By now, you might be one of the many who’s tired of thinking, hearing and/or reading about the debt debacle in DC. Of course, if you like political theater, this epic is right up your alley. As much as two years in the making, it appears the two sides of the aisle have reluctantly and begrudgingly agreed to a deal that would simply put off this debate for another 16 months or so. So that means a sequel is coming to a newspaper, TV or computer screen near all of us? Splendid! But in the meantime, a handcuffed 12-member committee gets to decide where a boat-load of cuts will be found, thus extending this saga? Even better!
All sarcasm aside, it’s one thing for politicians to haggle and wail and gnash their teeth in DC. As long as they keep it contained to the interior of the beltway, the damage is limited. But when it spills outside of their little world, then it becomes a real problem, and one that justifiably garners our attention.
Yes, just when you thought it wasn’t possible, our elected officials have sunk to new lows. On August 5th, Standard & Poor’s made an unprecedented decision to drop the United States government’s credit rating. Why? Daniel Gross, economics editor of Yahoo! Finance, wrote, “Recent events have sapped the agency's confidence that the government can and will do what is necessary to align revenues with spending commitments.” While the financial markets were already anticipating this downgrade, the actual decision is no less important. Yes, the S&P’s process has been called into question, but I wonder if some of that isn’t a character assault meant to publicly punish the agency for taking such a bold step.
Predictably, the blame game was in full force immediately after the downgrade. Of course, the two parties pointed their fingers at each other. The Tea Party tried to steal some spotlight by jumping into the post-mortem. The very intelligent Gregg Easterbrook blamed the de facto leaders of both political parties, calling the Barack Obama-John Boehner national-debt deal “as phony as a three-dollar-bill”. Mark Cuban, as he is wont to do, used a more pointed and blatant approach and called our country “absolutely insane” for thinking that politicians will change their behaviors. Say what you want about his persona, but he puts forth a fairly civilized and historical review of the matter.
I have felt for some time now that our country will soon have to make many tough decisions. Debt, trade deficits, taxes, spending, health care, energy sourcing, resource management, immigration… the list goes on and on. (The longer we push them off, the more they pile up.) Other than the negative impacts of procrastination, I don’t necessarily worry about the outcome of those debates as much as who will be debating those complex topics. Will it be someone who only cares about their political future? Their political party’s interests? Personal gain? Or will we have someone in a position of authority who can weigh both sides of the argument and use common sense to make a decision that inflicts the least amount of harm? Even better, will we have someone who can look beyond the end of their term and consider the future ramifications of his/her decision? Will we have someone willing to disregard their political future and do what is truly in the best interest of the nation? Or maybe, to be more succinct, will someone think of their grandchildren when contemplating these complex issues?
We can only hope. Like the defeat of the “BULB Act”, politicians can give us an occasional ray of hope. In my opinion, it’s time to start basking in a brighter future.
 Daniel Gross, Yahoo! Finance. http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daniel-gross/u-credit-rating-victim-gop-sabotage-021622372.html
 Gregg Easterbrook, Reuters. http://blogs.reuters.com/gregg-easterbrook/2011/08/07/blame-obama-and-boehner-for-the-downgrade/
 Mark Cuban, blog maverick. http://blogmaverick.com/2011/08/16/we-the-insane/