Point of View Columns

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

The irony would be delicious if it wasn’t so foul.

It is generally acknowledged that the economic crisis in which we currently live was precipitated by a major collapse of the housing market along with the mortgage-backed bond instruments that supported the fake bubble that eventually burst. It is also generally acknowledged that these bond instruments could only have been sold with the cooperation and blessing of the major ratings agencies that turned a blind eye to defects that are painfully obvious now – and should have been obvious three years ago.

So it is ironic that two of these complicit ratings agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have announced that downgrading the credit standing of the United States may occur if the debt ceiling/budget deficit debate is not resolved soon. These agencies abandoned any semblance of objectivity as they granted bogus ratings to bonds sold by soon to be bailed out investment banks while they raked in Midas-like fees.

For these agencies to now step up and add more stress to an already contentious debate for nothing less than the financial soul of America is outrageous. Moody’s and S&P are relying on the historic amnesia of the American public. We are supposed to forget that the crisis about which they are opining was in no small part due to their transgressions and malfeasance – how their reputations can be above reproach is one of the great fan dance mysteries of our time.

Meanwhile, there is a financial crisis of tsunami-like proportions looming. Somehow the G.O.Tea Party has created an Alice in Wonderland logic that goes something like this: the federal budget should be balanced at all times (there are boatloads of economists who would debate this “fact”), the budget should be balanced now (although the deficit was created over the last 12 years, somehow it can be erased in one year), the budget should be balanced by reducing spending (many economists will argue that targeted government spending does indeed create jobs and stimulate the economy) and taxes can nevernevernever be increased (taxes for upper income Americans have been drastically reduced during the past dozen years).

The intransigence and stubbornness and stupidity of the G.O.Tea Party are compounded by the politics of the moment. Since January 20, 2009, Republicans have declared as their sole mission insuring that Barack Obama is a one term president. In modern history there has never been such unyielding and irresponsible opposition to every single proposal or initiative of a president. The future of the country takes second (or third) place to making sure that President Obama “fails”, as Rush Limbaugh so delicately put it.

And so we have a political party on a permanent crusade against the president. This would be the same political party that has jettisoned common sense and basic economics into the dumbosphere and built an economic strategy on this tattered logic. The notion that the federal government must have a deficit of zero is based on the analogy that the government of the United States of America should operate like a business.

Except the government of the United States of America is not a business, its mission is to promote and preserve the general welfare (so says the same Constitution of the United States which is so often quoted by the G.O.Tea Party zealots).

Government is not supposed to turn a profit in the manner of a private corporation. The “profit” that the government is supposed to show is in the improved lives of its citizens as well as safeguarded the future. The G.O.Tea Party is looking to establish a caretaker government that will be minimalist in its approach to the needs of the people.

Taking care of people is the antithesis of the G.O.Tea Party.
So in a G.O.Tea Dada world where no sense makes sense, it makes sense to cut taxes and reduce or eliminate human services spending wherever possible because government is not supposed to take care of people. In this mean and flinty world, the strong may not survive, but the rich will prosper. And in the logic of the G.O.Tea party, that is the same thing.

During the next two weeks we can hope that the American public can take time out from worrying about Casey Anthony’s new job or Jennifer Lopez’ next husband and keep their eye on the ball. The G.O.Tea Party rhetoric that glorifies a balanced budget masks the hidden agenda of visiting misery and hopelessness upon too many Americans for too long.

Nothing less than the soul of the country is at stake. Let’s hope that we can all wake up.