I just came home from the final dress rehearsal of our production of Porgy and Bess. So much has been written about Gershwin’s only opera, mostly focusing on the complex love story between the two main characters. Tonight, as I drove home, listening to the recap of today’s news, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that our U.S. Congress reminds me of another character from that opera, Sportin’Life. Sportin’ Life isn’t complex like Porgy or Bess; rather he is the snake, the player, the dealer, the devil in a flashy suit. He will sell you anything as long as it lines his pockets and he knows just how to tap into your insecurities in order to get you where he wants you. As he deftly manipulates you, he smiles, giving you the illusion that if you just follow his path, livin’ will be easy.
So what does that have to do with the political debate on the debt ceiling? Well, everything. If our politicians really wanted us to adopt good fiscal policy, they would have compromised, collaborated, and proposed a balanced checkbook. It’s not that difficult, I’ve been doing it since I was sixteen. The fastest and most sustainable way to balance your budget is to find out how to make more and spend less. But that is not what this current debate is about. The real debate is about getting votes and positioning oneself, or one’s party, for re-election. Just like Sportin’ Life, they want us to believe if we just inhale their “happy dust” everything will be fine. Trust us, we have a plan. Just like a drug dealer, they give you just enough of the contraband so you can feel its initial power before the side effects kick in. A surefire way to create a repeat customer is to give them a taste for free and always keep them wanting more.
Just like Sportin’ Life our politicians are experts in casting doubt and deception. Whenever you hear a politician speaking on the debt ceiling, imagine he or she as Sportin’ Life taunting us to believe that whatever the other party said, “It Aint Necessarily So.” As we follow his road of happy dust, lies, and deception, he will have us believe if we just continue to give him our vote that there will be “a boat that’s leaving soon,“ delivering us to the land of high life and promises. The boat they are hoping to get us all on is the one heading toward the next election. In the meantime, our country will be as broke and isolated as Catfish Row. If you don’t remember how the story ends, a totally destitute and broken Bess leaves with Sportin’ Life on a boat to New York City, delusional with happy dust, leaving behind the only man that truly loved her. The curtain closes on Porgy leaving the only place he has ever known for New York City, determined to find Bess, regardless of the obstacles and pattern of betrayal. And Sportin’ Life is laughing all the way to the ballot box.