US has many crises, but late presents don't count
It's been about two weeks since the news media began smothering the nation with stories about UPS and FedEx delivering packages late during the holiday season.
A short shopping season of less than 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, combined with extraordinary numbers of deliveries and extreme weather problems, caused thousands of packages not to be delivered by Christmas. For some media, this was the top story.
FedEx says it delivered more than 275 million packages in that one-month period. UPS doesn't say how many it delivered or how many were late. But it does say that if customers sent their packages by ground and hoped they would arrive by Christmas, the cut-off date was Dec. 11. For air service, UPS temporarily added 29 planes to its fleet.
Understandably, there are several hundred thousand senders and receivers who are unhappy their packages were not delivered by Christmas. However, people got their gifts, even if a day or two late.
It doesn't require myriad news stories, many of which led the nation's TV news. It doesn't require a U.S. senator to be indignant and demand that UPS and FedEx refund all costs for all packages.
A crisis is that more than 125,000 people in Michigan, New England and parts of Canada suffered more than a week without electricity after a major storm took down power lines. Electric company employees, emergency management staffs, the Red Cross and other social service agencies worked with little sleep to help the people. A second storm this past weekend added to the myriad problems.
A crisis is that 25 have already died from effects of the storm.
A crisis is that more than a million are homeless, many of whom are still on the streets in bitter cold.
A crisis is that almost 50 million Americans, almost 17 million of them children, live in poverty.
A crisis is that Congress increased the federal minimum wage by only $2.10 an hour in the past 15 years, but in the past decade found enough tax funds to increase its own salaries $20,000 a year to its current $174,000 minimum plus expenses.
A crisis is that Congress abandoned its job and went home early without passing legislation to continue unemployment benefits for more than a million Americans who, even in an economy that is in recovery, still haven't been able to find work.
A crisis is that this may be the least productive Congress in history - and that includes the "Do-Nothing Congress" that had infuriated Harry Truman in the late 1940s. By comparison, that Congress passed more than twice the number of bills than the current Congress, including legislation to create the Department of Defense and initiate the Marshall Plan to stimulate economic recovery to Europe after World War II.
A crisis is that this Congress, led by a minority of the minority party, succeeded in shutting down government, blocked critical judicial appointments, spent much of its time whining about the Affordable Care Act and brought up more than 40 votes, all of which failed, to repeal the Act. This is the same act that had been passed by a previous Congress and ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.
A crisis is that more than a year after the murders in Newtown, Conn., there have been more than 12,000 deaths by guns - and politicians are still swayed more by an affluent special interest lobby than by the people who elected them.
A crisis is that the nation's infrastructure has deteriorated to a point that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave it a D+. More specifically, the ASCE gave grades of D-, D or D+ to the nation's dams and levees, inland waterways, drinking water quality, hazardous waste systems, roads, transit systems, airports, school facilities, electrical grid and pipeline distribution systems. Only bridges, ports and railroads received C ratings. The only bright spot is solid waste recycling improved to a B-.
If anyone is to blame for the nation's below-average performance, it's the elected politicians who decided they didn't want to raise taxes to take care of the nation in order to appear to be fiscal conservatives, but spend lavishly on junkets and pet projects that only special interests that dribble campaign funds care about.
These are crises. A late Christmas gift, while annoying, isn't.
(Brasch writes "Wanderings" for each Sunday edition. Contact him at email@example.com. Assisting on this column was Rosemary R. Brasch.)