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Democrats Reject Personal Responsibility, Delay Change

After a campaign centered on the idea of “change” President Barack Obama mentioned in his inauguration speech that:

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.”

Alas, Congress decided that giving our all to the difficult task of obtaining a digital converter box, even without a government coupon, so we can finally change over to digital television on February 17, was too great a character-building exercise for the American people. And I suppose the risk of impoverished and mentally challenged consumers losing access to a constant barrage of commercial advertising would be too great a blow to our weakened economy. Congress has therefor postponed the transition to digital television until June 12, “sending the fast-tracked legislation to President Obama, who has promised to sign it.”

Really, this legislation deserves a pocket veto. “Oh, you wanted me to exercise personal responsibility? Dang, it must have slipped my mind.”

To me, this is thoroughly symbolic. And when it comes to such a fairly trivial issue as to whether we will accept a bit of minor pain and inconvenience to get the job done versus hem and haw and make excuses and opt for business as usual, we have opted for the excuses. Frustrating! After all, we how can we face up to the challenge of Global Warming when we can’t even get the TVs switched over on time?

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  • coward

    I heard a compelling argument for having some pity on people, not coincidentally on the pbs news hour:

    One of the main beneficiaries of analog tv are ‘disadvantaged’ children, watching sesame street or some other positive, educational show. These kids may not have a lot of influence over their parents’ behavior.

    Of course it’s also nice to know that adults can pick a tv out of the trash, turn it on and see a quality show like the news hour.

    I’m just not sure bandwidth is so scarce we need to turn this switch off today.

    If you get into the politics, you soon see that bandwidth is artificially scarce so as to support various industries.

    I do welcome our new digital overlords, hd is great in the long term. I’ll be happier turning off analog once there is a real hd set under $100.

  • sam

    I think you misunderstand the term pocket veto. If the President chooses to not sign a piece of legislation it becomes law after 10 days, Sunday excepted. The only time the pocket veto comes into play is if Congress adjourns before those 10 days are up. This is actually somewhat ambiguous legally as various presidents have interpreted “adjournment” differently (is it sine die only? is it at the end of a session? etc.). There have also been some Supreme Court cases that cleared things up a bit but not completely. For instance, it seems that there’s no pocket veto if the house that the bill originated in has adjourned but there are designated people available to receive the President’s veto message. During the last Congress it was rare that there was any adjournment due to fears of what Bush would do while they were away. During longer breaks there would be pro forma sessions that lasted only a few minutes.

    In any case, no matter how you want to view the legal interpretations of it, neither side is likely to adjourn within the next 10 days. So Obama’s only likely options are sign it, pocket it and let it become law, veto it, and see if the Congress will override. Interestingly, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t. While the bill (S. 352) and its predecessor (S. 328) both passed the Senate with unanimous consent, there were a number of votes in the House. Given the numbers, even if the 10 Democrats who voted against it switched to voting for it, there still wouldn’t be enough for a 2/3 override. 23 Republicans already said yes. It would be very difficult to get more.

    Anyway, I blather, but there you go.

  • Dang Sam! Thank you for the Civics refresher. I must be getting old.

    Still, the thing will go through. Otherwise there will be that minority that recalls that a month after Obama was sworn in their TV stopped working.

  • I was in DC area last week, staying in a Hilton in Rockville. At least the room I was at has the old TV. Then I thought, maybe the hotel industry has something to do with it?