Just not in Washington
July 20, 2011 | Americans have always been very practical people — show them a problem and they'll set about trying to fix it. Until recently, innovation and creativity were hallmarks of the American ethos. We were the "can do" country of the world.
But when it comes to dealing with the problem of government debt, our political class has become the "can't do" doofuses. The Republican party, held hostage by the Tea Party, is fixated on no tax increases, so their solution to everything is to cut taxes and slash spending, the consequences be damned. The party extremists have gone so far that Ronald Reagan, founding father of the "government is the problem" orthodoxy, could not himself get elected in this era. He, after all, presided over raising the debt ceiling 18 times and raised taxes 11 times.
It has become so ridiculous that House Democrats quoted Reagan in their Tuesday pep rally:
Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations.
Meanwhile, if you ask the American people, as several pollsters have, how to solve the debt problem you get quite broad agreement on a common-sense combination of tax increases (by any other name) and spending decreases. While the Republicans frolic in La-La land, Americans recognize that slashing spending will not get us out of this mess.
Even the Draconian cuts of the Ryan budget won't do it. As Matt Miller points out, the Republicans are in deep mathematical denial (The GOP’s fuzzy math, Washington Post, 20-Jul-2011). "At bottom," writes Miller, "this fantasy masks fear. Republicans’ refusal to let go of the old time religion shows how little work the party has done to craft an agenda equal to America’s current challenges. The party has abandoned problem-solving for brand preservation. If tax cuts aren’t our defining issue, Republican pols ask themselves, what distinguishes us from Democrats? Why should voters choose us?"
Remember McConnell's justification for the cockamamie plan he concocted to avoid a default in the face of House intransigence? On the Laura Ingraham radio show, McConnell said that "the reason default is no better idea today than it was when Newt Gingrich tried it in 1995 is it destroys your brand" (emphasis added, Roll Call, 14-Jul-2011).
Washington always waits to act until the clock is running out, and I have no doubt they'll do the same thing with this crisis. And I have no doubt that when we wake up the next morning after they have acted we'll find all sorts of interesting provisions sneaked into the bill in the dark of night.
Last updated on Apr 13, 2018