Tuesday, August 2, 2011


My first reference on these pages to the looming American debt crisis dates back to October 2008 in a post related to that month's Canadian Federal Election. (See: "Crucial Debate..." 01/10/08). Despite the congratulatory afterglow of America's Congressional leaders, as the designated curmudgeon on the matter, I note now the nervous, restive skittish and muted response of the North American Stock Markets to Washington's last minute decision to avert an unprecedented international financial crisis.

Perhaps America has somewhat salvaged its crippled credit, but it really has plugged just one hole in an uncontrolled leaky dike of debt.  Had I been posting thirty years ago, I may then have noted the shift to a right-of-centre ideology that began in the United States under President Nixon and continued incrementally during the terms in office of Ronald Reagan through to George W. Bush's 21st Century. That's as far back as this multi-trillion dollar debt hole reaches. Manifest in the current "Tea Party" Republicans, the right-wing ideologists  have reached their extreme, and have evidently evolved into a movement willing to visit economic calamity on the civilized world in the name of minimal taxes and smaller government in the USA.

There is a resounding great disconnect between the politicians of Washington and for that matter those here in Ottawa and the electors they expect will bring them to (or keep them in) elected office. Modern journalism's hysteric incessant need for updates and reams of mostly irrelevant information means that at crucial moments in our times, politicians who play along are reduced to talking "at" each other through a third party (the media); rather than "with" each other directly to solve a crisis. It's become a dangerous sport; one which may affect the well being of an entire country, or as we've witnessed over the past two weeks, the welfare of the world. In June the departing host of "The House" on CBC Radio, Kathleen Petty, weighed-in on these media hysterics: "We keep score, assign penalties, and generally treat politics as a sport. But as sports go, politics might be a great game for participants, but not spectators or listeners."

Americans like the rest of us in the world that surrounds them think that the last couple of weeks have been a disgrace. In fact according to "Time" (on-line) the words most frequently volunteered to pollsters following-up on the theatrics in Washington were "ridiculous," "disgusting," and "stupid".  - Lest I too belabour the sports analogy, there were no winners in the last few weeks in the debt debate.

Though I am not terribly hopeful of the outcome; what remains to be seen is whether political leaders in the United-States and those who watched events unfold from this side of the our common border have learned any lesson from the drama?  There are five provincial elections on the docket in Canada this fall. With more than a third of the country's population living in Ontario its call-out to voters on Thursday, October 6th is crucial to Canada's well being. While in the United-States what's abundantly clear from the debt debate is that President Obama has significant challenges ahead to alter dynamics and perceptions to secure a second term in the Presidential Election in 15 months.

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