Mick Jagger and the Practice of American Politics

That great British social commentator, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, may not be an expert on American politics, but he sure nailed it when he belted out the words ” You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just might get what you need.” The now $850 billion(but who’s really counting) bailout/rescue/earmark bill that finally found its way through the Congress and onto the President’s desk is but another example of the political leaders of this country not getting all that they wanted, but settling for what they needed.

By expanding the bill from its original three page plea for quick action to save the credit markets, the bill exploded to 450 pages of tax relief, tax incentives and tax dodges, all in an attempt to allow members of Congress the opportunity to tell the folks back home and particularly the special interests that they haven’t forgotten their constitutents ( i.e. voters) or their campaign contributors. Even in a dire crisis these guys and gals on the Hill can’t stop themselves from turning a simple government-backed corrective measure into old fashioned pork barrel.

Of course the insiders in Congress will say that loading the bill up  with tax benefits was the only way to convince all those Republicans and Democrats who voted no to get on the bandwagon and vote yes. But now that the tax cutters and corporate welfare advocates have won the day, it would be nice to hear someone, anyone, talk about the national debt, which by most calculations is around $ 12 trillion. Where are the profiles in courage in Congress offering a plan to save us from the Chinese, the Saudis and all those other countries holding our IOUs?

Since Congress saved capitalism with a healthy dose of socialism, it might want to save future generations by embracing the concept of tax fairness ( or as Joe Biden calls it our patriotic duty ) and work with the same crisis mentality to deal with the fiscal nightmare we are transferring to our children and grandchildren. How about passing a tax bill that for a change made big corporations pay some tax? How about ending the transfer of wealth by ” patriotic millionaries ” to offshore banks? And how about bringing back the progressive income tax, not the Bush boondoggles for the rich?

This is probably asking too much from our Congress now that they are back home taking credit for saving the country. It is the next president who will be faced with the next crisis, foreign debt and growing interest payments on that debt. Trying to convince Americans who have grown up in a political and governing culture where any call for tax increases is rejected out of hand will be the most daunting challenge facing whoever wins the White House. Such talk may make Ronald Reagan turn over in his grave and move us closer to European style soaking the rich tax policies, but as Mick Jagger said, “… but if you try sometime, you just might get what you need.”


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