Unless you have been living under a rock you would be hard pressed to miss the spectacle that has become known as the “Debt Ceiling” debate in the American political system. And if you are paying attention no matter where you stand on the issues you should be depressed by the brokeness of the system that has allowed it to happen. It seems politicans of all ideologies and partisan affiliations are willing to put the fiscal health of the nation at risk to satiate the wants of their personal and electoral needs.
Just look at how our current leaders are acting. The president has been unbelievably AWOL on this issue. Instead of trying to get parties to come together at the table he has blasted, attacked and demagogued the very Republicans he needs to get a deal done. In the few times Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to the table the president has done all he can to get them to leave the table. He has blown up deals and then gone to the podium to repeat classic class warfare tactics such as “The rich don’t pay their fair share,” and repeated his absured mantra of how hedgefund managers, millionares, oil companies and private jet owners are singularly responsible for our debt. This president and the American public surely has had nothing to do with it.
But the blame cannot just fall on the president. Just look at how Congressional Democratic Leadership has acted. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has done everything in her limited power to torpedo a deal. She stands by no reforms to entitlements, no cuts in spending and convinced the majority of her Caucus in the House to do the same. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has attacked and criticized Republicans at every turn. He seems to have a special love for Tea Party Republicans in the form of using the word “extremist” in every other sentence that involves them. Even better, Harry Reid has kept his door closed to Boehner and McConnell offers, which in large part is why freshman Republicans have been so successfully able to drive Boehner into a corner.
But Democrats don’t get all the blame for this fiasco. Look at the political game McConnell has played. He suggested a back-up plan a few weeks ago that would give the president the power to raise the debt ceiling. But in the meantime the Senate and House would be able to issue votes of approval or disapproval. Depending on how members voted in each chamber it could be a boon or harm to them in 2012’s election. This is political games at best and giving the president unconstitutional authority to spend as he sees fit at worst.
The lone leader who seems to be trying to do right for the country is House Speaker John Boehner. By no measure is the man a saint. Just like Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and the president he has allowed the debt ceiling to be raised numerous times and only now is raising the alarm. But Boehner has been working tirlessly to get the WH and Congress to a deal. He has refrained from the name-calling that has so characterized this whole debate. Unfortunately Boehner seems to be getting the most grief when he deserves the least.
But politicians only have spent because the public has allowed them to. The public has allowed politicians to be elected who play to Wal-Street, the oil companies, unions, hedgefund managers and the like. Seniors won’t let anything touch Social Security. Millions of Americans let plans to reform Medicare be villified and demonize the party that is trying to reform a bankrupt system. All the while things that could help the country such as tax reform and reducing regulatory interference in business sit on the sidelines. Always hinted at but never touched.
This is the disfunction of the American political system at its finest. Problems remain unsolved, politicans bicker, the American public suffers but takes comfort in the rightness of their personal beliefs. Smart ideas like tax reform and reforming entitlements remain buried under partisan attacks. Meanwhile ideas such as class warfare and opposition to ones ideas based on “race” are allowed to flourish. The debt ceiling has only highlighted this problem but is unlikely to make the public fix it. Until the public, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, etc says enough these problems will continue to flourish and America will no longer be the great nation it was.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “That is nation, under god, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, for the people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth.” I surely hope, no I pray that this great nation endures.