2013 Favs: Playing Chicken

2013 Favs: Playing Chicken December 29, 2013

I am one of the lucky ones.

My paycheck does not stop because the feds are playing chicken with the future of this country.

You see, I am an elected official, which means that I am exempt from all sorts of consequences for the things I do. I could lock up the Oklahoma budget (which I vote against quite frequently, btw) and put tens of thousands of people out of work. Then, I could re-write the laws so they couldn’t get unemployment compensation and reduce the monies going to our schools/roads/police/hospitals/etc to make up the shortfall, and …

Nothing would happen to me.

My paycheck would keep on coming.

In fact, a lot of people would call me a hero.

I know all about playing legislative chicken with the budget. I’ve played it — on both sides.

I have been a Democrat in a Democratic majority government in which we were trying our best to pass a budget over the heads of recalcitrant Republicans who were doing their best to lock it up.

I have been a Democrat in a majority Republican government in which my side of the fight was trying to lock the danged budget up and the Republicans were fighting to pass it.

Ho-hum and hidey-ho. I’ve done it all.

And I can tell you that it is never about the issues.

I repeat: It is NEVER about the issues.

Part of the legislative negotiating process is to play chicken.

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Do you remember chicken? It’s a throw-back to the 1950s. Young men would gather out on a deserted stretch of highway with their souped-up jalopies and line them up facing one another. Then they’d floor the things and drive straight at one another at max speed. The first one to veer off lost. That’s playing chicken.

The legislative version of chicken is taking some piece of legislation that would harm millions of people and whose failure would cause immeasurable suffering and hold it hostage, thereby forcing someone else to compromise on a second issue. Legislative chicken surpasses the old Highway 9 Chicken of the 1950s in terms of the carnage it can wreak and the gravity of what it is trying to accomplish.

There is also another difference. Highway 9 Chicken carries the possibility that two people might kill themselves. With Legislative Chicken the players themselves are always — always — exempt from the harm they may do, but the price to literally millions of innocent bystanders can be mind boggling.

Let’s look at the boys and girls in Washington and this dirty little game they are playing with our country as a for-instance.

What’s at stake in their gamesmanship is significantly more than the wreckage of two souped up jalopies and the death of two young men.

On the one hand, we have the Affordable Health Care Act and all that it means, including the hyper funding for abortion and the lives of millions of babies, and the HHS Mandate and its blatant attack on the First Amendment.

On the other hand, we have the lives of millions of Americans and their ability to keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables, PLUS the entire American economy and the fear of another free fall like the one in 2008, PLUS the fear of literally billions of people around the globe who are watching Big Daddy, who they rely on for their security, play this game of Legislative Chicken.


That’s a lot at stake. Do the players need nerves of steel to do this? Maybe. But I know from experience that they are also enjoying it. If you didn’t like football, despite its blows and injuries, you wouldn’t play football. It’s the same with lawmakers everywhere. We are all fit for these battles and in ways that nobody who wasn’t as nutty as we are could ever understand, we get off on them.

That’s not a pretty fact. But it is a fact.

One other major difference between Legislative Chicken and Highway 9 Chicken is that the two young men driving those jalopies are the only ones with skin in the game. Their chicken is real chicken, since they can lose it all. Elected officials, on the other hand, are exempt from whatever havoc they wreak. No matter who pays what for their shenanigans, the one thing everybody knows is that the payers will not be them.

So, our elected officials’ nerves of steel are mostly bombast combined with the crappola they tell themselves about the nobility of what they are doing.

Legislative chicken is a team sport. And it’s a rough one. It can, and often does, provide the minority in legislative settings with a voice that also provides much needed balance to government. It is not always a bad thing. It is a necessary and useful device.

However, it always has the potential to become a kind of drug. Elected officials get so inured to constant crises that they have trouble with normal life, which seems flat to them. They become crisis junkies of the worst sort. Combine that with a ruthless drive for power at any cost in these elected officials — who were beamed into office on a beam of special interest money and don’t really have a clue what they’re doing there in the first place — and you have a recipe for disaster.

The thing which has made this nation tick for over 200 years is the essential decency of its people, which fed upstream to give us elected officials who were also essentially decent. No matter their various scandals and failures, the sum total of American governance has always been rooted in a belief in and concern for this country.

