You want drama?

You want drama? April 7, 2011

Ruben Navarette:

San Diego, California (CNN) — A shutdown? Seriously?

All the media and the politicians can talk about is the possibility that the federal government could shut down at the end of this week if a budget agreement isn’t struck, and who will get the blame if it does.

poll by the Pew Research Center suggests the parties will share the blame almost evenly. Thirty-nine percent of people would blame Republicans. Thirty-six percent would blame Democrats. Sixteen percent would blame both parties.

I understand the focus on a possible shutdown. It is high drama. But there is plenty of drama in something that isn’t talked about nearly enough — the fact that the country’s financial picture just doesn’t pencil out and what it will mean to future generations if Congress and the White House don’t put politics on hold and tackle a $14.2 trillion federal debt and the crushing cost of entitlements.

You want drama? The United States cannot pay its bills, and the longer we wait to do something about it, the deeper the hole will get and the more difficult it will be to climb out of it. We have a generational war brewing as baby boomers, generation Xers and millennials who are working get stuck with the tab for a federal debt that exceeds $14 trillion and have to plan for a future that might not include Medicare and Social Security, while current retirees are guaranteed benefits. And a financial calamity is almost certainly in the cards, as more and more baby boomers start retiring, unless a deficit-cutting deal is reached.

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  • Jeremy

    This has happened before. I wonder if they’ll pass an emergency spending bill to pay the military like they did when I was in.

    Most people will blame whatever party they’re not a member of and the cycle will continue.

  • DRT

    They live for this. The politicians will milk this opportunity to be in the spotlight as long as they can.

    Then we will still. have. a. problem.

  • I’m afraid they’ll only act when they think they have to. And collectively they don’t seem close to that.

    We are not a nation that cares for each other. According to so many Christians of the kind I am in fellowship with the church is supposed to do that. But it doesn’t.

  • Gloria

    The rhetoric between the 2 parties is terrible. Shame on them all.
    As a nation, we have overspent wildly and it is time to reign this in. We will all be affected, but we must not spend what we don’t have.

  • Living in the DC metro area makes one especially conscious of the number of federal employees, military personnel, tourists and all the local business people who will be impacted. All the while, the ones withholding the paychecks continue to be paid and, with their own financial needs attended to, seemingly have no personal incentive to make substantive changes that are just and prudent.

    Have our own & our leaders hearts so pride-hardened to immediate harm to others?

  • Albion

    The thing Navarette assumes is that the only way to tackle the deficit is to cut programs. Job creation is another way in tandem with tax increases on the wealthy. But the narrative the Republicans have been repeating, especially as it relates to the “meaning” of the election, has won the day. It’s no longer about job creation, it’s about even more tax cuts, elimination of entitlement programs and rugged individualism. Democrats have caved and now a modest recovery will almost certainly grind to a halt.

    This is as much an ideological battle about the role of government as it is about bringing budgets into balance. There will be terrible suffering for many people. But the 400 people who control 40% of this country’s wealth will do just fine. What a country.

  • Diane

    Hi Ted– and thanks for your comments. I agree with those who say we need to abolish the tax cut extensions for the wealthy–that would have given the gov’t 70 billion more in revenue. Meanwhile, we are quarreling over 30-60 billion in cuts. I think Obama made a mistake in letting this budget impasse come down to funding Planned Parenthood, an org. that I know from my time in evangelical circles is perceived as the equivalent to the concentration camps. Obama will now become the man who “shut down the gov’t to save Planned Parenthood.” We are in a sad state–for 30 years I have believed that once saw people saw what has happening to them, they would vote for sane politicians, but the insanity seems to grow and grow. How can the country survive if the “government” is constantly demonized? How can we survive as a people if we refuse to take care of our own? I get back to Ted’s comment–churches really can’t or don’t step into the breach to care for people adequately. We need to pray hard for hearts of stone to be softened. We need to pray to remember that the “quality of mercy is not strained.” Some days I wake up and feel I have entered into a nightmare. What happened to the country I loved? Is money such an idol that it justifies every cruelty? Isn’t the “upside down” kingdom of Jesus supposed to adhere to the idea that “the community is strengthened when the stronger cater to the needs of weak”?

  • It’s time we stop talking about raising tax rates on “the wealthy” — a nebulous group usually defined as “anyone making more money than me.”

    Forbes recently reported that the net worth of all US billionaires combined is about $1 trillion. So if rather than raising tax rates, we seized every penny they have, we wouldn’t be able to cover the budget deficit from this year alone. We cannot tax ourselves out of this hole.

    Like any bankrupt family, first you stop spending money on non-essentials (e.g., cable) and cut back where you can (e.g., food, clothes). You don’t sell the house if you don’t have to.

  • Steve Billingsley


    Thank you for this comment. The raising the taxes on the wealthy rhetoric is a complete fig leaf. There are only two ways to get our country’s debt under control.

    1. Spend less (and discretionary spending is small potatoes. The big ticket items are entitlements and defense)
    2. Raise more revenue (and if tax increases are to be done, there isn’t enough money from “the wealthy” to make a difference, it has to be done on just about everyone, which includes the middle class)

    There just isn’t a way to do this without goring almost everyone’s ox.

  • Kyle J

    The disconnect here is that the calamity is a long-term issue, mainly related to SS and Medicare. That’s now what they’re haggling over in DC right now; they’re talking only about the smallest portion of the budget–and the portion that’s not growing. So we’re taking the federal government to the brink of shutdown, with nothing substantive to gain in return.

    Ideally, this would all lead to discussion about the real long-term issues (with Paul Ryan’s plan being the conservative vision for how to deal with it), but I fear that all that’s really happening is establishing the terms of political squabbling through the 2012 elections.

  • Diane

    I agree that we all will have to pay more in taxes–but it has to start at the top, imho. Social Security is solvent. Medicare needs to control costs–allowing patents to expire and allowing the gov’t to bargain, ala Walmart, for lower drug costs, would be a start. There’s been a transfer of wealth to the top 1%–that’s not the people making a tad more than I am. It misrepresents the argument to say that. It is the people making vastly more than almost all of us who need to step up and start doing the right thing by setting an example of willingness to pay down the country’s debt. They influence the public. Also, yes, I would most like to see defense spending cut. As someone said, the army is the largest socialist state left in the world.

  • Dana Ames

    Letting the budget negotiations drag on and devolve to the point of impending government shutdown just tells me how willing many legislators are to continue the paralysis in Washington. I’m frustrated with the lot of them. If I could afford to, I would take a trip to DC, walk into each office and tell each one, “Shame on you! How are these shenanigans advancing the good of the country?”


  • Dan S.

    Paralysis in Washington is good, not bad.