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So, a CNN poll shows that the GOP favorability ratings have taken a hit in the aftermath of the debt ceiling debate. Somehow, in the twisted thinking of the RNC chair, that’s not the fault of GOP intransigence but rather the president’s fault. And Boehner is claiming that the S&P conclusion that their downgrade is due to the Dems’ unwillingness to pass the Medicare-killing Ryan budget. Even when the S&P specifically called out the GOP and the possibility that they will continue to insist that the Bush tax cuts be continued, regardless of their huge negative impact on the deficit. Say what?!?!

It reminds me of a friend’s young son, about age 4, immediately after the major earthquake that hit Southern California in February 1971. His mother went to check on him and his 6 year old brother, who shared a bedroom. The younger boy was sitting upright in bed, eyes as big as saucers. Pointing to his still-sleeping brother, he announced, “Guy did it!”

On the surface this may sound pretty good.  The GOP regularly suggests that the federal budget is just like a household budget, but bigger.  So, since families “have to balance their budgets”, so should the Federal Government.  But let’s look a little closer…

A Constitutional amendment to balance the budget means that the Federal Government could NEVER, ever have expenditures that outpace income.  Not in time of war, or natural disaster, not ever.  A balanced budget amendment might help keep us out of unnecessary wars, like, say, Iraq.  No more butting into other countries’ business.   But how would we pay for any war?  Selling war bonds like during World War II?  Those war bonds went to building bombers and tanks and making bullets — bonds along with rationing any raw materials that went toward manufacturing war materiel.  Under the GOP’s anti-tax mantra, raising taxes to fund a war would be off the table.  Or would it…?

Since the GOP is so fond of using household budgets as the analog for the federal budget, let’s look at how a balanced budget amendment compares to a household budget.

Do you have a mortgage on your home?  Do  you have a car loan?  Do you use credit cards?  Do you or your kids take out loans to help finance college expenses?  Do you refinance your home or take out a second mortgage to pay for remodeling or renovating it?  All those borrowing options would be off the table if you used the rubric of a balanced budget amendment.

Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t represent new spending.  Rather, it is borrowing to cover past spending — like the Bush tax cuts, Medicare Part D, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  To default would be like deciding to default on your mortgage or to refuse to pay on your credit cards.  So, your house would be foreclosed and auctioned off on the courthouse steps.  Your car would be repossessed.  Your credit cards would be canceled — but you’d still owe the remaining balance.  And your credit rating would drop like a rock.  And when you finally paid them off, you’d find that your interest rate would be sky high should you apply for a new loan or new cards.  And if those consequences weren’t challenging enough, the black marks on your credit rating would remain for years after you paid your bills and paid any future bills, such as rent on a place to live, on time.  To make matters worse, the rent you’d have to pay would likely be higher than if you had an excellent credit rating.  If those acts kill your personal credit rating, just imagine what it would do to a country’s credit rating!

Some members of the GOP don’t think that default would be so bad.  They don’t believe what the economists and the Treasury Secretary and the Chamber of Commerce or the bankers are telling them.  They only pay attention to the voices in their heads or on Fox News.  They don’t look into the ideology of the Koch Brothers or of the supposedly non-partisan think tanks that spout Milton Friedman’s version of economics.  One GOP legislator allowed as how stiffing China and Saudi Arabia might be a pretty good idea.  What he fails to realize (or perhaps he just doesn’t care) is that American pension funds are a very significant holder of treasury notes.  So, along with stiffing the Chinese and the Saudis, a lot of Americans would also get stiffed — and not all of them would be those hated public employees.  They might even include Congress… along with aerospace retirees among others.

We are finally landscaping our back yard…after living in the house for eight years. The project has been going on for a couple weeks, and the end is in sight. Since we live in a desert climate, grass didn’t make any sense. Besides the water requirements, you have to mow the darn stuff, and there are 18 holes worth of grass just over the wrought iron fence for us to enjoy, without the effort needed to keep it up. It’s amazing how good today’s AstroTurf looks. It even has thatch!

