Commentary: Debt debacle has left scars

The Kansas City StarAugust 3, 2011 

The debt deal is done. Crisis averted. In the end, that’s the best that can be said for a process that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri said resulted in a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich” but which was really nothing but baloney.

While in Washington, D.C., there are calls to cheer this bipartisan compromise, such sentiments really only show how out of touch the nation’s capital remains with the nation it serves. The system took the country to the brink for purely partisan reasons. It has shaken Americans’ trust in their country and their sense of well-being.

The financial cost of the lost trust in the United States by much of the world is not known, but it was foolish for the federal government to gamble with it. Raising the debt ceiling, after all, was about a willingness to pay for that to which we’d already committed. There is concern that the United States may still lose its triple-A credit rating and be downgraded to AA, meaning this country would be thought to have a “very strong” ability to meet its obligations, down from “extremely strong.” This could mean the Washington fiasco will result in higher interest costs for the borrowing needed to keep the government operating.

Congress had seven full months to work out a deal. Taking it to the last day, and then ending up with a deal that is clearly no more than a first step, is discouraging. A longer-term solution will include tax increases and deep cuts, or, without tax increases, expect draconian cuts to entitlements.

The hope is that going forward Congress will focus on the needs of Americans, and not personal political fortunes.

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