This past weekend had to be the most uninspiring stretch of time to be an American since...well, maybe Watergate or the Clinton impeachment. No wonder we couldn’t get our form of government to take hold in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
How do we expect others to replicate what we can’t get right ourselves?
If you have stock in democracy, I sure hope you sold before this past weekend.
Since 1776, we’ve been puffing our chests out to the rest of the world—mocking the Brits and the French for their sissy governments. That was before we let a majority of 60 radical, tri-corner hat wearin’, tea-baggin’ freaks hold a minority of 375 otherwise level-headed leaders hostage like so many Somali pirates.
For those of you who didn’t spend hours last weekend watching congressmen and congresswomen bludgeon each other like a rampaging Philadelphia street gang, here’s a brief recap of what happened:
—America ran up some big ol’ bills, piling on to an already big ol’ debt. We’ve actually been borrowing up to 41 cents on every dollar we spend. And we spend a lot of dollars on stuff like, well, war...not to mention Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, capital projects, bond payments, etc.
—The country has a “debt ceiling” that represents how much money we have available to pay our bills—bills that Congress already authorized. But, since the total amount of money we owe is larger than the debt ceiling, the President can’t authorize the government to pay those bills without Congress raising the debt ceiling to meet the shortfall.
—This happens fairly frequently. The President just goes to Congress, says he’s broke and some guys are coming to take our stuff. He asks for more credit, he gets it and we’re good to go. Ronald Reagan, he of the small-government-conservative end of the political spectrum, asked to raise the debt ceiling 18 times in eight years.
—But this time, a small minority of radical conservatives in the House of Representatives—again, 60 of the 435 members—decided this was their chance to dig in and fight for government spending reform.
—By small minority of conservatives, I mean the Tea Party, of course. This vocal minority of small-and-anti government “patriots” claim that they are fighting to take back the country from big spending, big government Commies who threaten the very identity of the country. They see themselves as the 21st century incarnations of Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry and the like. They say that they’re fighting for you, the average, middle-class American, but judging by their policy penchants, they most certainly are not.
You know the rest of the story by now.
If we didn’t raise the debt ceiling, we would default on our debt and what’s left of our economy would circle the drain once again. This time, though, we’d be taking several other large world economies (countries that actually have stock in our large debt) with us, touching off a global recession. This, of course, would totally not be cool.
So, in exchange for not blocking a debt-ceiling increase, the Tea Party demanded that the deficit be significantly trimmed. Democrats agreed.
“We’ll cut spending,” Democrats said, “but we’ll also close corporate tax loopholes— the kind that allow companies like Exxon Mobil and General Electric to make astronomical profits and pay little-to-nothing in taxes.” They added, “We’ll put spending cuts for entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid on the table, but we’re going to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, in an attempt to increase revenue in the fairest way possible.”
In politics, this is known as “compromise.” The Democrats hate to even consider entitlement cuts, because they see it as an unfair burden on people who are already down on their luck. The Republicans hate to talk about raising taxes on corporations or wealthy folks because, well, that’s their base. But at a time when the country—nay, the world—is depending on us to compromise, each side should have just swallowed hard and lined their babies up on the altar.