For the last two months, We the People have watched – in some horror – the full and true picture of how our elected government is operating today. Past legislative battles have been but a pale preview of the political warfare now occurring over raising the debt limit. And We the People are not at all happy with what we see.
There is no question that We the People have widely different views about the proper role of government – federal, state and local – in our economic, religious and personal lives. Nor is there a question that many of us hold those views with strong passion. But there is no question that the greatness of America has always been its ability to transcend those differences, moderate our extremes, and ultimately do the right thing for the greatest good. It is only when we have failed to see and strive for that bigger view that We the People have collectively come up short in the great promise that is America.
We now have bills to pay for monies already spent based on previous commitments of Congress-persons and Presidents. In hindsight, some of those bills may have been good or bad decisions, but they are decisions long sense made. Now we have to live with them responsibly. Like any corporate chief or small business owner, when expected revenues do not work out, one needs to borrow to get through today while concurrently making smart plans about tomorrow. In such times, it is vital to keep one’s credit worthiness whole, and to demonstrate an unflinching commitment to paying one’s obligations. Yet our current debt is not just about the credit worthiness of the federal government; it is more importantly about affirming the “full faith, credit and backing” of We the People. It is all pretty simple and basic stuff.
Yet instead of dealing honestly and efficiently with this credit management need, our government has instead decided to hold this backbone of our economic stability hostage to a wide-ranging ideological war of every conceivable pet philosophy. The supposed debt “debate” in fact has little to do with the debt limit. All of the current arguments instead reflect classic disagreements over the size and role of government, how it should be paid for, and by whom. These are heated arguments on both sides that have been with us unsettled since our Constitution was first written.
But where in the past these arguments ebbed and flowed and ultimately found resolution in the middle (like the writing of our Constitution itself), this time we are watching acts of legislative terrorism taking place. (I realize that this risks sounding as its own inflammatory rhetoric, but if it looks, quacks, and waddles like a duck, there is a high probability it is a duck!) Legislative terrorists have sized a valuable hostage (the debt limit requirement), issued their list of “non-negotiable demands” (strictly cutting spending of their own unilateral determination without new revenues), and threatened to kill the hostage if these demands are not met without compromise (a never-before, constitutionally prohibited default on our debts). It is a classic fighting tactic of the political revolutionary – hostage-taking, ransom and killing – a tactic that all governmental leaders everywhere have always been quick to condemn.
Mere days before our deadline for paying the ransom, we are still unclear about the potential outcome. Yet the damage to our credit standing and economic well-being is already occurring simply by the threat of a default. Politicians who have been talking big about being committed to job creation and economic growth are in fact taking steps towards destroying any chance for an economic turnaround. Playing “chicken” with our country’s reputation and greatness for the pure sake of ideological combat is not responsible governing, it is simply power exercised for the aggrandizement of one’s personal ego, not for our national well-being. We the People clearly see the difference.
So what to do? There are times when headstrong children, employees, and friends are hell-bent to follow a course without regard for the larger consequences. Consequences upon them as well as others. As parents, supervisors and concerned friends, we must choose between trying to forcibly stop them, or letting them go forward so that they can learn needed lessons from the disaster of their own experience. This is one of those times.
As President, I know that your sense of overriding obligation is to protect us from our worst enemies, whether enemies within or without. Therefore I know your instinct will be to protect our credit rating from our self-inflicted wound and accept whatever ransom demand is made. But if you do, you will only validate the legislative terror tactics now being employed. You will confirm that they in fact work. And so we will see these tactics constantly replayed on every issue over the next two years – the politics of brinksmanship. It will repeat again when we try to create a budget for FY 2012 that starts TWO MONTHS from now; have yet another debt limit battle in six months (and again six months after that?); and when we start working on the 2013 budget that takes effect in October 1, 2012 – just before the next election.
Standard policy for all law enforcement agencies is to never accede to the demands of terrorists. I ask you to follow that same policy now. We the (most of the ) People ask you to veto the many nonsensical proposals about the debt limit now being offered up from all quarters. We will survive a temporary default – and it will be temporary after the consequences are upon us – though our word and our dollar bill will never mean the same to citizens the world over. But the far greater lesson that apparently needs to be learned, and point to be made, is that this current way of “playing politics” is no way to run a government. It is not how democracy works. It is not how We the People desire to spend the next 1½ years, embarrassed, frustrated and ill-served by government leaders basking in all of their self-generated noise.
It is time to stop this ugly, pathetic stage show that has been occurring in Washington for the last decade or more. We the People need big thinkers right now with effective solutions that bring the center core of Americans forward together. We have not seen such leaders in a long, long time. In 2010 liberal left zealots were chastised and replaced. In 2012 the same will happen to conservative right zealots. History affirms that a time-honored correction to the middle when needed is what We the People do.