No more.

We’re electing people who don’t belong in office. I can’t say it any other way. We are electing people who don’t belong in office.

They are being sold to us by big-time money machines who control their every act once they are in office and they don’t care about this country. 

Both sides in this present shutdown controversy are lying out every bodily orifice they possess about the other side. According to each of them, the other side is entirely to blame. They are both lying. That is the only truth there is to their behavior.

I am not going to take a side in this current situation because I’ve come to the conclusion that neither side is the side of the American people.

As an American people myself, that is the only side that I’m on.

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12 responses to “2013 Favs: Playing Chicken”

  1. ” I am an elected official, which means that I am exempt from all sorts of consequences for the things I do.”
    On balance I’m philosophic about it. Politicians will be politicians. That’s not a surprise. But I do take exception to politicians being exempt from not only the shut down but the laws of the land. How dare they exempt themselves from Obamacare. I find that galling.

  2. And the stupidity goes on in DC ——Head Start has shut down, and some parents have NO place to leave their children (miss work to stay home so no money?) so the little ones will miss out on not only a healthy meal ( or 2 possibly) as well as the educational benefits Head Start provides and never mind the fact that many folks count on food stamps to help buy food, or the kids/schools that have worked hard to make enough money to go to DC to see the monuments etc. can’t get into them now and the mess goes much farther. It is just plain uncaring of those so called “representatives” of ours to pull this stunt. Too much damage to even start listing—much has been brought up by you, Rebecca. Would that those “representatives” would lose their pay until they work this out—-but they will be fine while many of those they claim to represent will NOT be OK at all. Only 2 days in—just ridiculous——incredibly ridiculous.

  3. Good news then, they didn’t exempt themselves from Obamacare. It certainly doesn’t help the situation that mos voters get there information from entertainment outfits that don’t care about the truth when presenting ‘news’.

  4. “So, our elected officials’ nerves of steel are mostly bombast combined with the crappola they tell themselves about the nobility of what they are doing.”

    This is probably the most insightful line I have ever read from you. Really hit the nail on the head.

    Complete disregard for the real world impact of their actions.

  5. As far as I can tell all the news media have reported that politicians are exempt. The politicians themselves have publically claimed it and no one that I’ve seen has refuted or denied it. So show me where you think the truth is?

  6. Rebecca, I am a Catholic and a veteran. I am eager to see calm debates about this subject and thought you were presenting one until I got to your “One the one hand” paragraphs, where you threw your argument into the factless hyperbole trash pile.
    HYPER FUNDING FOR ABORTIONS?????? Gimmme a Break!!



     There is no requirement in ACA that health care plans cover abortion, nor is there a prohibition preventing plans from covering abortion. Rather, ACA gives health care plans participating in state exchanges the ability to determine whether or not to cover abortion services.

     However, ACA explicitly allows states to pass a law to ban abortion coverage in any exchange established in the state. In 2010, five states enacted such laws.

     Absent a state law to the contrary, health care plans inside the exchanges in each state will decide whether to cover abortion. Health care plans in those state exchanges can choose to cover all abortion services, some abortion services, or no abortion services.

  7. The funding is in the block grants. It is not direct, but rather comes through pass through monies that are allocated primarily for sex education and similar things. I believe (and I’ll just bet that, within a year, time will prove me correct) that the lion’s share of these monies will end up in Planned Parenthood’s coffers. Even though it is not direct funding for abortion, it is actual funding for abortion in an indirect, political manner.

  8. Oh, I see, the block grants, not Obamacare, but the other parts of the budget…………… Am I getting this right? The states can freely ban something (I believe firmly in states rights) but the OBAMACARE funding can supersede that law and hyper fund illegal clinics??? This hyper funding stuff must be pretty powerful.

  9. The block grants are in the Affordable Health Care Act as it was originally passed by Congress. This is not a new legislative device, btw. Pass through monies have been used to fund Planned Parenthood for decades. I know. I was the person who set that up in Oklahoma back in the 1980s. And yes, federal monies are indeed “pretty powerful.”

  10. As of the first of January, Congress and their aides will be tossed out of the regular Federal Health plans that cover al Federal employees and will have to buy insurance from the state exchanges, the same rules that apply to small business owners.