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Opportunity missed

July 12, 2012

We have, and have had for a while now, a completely dysfunctional congress. No news here. They collectively have not been able to get much of anything done because EVERYTHING is all about political posturing, not about what might be a good thing for We The People. It’s hard to watch and one has to wonder what will make it stop. Even if the three branches are all controlled by one party, as we had in 2008, there is little or no cooperation between the parties in terms of getting to solutions that both parties can live with. We saw this escalate under Bush in 2006 when Pelosi and Reid took control of both houses, but it has seriously escalated under Obama. Everything always was about scoring political points, I get that. It just seems so blatant and so bad now one has to wonder how to fix it.

So, yesterday something came up that I actually though of as a glimmer of hope, a possible way to get stuff done that would give everyone in congress the ability to make their political points and still accomplish something. The idea was simple, vote on both competing proposals and may the best one win.

Part of my management style is based on Patrick Lencioni’s great book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’. The premise is simple enough: you simply cannot expect to get a group of intelligent people in a room and expect them to agree on anything. However, it’s a quirk of human nature that allows decisions to be made without reaching consensus (more on the problem of driving to consensus in another posting someday). It turns out that if you let everyone express their opinion and have a healthy debate, and you have a single decision maker who listens to everything and makes a final decision, generally speaking people will go along with the decision, even if they disagree, because they feel their opinion was considered.

Of course there is a LOT more to it than this (read the book, it will change your career), and there are requirements in making this work that do not exist in the weird reality of congress, but you get the basic premise.

The issue at hand in the Senate is whether to extend none, some or all of the ‘Bush’ tax cuts. The Republicans want to extend all of the cuts. The Democrats want to only extend cuts to people making less than $250,000/year. Big debate. Political points to be had to be sure, because at the end of it all, the difference in tax revenue is minuscule. This is total political theater by both parties.

In the Senate yesterday Senate Republicans had proposed an immediate vote on the Bush tax cut measure. In fact, they proposed two votes: one to extend the Bush tax cuts in their totality, the other to raise taxes as per Obama’s plan. “My recommendation is we give the president what he asked for,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Wow, this seems to be a fair way to do it. Everyone say their piece, debate the hell out of it and vote on both. Presumably one or the other passes and we are done with it. We can actually moved the ball ahead, get something done, move on to more important things (LIKE THE ECONOMY).

Nope. Not gonna happen. No way. The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to bring either measure up for vote.

Wait, what? We aren’t going to vote on EITHER measure? But, but, isn’t that what everyone has been screaming about?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid then went on a nonsensical rant about how it was Republicans obstructing President Obama’s tax plan – even though they wanted to vote on it. The veneer is getting pretty thin here.

What a shame. An opportunity to do something has been missed.

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