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Appalling Behavior

As we continue to slouch towards a default of the US Government, the situation remains appalling. There is no apparent movement and many in Congress don’t seem to take the situation seriously. “I think, personally, it (a default) would bring stability to the world markets,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), claiming that it would show that the US is serious about its debt problem. Nothing would change the mind of someone this willfully stupid about how markets work and what US debt (and US Dollars) represent to global markets.

But that’s just one Congressperson from one district, right? No, it’s not that simple. This is appalling behavior all around that threatens America’s economy, prestige, and ultimately our ability to function at all in any kind of organized way. I’d like to make it clear what appalls me, personally, about how this is playing out and why it’s not just a partisan issue.

Only Eric Cantor  has the power to put funding to a vote that it would surely pass.

Only Eric Cantor has the power to put funding to a vote that it would surely pass.

I’m appalled by changing the rules to give one man control over a bill. The rules of the US House usually allow a bill that passed the Senate to come onto the floor with its amendments stripped from it in order to keep things moving. They changed that this time to allow Majority Leader Eric Cantor sole control over the “Clean CR” that would re-open the government. They didn’t even trust Speaker Boehner with this power. This is utterly unprecedented and no way to run a legislature.

I’m appalled by the inability to actually pass a budget. We’re not even talking about an actual budget here, but simply a bill that would simply keep spending at last year’s levels. If the US House did one thing every year and then went home, it would be to pass a budget – and they didn’t even try to do that. If negotiations over a real budget resulted in a shutdown, I could understand that.  It would almost be refreshing. We’re not anywhere near the most basic expectation from Congress.

I’m appalled by the inability to even think about real reform or a “Grand Compromise”. If the shutdown occurred because the parties were unable to agree on how to reform the ridiculous tax code I would very much understand the situation. The President is partly to blame on this one because he has not signaled any interest in getting past the petty politics and crisis of the moment by pushing for genuine reform to break to stalemate. As a strong supporter of the Simpson-Bowles framework I have to say that Washingtoon has shown themselves to be utterly useless.

Progress would be good, yes.

Progress would be good, yes.

I’m appalled in general by Obama’s lack of leadership, too. We are in a depression by any reasonable measure, and we need another FDR. What we have instead is a moderate who hasn’t offered anything new beyond the Affordable Care Act. While that contained many things that absolutely have to happen, even that is bloated by bureaucratic nonsense and will have to be reformed.  Where is this guy who is so brilliant on the campaign trail?  Why can’t he get around Congress by taking his message directly to the people?  It seems to be a lack of a coherent plan or message that is the real problem.

I’m appalled by the press and their inability to explain that the most fundamental operations of government have completely stalled, and that this is the result of one faction of one party blocking absolutely everything. The story initially was about “gridlock”, essentially blaming both sides in a “false equivalency”. The press has gotten much better once it became clear in polls that the public was far ahead of them, but the extreme measures taken as described above have still not been reported adequately in the mainstream media.

I’m appalled by the general lack of civility shown by the supporters of the right. I understand that they don’t like Obama, but the constant disrespect to the office of President is horrible. That some of them showed up for a rally at the White House waving the flag of treason, the Confederate Stars and Bars, was utterly disgusting. I would have hoped someone would have told the bearer of those flags what a terrible disservice they were doing, but it didn’t go down that way. There is NO EXCUSE for waving a flag of treason, period.

I’m appalled by how much the Federal Reserve has to manage our monetary policy. I really like Bernanke and I think he is doing the best he can. The Fed is focused on job creation, which is far outside its normal job by any measure. They shouldn’t have to do this, and they are clearly not very efficient at it. The amount of power they have assumed over our economy is breathtaking, however, and very dangerous.

I was appalled by the Senate Republicans’ ability to filibuster everything, but this seems to have been cracked open by some private deal between Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV). We don’t know what that deal included, so we don’t know the price tag for simply allowing the Senate to function normally. It still might be bad.

Nancy Pelosi served her time, but her generation should step aside.

Nancy Pelosi served her time, but her generation should step aside.

I’m appalled by the Democrats’ leadership in Congress. In 2012 a majority of Americans voted Democratic for President, Senate, and US House – with the Republicans only holding on by gerrymandering. The Democrats’ platform? Primarily, it was “We’re not those bad guys.” Reid and Pelosi are both very old and incapable of speaking to a younger generation – and they don’t seem to feel that they have to. Transparency created by truly opening up government and taking the case to the people is absolutely necessary to keep the much more progressive new generation engaged and committed to the Democrats. We’re going to lose them if we don’t have better leadership.

Finally, I’m appalled by the complete lack of understanding of the role Treasury Bills play in the world economy and how anyone could see this as a good idea. This 14T$ that is held around the world is the great “safe haven” for money that anchors bank balance sheets everywhere – if it starts to lose value, banks will have to re-capitalize and call in loans. They certainly will reign in future lending. That will be especially acute here in the US, and it will make it more difficult for EVERYONE to borrow money. There will be a terrible slowdown as a result – there can be no other possibility.

This leaves aside the strange relationship we have with emerging superpower China, which holds $2.4T of this debt. They have been arguing for years that the US has too much influence over the global economy, and proving them right is not smart. Our greatest weapon has always been our economic power and default will destroy that overnight. If China becomes the rock of stability, expect our allies who are anywhere near China to suddenly move their direction. And that’s just one big nation with one big example of what happens to our prestige – repeat that all over the world once we look like we are falling.

There is a lot to be appalled by in this horrible mess. This is dysfunction any way you look at it. But it is still only one side, or really only one faction of one side, which is willing to take the unbelievably stupid and destructive step of defaulting. It’s appalling all around, but those who are destroying our nation for their own gain are especially appalling.

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11 thoughts on “Appalling Behavior

  1. Thank you for this blog.

    We need a little poetry to inspire us, given the budget and shutdown travails we’ve been through.

    From Walt Whitman

    STARTING from fish-shape Paumanok, where I was born,
    Well-begotten, and rais’d by a perfect mother;
    After roaming many lands—lover of populous pavements;
    Dweller in Mannahatta, my city—or on southern savannas;
    Or a soldier camp’d, or carrying my knapsack and gun—or a miner in California; 5
    Or rude in my home in Dakota’s woods, my diet meat, my drink from the spring;
    Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess,
    Far from the clank of crowds, intervals passing, rapt and happy;
    Aware of the fresh free giver, the flowing Missouri—aware of mighty Niagara;
    Aware of the buffalo herds, grazing the plains—the hirsute and strong-breasted bull; 10
    Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers, experienced—stars, rain, snow, my amaze;
    Having studied the mocking-bird’s tones, and the mountainhawk’s,
    And heard at dusk the unrival’d one, the hermit thrush from the swamp-cedars,
    Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World.

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