Children at play

Published 3:59 pm Friday, August 5, 2011

Having long been a political junkie, I watched intently the past few days as the Congress of the United States debated our debt ceiling. I eagerly searched for the adults in the room that believed the needs of our country outweighed the needs of their party.

As the debates came to a close, the country seemed to back away from the edge of a cliff that could have wrecked the country. The politicians of both parties were on every network claiming victory. They seemed oblivious to how irritated and angry the American people are.

It all just reminded me of children at play.

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Granted, I believe that raising the debt ceiling was crucial to our current economy. You can’t play with the unknown, and we clearly did not know how the world would react to the first ever default on our country’s debt. The United States must honor its obligations.

I also believe that this country must tighten its belt dramatically and reduce its deficit. We simply cannot borrow 40 cents of every dollar we spend, no matter how difficult our circumstances. I have the sinking feeling that our economy still stands on the brink of another recession.

Finally, I believe that we must reduce our spending. We have blown through trillions of dollars in the past couple of years without very much to show for it. The average American, which includes you and me, cannot even begin to comprehend the level of spending by this government.

Are there real needs out there? Sure. Can we afford all that we are doing? Absolutely not.

Raise the debt ceiling, cut spending, and reduce the deficit. Ask people to assume their fair share. Don’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor. It all seems so simple to me.

Along the way, however, we have managed to gerrymander our Congress into so many safe districts that it is only the far right and the far left that really have any clout. There aren’t many districts, including our own, where a debate of tax and budget policy can change an election. I expect that, after the redistricting this year, that will be even truer in the 2nd Congressional District.

The Tea Party, like them or not, have redefined the debate, and in doing so, have caused the President to blink. They, along with their most liberal counterparts, have been called morally bankrupt terrorists and worse by newspaper columnists, television commentators and even their own colleagues.

That is certainly a bit strong for elected leaders who admittedly have good intentions. I just hope they all realize it isn’t their money in this big game of chicken. It belongs to you and me.

Assuming the compromise bill passed the Senate on Tuesday, we will have only just begun to fight. The “super committee” will only have a scant four months to come up with spending cuts for the second phase of the bill. The 12 members will be divided equally between Democrats and Republicans.

It sounds good, but then what is it to make us think they will do any better than the Congress has done in the past couple of days and weeks.

Watch to see who is appointed. Those appointments will tell you if leadership is more serious about a long term solution or about next year’s election.

Does this really matter to you and me, our neighbors, co-workers and friends? You bet it does. Despite the occasional comment by a political talking head that the American people don’t understand. I believe they understand very well.

You don’t have to travel very far to get the sense of what life is like in southwest Georgia. I get more comments from people about their lives now, as a writer and businessman, than I ever received as a politician.

They understand that jobs are scarce and getting scarcer. They understand that health care is nearly impossible to negotiate, even if you have health insurance. They understand that education is becoming more challenging, more costly, and at the same time more necessary.

They feel like the promise of the future is slipping away and it makes them scared. They want leadership that cares and understands their plight.

I wish I could say that I saw the leadership that could solve these problems during the past few days. I wish I felt that things had truly changed on Capitol Hill.

Instead, I feel like I just left the circus after watching the children at play.

Dan Ponder can be reached at