Friday, June 17, 2011

The Golf Summit

Ask any gentleman who has spent considerable time on the links, there's rarely problem too big that can't be hashed out over a round of golf. But Saturday's "Golf Summit" is very unlikely to result in any breakthroughs on matters of debt and taxes.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are going to tee off with House Speaker John Boehner and Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich at an undisclosed Washington golf course Saturday. Details are still pretty hush hush. For instance, will the foursome be paired? Say President Obama and Speaker Boehner play against the vice president and the governor--a truly bipartisan contest. Or will it be partisan--Democrats against Republicans?

President Obama is a relative novice at golf, but he has managed to work in more than seventy rounds since he took office. Speaker Boehner is an avid golfer, but his supporters have warned he hasn't been able to play a lot lately because "he is trying to solve the nation's unemployment problem." Interestingly, he swings right-handed, but putts left-handed. The vice president is rated twenty-ninth among Washington's top golfers according to Golf Digest, fourteen places ahead of the speaker. The governor is also a very good golfer.

If the Republicans are paired together it appears they will have a clear advantage over the Democrats. There is certain to be some wagering, a friendly bet or two. Since the typical round of golf can take four hours, there will be plenty of time for discussion.

Perhaps the vice president will discuss some of the ideas being considered by his deficit commission, which hopes to reach an agreement by July 4. That could make it possible to link a deficit reduction package with Congressional passage of the debt ceiling. The vice president's commission is made up of prominent Democrats and Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Whip John Kyle. Senator Kyle has said that Republicans are seeking at least $2.4 trillion in cuts over 10 years in order to vote for increasing the debt ceiling by that amount.

The debate over budget cuts and revenue increases (i.e. taxes) has been heated with many Republicans threatening to vote against increasing the debt ceiling unless there are structural changes to government spending. Economists and financial experts have warned that failure to pass the debt ceiling would have devastating effects on the American economy, including higher interest rates and more unemployment, and it would cripple the fragile global recovery.

So America faces perilous deficits (both parties are complicit), a debt ceiling crisis, stubborn high unemployment, two and a half costly wars (in lives and dollars), that our government has authorized, and dozens of other important issues our elected officials have been debating forever. Given the severity of Americas problems, it seems a little silly that our leaders feel a round of golf will somehow pave the way for more harmony and less partisan rancor.

But, make no mistake about it, these men are certain to have a good time on their round Saturday. This is the way Washington works. This is par for the course.

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