Opinion

Commentary: U.S. looks headed for a big fall

If you’ve followed my column for any amount of time, you know I’m very concerned about the future of our nation. We’ve gotten fat, happy and arrogant. You also know that I believe the only way to restore our country is through education. We are, however handcuffed, bound by our own silly disputes that create gridlock. While some praise gridlock, it works to our disadvantage when getting nothing done is not an option.

We witness it every day. If Republicans come up with a plan, Democrats demonize it. The same applies when Democrats foist an idea. Our lawmakers and policy makers know what to do. They aren’t dense, but gathering the political will to move in a constructive direction is elusive. This plays right into the hands of our competitors.

We know we have to contain health care costs, yet the plan now known as Obamacare is used as a sledge hammer for the 2012 election season by Republicans. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., comes out with a plan that would change Medicare and Democrats use “mediscare” tactics to turn the debate in their favor.

We have a population that is easily led. For the most part, we don’t understand the issues and we don’t care. Just slap a red or blue label on it and we blindly slip our brains into neutral. We’d rather spout what we’ve heard or seen, but don’t know and understand. If it gets too complex -- forgetaboutit.

We are in two, some say three wars, and we don’t want to pay for them. One side says tax the rich while the other wants to give more tax cuts. We ask people to do the math, something we are increasingly unable to do, and it doesn’t add up, no matter how we adjust the equation, it is what it is. We want the government to spend less money. And when it tries, such as cutting defense spending, we balk, particularly when it is our base or our jet engine the Pentagon says it doesn’t need. We demonize the poor and say it’s all their fault. If it weren’t for those bloodsuckers, we wouldn’t be in this position. Really?

Case in point. Many of the freshmen representatives in the House see no problem with hitting the debt ceiling. Their supporters want them, if necessary, to shut the government down. We can play games with the debt ceiling if we like, but the financial markets have already sent a signal. Thursday, Moody’s Investors Service sent its warning that it might just downgrade our credit rating. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner didn’t mince words when he met with the freshman, also Thursday. He warned they were playing with fire. The Moody’s statement said, “Although Moody’s fully expected political wrangling prior to an increase in the statutory debt limit, the degree of entrenchment into conflicting positions has exceeded expectations. The heightened polarization over the debt limit has increased the odds of a short-lived default.” That’s not red or blue talking, that’s green.

We are in this gridlocked position -- not for the good of the country -- but for the good of political parties. Every member of Congress puts getting re-elected ahead of doing what they know to be right. Republicans and Democrats know they both own the deficit elephant in the room, but they hope the American people -- with an attention span measured in nanoseconds -- won’t remember.

We had better get a grip and fast. We are approaching a tipping point. President Obama’s own budget projections point to tougher times ahead. Housing hasn’t rebounded and probably won’t for five to eight years. Jobs aren’t being created -- only 54,000 added last month -- and we still have an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.

We can stay tied up in monkey fist political knots if we choose, but if this country continues in the tank, in the words of the poet Curtis Mayfield, “If there’s a hell below, we’re all gonna go.”

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