“Washington’s not working.” “Have you tried turning it on and off again?”
As a proud American, I banged my head down on my desk when it became official that we were entering a government shutdown.
I was concerned. Perhaps not naively like some folks who happily tweeted that they’d already broken three laws that day because #govshutdown2013 #nolaws #yolo as if the shutdown had commenced a real-life version of The Purge, or folks who panicked that everything would spiral into levels of chaos and pandemonium that would give rise to rebel factions as if the shutdown had initiated the descent into a real-life version of The Hunger Games. We can all still get our morning Starbucks, we’ll still have to deal with LA traffic, and we’ll still have to pay all of our tuition money.
I was concerned about America, the direction we were heading as a country, our efficiency, our competency, the fate of our role as the world superpower, the status of our hegemony, and our image in the global arena. Visions of citizens of other nations mocking us filled my head: “How can these fat Walmarters shove democracy down our throats and forcefully try to impose their version of government on us when they can’t even keep their own government functioning?”
Our government has been brought to its knees by an extremist minority faction. “Tea Party” is such an innocuous name – deceptively so – but the organization for which it stands is dancing dangerously toward a default. If that actually happens, expect a colossal global sell-off of stocks. And the world is already trudging its way up from a global recession – get ready for round two.
What we do doesn’t affect just us. Our basic services like food programs, flu shots, and national parks – those are blitzed out for now, and our poor nonessential civilian personnel are being furloughed by the hundreds of thousands (about 400,000 employees are twiddling their thumbs at the Defense Department alone). But it’s not just America to which the damage will be contained. We take pride in the fact that America is a global leader to whom other nations look, and our actions influence those countries’ own next steps. An America that defaults is an America that will set off negative global ramifications.
Just the news of an impending American government shutdown sent the globe into worry mode, with both European and Asian markets taking hits on Monday in addition to the plunging NASDAQ and Dow Jones. It makes me uncomfortably reminisce about when the debt ceiling conflict in 2011 (deja vu much?) stressed an already fragile European sovereign debt and made the already struggling euro zone further troubled. It also gave taxpayers a $19 billion bill to foot, plunged the Dow Jones down by about 2,000 points, and led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade America’s credit rating from a triple A to a double A plus. They cited their view that “the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges.”
Well, the fiscal and economic challenges are ongoing, but American policymaking and political institutions have only further weakened. A minority extremist political bloc is steering U.S. foreign relations in dangerous ways, even as a minority. This Tea Party feels straight out of Alice in Wonderland judging by how ridiculous it is. It may actually be run by Mad Hatters, the Head Mad Hatter being Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, whose mind-boggling 21-hour filibuster against Obamacare captured the world’s attention.
I enjoy fine dining. My little and I recently spent way too much money on a dinner at Il Cielo. I enjoy tea parties. Many happy afternoons were spent at my Gramma Edna’s home, us ladies dolled up in dainty white gloves, extravagant and wide-brimmed hats, and tasteful dresses.
But this is one unaffordable Tea Party.
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