It's only Tuesday, but for those of us hoping to retire sooner rather than later, it's probably going to be a very long week. Actually, thanks to Standard and Poor's decision to drop the United States' creditworthiness from triple-A to AA-plus, it's probably going to be a stretch of very long months.
The rating agency's decision, the first-ever downgrade for Uncle Sam, naturally took into account the debt ceiling agreement. S&P found that deal wanting.
But when push came to shove, the downgrade was based on more than just the United States' trillions of dollars of debt. It was the way that Congress agreed on increasing the debt ceiling.
The rating agency's analysts said, in a statement accompanying its official downgrade, that "we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics anytime soon."
C'mon guys. Don't mince words. Just say it. Washington, D.C., is completely dysfunctional.
Sure it's the political capital of the world, and you have to play political games to get there. But politics is now overriding policy. And we're all paying for it.
So I'm downgrading Capitol Hill. Here are my ratings.
Tea Party members of Congress get a huge collective F. Yes, I know you won last November, but that was a midterm election where turnout in many precincts was negligible. So while you did get your supporters to the polls, their votes in no way represented a mandate. You, however, are like the young Chicken Hawk latching onto Foghorn Leghorn's ankle; you're convinced you're much more important than you are. And your insistence on rigid extremism and willingness -- desire in some cases -- to push the country into default were major factors in shaping the mishmash of a debt deal that resulted.
Republicans get a D. I know you were shocked by Tea Party wins last year, including over many traditional party candidates, but the mainstream GOP needs to stop sipping their Kool-Aid. You are now governing like bad parents, letting loud and unmanageable children dictate everything. Politicians usually pay too much attention to polls, but you really need to look at some recent ones. Eighty-two percent of Americans disapprove of Congress's actions; that includes you and your Tea Party branch, too. And 40 percent of Americans now have a "not favorable" view of the Tea Party. If that's not enough to convince you to find some courage and stand up to this band of bullies, your control of the House truly is in jeopardy.
Democrats get a C. You guys talk a big game, but in the end you fold. I'm giving you a bit of a grade break because I know it's hard when your party is, by its very nature, less cohesive. But you'd think by now that you would have learned and implemented some of the tactics from the other side. Pick some positions and stick with them, making clear to all in your party the reasons for those choices. You'd be surprised how handy and effective a backbone is.
President Barack Obama gets a D. The president needs to buy a dictionary and look up "compromise." It's nowhere near "capitulate" in any glossary I've ever seen. Speaking of definitions, when your supporters sent you to the White House, the hope you'd be thrown a few legislative bones was not exactly what they had in mind. Now we're left wondering if you can change your negotiating ways enough to warrant another term.
Does it sound as if I'm pushing everyone to harden the positions that got us into this mess in the first place? Not at all. I'm suggesting that each side look at its misbegotten actions and tendencies, and consider how changes by each can be achieved.
Then everyone needs to borrow the president's dictionary and sit down and talk realistically about compromising on spending cuts and tax increases. That is the only hope of regaining not only a better financial rating, but an effective overall fiscal policy.
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