it’s the name

Capital-CapriceYears ago, when some friends were to spend a sabatical overseas, they entrusted their Caprice to me for safe-keeping. That turned into a peculiar experience. Strangers kept asking me if I would be interested in selling them the car. It reminded me of being propositioned for a “good time” in certain neighborhoods of New York City and Washington, D.C.

What attracted attention to the Caprice was a puzzlement, but in the years since, it’s been stolen from the same owners any number of times, apparently for joy rides, and then abandoned when it ran out of gas. Maybe it’s the name that triggers the theft.

In the public realm, the rule of law is supposed to counter the arbitrary and capricious behavior to which some office holders might be tempted to resort. But, increasingly it seems, our lawmakers are scofflaws, turning caprice into law and getting away with irresponsible behavior on a grand scale.

How else is the current Congressional gambit to renege on the country’s obligations to be categorized? And, let’s be clear, the kerfuffle is not about “the national debt,” money that people and countries with too many dollars have lent back to the U.S.Treasury whence they came. What Congress is proposing is to stiff the people whose goods and services they’ve requisitioned and, in many cases, already used. Debts, in the plural, are the issue.

Talk about arbitrary. The twenty-first century Congress puts the unjust steward in the biblical parable to shame. That fellow only cut his master’s debtor’s bills by half. The Congress, by failing to appropriate any funds, is proposing to cancel what everyone who’s provided a public good or service is owed.

Is it capricious? You bet. Nobody expects public servants, sworn to uphold the Constitution, to lie down on the job and do nothing, simply because something doesn’t suit them.

There is one good side to this. This time there is no question who’s taking the American people for a ride. By refusing to pay the bills, Congress is claiming full responsibility for the country’s purse and, if there’s not enough money, Congress is at fault. Moreover, since the supply of dollars is virtually infinite, the refusal to spend them is pure caprice.

What’s to be done? Thieves have to be caught. So, what I suggest is that the President declare an emergency, order the Congress to shelter in place (a clever phrase), and then order the doors to the Capitol locked until the work for which we pay them is done. After that, as Justice Kennedy would argue, we the people have got to enforce the law, and fire their capricious behinds. 2014 can’t come too soon.

Editor's note: this story also appeared at Daily Kos and Hannah Blog. Image: the Capital is by mesutdogan  / 123RF Stock Photo; the Caprice is just a joy ride; assembled by the Dewmeister being a bit too literal.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."