Do you remember a time when a member of Congress was someone you could actually look up to? Do you remember when the art of compromise by politicians was recognized as a leadership quality? Do you remember when elected officials actually put the good of the country and its people before the good of their party? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are probably a Baby Boomer headed toward retirement.
At issue is the behavior of our elected representatives last summer with regard to raising the nation’s debt ceiling. I know I am not alone in the disgust with which I watched the machinations on both sides of the political aisle in the recent debt ceiling “debate” we were forced to endure in the months leading up to the Aug. 2 default deadline.
As a backdrop to it all, consider that the U.S. economy has been in a tough way for a couple of years and that we didn’t need to draw excess attention to our government’s financial bickering. Consider that real people are struggling with real issues in their personal lives trying to make ends meet, often by working two or three jobs. Consider also that America’s financial woes have been mounting to the breaking point for decades and that many of these woes were induced, and even fostered, by the legislative and executive branches of our government.
And what did our government do? They turned what should have been a routine legislative matter done quietly in the halls of the Capitol, the Congressional office buildings and the White House into a three-ring media circus. The only thing they didn’t do was throw sawdust on the floors. Congressional Democrats were at odds with their Republican colleagues. Congressional Republicans were at odds with their Democratic colleagues and the Democratic administration. All of them seemed to be at odds with the American people.
With the full knowledge that the whole world was watching their actions, our elected leaders thought it best to carry on a game of political brinksmanship – for weeks. With the full knowledge that the uncertainty they were creating was playing havoc with our financial markets, in which billions of dollars in personal wealth were lost, our elected leaders thought it best to play to the press and the cameras to generate headlines and video clips until the day of the deadline.
Thank goodness they got it all settled before our country went into financial default for the first time in its history.
Oh, but wait!
If you read Laurin Baker’s “FIA’s Public Policy Watch” column in our last issue you’ll recall that the compromise reached by Congress and the Obama Administration didn’t really solve the problem at all. It only created a mechanism for addressing it again in the future.
So, after all those weeks of political wrangling in which the collective intellect of the legislative and executive branches of our government were brought to bear to make something happen, they succeeded only in preventing something from happening – default.
Regardless of their political persuasion, I think every American lost something last summer. Let’s face it. It’s hard to watch our elected officials turn this country that we proudly and rightfully declare to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave” into Desolation Row.