Now that the debt ceiling charade is over (for now) and the politicians have smugly retreated to their lavish homes and offices, the average American is faced with the stark reality. How are we going to get back to work to rebuild the wealth that was lost over the past few years?
Let’s clear the air first. No matter what Washington promises about creating jobs, it can’t deliver. That would be like Dorothy and her friends expecting the Wizard of Oz to grant them some brains, heart and courage along with a ticket back to Kansas. It just won’t happen. Look at what has happened in America thus far. Despite the massive, debt-fueled bailout of the big banks and automakers, banks haven’t started lending again and employment remains anemic. While the Wizard of Fed might tell you that incurring massive additional debt will lead to economic growth, Main Street is not so naive. The average consumer and business owner has refused to take on additional debt. Consumers are paying down credit cards and declining new offers. Businesses are exchanging debt for equity at a growing pace. This deleveraging process is likely to continue for some time, and the American consumer is not likely to be the work horse of the international economy in the future.
The Tea Party purists also seem to mellow once they’ve gotten to Washington and supped at King George’s table. Instead of charging up the hill with “bayonets” pointed, as Rep. Allen West brashly promised, they’ve given way to the soft middle. Many of them, including West, refused to hold ground on entitlement reform as part of the debt ceiling debate, especially once they caught sight of a few million senior citizens staring down their muskets. The diluting impact of electoral politics on ethical principle never seems to fail us – especially when we need it least. While taxation without representation may be unconstitutional (as the original Boston Tea Party asserted), representation brings its’ own set of responsibilities. And, aside from offering obdurate opposition to the President’s policies, these newly elected members have done little to address the core issues of spending and job creation beyond the narrow confines of taxes.
At the base of this seeming legislative dysfunction is the deep ambivalence of the American people. We haven’t decided what our priorities really are as a country, and that’s holding us back from real progress. Our continued indecision about the way forward threatens to throw us into another maelstrom of volatility and decline.