Exactly how long have we known that August 2 is the drop-dead date to increase the debt ceiling? If we don't do it, our nation will precipitate an international crisis by defaulting on debt that dozens of other countries carry and by signaling that the nation that still sees itself as the biggest and the baddest is nothing more than the shallowest and the weakest. Of course we can avert the crisis; there are still two weeks to go before it all implodes. But why step off on the brink of disaster, except to make a point? Why attempt to diminish our nation, except to be so shortsighted as to think that diminishing a President has no impact on the nation. Does the tearful John Boehner (R-Ohio), that House Speaker who claims to so love his country, plan to ruin it because he simply cannot compromise with Democrats? What in the world is going on?
When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he could offer a compromise that would allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling while reducing the deficit, but in separate actions, I felt that the logjam had broken. And as I write this, I understand that the powers are conferring to make it so. Still, I am disturbed by those who would dig their heels in and take us to the limit. What do they hope to gain by holding fast to an untenable position? Do they really expect to throw Social Security, Medicare, Pell Grants, and other worthy government programs out of the window because they are beholden to the Tea Party?
While I embrace Senator McConnell's plan as a way to broker compromise, I am also amused by a plan that will force President Obama to take responsibility for rising debt in the middle of a recession (that some say is over, but ask Pookie). Who ever asked President George Bush to take responsibility for his profligate spending? And speaking of profligate spending, why are cuts in the defense budget off the table for so many? We can spend money like it is water when we are seeking "democracy" and "order" in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, but we can't spend a penny when we want to establish peace at home.
Thus the forces to suppress democracy here in these United States are thriving. In preparation for the 2012 election, there are deliberate acts of voter suppression. On one hand, some congressional representatives would cut social security. On the other hand, those who are most likely to preserve it - elderly people, especially the elderly of color - are finding there voting rights imperiled. Similarly, there have been attacks on the unemployed, the hungry, and those with health challenges. These are the very people who might, in 2012, roar back voting vengeance on those who sip tea.
The unfortunate truth is that slashing entitlements and social programs will not fix our nation's financial challenges. Investing in the next generation will. How can we expect to compete when others on the global scene are investing in education, in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), in young people, while we are divesting. Our young people graduate from college shackled by debt, while others graduate with the world on a string. Our young people find doors slammed in their faces, even for unpaid work, while their counterparts in China and India are allowed to soar. If we had a five-year plan, a ten-year plan, or a generational plan we'd move forward. The Tea Party is living for the weekend, living for the opportunity to embarrass President Obama.
Haven't they gotten it yet? Embarrassing President Obama is embarrassing all of us. This debt ceiling budget brinkmanship simply baffles and bewilders the rest of the world and makes us wonder what happened to a once-great nation. To be sure, our weaknesses are minor compared to meltdowns in Greece and in Italy. Still, we who once dominated the world are now on the verge of default because we can't get along, can't forge a compromise, are strangled by the absences of vision, soul and energy.
We have a few days to put a band-aid on the problem. How long will it take for us to get to the root of our dysfunction?
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is a noted economist and president of Bennett College for Women. She is the author of Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History, available at www.lastwordprod.com.