On the evening of Aug. 8th, Jews across the world begin their observance of the fast of Tisha B’Av, mourning the loss of the two Jerusalem Temples (and many more calamities to the Jewish people). The Talmud tells us the cause of the Second Temple’s destruction was senseless hatred and political insults.
We are taught that during the first century CE, a man threw a party and intended to invite his good friend Kamtza. His servant screwed up and mistakenly invited the host’s enemy, Bar Kamtza. This led to the insulting of Bar Kamtza, his slandering of the Jewish people to Caesar, and Bar Kamtza’s purposeful wounding of an animal Caesar sent to the Holy Temple to be sacrificed as a peace offering making it unfit to be used.
The offering was rejected by the Great Sanhedrin (think of the Sanhedrin as a Rabbinical Supreme Court whose 71 Judges were some of the wisest scholars who ever lived.) The Sanhedrin met at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem until it was destroyed, after which they moved to Tiberius where today sits the Holy Land’s greatest Kosher Chinese restaurant, Pagoda (personally I do not believe that is a coincidence, from this we learned that the wise Rabbis of the Great Sanhedrin enjoyed take out now and then).
Anyway, Caesar took the fact that his animals were rejected as a political insult and rebellious move so he invaded, resulting in the destruction of the Holy Temple.
The public insulting of one man by one other man steamrolled out of control with the ultimate consequence of the destruction of the Holy Temple, and the exile of the Jewish people from Israel (and the ultimate Kosher Chinese place) for almost 1900 years.
The story of the Kamtzas is apropos for the solemn day of Tisha B’Av, but is also be a warning for America following two months of a debt ceiling debate riddled with personal insult and hateful rhetoric.
Despite the insults within and between both political parties, the compromise deal gives a political victory for some and though impotent in a cost cutting way, it does provide an opening for our leadership to take use this “starting point” as a platform for the additional change necessary so the United States may avoid the Greece scenario and return to fiscal heath.
Although many in the movement would vehemently deny it, the big winner in the debate is the tea party movement. As recently as June 22nd the progressive Democratic Party were talking about a new stimulus package as part of a debt ceiling bill … but thanks to the tea party movement that scenario is long dead. The tea party movement switched the debate from “spending vs. cutting” to how “much should be cut and/or from where,” a huge accomplishment.
Major tea party demands going into the talks were achieved; no new taxes and cuts to the deficit larger than any increase in the debt ceiling. The biggest demand not achieved through the negotiation was the passage of the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). The bill passed by the House required that the Senate pass the Amendment, while the final compromise merely requires a vote. The difference is a huge one. Since almost all of the states have a balanced budget requirement of some sort, and polls report that somewhere between 70-75% of voters want a BBA, once passed by two-thirds of each house of Congress this amendment is likely to “speed” its way thorough the state approval process (75% of the States must approve for it to be added to the constitution). A BBA would most certainly pass the house, house but will be rejected by the progressive-controlled Senate whose members are reluctant to give up their unlimited credit card.
Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell were also winners. They held to the “no new taxes” pledge despite rumors they had folded. Boehner gets more credit as he was the face of the opposition, took most of the heat, and showed himself willing to compromise not only with Democrats but with his own coalition to make a deal happen.
Opinion polls also reflected a voter demand that the the two sides play nice together, however the progressive strategy ignored the public will. They tried to falsely brand the tea party movement as evil, stubborn terrorists whose only desire was to push granny off a cliff and ride their private jets to the yacht club (like Democratic Senator John Kerry?).
President Obama was the big loser. When the United States needed a leader he was a fear-monger. There was never a chance of the country defaulting on its debts, even without a debt ceiling increase the regular influx of tax dollars proved for the payment of the interest on the debt, medicare, medicaid, payment of all salary and other obligations to military and tens of millions of take out orders from the Tiberius Chinese place. Rather than explaining the real reasons he felt the increase necessary, the President preferred to use frightening rhetoric about defaulting, thus rattling an already shaky investment community. Obama also demonized GOP Congressmen who were part of the tea party movement, for being extreme, or being terrorists collectively “holding a gun to our heads” when they simply trying to keep campaign promises (remember when that was a good thing?) .
On top of the slanders from the government, their lapdogs in the mainstream media blindly followed their lead. One extreme example is Martin Bashir of MSNBC who interviewed Stanton Peele, a psychologist and an “expert on addiction, “trying to prove that Tea Partiers are ‘Delusional’ Addicts.
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Obama’s demand that any agreement go past the 2012 election extended the crisis an additional week and undoubtedly will be exploited by his eventual opponent who will justifiably claim Obama chose politics over the needs of the country.
The President’s relationship with Democrats in Congress was severely damaged by this debate. Senior Party members felt Obama’s reluctance to commit on a plan of his own, demonstrated a lack of leadership leaving them to twist in the wind. Party leaders didn’t want speeches, they wanted Obama to roll up his sleeves and come up with his own deal.
Most members of the liberal wing of the Democratic party were horrified by the details of the compromise. Influential Democratic Rep John Conyers didn’t blame the deal on tea party pressure, he said that the House GOP Caucus was simply doing what they were elected to do. Conyers a senior House Democrat placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Barack Obama. He called for a massive rally outside the White House to “educate” President Obama.
The ever-hapless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was a self-created victim. He had negotiated a deal with the GOP a week before the final deal was struck, but the POTUS nixed the deal, leaving Reid to waste the next five days demonizing the Boehner plan (which Reid helped to write). An Obama plan would have prevented this delay and embarrassment.
Looking to the crystal ball this compromise achieved little real savings. Prior to any the deal it was projected that the national debt will grow from the present $14.5 trillion to $26 trillion in ten years. When the deal is factored in, the projection drops to a bit to just over $24 trillion, still an unsustainable burden on the economy.
As the American economy continues to slide toward insolvency, it is urgent our leaders keep spending under control and that control has to start with each politician’s worst nightmare: entitlement reform. Last year entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare accounted 56% of the total US Budget, with the onset of real Obamacare spending in 2014 entitlement costs will grow dramatically.
Sadly, most politicians try to avoid that issue. The liberal side of our government chooses turn any discussion of entitlement reform as an opportunity to demonize the reformer. For example Congressman Paul Ryan’s reform plan was quickly followed with a Democratic party ad showing a Paul Ryan look alike pushing his wheel-chair bound grandmother down a hill and off a cliff, a prototypic example of the nasty progressive rhetoric during this round of the budget debate.
Those who objectively followed the discussion over the past few months, saw the GOP bashing Democratic party proposals with facts and charts, but the Democrat’s arguments against Republican plans were void of any facts, but laden with histrionics and name-calling.
This compromise was a small victory in the battle to keep the United States from the abyss of over-indebtedness. As pressure-filled as this first skirmish was, future ones will be worse, as they will have to deal with the more emotional issues surrounding entitlement reform.
In order for our country to survive, our leaders will have to cut our spending without cutting each others throats by falling into the typical Democratic party strategy of insults, ego and vitriolic rhetoric. As we learned in the story of the Kamtzas, hateful words are sufficient to begin a process where the holiest place on earth is destroyed. Imagine what it could do to this country which, although great, does not posses the holiness of the Second Temple.