Quoth Howard Beale

Jalene Hahn |

The 1976 movie “Network” featured Peter Finch in the role of Howard Beale, a TV news anchor whose show is beset by declining viewership. Howard eventually comes back to win the ratings contest by, among other things, encouraging his listeners to stick their heads out their windows and shout: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

I’m writing this article about a month after the 2012 elections and Congress is returning to Washington (I almost said returning to work). Its members must now find a way to cooperate with the President in resolving the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, the approaching borrowing limit and the concept of a balanced budget, i.e. “the fiscal cliff”. During the campaign, positions were presented as absolutes and compromise was off the table. None of those extreme stances have a chance of being enacted but current headlines suggest that some sort of a deal may be possible. Of course, there’s still significant posturing going on so I’ve begun to wonder if anything at all will accomplished.

Balancing the budget to avoid the legally required sequestration will not be easy. To accomplish it, benefits will have to be reduced, tax rates increased or tax breaks limited; probably some combination of all the above. How do you suppose home sales might react to the end of the mortgage interest deduction? Or churches and charities to a limit on deductions? Or any worker to higher taxes? Or any unemployed person to the loss of food stamps? If you’d like an unbiased look at the various options take a look at this Wall Street Journal article from November 30th.

I’ve always believed it’s the responsibility of this practice to deal with the facts with which we are presented. That means sometimes we’re the bearers of good news and other times not. Budget decisions are not easy to make under the best of circumstances and Congress has an unfortunate tendency to postpone them by simply changing the law to suit its current whim. In today’s increasingly polarized political climate, consensus is going to be harder to achieve than ever and I fear yet another delay. In fact, making decisions is the basic job of our elected officials. We send them to Washington to deal with the facts as they find them and come up with a workable solution.

The invaluable Gallup organization has been tracking our citizens’ satisfaction with their elected officials for many years. Here’s a graph showing Congressional approval ratings since 2004:

Obviously, you can see the trend but I wonder if any members of Congress are paying attention?

I have long time friends who say they’ve never seen me mad, let alone “as mad as hell”. It’s always been my way to think carefully and act slowly but I close this article wondering if some sort of display of anger hasn’t become warranted. How much longer can we wait for our legislative and executive branches work together for the benefit of all? Or, more to the point, will we cast our collective votes to send this group back for another term?

Quoth the raven: Nevermore.