Sinkholes, Horror, and Congress

Sinkholes. Sounds like Washington D.C.

In Florida, we have sinkholes that open, gaping, in the ground. Florida is a limestone peninsula riddled with caves and underground streams; as it rains and the limestone melts, open spaces in the rock cave in and the ground collapses.

This week, just east of Tampa, not far from where we live, a sinkhole opened under a house and a man in his bed, with a little of his bedroom furniture, dropped into the hole and disappeared. His body can’t be recovered from the hole, which goes down 50 to 60 feet and continues to grow. As the Tampa Bay Times wrote, “The sinkhole that took Jeffrey Bush’s life will be his final resting place.” It’s shocking. Sinkholes can open up anywhere. Our house is next to an ancient sinkhole that formed a tidal pond connected to the Gulf of Mexico. Another sinkhole could fall in at any time. We have, along with hurricane and flood insurance, sinkhole insurance.

SINKHOLE-2-popupA photo accompanying this story in The New York Times also shocked me. People across the street from the sinkhole house are out on lawn chairs in their front yards, watching the efforts at recovery and looking on as officials inspect and then condemn the house. They seem to be watching it like TV.

It reminds me of a scene in William Faulkner’s The Mansion, one of his Snopes books. A wealthy couple in a small town is getting a divorce, and the husband is moving out. Other townspeople line the fence at the couple’s house, and rural people come on mules and in wagons, to watch. Unashamedly. They just sit there, with picnic lunches, and watch.

During the first battle of Bull Run, people from Washington came out with blankets and picnic hampers to watch the war begin.

How cold to sit and stare at others’ horror.

I mean no disrespect to Mr. Bush when I say it’s too bad a sinkhole doesn’t open up under Congress in D.C. And then I realize that one has. And we’re all unwilling, horrified spectators as our economy falls into the gaping hole caused by Congress’s — mostly Republicans, in my view — shocking irresponsibility.

But I’m not going to pull up a lawn chair to watch McConnell and Boehner and their motley crew sink the country. I’ve seen enough and am turning away from the wreckage and the wreckers.

— Bruce Benidt

(Photo from The New York Times)

22 thoughts on “Sinkholes, Horror, and Congress

  1. bertram jr. says:

    Bruce – It is simply unfathomable to me that you do not choose to examine the deterious effect of the boy President on our economy.

    There is no recovery, in large part expressly due to his anti-capitalist agenda / policies. The taxing and the spending under his regime is without compare, ever, and worsening.

    The sequester manipulation is his doing.

    Gas was $1.80 per gallon when he took office.

    My god, man, when are you people going to wake up?

    1. There is no recovery!?!? We’ve gone from shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month when W was putting the cost of reckless idiotic wars on our kids’ credit cards to adding millions under Obama.

      We all see what we want to see, Bertram. There is plenty of blame to cover both parties in shame about the lack of action on budget and financial issues, but in my view the Republicans take the Lion’s Share because they are fine to pay for things they believe in — oil-depletion allowances, tax breaks for the people who’ve bought their votes — but get all moral about spending money we don’t have when it helps someone who doesn’t wear a necktie.

      The president has nothing to do with the price of gas today. But this president is the first since Jimmy Carter to try to do something about the long-term price and viability of energy.

      But again, we’ll never agree, because you think they way you think and I think the way I think.

      Do you suppose there is any common ground between us?

      1. A mojito might be a common ground between you and bertram, Bruce. But after the second one his attention will wander, as he scans the saloon for Potential Mrs Bertram Number Eight.

        1. bertram jr. says:

          That’s a great example, RIGHT THERE, of why there’s little common ground to be found.

          Bertram Jr, as dashing as he thinks himself, has a total of two exes, over a span of, um, er, I guess 28 years now.

          I’ll leave it to the peanut gallery to average that out and compare to themselves and / or their close circle of friends.

      2. PolitifactSRC says:


        …adding millions under Obama… False

        …oil depletion allowance. Bruce, it’s a method of calculating depreciation. If you have a home office, or a car you use for business, you get to write off depreciation. Oil depletion allowance isn’t a very compelling talking point. Find another.

        …tax breaks for the people who’ve bought their votes — but get all moral about spending money we don’t have when it helps someone who doesn’t wear a necktie. True

        …But this president is the first since Jimmy Carter to try to do something about the long-term price and viability of energy. False, but do elaborate, please.

        Bruce, spending is consumption and increase in GDP is consumption. Consumption leads ostensibly to global warming and sinkholes. How is it that you can be pro-consumption and a global warming scold?

        – Erik

      3. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Well, there really is something quaintly known as objective reality that, admittedly, has fallen out of fashion in the Republican Party. The neo-cons, of course, famously sniffed with disdain at the pathetic reality-based critics of the invasion of Iraq. “We create our own reality,” I believe is the infamous quote.

        But, when it comes to the price of gas, there is no INFORMED debate about whether, or not, any president can control its price per gallon.

      4. PM says:

        Bruce: there is plenty of common ground between you, but not a shared reality.

        Seriously, i mean that! Here is a good explication of the problem:

        “Boehner’s gambit here is perfectly obvious. He wants to cut a deal with Obama, but understands that doing so would result in him getting fired from his job. But since “my members are so crazy they won’t even let me negotiate” is not a strong message to bring to a high-profile showdown, Boehner can’t say that. Instead he’s going with the time-honored method of just saying a bunch of words about politics until the interviewer gets tired of it and moves on.”

