The recent debt ceiling issue has been an amazing show of modern American politics. Each party had an opportunity to flex their political muscles, using this “crisis” to stand up for their respective platforms. They pushed back and forth, keeping us engaged and on the edge of our seats with multiple declarations of immanent deals which never manifested. Hollywood and Broadway combined couldn’t have given the American people a better show.
Did anyone actually believe we were on the brink? Not this guy. I can actually imagine the meetings that might have taken place between party leaders a few months ago detailing the timelines each party would follow, outlining the talking points each would use to highlight their particular issues, giving each a chance to pander to their base and ultimately serve their political interests. Do I imagine the well being of the American people ever being discussed? No, I don’t.
A couple of weeks ago, I raised the issue of my disgust with the American population’s infatuation with reality TV. The debt crisis was no more than the ultimate reality TV show. U.S. citizens focused in on news blurbs, presidential addresses, political soundbites, and the talking heads as if they were the latest edition of Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of DC, or the Hills. This reality TV was even more powerful than that escapist trash. Why? Because we felt like we actually had something at stake. The general American was forced to fear default, raising interest rates, reduced credit ratings, etc. We were forced to review our own political ideology - big vs. small government, raise vs. lower taxes, cut spending vs. maintain spending. Have you ever argued with your neighbor about Snookie’s weave? I certainly haven’t.
What was the result of all of this? Maintenance of the status quo.
Nothing has changed for the American public. Did anyone wake on Wednesday morning more certain of their financial well being than any other day in the last month?
What was the point, then? The point was advertising without spending a dime - the two political parties got airtime. That was the point. Conservatives got to feel like they stuck it to the Liberals with spending reductions. Tea Party Conservatives got their voice heard, but were ultimately snubbed in the end, satisfying moderate GOPers. Liberals are excited about a divide in the Republican party and are looking forward to a day when they can adjust tax rates back to the glory days of Bill Clinton surpluses and a reduced national deficit. Obama had the opportunity to demonstrate that he was in Washington, but not of it, working to appear as the Great Compromiser.
We got more of the same. We got a political process manipulated into serving party interests instead of working to benefit the American people. We got an economy that is still taking a beating and could be shrinking again very soon because of political brow-beating. Ultimately, we got snowed.
So, as pundits and politicians celebrate how we were saved at the last minute from the ceiling falling in on our heads, they seemed to forget to look up and notice the roof is on fire.