“O tempora o mores.” This was the opening sentence in Cicero’s commentary on the condition of the Roman Empire about the time that Julius Caesar was assassinated. Literally, it means, “Oh, the times! Oh, the customs!” (Punctuation, like the exclamation point and the comma, was not used in classical Latin.) But, Cicero, who was a philosopher, lawyer, statesman, political theorist, and noted orator, was lamenting the circumstances of the time; so the famous words are better understood as, “Oh, what times! Oh, what customs!”
Coincidentally, Cicero was born on this day, Jan. 3, in 106 B.C. Now, more than 2,000 years later, I would guess that many of our contemporary political theorists, economists, and other commentators are bemoaning the situation of the United States in a similar manner.
As Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center points out, “The incoming 113th Congress is likely to face the wrath of an irate electorate.” In several popular surveys, including Gallup, Fox News, CBS News, and Pew, Congress is at or very close to alltime lows in terms of public approval. Part of the problem is that our elected representatives have had 14 months to resolve the crisis of the “fiscal cliff,” and they have failed miserably.
Although the Senate passed a compromise bill a couple of hours after the nation fell over the cliff, the bill stalled in the House for another 24 hours. However, the bill was an emergency measure, only. This means that a complete review of our current circumstances (which includes federal assistance to states that were devastated by Super Storm Sandy) will remain unresolved for the new Congress, which will be sworn in at noon (EST) today. Meanwhile, at least technically, everyone’s taxes have been increased. But, that may not automatically mean that you or I will actually have much of a greater fiscal burden, except for the roughly two percent “tax discount” that has expired...