Spouse is currently enjoying his afternoon snooze, but we’ll soon be enjoying a glass of celebratory wine on our new patio. The table and chairs set is waiting for us to pick it up at Sears. An arbor with attached bench is on order from Amazon, and tomorrow will bring a trip to our locally-owned garden center to begin picking out plants for the beds and perhaps some new containers. And an awning is on order from Costco.

Needless to say, we are kicking ourselves that we waited so long. But a layoff notice four weeks after we moved in put a serious crimp in our original ideas, and over time, we just got used to it. Ran into a friend this morning as we picked up our weekly produce box from a CSA, and she asked how soon we were going to inaugurate the new space…just as soon as we get the awning in and up and some of the plants in. Some will need to wait for cooler weather to plant, but we’re having fun planning.

There have been a flurry of emails over the past few days between us and some dear friends who were evacuated last Wednesday due to the Monument fire in southern Arizona. When it jumped the highway late yesterday and destroyed a couple of restaurants only a mile from their home, we feared the worst. All day today we’ve been following the news in the local Sierra Vista newspaper, pouring over maps and especially Google Earth as affected street names were released. We’re breathing a bit easier tonight. Available information, not yet official, indicates that the fire stopped directly across the street from their home, turning north to run up a wash. Unfortunately, additional homes were damaged or destroyed, and our friends may well be facing smoke damage. At a minimum, the house will smell of smoke, but our friends and their menagerie of dogs and horses have found shelter with friends while they wait and worry. Needless to say, we’ll breath easier when we have the official word.

So, Tim Pawlenty thinks that President Obama is engaging in class warfare. Has he lost his mind? If there has been class warfare in this country, it’s the result of a generation of GOP policies of tax breaks for the uber-rich while wages have remained stagnant at best for the rest of us. The Republicans talk of Ronald Reagan as if he were a saint but they conveniently forget that Reagan’s tax rates were significantly higher than they are now. In fact, they’re so blinded by their admiration of him, that the GOP budget negotiators rolled their eyes in disbelief when the president pointed that fact out to them the other day. Perhaps that really sums up the nature of the problem. Republicans in Washington want to rely on their own set of “facts.” But facts are stubborn things. They don’t change just because they don’t fit your ideology.

And the really sad thing about Pawlenty’s comment is that the Fox-infused Republican base will lap it up as surely as they do the Gospel.

I’m Back

I said I would be on hiatus for the month of May. Well, I’m back. First a quick update on my post-surgery progress. In a word, I’m doing great. As I told the surgeon when I saw him this week, I’m probably 90-95% back to where I was before this whole thing started. So I’m very pleased. Still have a couple months of rehab, but functionally, the shoulder does almost everything I ask of it.

Spouse retired the end of April, and we spent most of May on the road. We spent five days in the Napa area, wine-tasting. YUM! Good wine, great meals. No wonder it’s a favorite destination! My favorite varietal is petit syrah. Vintner Carl Doumani is legendary for his petit syrah. He has a small winery called Quixote. Tours and tastings are by appointment only. We learned about Quixote when we visited Paraduxx. We are eagerly awaiting our shipment.

After a few days at home, we went to spouse’s 45th college reunion at Caltech, followed by the annual Seminar Day, where participants go back to class for a day. From there it was off to Arizona to visit family and friends. We spent a couple days in Sedona, marveling at the red rocks. It’s a photograph’s dream. We wrapped up that part of the trip with an off-road jeep adventure. Serious fun!

It’s always good to reconnect with good friends. And as we enter another political silly season, it’s good to remember and reflect on what is truly important…the people in our lives.

One more plug. If you ever have the opportunity to go to the Body Worlds exhibit, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s fabulous!

On hiatus

I had a bit of surgery last week and will be taking a break.  There are many worthwhile topics to discuss, but typing one-handed takes too much concentration.  So, I’m checking out for a while.  See y’all around the first of June.  By then I should be rehabbing my shoulder.  Nothing serious — they cleaned out a bunch of arthritic bone spurs, repaired a tear in the rotator cuff and dealt with a severely inflamed tendon.

In the meantime, something to think about.  I was watching Ken Burns’ Civil War series on a local PBS station, and Shelby Foote, a historian with Southern roots, made the statement that the war occurred because Americans forgot how to compromise — the very thing that he says is our genius as a nation and the essential thing that makes our form of government work.