After listening to all the Congressional squabbling about raising the debt ceiling, I've decided that what we really need is to require our Congressmen to bring their mothers with them to Washington. I guarantee you most mothers would not have put up with the childish arguments for this long.
After just a couple of days, most mothers would have grabbed their recalcitrant children firmly by the arm, whispered "don't embarrass me in public" through clenched teeth, and dragged them off to a private corner for a serious talk. (You know, the kind where both you and everyone standing around knows you're in lots of trouble.)
And in all those private corners in Washington, Moms would say:
- "No name calling." It should go without saying that calling the other side names is no way to get to an agreement. This would be followed by what a friend of mine calls "the Thumper rule" (from Bambi): "if you can't say something nice, then don't say nothing at all." Of course, that might mean we wouldn't hear much from many of our Congressmen. (And maybe that's not such a bad idea.)
- "It's not always about you. Sometimes you don't get your way. Get over it." Way too many in Congress threaten to pack up their toys and go home when they don't get their way. That's not negotiation. It's the type of preschool problem solving that most of us don't allow our kids to engage in.
The whole debt debate has seemed to be one long childish exchange of "you can't do that" -- "can too" -- "can not" -- "can too" -- "can not" -- "can too." Any mother can tell you, this never ends well.
- "You don't get to change the rules of the game." Or put another way, "when people give you what you've asked for, you don't keep adding on to the list of what you want."
As mothers frequently tell squabbling kids, the rules are the rules -- and if you make them up at the beginning of the game, those are the rules you have to play by -- even if you don't like the outcome.
- "Sometimes you have to do things you don't like." Let's face it, no one wants their taxes raised and none of us wants cuts made to programs or services that we rely on. But solving the deficit problem isn't going to happen if we keep doing what we're doing. Solving the nation's fiscal problems in a responsible way will likely require lots of things that lots of people won't like.
Our "leaders" should have the backbone to say what countless mothers say to kids every day: You have to eat your vegetables, do your homework, clean your room -- not because it's fun, not because you want to, but because it's what needs to be done.
- "No fun stuff until you do your chores." That means no weekend breaks, no pizza parties, no campaign fundraising. You have to do the job first, then you can play.
And if none of those work, perhaps the Congressional mothers could pull out that final Mom threat: "Go back in that room, work it out, or so help me, I'll work it out, and I promise you, nobody will be happy with my solution."
That usually gets my kids to compromise -- you know, one of them says "I'll do this, if you let me have that" and the other one agrees. Maybe they could teach Congress a thing or two.