Debt Ceiling Is Health Care All Over Again

07/26/2011 08:07 am ET | Updated Sep 24, 2011

Look, I'm a proud political junkie but this debt ceiling nonsense is, as they might say on the street, some bad shit. Listen to it too long and it'll kill ya. The debate itself has pulled our nation so far from where I had hoped it might be heading two years ago that I'm having a hard time reconciling my memory of my country and this present reality. Didn't we elect a transformative, Democratic president? Don't we still have the Senate? I can't watch anymore. Maybe I'll start gorging myself on sports instead. Cubs fans are less depressed than fans of a brighter American future.

The nausea I'm feeling is exactly what came over my GI tract towards the end of the never-ending healthcare debate. Twenty-four-hour-news giving us twenty-four-hours-a-day political sausage making, each compromise more non-sensical, gruesome and depressing than the last. After this one is over and Obama and Boehner shake hands in the Rose Garden, I'll have long since run out of Prilosecs.

The Tea Party and their elected leaders in Congress have every right to crow. Even though a middle-schooler's understanding of basic economic history would convince anyone that government debt is a long-to-medium-term problem while crippling unemployment is a vitally urgent, ongoing catastrophe, the wisest people in our nation's capital still dither to the Tea Party's beat.

The president himself bears so much blame. He empanelled the Bowles-Simpson Debt Commission in January of 2010 but has yet to name any such august body to confront unemployment. Even his own economic advisors, as soon as they leave the White House, admit that they all understand what needs to be done now (more stimulus, infrastructure bank, etc.), yet politically the White House insists that meaningful change is impossible.

Yes the debt is real. Two wars, the Bush tax cuts and entitlement spending have been sailing our ship of state toward a thundering waterfall for half a decade. But our ship is on fire, unemployment is a fire, and if we burn down to the hull we won't ever have to worry about the drop after the falls.