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Poking around in animal entrails: problems in search of solutions

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The country, and much of the world, is in deep doodoo financially and nobody seems to be able to come up with a halfway workable solution that a majority can agree on, much less put into action.

The old saw that “if you lined up all the economists end-to-end, they still couldn’t reach a conclusion” comes to mind as the new year brings its ceaselessly boring TV and print recaps of 2011’s economic woes (hindsight, remarkably, tends to be 20/20) and a spate of prognostications for 2012, ranging from cautious optimism to outright catastrophe.

Such predictions have about as much relevance as those of the ancients’ divining the future by poking around in animal entrails with a sharp stick.

The situation could pretty well be summed up thusly: The country, and much of the world, is in deep doodoo financially and nobody seems to be able to come up with a halfway workable solution that a majority can agree on, much less put into action.

Not that agreement on anything seems possible for a Congress whose public approval rating just keeps plummeting toward zero (a recent national poll showed a far higher percentage of respondents approving of polygamy and pornography than of the job performance of their elected representatives).

In fact, one could revise the old saying: If you line up all the politicians end to end, the result is a lot of posturing and bickering and precious little accomplished.

Case in point: The “Super Committee” on deficit reduction, which from the time it was appointed was expected to fail at its assigned task of coming up with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Sure ‘nuff, it did — weeks of media sound and fury, with zilch to show for the time and cost.

This on the heels of failures of the Simpson-Bowles Commission on deficit reduction, which accomplished little more than wrangling and sniping (the one area in which Capitol Hill bipartisanship seems to be resoundingly successful), or the laughingly-titled Obama-Boehner “Grand Bargain” debt ceiling talks, which served mainly as a media forum for the Speaker to patronizingly dis everything the other side offered.

Little wonder weary taxpayers would as soon send ‘em all to the showers.

And while this “Biggest Loser” political reality show has been reaching new heights of impotence, we’ve been treated to daily — yea, even hourly — doses of comic relief from GOP presidential wannabes trying to win the hearts and caucus votes of Iowans. To be followed by similarly mind-numbing circuses, oops, caucuses in New Hampshire, and Florida, and on and on and on.

Will it be Mitt or Newt or Ron or Michelle or … ? A public, dog tired of the incessant barrage of blather and bluster, mutters a la Jerry Clower: Anybody, Lord — just get it over with.

In a political arena rife with irony, there was the recent Congressional Budget Office analysis showing that, if Congress simply did nothing and “temporary” tax cuts were allowed to expire, current laws would shrink the deficit as much as $7 trillion over the next decade.

Yet, a Congress the public has labeled “do nothing” can’t manage, for once, to do just that.

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