        The GOP says that it wants tax reform, and cuts to entitlement programs. Obama is willing to do both, and has offered them a plan that does exactly that–and they refuse to accept it.

        How do you negotiate with people who will not negotiate, on principle? They are suffering from buyers remorse before they have even bought anything!

        1. Really interesting. All stuff I knew, but so well presented. This is fantastic, and depressing.

          This shows why it’s so ridiculous to call Obama and Dayton “socialists.” They’re talking about incremental changes to a society that is a million miles away from socialism.

        2. Jeremy Powers says:

          That is a powerful chart. I am reminded of the quote by John Steinbeck any time I see people who have little or no concept of how bad off they really are.

          “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

          The genius of Ronald Reagan was that he made the average American feel as if they were one car, one house and one vacation behind the Rockefellers of this country when in fact they – and we – should all be looking over our shoulders at the next pitiful creature in the line of havenots.

          1. Erik says:

            He was wrong. Steinbeck’s perspective preceded the appearance of decent, western European democracies. So Americans rejected socialism because of say, the Ukrainian Holodomor and 30s – 40s Germany.

            Reagan’s genius was being an enormous upgrade over Jimmy Carter. The tax code needed an overhaul.

        3. Erik says:

          I don’t think this is a winner at all.

          High W2 Democrats aren’t going to submit to another tax increase. They just bought their stairway to heaven with the repeal of the Bush cuts.

        4. That’s a good one, PM. And having just finished Steven Brill’s TIME article on our fantastically profitable health care industry I’m thinking of “mandatory redistribution” in a fresh way … again.

  2. Fact-checking the “fact” checkers …

    Obama and jobs …

    When Democrats use the 4.5 million jobs number, they’re referring to jobs created after the economy bottomed out in January 2010, one year after Obama took office. That time frame excludes the worst job losses, which took place in 2009, and which many Democrats argue were the result of Bush policies.

    CNN concludes: “The figure of 4.5 million jobs is accurate if you look at the most favorable period and category for the administration. But overall, there are still fewer people working now than when Obama took office at the height of the recession.”

    Still, a historical analysis of job growth percentages shows that Obama still fares better than some recent presidents. As of July, Obama is averaging +0.84 percent annual job growth in his term. That places him ahead of Bush, who saw +0.51 percent growth in his first term and -0.84 percent in his second term. Obama is also tracking better than George H.W. Bush, who presided over +0.69 percent growth during his one term in the White House.

    On oil depletion …

    As Robert Bryce pointed out in his book, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate: “Numerous studies showed that the oilmen were getting a tax break that was unprecedented in American business. While other businessmen had to pay taxes on their income regardless of what they sold, the oilmen got special treatment.”

    Bryce gives an example in his book how the oil depreciation allowance works. “An oilman drills a well that costs $100,000. He finds a reservoir containing $10,000,000 worth of oil. The well produces $1 million worth of oil per year for ten years. In the very first year, thanks to the depletion allowance, the oilman could deduct 27.5 per cent, or $275,000, of that $1 million in income from his taxable income. Thus, in just one year, he’s deducted nearly three times his initial investment. But the depletion allowance continues to pay off. For each of the next nine years, he gets to continue taking the $275,000 depletion deduction. By the end of the tenth year, the oilman has deducted $2.75 million from his taxable income, even though his initial investment was only $100,000.”

    Such a system was clearly unfair and only benefited a small group of businessmen in Texas. It seemed only a matter of time before Congress removed this tax loophole. However, these oilmen used some of their great wealth to manipulate the politicians in Washington.

    … first since Carter.

    If not Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton or Bush 43, who? Obama has made a greater, more focused effort than Clinton, because of a broader understanding of human-caused climate change.

    … consumption v global warming.

    The point of a thoughtful nationwide initiative for clean energy is the likelihood of sustaining consumption without or with far less carbon-based consequences … WHAT we consume (instantly disposable, trendy crap) is another argument entirely and well beyond the reach of the most enlightened government.

    1. PolitifactSRC says:

      Jobs: “But overall, there are still fewer people working now than when Obama took office at the height of the recession.”

      Your quote acknowledges, whatever metric you come up with, that Obama economics is not a job creation engine. And to the extent you can make a metric that suggests otherwise, you’re faking it. Look, it’s been sorta steady… but this is not a growth economy. Claims of job growth are thus a bit hollow. Obamacare is a restraint on job creation.

      The depletion allowance: It aint all that special. Broadly, there are resource depreciation allowances for mining and minerals, and capital equipment depreciation for manufacturing. It’s not a compelling point. Unless you’re kinda dim about taxes.

      Consumption: Says who? You? That isn’t the point, not if you believe global warming can be mitigated. And the belief it can be mitigated is the underpinning of every sort of conservation and green energy initiative there is. And a reduction in consumption is the mechanism by which the mitigation occurs. Which is why it’s paradoxical for people who are global warming scolds to support Obamanomics and the Democratic platform as pro growth. It’s dissonant, though it doesn’t seem top bother you folks.

      The President has done nothing successful on energy.

  3. bertram jr. says:

    @Newt – ahahahahah! Seriously, it is a good question. Do they celebrate the rise in unemployed / quit looking for work at same time?

    Its a dream come true!

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