Having just witnessed the debt ceiling spectacle in Washington over this past few weeks, I hardly know where to begin commenting about what is happening in Washington DC where the political environment has become so rancorous and toxic that the Speaker of the House now ignores phone calls from the President of the United States. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times compared the tactics of the Tea Party and their followers to the horror classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", with a reference to "eating their own party and leaders alive". Nicholas Kristof, also of the New York Times, called it "the warts of democracy". And Robert Draper, who is writing a book on this whole sordid affair, likened it to a "WWE SmackDown" (to hear his entire fascinating interview on NPR go to http://www.npr.org/2011/08/03/138922932/inside-the-tea-partys-rising-influence). With that less than flattering backdrop, consider the following random issues and conclusions that bubbled up as a result of this messy process.
1. There seems to be visceral hatred of President Obama that began almost the day after he was elected for reasons that totally escape me. Is it his education, world view, trying to protect the poor, the color of his skin or his policies? Take your choice, but it is obviously the avowed purpose of many on the far right to paralyze his administration and make him a "one term president" regardless of the ultimate costs to our country, financial or otherwise. How American is that?
2. Then there is the debt limit itself and whether it is even needed. James Surowiecki in an article in the August 1st edition of The New Yorker lays out a compelling argument that it is not, as every other democratic country except Denmark gets along fine without one. But for some reason we still feel the need for a questionable law that was enacted during WW1, according to an editorial the New York Times on August 8th, "to persuade gullible taxpayers that Congress is exercising responsible oversight over borrowing". As we have just experienced, it has just become a foil for a game of chicken to showcase partisan brinkmanship that only adds stress to an already difficult situation, which Mr. Surowiecki argues is absolutely the worst environment in which to make such important decisions. He and the NYT both agree that it is time to remove this self-induced problem of a debt ceiling and deal with the real problems facing this country.
3. What about the far right's refusal to accept the need for increased revenues when almost all of our nation's economists on both sides of the political spectrum agree that they are absolutely essential to a long term fix of our fiscal problems? And then for Congress to leave town for a month before formally approving the FFA budget which cost the government $30 million a day in lost income from passenger fees until it was temporarily restored this past Friday was a total abdication of their responsibilities as strong stewards of the purse which conservatives pretend to be. God help us if this retro starve-the-beast mindset hits the state, county and city levels of our country as they pursue their various tax proposals to make up the loss in federal funds that will result from this by-product legislation. Normally, it's just a routine matter to approve a new debt ceiling to pay existing commitments of the United States, so is it really necessary (see #2 above)?
4. With all due respect for John Brummett, a noted local political analyst who writes a weekly column for the Arkansas Times, I'm not so sure there is that much "good" that came out of that deal. For one thing it seems woefully lacking in size and structure. In the words of David Brooks, a national political analyst for the New York Times, the conservative right let President Obama's "deal of the century", which proposed $4 trillion in cuts and only $1 trillion in revenues, slip away. Obviously, the business and financial communities were not impressed, as evidenced by this past Thursday's collapse of the stock market and Standard and Poor's downgrading yesterday of our credit rating to AA+? Both speak volumes about our true commitment to reduce our debt. And, speaking of the business community, where were they in this process? It's as if they had been muzzled.
5. And while we're on the subject of corporate America, what about the reported $2.5 trillion corporations are hoarding in cash while many multi-nationals pay no corporate income tax at all through various loopholes including sheltering their foreign profits offshore? Yet, they are making no attempt at improving the employment rate in the United States by hiring some of the 9.1% unemployed with some of those trillions. When corporations like Apple supposedly have more cash on hand that the United States Treasury (re: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/07/29/apple.cash.government/index.html), then something is terribly out of whack.
6. Will forming another bi-partisan committee solve anything? We've been down this road before with the Simpson-Bowles Commission which did a terrific job in making some very substantial recommendations, which were summarily ignored, to address our long term financial problems. Even though I seldom agree with Charles Krauthammer, I think his suggestion that this new super committee not "reinvent the wheel" and simply make the hard choices from those outlined in the Simpson-Bowles report is right on target. Furthermore, to quote the co-chairs of that commission, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, "It's time to go big (i.e. in formulating a comprehensive plan) or go home".
7. As recently pointed out by both Paul Krugman and Lawrence Summers, GROWTH rather than worrying about the debt ceiling is what this country really needs. Mr. Krugman proposes a Harry Truman-like campaign to sell a big job creation proposal by President Obama, and Mr. Summers suggests absolutely letting the Bush tax cuts expire next year, extending the payroll tax cuts, adopting an infrastructure maintenance program and continuing unemployment benefits as the easiest ways to achieve badly needed economic growth.
Considering all the misbehavior and sordid politics that have just taken place which have fueled public angst, worry, disgust and an 82% overall disapproval rating of Congress, one wonders if now might be the time to explore other methods of electing public officials as proposed by Americans-ELECT 2011 at https://secure.americanselect.org/, a link sent to me by an old friend from California. While I do not necessarily endorse this approach, given the current sorry state of affairs in Washington, something dramatic needs to be done to reform the existing political system if our elected representatives can't get their act together, leave their ideology at the doorstep and compromise on a genuine bi-partisan long term solution to our financial woes .
ARTISTS - Visual and Musical
Laura Raborn at http://paintingsofhome.com and http://claygifts.com
Jim Johnson at http://yessy.com/jimjohnson/gallery.html
Russ Powell at http://powellphotos.com
Linda Flake at http://lindaflake.com
Tom Herrin at http://tommysart.blogspot.com
Matt McLeod at http://email@example.com
Artists Registry at http://www.arkansasarts.org/programs/registry/default.aspx
Sandy Hubler Fine Art at http://sandyhublerfineart.com
George Wittenberg at http://postcard-art-gallery.com
Will Barnet at http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&expIds=17259,17315,23628,23670,24472,25834,26095,26328,26562,26637,26761,26790,26849,26992,27095,27126,27139,27147,27178&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=will+barnet&cp=9&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=xpfETMT1O4L6lwf66ugE&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CEkQsAQwAQ&biw=1350&bih=501
Barry Thomas at http://barrythomasart.com
Sherry Williamson at http://meowbarkart.com
Julie McNair at http://juliemcnair.com
Phoebe Lichty at http://phoebelichty.com
Local Colour Gallery at http://localcolourgallery.com
Chroma Gallery at http://chromagallery.com
Cantrell Gallery at http://cantrellgallery.com
Greg Thompson Fine Art at http://gregthompsonfineart.com
Red Door Gallery at http://reddoorgalleryonline.com
M2 Gallery at http://m2lr.com
UALR Gallery Program at http://ualr.edu/art
Gallery 26 at http://gallery26.com
Boswell Mourot Fine Art at http://boswellmourot.com