Viewpoint: The soap opera of budget warfare

Soap operas are famous for their ridiculous plotlines. The lovely, redheaded protagonist with a heart of gold is suddenly struck with fear as she encounters her evil, eye-patched twin in line at Starbucks. The dashing, older businessman is torn between his wife, a model/major league pitcher/pirate, and his mistress, a world-class butcher and yoga instructor, who is also his gay aunt.

But for true soap opera fans — yeah, they who love the ridiculous — look no further than the war in Washington. Yes, there is a war over our nation’s budget, and it’s more convoluted than any “As the World Turns.” The plot is even more confusing, and the story lines never seem to be resolved.

If you were not aware, America is facing a budget crisis, and not just one of those imaginary deadline, slow-news-day types of crises. Jobs are in danger of being axed. Military members and their spouses are looking at their family budgets, trying to decide what to cut out after they lose $600 every month. School districts are threatening to enact hiring freezes as a way to cope with massive education system losses, leaving even more college graduates stranded in a world that promised jobs, but didn’t deliver.

Congressmen dig in, refusing to budge on any principle, ever, because any sign of compromise is a sign of their weakening character (and weakening polls). Senators tell congressmen to get off of their . . . well, posteriors. Congressmen are publicly infuriated that a senator would use such foul language when the real threat of lost jobs is looming.

Conservative bloggers are incensed that Michelle Obama would waste her valuable time helping to present the Best Picture Award at the Oscars, while liberal bloggers are affronted every time Chris Christie or John Boehner or Marco Rubio opens his mouth (and neither side is really talking about anything important).

Washington D.C. is a sad and silly world. While our leaders stand in powerful suits and reserved neckties, saying stoic, unflinching, vaporous things, we — the people who will actually be affected — face $85 billion in “sequestrian” cuts. Government employees are going to be put on furlough. Government agencies, in an unfortunate puppet dance, sift through valuable programs and workers and decide what to cut loose, while a warring Congress and president pull the strings.

President Obama is pushing tax increases for the wealthy, as well as the expiration of certain tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and hedge funds. Republican congressmen balk at even the notion of increasing taxes, especially increasing the taxes of their donors. Both parties refuse to budge.

At the end of the day, a deal needs to make it through this soap opera. And no matter what anyone says, the deal will have to find money somewhere and put it somewhere else. This absolutely means that certain people — the wealthy, the military and administrators of social programs — are going to need to pay more taxes or make big cuts.

That’s it. Those are the only two solutions. Pay more or cut more.

And while our leaders refuse to give in to anything (most likely because they think it will affect their voting base), the clock ticks.

And the one-legged lawyer falls in love with the supermodel, who also has amnesia.