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Posted by on Nov 20, 2009 in Economy, Politics | 54 comments

America: The Debt-Ridden Land of Pointy Partisan Fingers


Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), writing in CNN, says he plans to oppose raising the debt ceiling what the issue comes up for a vote next month. He’s unwilling to raise this ceiling, he writes, unless “Congress adopts a credible process to balance our books and eliminate the red ink” — and he wants to form a “debt commission” to start the process.

A debt commission will force members of Congress to take — or reject — a single gulp of politically difficult medicine to treat the fiscal problems that are ailing our country. Those who choose not to take that medicine would be forced to explain to their constituents why a $12 trillion national debt doesn’t make them queasy.

Unfortunately, members of Congress won’t have to explain anything to their constituents. Partisans and liberals are already taking virtual pens to paper to attack him:

There are, however, some issues to consider. For example, it was none other than Evan Bayh who recently voted to “reform” the estate tax, cutting taxes for the extraordinarily rich, at a cost of $750 billion over the next decade. To pay for it, he recommended … nothing. The costs would simply all be added to the deficit. Given this, I hope he’ll forgive my skepticism about his credibility on the subject of fiscal responsibility.

And just like that, Bayh’s entire suggestion is chucked out the window. Steve Benen goes on with the usual spiel about how its really more the Republicans fault anyway — an increasingly tired excuse, from my perspective, for the lack of fiscal discipline by The Powers That Be.

Now, I’m just an average non-economist, but here’s how I see this: It does not matter who did what in the past.

Long-term deficits drive up interest rates for consumers, raise prices of goods and services, and weaken our country’s financial competitiveness and security.

The bigger our deficits, the fewer resources we have to make critical investments in energy, education, health care and tax relief for small businesses and middle-class families.

The bigger our deficits, the more we must borrow from foreign creditors like China, allowing governments with competing interests to influence our economic and trade policies in ways that run counter to our national interest.

Elementary school tactics like finger-pointing do nothing to forestall these problems, and partisan sniping merely increases the unproductive polarization. Yet people are indulging themselves at every opportunity — no doubt because it makes great red meat to feed the ongoing frenzy.

And, of course, it’s much easier to point and blame than fix problems.

Listen: I don’t care anymore that George W. Bush cooked the Iraq War funding books. I don’t care anymore which party enabled the Fannie Mae cluster and pushed funding for mortgages people couldn’t afford. I don’t care anymore whether there was a “D” or an “R” trailing behind anybody’s name… whether it was last month, or last year, or during my grandfathers’ days.

We’re in the midst of a massive national belt-tightening — a process both necessary and long-overdue. From the citizen who borrowed against tomorrow because s/he “had to have” that wide-screen television, to the lawmaker who “had to bring home the bacon”, we’ve been the very epitome of excess borrowing and consumerism. It’s brought us right to our knees, and we’re going to stay there until our leaders find some fortitude.

Folks are going to have to suck it up and do without a pet project or cause for while — no matter how worthy or near-and-dear it may be.

I’m sorry about that, but this utter failure to control our spending is eventually going to crash all those projects anyway — and if the people currently in charge are unable to get past their own ideological childishness, then I want them out of there, donkey or elephant.