Here is a New Year’s Day trivia question for you: What does Congress have in common with the Chicago Bears?
I’ll bet multiple answers come leaping to your mind all at once. In fact, this trivia question is one that does not have just one correct answer. Great answers include at least the following:
- Very Disappointing Performance: The Bears started the season an amazing 7-1, then managed to play their way out of a NFL playoff game spot… bitterly letting down all Bears’ fans. At the beginning of 2011, Congress had two major “must do” responsibilities – agree on a longer term solution to mounting (and unsustainable) deficit spending and agree on how to raise the U.S. “debt ceiling” so none of our global creditors would question our commitment to honor our obligations. As you’ll recall, they failed so miserably on both fronts that Standard & Poor’s lowered the U.S. “triple A” debt rating for the first time ever and they could only agree on a makeshift, temporary budget “fix” that postponed the “hard issues” until the beginning of 2013—ordaining the automatic start of tax increases and spending cuts that were so massive and cataclysmic that not even Congress could be so stupid and so incompetent that they wouldn’t find a way to stop them before January 1. That was the so-called “Fiscal Cliff”. Congress failed, since even the agreement the Senate came to was approved after December 31 – and the House has not yet acted on it.
- Failure to Uphold an Unparalleled Tradition: The Chicago Bears (and the tradition of George Halas, Red Grange, Sid Luckman, Dick Butkus, etc.) are the most venerable members of the NFL. Despite an outstanding defense and great special teams unit, recent Bears teams have not managed to reflect those “days of glory”. Nationally, millions of people around the world look up to the U.S. as history’s strongest economy, most innovative businesses, and greatest democracy. Unfortunately, in recent years the U.S. Congress has managed to fall so far short of the hallowed history of the past (Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John Calhoun, Sam Rayburn, Tip O’Neill) that the world has come to look at our Congress in increasingly negative (even comical) terms. One small proof of Congress’ failure is found in the December 28 edition of The Blaze: “the current Congress has been so unproductive during its tenure that it will likely go down in history as the most unproductive in almost a lifetime.” www.theblaze.com/stories/surprised-current-u-s-congress-will-likely-go-d...
- Despite plenty of time, they’ve failed to “get it right”: Going into the past two seasons, even the most novice fan knew the Bears needed to beef up the offensive line. Having a “franchise quarterback” does no good if he spends too much time running for his life. Bears management never “got it”… or managed to put together a championship “O Line”. In similar fashion, world markets know the U.S. has a financial problem, economists know that increasing taxes is not an adequate solution, but neither side in Congress has had the courage to face up to the need for a responsible financial plan. The best they can manage is to keep postponing “reality”… only serving to allow the problem to grow bigger and bigger.
Despite these remarkable “things in common” (and many others) there is one overriding difference. The Chicago Bears have a budget that must be “lived within”. Our U.S. Congress acts as though it has no limits – be they budgetary (it doesn't even bother passing one anymore), procedural (such as the annual budget process), or deadlines (like the school troublemaker, it pushes deadlines all the time). Too bad that we don’t have the same option with Congress that the Bears used this week on Coach Lovie Smith!