E Pluribus? [Warning: Political Content]

Dry fountain on Roosevelt Island.

E pluribus unum.

That’s our national motto, and it’s stood us in pretty good stead for most of our history. But I’m afraid that, like this fountain on Roosevelt Island, these days it seems to have pretty much run dry.

I’m appalled at the level of partisan brinksmanship being displayed by my government as our country faces potentially disastrous economic consequences from an impending default. It is beyond countenancing that the question has become who to blame rather than how to minimize the damage from this mess.

To those who subscribe to the “Good, let it burn!” school of thought on this one: I cannot imagine any more irresponsible attitude. Household economics does not scale to national and international economics. This is a huge and complicated system we’re dealing with here. You don’t just throw the off-switch thinking you can flip it back on in a few minutes or let the tank run down to empty as you coast into the gas station.

Hostage-taking is no way to run a nation. In addition to being morally repugnant, it is highly inefficient and squanders the very resources that are being haggled over. It makes sensible planning and budgeting impossible, both for the government and for the private sector.

Balance and moderation and, yes, compromise are essential to good government. This era of shut-downs, filibusters, and down-to-the-wire holdouts is an embarrassment to a mature society. History will not judge it kindly.

9 Responses to E Pluribus? [Warning: Political Content]
  1. Rakewell
    July 26, 2011 | 8:54 pm

    The impending calamity is the result of an orgy of federal spending. Surely that point is beyond serious dispute. Any real solution, therefore, requires cutting federal spending. Without that, increasing the debt ceiling just puts off the day of reckoning, and makes it more painful and expensive when it comes.

    What was Barack Obama’s offer in terms of cutting spending? $2 billion from the next fiscal year–which amounts to 0.05% of the budget. We are going deeper into debt at a rate of about $4 billion EVERY DAY, so over the course of a year, this man is willing to slow the rate of increased debt by about 12 hours’ worth.

    This is not a serious person. This is not the “adult in the room.” This is not a statesman. This is not somebody looking to solve the problem. This is a joke, a clown, a buffoon, a shyster looking to score points and get himself reelected. He is a national embarrassment.

    Those few who are holding out for real, serious, deep cuts in spending are the only ones who deserve credit for trying to fix things, rather than putting a BandAid on them. If that means some panic in the Treasury Department while they sort out priorities on what checks get written and which don’t, so be it. I would forgive them for holding their breath until they turned blue, if it would get the job done.

    Unfortunately, the only “compromises” being bandied about are just variations in how fast things will continue getting worse, rather than actual solutions. I’m perfectly OK with rejecting “compromise” when those are the kinds offered.

  2. NT
    July 26, 2011 | 9:37 pm

    If the U.S. defaults it will have terrible consequences: interest rates for everything will go up at a time of high unemployment and a sluggish economy. To hold an entire nation hostage to that outcome is inexcusable, in my opinion. The need to raise the debt ceiling is driven by MONEY ALREADY COMMITTED by our government. To refuse to move the machinery that can make the required payments possible is irresponsible in the extreme.

    We disagree on many things, including what I consider to be a grossly unfair, crude, and cartoonish description of President Obama.

    Here’s some context for my perspective on the matter:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/07/the-chart-that-should-accompany-all-discussions-of-the-debt-ceiling/242484/
    http://crooksandliars.com/jon-perr/10-inconvenient-truths-about-debt-ceiling

  3. Rakewell
    July 26, 2011 | 10:08 pm

    I am not in favor of defaulting on debt, but failing to raise the debt limit is not the same thing as defaulting on debt payments. A refusal to raise the debt ceiling simply means that we can’t add any more debt, that total expenditures must be less than or equal to federal income. I’m pretty OK with forcing the government to live within its means, and to cut spending to the level of revenue.

    I’m perfectly willing to hang Bush in effigy for his role in creating the mess. But no matter what he did, this fact remains: Under Obama, total federal outlays have soared to 25.0 (2009), 23.8 (2010), and 25.3 (2011 estimated) percent of GDP, levels unprecented, with the exception of WWII, since the table I’m looking at started in 1930. (White House Office of Management and Budget, Table 1.2, here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Historicals

    Since federal revenues bump along at a relatively consistent 17-19% of GDP no matter what is done with marginal tax rates, bumping jacking spending up like that is utterly unsustainable.

    Refusing to take serious action to reverse that course is courting economic disaster. It is an extreme of fiscal and political irresponsibility.

  4. NT
    July 26, 2011 | 11:22 pm

    Comments are not a good place for this debate. We can take this discussion off-line, if you like.

  5. Big-O
    July 27, 2011 | 10:04 pm

    I read the Grump, so I know he’s out for a visit. Makes me wonder if you’re both typing this on the same computer….

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