This weekend, in response to Tea Party insurgents backing GOP members of Congress, House majority leader John Boehner withdrew from White House negotiations for a $4 trillion plan promoted by President Obama and advisors that would have addressed entitlement costs, like social security and Medicaire, but also required raising taxes on the richest Americans. Congress will reach some agreement before August 2nd to continue funding the obligations of the US government. It would be insanity to invite the doomsday scenario that would trigger a default of US obligations and the Blackest Friday in world financial markets.
Still, this game of chicken is rattling the confidence of those who buy US treasuries and, by supporting our debt, fund our standard of living. China, for example, has embraced its own Faustian bargain with US debt for decades; to build its own economy while accepting that dollar denominated holdings are worth less and less. But to the Chinese, the US is like the uncle who used to be rich but now is merely entertaining.
The dismal politics that engulf the United States can be read as the consequence of abject partisanship, tied to an uninformed, poorly educated public that allowed itself to be organized around the no-so-latent fear and anxiety connected to long lasting economic hardships. This is the Long Emergency. It is ironic at a time in our nation's history where we most needed dialogue and debate, we had exhausted the base; even Republican leaders from farming states should be able to understand the metaphor.
"They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind", the proverb goes. So it is going, today, with the GOP that has turned any conversation around raising revenues into the equivalent of mercury pollution or radioactivity. But the GOP is determined to weaken EPA rules regulating toxics and pollution under the assumption that we can't afford to clean up the mess we've made. The party of the rich will keep an iron grip on its prerogatives no matter the outcome for America. It is a form of hopelessness whose consequences they can easily escape. Not so, for the rest of America.