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Yes the debt ceiling crisis was important, but here are my reasons for being underwhelmed:
1- We all expected Congress to battle this one out until the last possible minute and then find a compromise.
2- The solution is the usual one of bailing wire and duct tape for now, à Magical solution right after the next election.
3- Considering the effort it took to solve a relatively easy problem, how can we expect Congress and the President to solve the really big and/or tough problems like the energy shortage, global warming, terrorism, and immigration.
The movie had a predictable ending. Did anyone really expect, with so much at stake both politically and emotionally, that a compromise would be reached early? Both sides were going to play chicken at long as they dared. The flip side of this record is/was that neither side could afford (politically) to be viewed as the one that caused the country to default on it’s debts (and the Constitution doesn’t allow it) so it was a 99% guarantee that a compromise would be reached before the deadline.
The “solution” to the debt problem is to raise the ceiling further, in other words we still don’t have a balanced budget or a long-term solution. We have the usual promise of a magical solution (watch closely and you will be amazed, at no time will my fingers leave my hands) after the next election. So now all of the incumbents up for re-election (all Representatives, 1/3 of the Senate and President Obama) can get back to their real jobs, getting re-elected.
For me the really scary thought is this. America’s budget (and the deficit) is a relatively simple problem in that Americans hold all of the cards. We (collectively through our elected officials – note I didn’t say “leaders”) have complete control over how we choose to tax ourselves and how to spend the money collected. These are decisions that are difficult and complex, but I’ll repeat, we have complete control over the decisions. Congress hasn’t been able to get the job done. They will not make the tough decisions unless and until either the situation or the citizens force them to.
So how can I have any confidence that they will/can solve problems like: global climate change (it’s a scientific fact- complex yes – but the physical evidence is solid); the energy shortage in a growing world; terrorism; or illegal immigration? In the first two challenges Mother Nature holds the key cards of physical, scientific constraints. We cannot play chicken with or ignore physical laws and conditions. We can only recognize them, understand them, and live our live within them. The second two problems are driven by forces almost as strong and unwavering: the fear, hatred, hunger, and despair of the terrorists and the illegal immigrants. These emotions etc. exist within those individuals. We can perform actions that influence these people’s opinions over time, but we cannot directly remove their feelings and emotions. Like dealing with weeds, we need solutions that get at the roots of these problems, not just chop their heads off.
Solution? How do we push congress to more long-term, difficult solutions? Elect more rookies to Congress (House and Senate) in 2012. I would particularly target every Senator running for a third (or more) term and every Representative who has “served” four or more terms. Why am I not targeting President Obama? First, he can only run one more time, and secondly I don’t think he has received appropriate support from either side of the aisle. I lay most of the inability to lead and solve problems on Congress. One of the best ways we can start fixing this country before handing it off to our Grandchildren is sending a clear message to Congress, “Make real decisions and solve the issues or get replaced.”