Saturday, August 06, 2011
Fight or Flight
So often these days I feel like all I'm doing is adding to the noise.
The worse things get, the more angry I get -- or as anyone who listened to this week's podcast knows, the more overwhelmingly depressed -- and the more I either want to lash out in every direction or just shut down completely. I figure everybody's got an opinion and more often than not everybody's willing to share it with you whether you want to hear it or not, so I'm not sure I provide a specific service that you can't get anywhere else.
Take for example the Standard and Poor's downgrade of the United States' credit rating from AAA to a mere AA+ -- the first time that's happened in our history. Not only is this development disheartening at face value, the enormity of what it will likely mean for each and every one of us and for the country as a whole simply can't be overstated. While there are plenty of reasons to contest S&P's decision -- from the fact that its calculations may have been off by $2 trillion, to S&P's role in approving the toxic crap that got us into this economic mess in the first place, to the question of whether a for-profit company should have a say in a sovereign nation's internal affairs at all -- it's impossible to deny what it means for our standing around the world. What's also impossible to deny, if you believe the people at S&P, is who is to blame for the downgrade.
"The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy... Our lowering of the rating was prompted by our view on the rising public debt burden and our perception of greater policymaking uncertainty, consistent with our criteria... The (debt ceiling deal) contains no measures to raise taxes or otherwise enhance revenues, though the committee could recommend them... Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act."
Translation: Yes, the U.S. is carrying a lot of debt, but we weren't downgraded because of that; we were downgraded because the Republicans in Congress turned what should have been a simple procedure with a long history of precedent into a political dogfight, one in which they, quite simply, threatened the world with the possibility that the U.S. wouldn't pay its bills. And what's more, they've already made it abundantly clear that they intend to pull the same kind of crap again and again, especially since they now know that it works. Whether intentionally or not, the Republicans and their bizarre subservience to the Tea Party minority got the hostage that they took shot in the chest -- and don't think for a second that it will cause them to rethink this brand of political terrorism in the future.
It practically goes without saying that Republican leaders are now giddily lining up to blame President Obama for this latest global embarrassment; it goes without saying because that was the intention all along -- to burn the economy to the ground, sabotage it from the inside, and hang it all around the neck of the man they hate more than they love America and its people. The marrow-deep audacity required to do something like this is nothing short of mind-boggling. You've probably heard this analogy a lot lately, but it's fitting: It's the child who murders his parents then pleads for leniency from the court because he's an orphan. I keep wondering how much will be too much; at what point, if there even is one, the current crop of Republicans will stop and realize that they're literally destroying our country; when they'll finally wake up from their wet dream of unchecked power and feel something approaching shame.
I imagine that it will never happen. They've proven over and over again that there's no depth they won't sink to, no maneuver that crosses the line, no lie too offensive, no hypocrisy that's unthinkable. So it rests with us to heap the shame on them they seem to fundamentally lack. Maybe it's because I tend to view things through this prism, but I can't help but blame the political media for so much of what's been allowed to happen here -- and it's time they honored their responsibility to the truth, as opposed to contriving some comforting form of fake objectivity, and did so with a firm understanding of what's at stake. The debt ceiling fight, the credit downgrade, the implementation of hostage politics, all of it stemmed not as a result of a "broken government" in which both sides share equal blame; these things were the direct result of one party, the one that tallied up an unprecedented debt then manufactured a phony crisis over that debt which has already cost us our credit rating and could very well lead to a partial collapse of our fragile economy. What they've done will hurt people. It will destroy lives. And the entire reason for it is simply that the GOP wants control of the White House again. After utterly ruining us, the Republicans are seeking to assume complete dominance of our national and global policy again. This is reality. This is what's happening. And while the press should be equally adversarial when it comes to its coverage of our leaders, it should not ignore the truth or pretend that there are two sides it. The truth is the truth. Period.
It should be presented that way.
Where we go from here, whether we rise again to a place of preeminence within the world or take another step toward becoming a banana republic -- that's anyone's guess at this moment. But each and every one of us now knows what needs to be done. Whether you're the President of the United States, a journalist, a student who could soon inherit a funhouse mirror image of the America you were raised to sanctify, or just an average citizen -- it's time to take a stand.
I want so badly to concern myself with how much noise I'm making, or maybe just go back to sleep right now -- but I know that I can't.