Thursday, July 28, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

In June, the people of China celebrated something that had never happened before. A Chinese woman, Li Na, won the French Open, one of the four major tennis tournaments held each year.
Ms. Li is a veteran player, but she's not especially well-known, and her win was a surprise. Attempting to piggyback the big news, a Chinese official (something that country has LOTS of) issued a statement in which he pointed to Chinese socialism as a factor in Li's success.
That got me wondering. Since the People's Republic of China came into existence, they've played almost 250 major tournaments - double that number when you include men. Why didn't the Chinese system produce a champion until now? Ms. Li, not surprisingly, has nothing to say on the subject.

This summer seems to feature more than the normal amount of big league bargaining. The NFL just settled on a collective bargaining agreement with their players, and they're keeping the lights on at night making player exchanges, free agent signings and the like. The players who have the chance are also hustling to find new employers who can offer a good balance of pay and playing time. The season is set to start at the usual time, so when you tune in the HD-TV to check out your team, don't be surprised to see new names on the uniforms. There's no problem with the TV color - it's just that lots of changes are being made on the fly.
The NBA lockout of players (that's the opposite of a strike, you know) continues, but there are plenty of new possibilities there, too. In this case, the players have the option of playing in leagues based in a number of other countries. Kobe Bryant back in his childhood home, Italy? Derron Williams toiling in Turkey? You can't blame the players for looking. Their careers only last a few years, and there's no guarantee that the team will keep you on the payroll when your playing days are done. I just hope for their sake that smoking in Turkish arenas isn't mandatory.
But the best example of bargaining brinksmanship is the negotiations over how and if the nation can raise its debt ceiling. This was done without any hassle 18 times under Reagan, and 7 more times under GWB, but now is different, not because the world's financial situation is different, but because the Republicans now have a majority in the House, where the procedure to raise the debt ceiling has to begin. It's time, they have thought, to use their new found leverage to put the squeeze on government, or at least on the people government serves TOO MUCH, in their view. Are they willing to reverse tax breaks intended to be temporary under Bush? Nope. Restore the estate tax? Nope. Close loopholes for various industries, including oil companies who are doing just fine, thanks? Never. Cut off a hundred different varieties of corporate welfare? You're kidding, right?
We only have a few days to come to some agreement here, or else the nation's credit gets downgraded from "rock solid" to "better than Greece", so the shelf life of this entry is pretty short. It isn't hard to find expenditures that don't give the nation much return, and some of those are going to be eliminated or cut. But we can't do this JUST on the backs of those getting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The fortunate folks on the top end are paying a lower rate than they have had for decades. It's time for them to step up and resume their share of the nation's expenses. Some of those poor folks are customers, after all, and you want to keep them, right? Hurry up, please. Let's make a deal.


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