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Congress Should Stop Wasting Time, Act Now

This week is another highly substantive one in the House — Monday, naming a bunch of post offices, and Tuesday, taking up the national conceal-and-carry bill, which could be called the “Shoot a Bunch of Bullet Holes in the 10th Amendment” bill, another unbelievably hypocritical measure emerging from pseudo-conservatives who want to give power to the states except when they don’t like what the states do.

The idea of overriding states’ own gun laws should be abhorrent to anyone who actually believes in federalism. But when it comes to guns, all consistency and reason appears to fly out the window. Shame on the House majority.

Next will come a vote on the constitutional amendment to balance the budget, which would guarantee many more depressions to come if it were somehow adopted.

In the meantime, the only real issue in Congress worthy of continued discussion remains the super committee. It is a true measure of the dysfunction in Congress and the political process that this panel, with an unprecedented opportunity to shape a positive fiscal future and avoid a potential global depression in the coming year, is floundering as the endgame approaches.

All endgames tend to play out this way — it usually looks most dire right before the deal. But that does not always work; ask the NBA. Sometimes, we have to revert to Sen. John McCain’s favorite aphorism: “It is always darkest just before it turns completely black.”

The need for a bold deal has become more urgent with the dynamic in Europe. It is good news that the Greeks and the Italians have moved to new governance as a way of legitimizing the tough moves necessary to get more backing from the European Central Bank and other entities necessary to provide the backstop against default. 

But as many economists have pointed out, the European response to the crisis in the Eurozone, dominated by Germany, has been to demand more and more draconian cutbacks in Greece and Italy, which is doing more than just enraging their publics — it is making it harder and harder for the countries to show any economic growth that can help them ameliorate their deteriorating debt problems.

I have referred in the past to the balanced budget amendment as akin to the medieval practice of “bleeding,” draining more and more of the life’s blood from an ailing patient. That is just what Germany and other entities are demanding from Greece and Italy, along with Portugal and Spain and, soon, France.

All these countries need major efforts to cut their spending and raise more revenues. But they also need more stimulus in the short run. With monetary easing unavailable, a move toward a bit more inflation in the short run would make sense, but there is no chance the Germans will allow it. And so far, the dramatic steps needed by Europe to stop the bleeding instead of the series of halfway measures taken, seem unlikely to be taken.

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