It's not a recurrent nightmare, it's reality. We really do live in a world in which bands of competing legislators have forsaken their responsibility and, instead of undertaking the cooperative steps that might reconcile their differences, choose instead to one-up each other. The result is that, all too often, when faced with a problem in need of solution, we end up not with a great blll or a good bill or even a bad bill, but with no bill at all.
That's almost what happened in Washington with the recently passed health-care legislation. What seemed at various points to be genuinely collaborative talks between key Democrats and ranking Republicans turned out to be sham affairs which ended with the GOP minority proposing endless amendments aimed not at reaching agreement but with delaying the Democratic majority's attempt to pass anything at all.
Luckily for all of us, President Obama stepped in (finally) with something resembling resolute leadership and broke the impasse.
Now the subject is financial regulation, and the need is to create barriers against the kind of crass manipulations on Wall Street that resulted in our current recession.
We see the same thing happening again: obstruction in the name of proposing alternatives. Tennessee's own Bob Corker, a usually conscientious Republican whom we had counted on to help construct a bridge, has just torpedoed a cloture motion on the thin ground that a bill nearing completion did not contain a provision aimed at needy borrowers — thereby giving credibility to what is no more than a GOP talking point: the canard that poor folks actually caused the trouble, not obscenely rich speculators playing phantom games with phantom money.
Come on, senator! You know better. There's hardly a subprime borrower alive who can even spell "derivatives," much less profiteer on trading in them. To go hunting down the mark rather than the con man is to go on a snipe hunt. Been there, done that. Not again, please.
When a contract negotiation process drags on for seven years, there's something wrong with the process. Nevertheless, it was 2003 when the Memphis Newspaper Guild entered into negotiations with The Commercial Appeal. In that time, the newspaper has changed a lot. John Wilcox, the CA's publisher when negotiations began, left and was replaced by Joseph Pepe. The CA was divided up into many regional Appeals, then reconsolidated into a single metropolitan paper. There have been many layoffs. Certain jobs have been outsourced to India. And now, if a recent phone survey conducted on the paper's behalf is to be believed, the CA's management is even thinking about cutting back to publishing fewer than seven issues a week. Simply said, the paper, which has consistently claimed profitability, isn't what it once was. Nor are most American dailies.
Seven years after negotiations started, weary guild members are preparing to vote on a contract that union leadership doesn't like. Rejection of the contract will result in what guild president Daniel Connolly has called "war" and "mutually assured destruction." Even though both sides can probably weather such a conflict, the loser throughout this process has been Memphis newspaper readers. It's time to wrap things up — one way or another.