Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com
While this country's creditor nations twitched, the global bankers were worried, too, and in campaign mode. In Washington for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, a number of them were predicting that a congressional unwillingness to raise the debt ceiling could take down what global "recovery" there had been since the Great Recession. In the meantime, here we were, yet again teetering at the edge of "the cliff." And what a strange spectacle these last weeks have been! Yes, we all know that there are deep-seated problems in this country, that infrastructure is crumbling, school systems starved for resources, the gap between rich and poor growing, poverty on the rise, and manufacturing jobs still leaving town. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that, absent the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, we would have been at the edge of any cliff at all.
The spectacle of these last weeks has been thoroughly ginned up, as fictional as the plot of any Hollywood disaster film. But here's the thing: when, a few months from now, the debt-ceiling and government shutdown issues return like the walking dead and threaten once again to step off that cliff, what could follow would not be fiction and it would be unpredictable. Real life, unlike Hollywood, is that way. For all any of us know, it could take the global financial system down with it and someday historians would wonder just how such a catastrophe could have been created out of thin air.
But we're not historians of the future, are we? Nor have we simply been spectators at a congressional disaster flick, even if, as Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford of the National Priorities Project point out in "What Was 'Essential' and What Wasn't" today, we've been acting that way. Already, as the government "shutdown" unfolded, a startling number of perfectly real Americans found their lives swept up in the House's fiction, while the economy, too, took a hit. Let's hope that, before it's over in 2014 or beyond, we won't all discover that, willy-nilly, we've been swept into that same film as extras in the crowd scenes, and that, peering into the fog on the horizon of our future, we won't suddenly see the first shadowy, lurching figures staggering toward us.