The following post was published on my personal blog on August 2, 2011 in the midst of the debt ceiling debate. I re-post here to give a sample of what else may be posted in the future. Enjoy.
The President’s approval ratings have hit an all time low and congress’s marks aren’t stellar either. The Washington Post did a poll that revealed that, “nearly three-quarters of Americans offered a negative word to describe how they viewed the budget negotiations. The top words were ‘ridiculous,’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘stupid.’ Overall, nearly three-quarters of Americans offered a negative word. Just 2 percent had anything nice to say.” In my experience I have found that to be very true and have even found myself using those very adjectives to describe the goings on of Capitol Hill.
When I came back to the country, at the end of June, after living in Ukraine for two years, I had to quickly come up to speed on our current situation. As I did some research after two years of limited exposure to American news, I was appalled at what I learned. With the debt in the trillions and rising every day it seemed that something wasn’t quite right. On a side note, trillion is a number that is hard to comprehend. Let’s consider this, imagine that we paid some bureaucrat in the US Treasury to sit and count out every dollar that we are in debt (and you chuckle because you can see this actually happening). If it took half a second to count each dollar of the, let’s say, $14 trillion debt; it would take that bureaucrat 221,968.54 YEARS, to count to $14 trillion. That’s not even taking into account the amount of Social Security, Medicare, and government benefits that would have to be paid to this man after 220 thousand years ;^).
So our debt is in hyper-astronomical figures and we find ourselves in a pickle because after borrowing 40 cents of every dollar the government spends, we’ve maxed out the credit card. So now what? Keep our constituents happy by borrowing more to fund their programs? Or we could make the American people pay for the programs through higher taxes. In many politicians’ minds those were the only two options. But there is more to the story.
In my research after two years of being in the dark, I kept hearing the name, “The Tea Party.” “Who are they and what they want to do with my country?” are the questions that I immediately began asking myself. In my limited research I discovered that they are a grass roots movement that in the last couple of years has gained some momentum and leverage in saying, “enough is enough!” They applied pressure to Congress adding another idea to the table, “Cut, Cap, & Balance.”
So now it wasn’t so easy. And with a need to pass an increase in the debt ceiling through a newly Republican House of Representatives as well as a still barely Democratic Party Senate, this proved quite a challenge. It doesn’t help that while most of the people think that spending is out of control, no one wants to cut the things that they happen to like.
It is likely obvious by now to the reader to which side I lean when it comes to my political ideologies. However, the heart of this post is not about who’s to blame on how we got to the debate, but how we acted once we arrived.
The closer we got to the August dead line, when we would inevitably lost that 40 cents of every dollar (they called that “default on our national debt,” although maybe it wasn’t) the more heated the argument became. The Democrats wanted to continue funding their constituents with every cent that they needed and increase the debt ceiling and taxes in order to do so. The Republicans (being egged on by the Tea Party) wanted to stop spending in order to balance the budget which would result in certain government programs losing the money that they have grown to depend on. In simpler terms I’ll use an analogy that was originally introduced to me by my father. Government spending is as a car on the highway. For the last few years, the driver of this car has been accelerating to unsafe speeds and something needs to be done before something tragic occurs. The Democrats would have us buy new road signs increasing the speed limit, making us feel more safe though do nothing to the speeding vehicle. The Tea Party is calling for the car to slam on the brakes and pull the E-Brake bringing the car to an abrupt halt. You can see that to each side, their idea seems to be the proper solution but we can see that each idea has its downfalls and dangers. And so the debate begins.
It has been an ugly July for congress. Bipartisan efforts came and went as the moon over Capitol Hill. Nothing seemed to work and congressmen and the President’s administration were getting frustrated. Like 3rd graders Congressmen were calling each other names and questioning their intelligence in front of the entire Nation. Just as I did when I was five and didn’t get my way, lawmakers stormed out of meetings and the American people braced for impact. Both sides were complaining that the other wasn’t compromising. I thought to myself how sad that each side had to be so extreme but I began to understand. If they weren’t extreme. If they weren’t stubborn then the other side would walk all over them so they needed to stick to their guns if they were to help get through the plan that they truly felt was the best solution for America.
Blogs and news sources were equally relentless in ripping into Congress and the President for not finding a solution faster. They were outraged and thought it was ” ‘ridiculous,’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘stupid'” how the situation was handled, as was I, until I remembered what I had learned in a Political Science class about our Constitution. And this is the point I would like to make today. Yes, it is a mess. Yes, because of stubborn lawmakers and heated debates it was literally in the last hours that a compromise was made. Yes, it isn’t a pleasant atmosphere on Capitol Hill. But guess what? It’s not supposed to be. This government was specifically designed to prevent legislation from being approved too quickly. And if you have a problem with that, take it up with some of the greatest philosophical minds dealing with politics that the world has ever seen, or as I like to call them, the Founding Fathers.
It’s a mess but it’s America! The Founding Fathers would probably be rolling in their graves if they heard some of the things that were being said amongst the Congressmen but I don’t think that they would have preferred some rush job of a deficit reduction plan that haphazardly slid its way through congress and across the President’s desk. But if you think that this kind of quarreling is new to American politics, think again! Let’s go way back in our history. Does anyone remember the Burr-Hamilton Duel? A man was killed over political disagreements! At least we don’t have that today (though I still wouldn’t want to be around Dick Cheney and his shotgun… you can never be too careful). How ’bout the Civil War? Anyone remember that? A whole chunk of the country seceded and went to war over a political disagreement! If we were so quick to compromise in that case about slavery where would our country be today? Now, I don’t suggest that our country was on the brink of civil war or that this debt crisis is on the same level as slavery but the point I’m trying to make is that inefficiency is good for a country. Because of that and because of last minute deals, instead of haphazardly increasing the speed limit on our proverbial highway or recklessly slamming on the breaks, we have taken our foot off the gas and our beginning to come to a safer speed.
So next time when you wish to get angry at the inefficiency of our government…go ahead, get angry and tell your Congressman how you feel. But just remember, this is just evidence that the Constitution is working well to protect our country against irrational emotional decisions that may have devastating consequences in our country’s future.
So yes, it’s a mess. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Original post can be found at http://openbookofbrian.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-mess-but-its-america.html)