Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Congress to tackle Gravity Reform
WASHINGTON - Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, frustrated by months of fruitless debate on the topic of health care, have set their sights on the next element of President Obama's agenda: reforming the laws of gravity.
It's often surprising to those uneducated in civics, but the laws of gravity we observe today are not originally American laws. Rather, they date back to British statutes enacted by Sir Isaac Newton in 1687. They have remained fundamentally unchanged since that time, though in the past century minor amendments have been made by Congresspeople who were also quantum physicists.
Critics of the current system allege it is broken beyond repair. Specifically, its rules are so universally stringent that it becomes a nonstop hassle to many Americans. "It's similar to what I've been saying for years about the taxation in this country," says Club for Growth President and right-wing fundraiser Grover Norquist. "We know what we're giving up. We're painfully aware, but we don't know what we're getting back. It's an oppressive weight. It stifles freedom and undermines the human spirit. I hate it!" Overweight Americans, a disproportionate number of whom are poor, are hit particularly hard by what some are calling a "gravity crisis." The use of the term itself has become a highly polarizing debate. Scientists who are not Congresspeople insist that gravity in the United States has not changed in any measurable way since the Taft administration vacated the White House on barges down the Potomac.
Many are the changes proposed from both sides of the aisle. Spurred on by charges of obstructionism over the past year, Republican lawmakers have been aggressively pushing their policy ideas and insisting they be heard alongside those of the Democrats. Their opponents counter that the GOP's proposals are unrealistic. Senator Mitch McConnell has laid out a plan that would cut gravity across the board for all Americans to 7.5 m/s/s, down from its current level of 9.8. He would create special gravity exemptions under federal law for the United States military as well as its principal contractors. His plan has come under fire not only for its special-interest giveaways (numerous exempted corporations have donated to McConnell or other RNC candidates) but also its failure to offset those gravity cuts with hikes elsewhere in the budget.
Another plan on the table would link the tax and gravity codes to create one streamlined bureaucracy for both. Specifically, citizens with higher federal income tax burdens would receive gravity credits as a form of "tax relief by proxy." Democratic lawmakers are furious with the plan, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intoning, "One of the greatest facets of our system of gravity is the way it affects all matter to the exact same degree. You take away that built-in equality and we're back in the age of the Robber Barons." Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann put forward perhaps the most radical proposal: she drew a picture on a piece of Congressional stationery of the President with comically outsized ears and a turban. The full details of her plan will be forthcoming over the next few weeks, say her representatives (as she's a member of the lower house of Congress, these would be the representatives of the Representative).
The President's agenda, according to his spokespeople, is designed to "make gravity work for all of you little goofballs." His ideas are ambitious, extending to the orbital periods of most of the solar system's major bodies. Pluto in particular has been marked by President Obama as an example of the system gone wrong. "This, uhh, celestial body suffers from a profoundly unfair relationship with gravity," he said at a campaign-style rally held in a suburb of Cleveland earlier this week. "Its orbit is highly elliptical, much more so than even the fat cats in this neck of the woods. It is bad enough that we've had to drop Pluto's classification as a planet! It can't stay inside or outside Neptune's orbit and there's a chance it may be forced to leave the system entirely one day. If Pluto can't get a fair shake out there, how are any of you working-class people supposed to get a leg up in America?" His words are greeted with thunderous applause.
But Republicans are more skeptical. "Let's see all of this plan before we ring in a brave new world on gravity," one prominent GOP lawmaker grumbles. He suggests that by going for Pluto, the President has badly overreached. "The American people aren't ready for reform to this level. Look at the polls. Most people are actually happy with their gravity. They don't want the government to come in and run everything. They certainly aren't interested in spending tax dollars on gravity reform for Pluto, of all places. Pluto. Talk about far-out-there left-wing stuff. And what's all this about gravity fields warping the space around them? There's quite enough 'bent' things in this country already. Is this the United States of San Francisco? Booyah! Count it!" Indeed, the public has expressed mounting discontent about the extent of the Obama initiative. Specifically, they say they "don't trust them govmints." Polling from the Clinton administration suggests that the public is more inclined to support federal reforms during times of good economic performance. In the current climate, it may be difficult to make headway.
As for vote counts on Capitol Hill, the Democratic leadership is playing their cards close to the vest. After the health care debacle, they want to be sure that legislative support is solid and cohesive. For that reason, the President is suggesting he may extricate himself from the debate entirely and leave the Congress to its own devices. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirms that "the President is concerned he took too harsh an approach on health care. Our allies in the Senate weren't given the time to properly frame the debate. We learn from our mistakes around here, and this time I can assure you the kid gloves are going back on."
Here's hoping they can reach a consensus. Many Americans struggling with gravity simply don't have the time to wait. Marilyn Osterreich is a working-class mother of four from Kentucky who came out to Washington to lobby the President for assistance. She is considered "holy shitballs" obese, two full classifications beyond the more common "morbidly obese." She had to purchase three tickets to make it on the Greyhound bus east to D.C. "Gravity is killing me," she wheezes. "It's no joke. I can barely carry three of my children, let alone the rest." She is a single mother whose four accidental pregnancies by three different fathers in six years all came as surprises. "If President Obama can't help me, I really don't know who can. He's my only hope." The expectations are mounting, despite Republican threats to filibuster any kind of reform that doesn't include both gravity cuts for the wealthy and Snickers-flavored popsicles at every session of Congress. It is not known whether Snickers-flavored popsicles even exist, or whether you'd want to eat them if they did.