Captain Steve Rogers, best known as Captain America, is a superhero. His ideology is simple. It is not influenced by politics nor an allegiance based on lines on a map. He is driven by the principles of right over wrong. When a young, scrawny Rogers was asked by a doctor at an Army recruiting station, during the height of WWII, if he wanted to join the service so he could "kill Nazis," his response was direct: "I just don't like bullies." Even when he is given superhuman strength, the Captain's main weapon is not a gun, but a shield, as he consistently sees his duty as one of protection.
I wish we had such a champion in America right now, when we clearly need one. His charge might seem worlds away from the European battlefronts portrayed in the film, leading Allied troops against Hitler's forces. But the task here and now is no less serious on the economic front, with potentially devastating consequences to America if no agreement is reached in time to raise the debt ceiling. A critical scene in the movie shows a series of timers, counting down to the eventual self-destruction of an enemy munitions base. The situation for us is no less dire.
A 1979 GAO report, cited in a recent Congressional Research Service report, stated:
It is difficult to perceive all the adverse effects that a government default for even a short time would have on the economy and the public welfare. It is generally recognized that a default would preclude the government from honoring all of its obligations to pay for such things as employees' salaries and wages; social security benefits, civil service retirement, and other benefits from trust funds; contractual services and supplies, and maturing securities.... At a minimum, however, the government could be subject to additional claims for interest on unredeemed matured debt and to claims for damages resulting from failure to make payments. But even beyond that, the full faith and credit of the U.S. government would be threatened. Domestic money markets, in which government securities play a major role, could be affected substantially.
Precious days and minutes are being wasted as Congress and the President remain at an impasse over raising the debt limit. That decision has been made time and again by various administrations. According to the Congressional Research Service, the limit has been raised 74 times since 1962 and 10 of those times have been since 2001. Raising the limit has now been tied to lines in the sand drawn by both sides of the aisle. Where has that political brinksmanship gotten us? Both S&P and Moody's have already threatened to downgrade the credit rating of the United States. Overseas markets and Wall Street alike are becoming increasingly nervous that an agreement may not be reached after all. Economists have warned of dire financial and political consequences but even that has not been enough to avoid an 11th hour showdown.
The millions of Americans who have been struggling to find work, keep their homes and support their families, and the millions more who are for the first time in a generation worried about their financial futures and those of their children, are looking for a real hero to save them. To the president and members of Congress, I ask a simple question: "What would Steve Rogers do?" He was once a "little guy" who became a larger than life hero, but who never forgot his roots. He respected his new-found strength and responsibility and used his power to fight to protect others, even if that meant sacrificing himself. Captain America may be based on a comic book, but our elected leaders could learn a lot from him about honor, service and doing the right thing.
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