News and Tribune

September 24, 2013

BEAM: Breaking up is hard to do

Local columnist

— No one likes to see a relationship fail, especially when you helped to set the couple up. But that’s exactly what’s happening between these two stubborn old timers.

Why just look at the classic warning signs. Communication begins to wane. Trust shatters. Anger mounts. And then the blame game ensues.

Yep. There’s no mistaking it. Our federal government is headed for a messy divorce.

Nothing illustrates this lack of harmony better than the ongoing budget dispute. If Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill by Oct. 1, the government will shut down. Throw a mandatory deadline for yet another increase to our debt limit around two weeks later, and you have some pretty serious difficulties for an already floundering couple to confront.

Sounds like one of those more serious times in a partnership where you might try to work together to do what’s best for us kids, the American people, right? Wrong.

Instead, an argument of he said-she said erupts. When a relationship fails, neither party wants to take responsibility for the failure. Democrats blame Republicans. Republicans counter-accuse Democrats. Legislation that has no chance of passing is then voted on in protest as a snub against the other. Getting even can feel good to a lover scorned.

And stirring the pot is a president that, like a bored mother-in-law, adds unnecessary drama instead of some much-needed marriage counseling to the dysfunctional lot.

With all the inactivity and infighting, Congress should take a break and shut down without pay for a bit instead of the whole government. It doesn’t look like they are accomplishing much right now anyway.

If this were a true marriage, Child Protective Services would have already stepped in and rescued the neglected public long ago.

But the damage to our collective psyche has already been done. Any sane person couldn’t possible trust these bickering parents that seem to care about their own individual reputations rather than the welfare of their charges.

What America needs is an intervention. Someone needs to grab our government by the shoulders and shake some sense into them before this marriage of convenience has a really bad “War of the Roses” type ending.

So, what should Congress do to get along? Try to actually make the relationship function at a basic level should help. Here are a several ideas suggested by actual online marriage counselors on how to improve their lost connection.

∞    Talk to one another. Believe it or not, telling your bridegroom that you’re not going to negotiate gets you nowhere but shivering in a cold bed. Congress, and the president, must be willing to discuss their differences. Period. Neither party has a clear majority, so a dialogue must remain open.

• Get your finances in order. When asked about their marital strife, couples listed money concerns as the No. 1 reason for their relationships problems. The U.S. government owes almost $17 trillion dollars in debt. Talk about a real drain on a couple.

Quick fixes, like the last-minute budgets we’ve been passing, do little for a spending addict. Congress must compose a comprehensive plan that reverses this out-of-control trend.

• Deal with the issues at hand. Say I’m mad at the cable company for charging an excessive fee for their rather poor services. Does it make sense to not pay the water company in protest? No.

Neither does shutting down the government to prove a point, no matter how valid. Both parties need to know their limitations. Will there be some serious problems with the upcoming implementation of President Obama’s health care laws? Yes. Do the Republicans have enough votes to do anything about it? No.

Save that fight until you have the numbers. Holding a country hostage does little to advance your cause. That goes for the Democrats as well.

• Find common ground. Compromise is always needed in a healthy marriage. It shows your partner that you’re not a tyrannical despot. The only obey in a Congressman’s vows is to the Constitution.

Too many times we forget this, especially with the partisan nature of politics nowadays. Congress must discover ways to negotiate. Reach across the aisle, ladies and gents, and get something accomplished for a change.

Sound pretty elementary? It should be. While these tips might not bring back that loving feeling to Congress, surely it will increase their ability to accomplish some work.

If not, the voters need to rethink their own allegiances and maybe try some different matchmaking come November of next year.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at