Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Political Insanity in the US

Here is a bit from a post by Robert Reich on his blog:
As the government approaches its borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion, Republicans are seeking political advantage over what conditions should be attached to raising that limit.

This is a scandal — or should be. Raising the debt limit shouldn’t be subject to party politics. Economic extortion should be out of bounds.

It’s bad enough government shutdowns have become an accepted part of political negotiation. But failure to increase the amount the Treasury can borrow would have far graver results.

Not only would the government be unable to issue Social Security or Medicare checks but the United States couldn’t pay interest on its current debt.

We’d go into default. The full faith and credit of the United States would be in jeopardy. Treasury bonds would go into free fall. Interest rates would skyrocket. We, and most of the rest of the world, would fall into financial chaos.

The recovery is still fragile. All this would force us and most of the rest of the world into a deeper recession or worse.

No one in their right mind would threaten this. Yet it’s talked about as if it’s just another aspect of Washington politics — a threat that might be carried out in early July when the Treasury runs out of ways to keep paying our debts.
There is much more. Go read the whole post.

As a kid I was raised with the idea that politicians were patriots. People who put aside personal ambition -- making big bucks in the private sector -- to take on a job representing people to advance the interests of the whole people. But politics has gotten uglier in the last 50 years. Maybe not as ugly as the politics of the 1930s. And in the US, the politics has not yet crawled into the cesspit of partisan politics of the 1850s prior to the Civil War, but it is really, really ugly these days.

There is an obvious connection between high mindedness and eras of affluence. When everybody is getting wealthier, it is easier to be civil and gracious. When times are tough, meanness takes over because it becomes a zero-sum game. The funny thing is that humans are social being and social collaboration is a win-win strategy that will beat any zero-sum game (see the prisoner's dilemma) but it requires "trust" and these days with partisan politics rampant, trust is missing.

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