I'm sitting on a tarmac in Louisville, Kentucky, waiting for takeoff clearance. A minute or so before the engines go to full throttle and we start picking up speed towards heading skyward, I'm thinking about all the people I'm relying upon to have been responsible in doing their jobs: I'm counting on the mechanic who last looked over the engines, the torque on the bolts and the air pressure in the tires. I'm trusting that the pilots got enough sleep and aren't in the cockpit viewing the instruments through bleary eyes. I rely upon the controllers to direct the path of the aircraft away from others and any violent weather. I cannot see any of these people from where I sit, but I implicitly rely upon them to take the responsibilities of their jobs seriously, in order to keep me safe.
In dealing with the debt limit crisis, it doesn't seem that our politicians share that feeling of responsibility.
One responsibility of the job of being a Congressman is to support the credit structure of the United States and not put its stature at risk. Another, I think, would decouple the responsibility of paying for things already bought from philosophical and political ideas on future spending and tax reform. It wouldn't ignore the two most knowledgeable people on the subject of default, the Treasury Secretary and Federal Reserve Chairman. It wouldn't minimize the comments of the world's greatest investor, Warren Buffet, who has likened the debate to pointing a gun at the head of the American economy.
The market has been resolutely oblivious of the debt limit crisis, rallying on its merry way while bond rates have continued to go down -- the 10-year treasury is still, amazingly, well under 3 percent. And yet, comments from Speaker John Boehner today, imploring the President to get behind a Congressionally passed one-sided budget bill that has no chance in hell of getting passed in the Senate indicates that he cannot control his caucus and get even close to the 25 Republican votes that a "big deal" compromise would need to get the debt limit approved -- no matter how limited the revenue increases the President might agree to or from what sources it might emerge.
It looks like a pretty bleak picture, especially if you believe that the President has chosen to hold the line on the Debt ceiling debate believing both in his philosophical stance and political advantage here. That this whole "game" has come down to an expectant Republican party painting themselves into a corner and expecting the President to give again, and a Democratic party hoping to see their President show some political backbone while Rome burns is maddening to watch.
With such an important deadline fast approaching, with my retirement account and my clients' at such grave risk, I am wondering when the responsibility of the job of being a Congressman will trump the rhetoric and jousting for political advantage. Civilized societies do not require you give a pilot an alcohol test before entering the cockpit, or to triple check every mechanic maintaining a plane. We place our trust in them and rightly so, and overwhelmingly they reward us for that trust.
In Washington, however, the bus keeps hurtling towards a wall.
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