There is a reason the legislative session immediately following an election is referred to as a "lame duck" session. People who are no longer accountable to the electorate make major decisions of national importance affecting everything from our gluttonous propensity for spending to our quickly eroding cultural consensus on morality.
The first use of the term "lame duck" in relation to politicians appeared in the Congressional Globe on January 14, 1863. The Globe recorded, "In no event could the Court of Claims be justly obnoxious to the charge of being a receptacle of 'lame ducks' or broken down politicians." In the literal sense, a lame duck is a duck that is unable to keep up with the flock and is therefore in danger of being taken by predators. Unfortunately, the term applied to Congress makes unaccountable lawmakers the predators and the American people the ones being taken.
Looking at the actions of the lame duckers so far reveals, in general more bad than good for the American people. The great "Tax Cut Deal" of 2010 was a win for the White House and a disaster for conservatives. Notice I said it was a disaster for conservatives, not necessarily for Republicans. Extending the current tax rates is good but it was a no brainer that could and should have been punted to the next Congress. Conservatives, emboldened by their overwhelming mid-term victory, would certainly have negotiated a better deal. President Obama made far to strong a case for the necessity of extending the cuts for him to plausibly veto the cuts had they been made permanent. Republicans should have allowed the President to climb out on the fiscally conservative limb of lower taxes and then sawed it off by stopping the deal and allowing the next Congress to deal with it.
In addition to making the current tax rates permanent, the new Congress could have required the unemployment benefits be paid for and they could have killed the death tax. I am sympathetic to people who are genuinely in need but three years of benefits turns a short term solution into a long term entitlement program. Why not take the money out of money set aside for stimulus projects? After all, many democrats argued that extending the unemployment benefits will stimulate the economy by giving unemployed workers the ability to spend thereby saving jobs. Saving jobs by paying people not to work only makes sense in two places: Washington, D.C. and some dark corner of Nancy Pelosi's mind.
The death tax is immoral and should be eliminated, not negotiated down from an insane 55% to the merely obscene 35%. Making the argument that keeping the tax at 35% is a victory because the democrats wanted 55% is like a man who cuts off his right arm and then says, "well it could have been worse; I could have cut off both arms." Using the opportunity of a person's death to tax the fruit of their labor yet again is nothing less than government confiscation of private property. The government has already had their bite at the apple. Taking another big bite on the occasion of one's demise is like crashing the wake and eating the food brought for the family.
The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is predictably being hailed as a civil rights win for homosexuals. Only in a culture that has become totally corrupt could sexual preference be elevated to the level of a civil right. Writing for Newsweek's Education Site, Chip Somodevilla advances the idea that the whole debate about "gays in the military" is absurd because gays have been serving with distinction in the military for years. Somodevilla writes, "Of those who believed they had served with gays, 92 percent told the Pentagon survey that their presence had not affected the unit." I'm sure that is true in an environment where expressing their homosexuality openly would get them booted from the barracks. It will be interesting to see what percentage of the military believes all is well after a few years of a policy that allows open homosexuality. Will the same rules that apply to heterosexuals concerning adultery and improper relationships between officers and enlisted members apply to homosexuals? How will the open expression of intimate, intensely emotional relationships affect the moral and cohesiveness of a unit? These are questions that would be unnecessary if DADT could have survived this lame duck session.
At least the "Dream Act" was sent to the back of the line to wait for a secured border and a comprehensive overhaul of our immigration policy and the pork laden Omnibus Spending bill was dispatched to simmer in the BBQ pit. The fact that underage illegals end up in this country because of the decision of their parents should be taken into consideration in any comprehensive look at our immigration policy. But dealing with them separately as a last minute, hail Mary pass that amounts to the start of a piecemeal immigration policy designed as a political payback to Hispanics in Nevada for ensuring Senator Reid's reelection is ludicrous. The mere discussion of a $1.1 trillion spending bill when the country is already teetering on the verge of a total economic collapse speaks for itself.
As I write this column, the lame duck Congress is regrettably still in session. Yet to be decided is the fate of the disastrous START treaty, perpetual healthcare for 911 rescuers, and a showdown over net neutrality rules. Lame or not this Congress appears determined to make common sense a dead duck.