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Washington, D.C. Now Called “Washywood”

Boehner, McConnell, Pelosi and Reid Lead the Way to Financial Disaster

I have renamed Washington, D.C. “Washywood.” It’s ‘washy’ because leaders such as John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid seemed to have changed their positions during the recent debate on raising the debt ceiling about as often as I change my underwear. (Yes, I do change every day). The wind blows one way and one of them adopts that position. None of them exhibited even an ounce of integrity as they did not stand by their principles. Of course, you would have to have principles in the first place to stand by. D.C. is ‘wood’ because it reminds me of Hollywood. It’s a place where reality has been suspended and the pursuit of self-interest rules the day. Meanwhile, like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned, the Congress “whiled away the time” right up to August 2, the doomsday date that could have led to a change in the debt rating on U.S. securities.

President Obama is not blameless. During an interview with NPR President Obama said that the Congressional negotiations on raising the debt ceiling made him understand that what may work well in theory often fails in application. In theory the president assumed that representatives in the senate and the congress would put aside bi-partisan bickering in an effort to ensure that the U.S government would maintain its AAA credit rating, amongst other important issues. Unfortunately, this was clearly easier said than done as the members in both houses proved that compromise is as elusive as capturing a bowl of J-E-L-L-O. Has Obama’s head been stuck in the sand about our political system?

President Obama has jumped back onto the fundraising circuit after a month-long hiatus, by appearing at two high-profile events in Chicago this past weekend. First on the list was a semi-intimate dinner where individuals and couples paid $35,800 for their chance to rub elbows with the president and wish him “Happy Birthday”. The first $5,000 of each ticket sold will go to the Obama campaign while the remainder is allotted to the DNC‘s coffers. Reportedly, that figure is the average yearly combat pay for our troops.

Congress’ disdain for the working man and it’s insensitivity towards FAA workers and the traveling public could not be clearer then by its failing to pass a temporary funding measure for the Federal Aviation Administration to put nearly 4,000 federal employees back to work and restart more than 200 airport construction projects. The Democratic-led Senate went on its summer recess last Tuesday without approving what would have been the 21st short-term funding extension for the FAA. The Republican-led House previously passed a short-term extension, but included some changes opposed by Democrats. In addition to workers being forced on temporary furlough, failure to extend funding for the FAA prevents collection of federal taxes on airline tickets that total $30 million a day. If the dispute continues until Congress returns in September, the federal government will be out more than $1 billion in revenue.

Where have all the leaders gone? Where have all the Statesmen gone? What ever happened to serving the public interest? Quite frankly Congress has lived under the delusion that they know what is in the best interests of America while they live a life and lifestyle few of us will ever know. I like to point to Benjamin Franklin who was one of the Founding Fathers of the U.S. He embodies the practical values of ethical behavior, a work ethic and respect for others. He was the image of what America was to become. He is the one who best illustrates “American exceptionalism,” a phrase often used by politicians these days to harken back to what built our great nation.  

So, what can be done about the morass we find ourselves in? I hate to be a pessimist but I think it’s too late to reverse the course of economic decline and infection that surrounds our morality as a nation. We are in a disastrous situation. It is not something that can be solved overnight or in two months, two years, or longer. It doesn’t matter which political party is in power. It doesn’t matter who we send to Congress. I believe our system does not work anymore. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer and the middle class is squeezed like a lemon. The politicians live in their own world where they are oblivious to what is going on with the average American; instead they gravitate to Wall Street bankers. We need just look at the backgrounds of many in the cabinet and economic advisers to the President, some of whom where complicit in the actions that caused the financial meltdown of 2008. These bankers continue to make obscene amounts of money. Corporate profits are up while the unemployment rate hovers around 9.1%, a meager change of 1/10th of 1% from June. There is no end in sight for our economic free-fall.. Capitalism has lost its moral dimension that calls for taking actions that benefit others, not just a few fat cat millionaires and billionaires. Throwing more money at the problem is not the answer. As the song goes, money can’t buy you love or, in this case, the determined spirit to accomplish a goal and get ahead -- the work ethic that has long since been abandoned in our society.

 Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 5, 2011