how the conversation starts.

The right to vote is one of our most fundamental rights. It is the basis for a democracy that is free and fair. Or, at least as free or fair as human beings can make it. An essential ingredient to the right to vote is the obligation to make an informed vote. That is the part of this deal that requires some citizen participation and, yes, some hard work.

It isn’t easy to keep all the candidates and their respective political positions in mind when we go into the voting booth, in part because the positions change based on yesterday’s polling results. And, yet, that is part of our responsibility because if we don’t choose well, we face the possibility of those we elect not acting, well, in our best interests.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe in taxes, spending cuts or anything and everything in between. What matters is that the United States not default on its obligations, which would challenge the full faith and credit argument that the rest of the world makes when discussing the safety of investing in the greatest democracy on the planet.

Simply put, when people to whom we owe money don’t get paid, they will act out. Some will dump their bonds on the market, driving down the values on a worldwide basis. Others will demand much higher interest rates the next time we try to sell them a government security. Still others will find somewhere else to park their money. The net result is that it will cost every American a whole lot more to live tomorrow than it does today.

Faced with that prospect, the single worst thing an elected official should do is refuse to take part in the solution. Stamping your feet and just saying or yelling “no” is not an answer. It is a reaction and a very childish one. And that is exactly what the Tea Party-led Republicans in the House of Representatives are doing. The people have made it clear that a balanced solution to our significant debt crises is what they prefer. A little tax increase on those who can pay, a lot of spending cuts for those who can’t afford it and some fiscal restraint going forward are solutions that sit well with the American people. They get it.

But those folks in Congress who refuse to even sit down in a responsible way to find a solution that isn’t 100 percent to their liking are playing with fire and they are playing with our economic lives. As if we haven’t had enough of that already!

Yes, folks, votes matter. And given our system of checks and balances, the kind of votes that put those meatheads in office is doing a grave disservice to people who don’t deserve such treatment.

It is long past time to let the grown-ups back there take charge. The Senate’s Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, while what they have isn’t perfect, may be our only chance for fiscal sanity. If they can get this deal done, we will all owe them a debt of gratitude. Along with all the other debts we owe!


I know the email responses to what I just wrote will flood my not very smartphone (because it practically forces me to read them all), so let me talk a little bit about a different kind of flood.

My friend Pat Mulroy continues to make public what seems like a most intelligent plan to save our fellow Americans across the Midwest from the ravages of the floodwaters of the Mississippi River. She went very public with it this past week in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That’s the kind of organization that can turn a good idea into a great project if it decides it is good for business.

So let’s talk money. We all see the devastation on the evening news that the flooding has caused throughout the Midwest and South. I am sure the numbers are in the billions if you count the homes, businesses and lives that are lost every time such a disaster strikes.

Pat’s idea is simple. It is a pipeline that would take the rising water away from the Mississippi River and transport it westward to the Colorado River where, frankly, water is in very short supply. Over the next decade or so, many millions of Baby Boomers will be retiring to the Southwest, putting a further demand on the diminishing water supply. It makes perfect sense that we should take the water no one wants and move it to a place where everyone needs it. The only thing in the way is an old argument about water laws that should no longer, well, hold water.

Whatever that pipeline costs can probably be offset by the next few years of flood damage. That’s a pretty good return on investment.

Come on, Chamber of Commerce, show us what you can do with Mulroy’s good idea.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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