PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: Powers play games with our finances

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Oh, all the national media are wringing their hands and worrying over and over and over about this “fiscal cliff” thing.
That’s what they call the 2011 agreement over a federal budget “fix” that’s so severe, so draconian, that everybody from the White House down through the U.S. House just knew they’d come back and “fix” it.
It was and is so bad for everybody that our members of Congress were sure it wouldn’t be allowed to stand. So, now, the clock is ticking to less than 30 days before we “fall” off the fiscal cliff.
I’m not too worried that they will reach some kind of agreement, but “when” is more of a concern. If they mess around and we “fall” off this cliff, the stock market will go nuts, and there go our 401(k)s. That really makes me mad.
It was bad enough last year, when they were arguing about raising the debt ceiling and the markets were reacting crazily.
I spoke with a House member and asked him if he cared that my retirement fund would go into the toilet – again, after the financial horror so many of us experienced back in 2008 and beyond. I’m only just beginning to crawl out of that hole.
And so, we’re all sitting around watching the news and wondering what they’re really doing in Washington. Then, I remembered I’d seen this movie before. It was back in the early 1990s when I worked in state government for an agency, which advocated for various changes through the Legislature. We learned a couple of things from that experience. One was: Use some gamesmanship to get what you want.
This gamesmanship thing begins with the pro-change side and its allies taking the most extreme position possible, even to the point of including provisions the other side never, ever thought of in its wildest dreams. Frankly, it scares them to death. That’s the point.
We found, back in my state-job days, that the scarier we made a proposal, the more likely the legislators were to freak out and offer a compromise that came down somewhere far short of what we proposed, but pretty much where we wanted it to come out in the first place.
That’s what they’re doing in Washington right now. It’s kind of that Southern bank-walking thing to show off one’s assets.
Side One says, hey, here’s what we want to avoid the fiscal cliff. Side Two says, no, that’s so awful that we can’t even consider it a legitimate offer. That’s laughable.
Side One comes back with an even more severe offer, not less, as the other side was hoping. And Side One says, let’s see what you’ve got. Side Two knows many of its constituents already are set to blame them, if things go bad. Side Two says, well, let’s try this again and makes an offer a little more toward the middle.
This stuff goes back and forth, back and forth. Some will be in public and much will be in private, where the real wrestling happens. As the rest of us hold our collective breath, we hope they get it done.
But none of this is easy. The participating parties must behave like adults, not members of the elite class of pampered professional politicians so many of them have become. Guys and gals, think like regular folk and make decisions as if you actually have to return home one day soon and live next door to the rest of us.
Now, that’s an idea.
Patsy R. Brumfield writes a Thursday column. Contact her at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com. Follow her on Twitter @realnewsqueen.