Assorted Thoughts on the Debt Ceiling Crisis
Ok, I’m beginning to panic. The political system is broken but these people are gambling with our money- our retirement savings. Do I sit here like a moron, do nothing and just watch Wall Street collapse next week? Can we change to a Parliamentary system?
I’ve never seen anything like this. Congress is supposed to pass increases in the debt ceiling automatically. There’s been hardly a peep about this from lawmakers in the past. Oh, there have been a few symbolic votes against raising the debt ceiling by a handful of lawmakers including Barack Obama when he was a junior Senator. But the outcome was never in doubt and that’s why some took the liberty to make political points by voting nay.
But this time…is different. There are two proposals being floated right now; one by Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. No one thinks it has the votes to pass the House. Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, has a plan that can’t pass the Senate and has been rebuked by the Tea Party folks in his own party.
There is currently no plan that can pass. Yet- since 1962, the debt limit has been increased 74 times. It’s been raised ten times over the past ten years. Routine votes. Not even a news story.
Now, Pandora’s box has been opened. Attaching conditions to something as important as raising the debt ceiling means either party not holding the White House will be using this tactic for their respective causes every time the nation needs to increase the limit on the national credit card. Why didn’t this President insist on clean passage with no strings, like every President has before him? Why did he allow this to become a political football? Maybe he didn’t have a choice- I don’t know.
But you can’t run a country this way. Much less a country whose currency and economy have been the underpinning of the world economy for the past 70 years or so. This is a recipe for economic catastrophe. Even if they burn the midnight oil all weekend as they’re expected to do and maybe solve it this time…what about next time? Is this going to become an annual event? Or maybe we’ll be flirting with economic ruin every six months. Or we could make it weekly and turn it into a TV reality show.
A New Form of Government?
Could our Founding Fathers have messed up with this system of government? Were their assumptions that lawmakers would eventually reach compromise a silly, altruistic notion? Did they not foresee a time when divided government might utterly fail the people?
With a parliamentary system- you cannot have such deeply divided government. A party wins a majority and its legislative leader becomes Prime Minister. That person stays in power until the day comes they can’t preserve their majority on one issue or another then there’s a vote of no confidence and it’s off to new elections. Or if a party can’t reach a majority, the plurality party cuts a deal with a minority party and they form a coalition government. They only stay in power if they work together.
And under a Parliamentary system, you generally have fewer national elections too. The way our system works, the presidential campaign season is basically every two years- and now lasts for two years. Most true legislative progress occurs between a Presidential election and the mid-term election because everyone knows that once the calendar turns on the two year-mark- the day after mid-term elections-it’s political silly season; all posturing, no substance.
And we can Americanize it. We can call the Prime Minister “President,” keep the Supreme Court and do away with the House of Lords.
So based on the current tea leaves that point to economic calamity next week, I am poised to liquidate my mutual funds and stocks then write my Congressman and beg him to introduce a Constitutional amendment to change the American form of government which is not working so well at the moment.
Final Historical Footnote
I pointed out the day after the mid-term elections last November that the last two occasions in American history that the U.S. Senate was controlled by Democrats and the House of Representatives was controlled by Republicans, the following happened; the American Civil War and the Great Depression. Go ahead, look it up.
Looks like we’re sort of getting both. No bloodshed, but a deeply divided nation and a potential economic calamity.