Sunday, January 6, 2013

Gridlock solution

Well, just how close did you come to falling off the fiscal cliff?

By that I mean just how ticked off were you that Congress took until after its self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline to reach a pseudo agreement on tax increases and spending cuts when, in truth, this entire sorry exercise probably could have been settled months earlier.

This circus was the latest episode of governmental gridlock in a partisan-driven Congress that can't seem to get much of anything done. Consequently, our national legislators have an approval rating of something like 18 percent.

That high, huh? It kind of makes you wonder who those approving 18 percent are, and what are they thinking?

Anyway, it's clear that gridlock is the problem. I think I have the answer.

Wine. Beer. Whiskey.

For the legislators, I mean. (Well, maybe for me, too, considering the pace of this government)

The current bouts of gridlock made me wonder if this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they framed the Constitution. Of course, there was gridlock back then, too — even among the 55 delegates while drafting the Constitution.

(I once heard in a movie a description of the Founding Fathers as "white, rich, chauvinistic slave owners who didn't want to pay their taxes." The movie was meant to be a comedy but it's hard to deny the truth of that description — all the delegates were white males; all but two of the delegates were wealthy landowners; it took until the 19th Amendment in 1920 before women could vote, and 25 of the 55 delegates were slave owners. Plus, it required a costly civil war to end slavery in a constitution that allowed it without naming it. Cowards.)

Nevertheless, the delegates managed to compromise their differences, which seems to be a lost art these days. I wondered how that was possible until I realized that they — the delegates — were probably soused most of the time. They started their mornings with low alcohol "small beers" and worked their way through each day with supplemental Madeiras, ports, porters, sherries, ciders, whiskeys and ales.

Sometimes alcohol was consumed during the convention itself (possibly because the water was so foul). And yet, despite all this imbibing, it took the delegates just a little over four months to replace the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution. That's less time than the current Congress had to settle the fiscal cliff.

There's plenty of documentation about the drinking habits of the Founding Fathers (see here for one example, but there are countless other citations to be found in Google), who ultimately produced a brilliant form of government that we hold in grateful high esteem. So, based on this working model, wouldn't it seem logical to send your congressman a bottle of Chablis along with your next letter of pique about his performance? Or maybe a six-pack of Leinenkugel's to make him more comfortable and therefore more compromising during debates? Or maybe even some Cordials to make him more cordial? A bill for a draught while he's drafting a bill? Sheesh.

Of course, under today's media microscope, any legislator caught popping a cork or a beer tab that isn't a legitimate photo op is liable for censure. Plus, there were no cars back then, and therefore no DUI arrests. Not too many horse wrecks, I guess. So maybe the answer lies somewhere else.

Or not. Maybe it's worth a try anyway.

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