Op-ed: The 2018 Games

  • By Bob Franken
  • Thursday, January 4, 2018 10:23am
  • Opinion

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much footballed out. The season’s not over yet — we have the college Division I championship to determine. After that, the other professional league, the NFL, will decide who’s No. 1 with its playoffs and the Super Bowl, of course.

The Super Bowl has become a grotesque salute to so much of what makes America what we are these days: extremely expensive excess that is only for the filthy rich; we witness a garish halftime show; we will be treated to intrigue this year about which players will ignore its contrived patriotism; and, certainly, the game itself, with injuries on seemingly every play. But most of all, the event fills the need for some venue to show those grossly expensive, clever commercials. It’s a financial orgy that only the U. S. of A. could present. I wouldn’t miss it.

Like so many in this country, I’m also mesmerized by our nonstop political unnecessary roughness. I am hooked by its bizarre characters and gross plot twists. It, too, has come to symbolize the worst of America, with greed and malice taking over a system that is supposed to serve the people but serves only a few of them — the wealthy rulers who put in office the lackeys who will obediently protect their interests. But yes, I tune in religiously, along with everyone else.

And, there will be some thriller matchups to begin the new year. That’s because, appropriately, Congress has punted everything to January. On Jan. 19, funding for the government runs out, meaning if the two parties can’t come to some sort of big creative give-and-take, we’ll finally have that government shutdown that has been avoided so far through schemes that delay the inevitable, the only agreements that anyone has been able to reach.

That is going to require some deal on, among other contentious issues, the Dreamers. The Dreamers are the thousands of illegal immigrant children who, thanks to an order from President Donald Trump, will be forced to leave the nation where they were raised and deported to countries they haven’t seen since infancy. Everyone at least pays lip service to the idea that their plight should be solved, except that Trump insists the deal must include some funding for his wall. Put Democrats down in the “no way” column. Some face-saver will have to be contrived, or the government will shut down, the Dreamers will be deported or both.

That’s not the only play to be called in this disaster of a game we call the government of the United States. There’s the debt ceiling. Congress must approve a raise in the ceiling, and soon. Actually we’ve already hit the ceiling, but our Treasury officials have been performing financial sleight of hand so that the government can keep borrowing. At stake ultimately would be the ability to make the national debt payments and avoid the historic international embarrassment of the U.S. defaulting on its sovereign debt. In the next month or two, the Treasury guys will have emptied their bag of tricks. That means the drama kings and queens in Washington will wait for a month or two to barely avoid this economic calamity.

Oh yeah, there’s also disaster aid for all the places ravaged by real calamities last year — $81 billion worth. That needs to be approved. Did I mention some fixes for the health care system that the Republicans long to destroy? Or the surveillance reforms our intelligence agencies want so that they can continue to spy on us?

Oh, I almost forgot that this is election year. It’s the midterms, when all of the House seats are up, and a third of the Senate’s. Thanks to Donald Trump, Democrats see an opportunity to take over both if they can get organized. That’s a huge “if.” In fact, this year’s campaign is the real Super Bowl. Nothing else matters to these guys but being elected. The more accurate name for it would be the Stupid Bowl.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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