Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
I have been covering Congress since 1991, when I first started in radio. I have seen the House banking scandal, the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and many other issues such as 9/11 in 2001 and the Iraq war in 2003. I have sat in the White House press room for 18 years and have heard the questions from my colleagues to the press secretaries, beginning with Dee Dee Myers. However, the downgrading by Standard & Poor’s is unlike any other crises I have seen because it points to the weakness of our political system.
Politics is politics, except when it affects every American profoundly and deeply. The debt crises has and will continue to affect us. The United States downgrading on Friday from an AAA to an AA+ rating, is the first time in American history that it happened.
WorldNetDaily is a site with many conservative readers, so I am sure my e-mails will say that this is the fault of President Obama and the liberals in Congress, such as Nancy Pelosi. If that analysis were only so simple. The bond raters are not seeing it simply. They ran the numbers, and they noted that the American political process is as concerning as the numbers.
In a few weeks, millions of young people will return to school. How their American government and political science teachers are going to explain what took place with the debt negotiations would be worthy of a Broadway play. I would not want to be teaching in a classroom, speaking to America’s next generation and explaining the behavior of the adults who have been the actors in the debt play.
The negotiations have consisted of a shameful tip of the hat to each political party and the upcoming elections. Each side became more worried about how this was going to play back home and for their re-election than getting the work of the country done. It is a scary situation that would remind a student of world history of the partitions of Poland.
To quote Wikipedia: “During the reign of WÅ‚adysÅ‚aw IV (1632–48), the liberum veto had evolved. This policy of parliamentary procedure was based on the assumption of the political equality of every ‘gentleman,’ with the corollary that unanimous consent was needed for all measures. A single member of parliament’s belief that a measure was injurious to his own constituency (usually simply his own estate), even after the act had already been approved, became enough to strike the act. It became increasingly difficult to get action taken.”
Is this the fate of America? No, we do not need unanimous consent for every law but the process that was described daily over the debt negotiations certainly seemed that way. The sides were as polarized and demanding of “no deal” if things were not exactly as the political niches wanted them to be. It paralyzed our country and resulted in downgrade. This should never have happened.
The White House recognized the peril in which these negotiations put our country. Over the weekend, the press secretary’s office released a statement that in part read, “The bipartisan compromise on deficit reduction was an important step in the right direction. Yet, the path to getting there took too long and was at times too divisive. We must do better to make clear our nation’s will, capacity and commitment to work together to tackle our major fiscal and economic challenges.”
The only hope now is that the fiscal commission appoints its members without a lot of political haggling and that the commission comes up with recommendations that not only include cost cutting but real ways to cut subsidies that serve corporate interests but do not serve the American people. It also needs to look at tax loopholes and other less popular ways to increase money coming in, as well as cut the red ink of money going out.
Last but not least, America needs to focus on job creation. If jobs were created, debt would be reduced, consumer confidence would increase and so would worldwide confidence in the American dollar.
We are in danger of losing our status in the world and becoming so political that we look like Poland did in the 17th and 18th centuries. Poland never really recovered its glory, and we are in danger of doing the same.