Monday, August 08, 2011

Downgraded and Degraded

Our political warriors today have an instinct for their own jugulars, bleeding America with self-inflicted wounds in a time of turmoil.

A century ago, Theodore Roosevelt famously said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Today we have political pygmies whose bitter bickering is not about worthy causes or high achievement but scoring points and winning the next election. It is the critics who have vision but no power to shake sense into the caricatures that angry and frightened voters have sent into the arena, grasping at “change elections” rather than stability.

The S & P downgrade, flawed as it is, is a clue to the price we are paying for this inversion, creating not only more economic chaos but even worse blame-trading than in the antics that helped cause it in self-perpetuating rounds of stupidity.

The critics that TR loftily dismissed are the ones who are talking sense, as Fareed Zakaria does in a commentary, “We’ve Downgraded Ourselves”:

“Democrats now feel they need to mirror the Tea Party's tactics and are becoming unyielding on any cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare. Republicans, emboldened by the success of their bullying, have closed ranks more solidly around a no-tax agenda.

“But the only solution to America's debt dilemma will need to involve both cuts to entitlement programs and higher tax revenues.

“Congress is more polarized than ever before...and that polarization has resulted in paralysis.”

How did we get to the point where those who are driving the bus are up front fighting over the steering wheel while the rest of us, who can see the twists and turns up ahead, are sitting terrified in the back seats?

Update: During another disastrous day for the Dow, the President has only platitudes: "Markets will rise and fall, but this is the United States of America. No matter what some agency may say, we've always been and always will be a triple-A country."

In situations like this, Tuesday has usually been a day of recovery as bargain hunters come in and lift the market. If they don’t, fasten your seatbelts.

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