“Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing; ‘Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands: But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him And makes me poor indeed.”
— Iago in Shakespeare’s “Othello”
Alright, if you were responsible for a 600-word weekly political column where would you begin after the circus of the last three weeks?
How about with President Barack Obama’s statement that there are no winners? I can’t think of any. I see plenty of losers, starting with us. We deserve better government, but this is the government we’ve chosen.
The people who were prepared to default on the nation’s debt are entirely reckless. Their irresponsibility ranks alongside that of the Democrats of the 1850s who were willing to tear the nation asunder and did.
No one knows for sure — because we’ve never been there — whether the economic implications would have been as horrific as every reputable economist predicted. But why would we risk that by placing our faith in the economic expertise of people like Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, Sen. Ted Cruz or a Kentucky ophthalmologist over the world’s leading economic experts who predicted our home mortgage rates and unemployment would soar and the economy might collapse on top of all of us? Why risk American honor?
What really astonishes me is that the people who talk about “American exceptionalism” would cavalierly throw away something that truly is exceptional about America: “the full faith and credit of the United States.”
That not only means that U.S. treasury bonds are seen by the world’s investors as the safest bet on the planet, it also says something about the honor of America. One place on earth is seen by all the other places on earth as absolutely trustworthy. So long as that reputation is intact, it pretty much guarantees we will fare better than the rest of the world economically. That is truly exceptional – and those who criticize as un-American anyone who disagrees with them would just toss that into the trash. How mad would it be to negotiate that away?
Thankfully we didn’t. Kentucky’s other Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell deserves some credit for that. There is much to appreciate in McConnell’s ability to step in and avoid disaster at the last minute but, frankly, it would have been even more appreciated had he done it three weeks ago. “Leader” should mean more than just a title.
But the sad fact is that no other Republican was apparently willing or capable of averting the disaster and McConnell did. Give him credit, too, for some political courage while facing challenges from Matt Bevin and Alison Lundergan Grimes back home. No matter what he did, he was going to be criticized by one side or the other and in the end he was by both.
Now they say they will negotiate a longer-term deal on the budget and deficit. God help them to see that each side must give and face some mathematical realities. Democrats must understand changes have to be made to entitlements. Republicans must understand and concede that tax rates are historically low in the post-war era and because of tax loopholes most in the 35 percent tax bracket actually pay an effective rate of only about 20 percent.
Make sensible but reasonable changes to entitlements. Close loopholes but leave rates as they are. Leave the politics at the door for a change and do what they know is right, even if it means talking straight to voters
That truly would be exceptional. Honorable, too.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.