Wha’ Happened This Week. So You’re Never LATE TO THE PARTY.
(Wait, what party? Isn’t this the weekend when we all rock back & forth at home, freaking out that our vacation made us need a vacation?)
1. So did we go over the fiscal cliff or didn’t we? Well, we did and we didn’t… or rather, the cliff metaphor became (if it wasn’t already) rather obsolete. HOWEVER! If you think of the government’s attempts to deal with its deficit problems before the bells chimed at midnight on New Year’s Eve as, say, some bacon frying on the frying pan… then yes, we got to eat some and it was tasty. But some was rancid and had to be thrown out. And some was put back in the refrigerator to deal with later. And then you got a little bit of food poisoning.
Cleared that one up! Ya welcome.
Ok, right, yes, here’s the facts: About 22 hours after the new year officially began and the cliff was supposed to have been gone over, the House of Representatives put in a solid day’s work and voted ‘yay’ on the bill that had already gone through the Senate — an 11th hour compromise that left Democrats & Republicans pissy that they didn’t get everything they wanted, which is, um, how compromises work. (Right, yes, just the facts.) And then Obama signed it, and it was a thing! So there’ll be no wild tax increases, except kinda a lot for people making over $400,000 (or families making over $450,000). And there’ll be a few other complicated shifts regarding payroll stuff & estate tax stuff — but the specifics are best reported by a specialist on matters fiscal and cliffical, a la the White House.
However, the other BIG NEWS to emerge from the final bill is that rather than deal with spending cuts (the other half of anyone’s budget equation) at the same time as all this taxy talk and just rip the bandaid off… they didn’t. Congress set a new March deadline for themselves to nearly miss, because they’ve got quite a knack for creating problems that they can then heroically solve at the last second, on the very brink of total distruction. In fact, that’s what this word “brinkmanship” everyone’s using literally means! Oy. As a Time magazine journalist tells it, their heroism’s wearing thin. This new deadline
“postpones the pain for a mere two months. A month after that, the U.S. will run out of money to fund the government. The last act of this Congress — among the least popular and most unproductive in history — was to punt a final time, bequeathing to its successor the kind of messy impasse that marked the past two years.”
Yeah, the “big news” I just mentioned? It’s not that the spending cuts chatty chat got put off. It’s that this Congress was tremendously sucky (I mean, after they wrapped up the fiscal cliff vote, they screwed over both Sandy victims and the Violence Against Women Act? REALLY??). And the even bigger news: our cultural obsession with crisis isn’t helping matters. In the hours since the bill was passed, the media, the politicians themselves, and a nation-sized gaggle of concerned citizens, have gone a little crazy worrying about the cliff-lets/bacon-bits to come. Zachary Karabell, at The Atlantic, brilliantly notes that
“A vibrant, outspoken and self-critical citizenry is a necessary and vital element of a thriving democracy. But when the public conversation becomes so relentlessly fixated on the disaster porn of political and economic challenges, an invisible but significant line has been crossed. Myopic focus on the next crisis and the battles that loom ahead with nary a sense of balance isn’t a recipe for collective action; it’s a formula for collective paralysis.”
2. Talking about change: there’s a mounting revolt in India after a girl got gang-raped last month, and it may really matter. I mean, of course it matters but, as writer Anuradha Roy says, it’s hard to trust the latest outpouring of protests because India’s lady problems run deep: the country has a rich history of degrading women in every way and its politicans not only condone rape, many perpetrate it themselves. Sonia Faleiro, a journalist who grew up in Indian’s “rape capital,” writes in the New York Times:
“India has laws against rape; seats reserved for women in buses, female officers; special police help lines. But these measures have been ineffective in the face of a patriarchal and misogynistic culture. It is a culture that believes that the worst aspect of rape is the defilement of the victim, who will no longer be able to find a man to marry her — and that the solution is to marry the rapist.”
BUT there really has been an amazing, inspiring outcry over this latest brutalization, and the men who raped & tortured the victim were fast-tracked to justice; such a fate for rapists has been rare, and it’s huge. And even bigger is the changing attitudes chronicled by activists who’ve been working on those misogynists for a while now. As of today even the law enforcement guys are jumping on the bandwagon. And journalists everywhere are chanting for change:
“India’s much-hyped modernity isn’t looking so modern. All the gleaming skyscrapers, software campuses and Bollywood gloss in the world can’t hide the hold that the shameful aspects of old India have on the country. If India is to thrive and move forward, 2013 must be the year of justice.”
3. Kim Kardashian is pregnant!! No, just kidding — I’m not gonna talk about that. You can read about that… EVERYWHERE ELSE. But I am gonna give a shout-out to our other doyenne of the news cycle — that’s right, Mme Hillary Rodham Clinton. Our beloved Hillz gave everyone a fright when she was admitted to the hosital with a blot clot in the brain this week, but she’s out and apparently in good spirits. She hands the reins of Secretary of State over to John Kerry later this month, but I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before she gets another title.
Quote of the week, while we’re at it: