“Politics and poker, politics and poker
Shuffle up the cards and find the joker
Neither game's for children; either game is rough
Decisions, decisions, like
Who to pick, how to play, what to bet, when to call a bluff.”--“Politics and Poker,” from the musical Fiorello! (1959), lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, music by Jerry Bock, book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott, based largely on Life With Fiorello!, by Ernest Cuneo
Yesterday afternoon, longtime New York-area deejay Jonathan Schwartz played this song from the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Fiorello! Its applicability to the events of the last several weeks involving the Congressional vote on the debt limit seemed all too appropriate.
The more I thought, though, the more I came to doubt the analogy. The true analogue to the debt faceoff came not in the beloved old Broadway musical, but in the classic 1955 movie, Rebel Without a Cause--more specifically, in the “chicken run” scene between new kid at school Jim and gang leader Buzz.
Come to think of it, though, even that analogy doesn’t go far enough. Rebel’s chicken run ends with only one person going over the cliff; in today’s economy, the entire American electorate would have veered off course and crashed.
Punishing kids for their stupidity is one thing. But how do you get through to seasoned politicians--alleged adults (such as House Speaker John Boehner, pictured here)--who are supposed to know better?
Next time around, let's make them concentrate a bit harder, shall we? Something like taking away the car keys from teenagers for a week.
People worried, during this past insane budget impasse, about late Social Security checks, government offices closing, and the like. But the most obvious stopgap measure was missing. You'll notice the pols never talked about halting their paychecks.
Let's start with that. And then, I say, let's raise the stakes and make it all a bit interesting. For every day Washington's lawmakers can't agree in the future on a budget, they also should be forbidden from stumping for, or accepting, campaign contributions. If they really insist on their constitutional right to the the money, I'm sure they won't mind donating it all to the Department of the Treasury to close that budget gap they keep talking about.
If Capitol Hill really wants a high-stakes game of "Politics and Poker," this is a great way to get started....
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