Speaker of the House John Boehner recently loosed an f-bomb toward Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
When Barack Obama ran for president on a promise of change, he probably wasn’t thinking about nickels and dimes. But when the ancient battle between donkey and elephant surfaced once again in the House of Representatives, there was hope that a single coin could have been the president’s deus ex machina.
As congressional Republicans’ refusal to raise the debt ceiling put politicians and economists alike into a frenzy, an unusual workaround was proposed and quickly shot down. Advocates of “mint the coin” proposed the president take advantage of the U.S. Treasury’s right to mint an unlimited number of platinum coins of any denomination by minting such a coin worth $1 trillion and depositing it in the Federal Reserve. Though legal, the Treasury Department rejected the idea, saying that “Congress needs to do its job.”
Despite the trillion-dollar coin now being a dream of the past, the passionate debate it sparked highlights some noteworthy things about the current state of American government. After the initial concerns about legality and economic policy (primarily inflation) were laid to rest, many opponents of mint the coin based their disapproval on what they saw as a violation of America’s traditions and dignity. Minting a magic coin to circumvent political disagreement smacked of something from a Simpsons episode, and would make America look like a banana republic, they said.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that it assumes America’s normal political processes are dignified. They aren’t — during negotiations at the end of December regarding the “fiscal cliff,” Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner loosed an f-bomb toward Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Much has been made of the debt-ceiling fight as “hostage taking” rather than negotiating, but this political stunt is just the latest in a long list of squabbles that seem to be more about gaining ideological victories rather than compromising to run the country effectively.
The governing process of one’s nation should be something free citizens can take pride in. But for many Americans, the behavior of the nation’s leaders is more ludicrous than admirable. A 2009 poll by Rasmussen Reports showed nearly a third of Americans under age 40 believe programs that blend news and comedy, such as Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report and Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, are replacing more traditional sources of news.
This isn’t because young people don’t take current events seriously. It’s a reaction to the often absurd, childish behavior by those in power. When the men and women charged with leading one of the most powerful countries on Earth behave like kindergartners who can’t agree on how to play together, how can America’s young adults take statements about their country’s dignity seriously?
Congress does indeed need to “do its job,” and that job involves listening to all Americans, not just those in agreement with each congressman’s favorite talking points. Until politicians take this lesson to heart, rejecting a functional (if unusual) idea like the trillion-dollar platinum coin on the basis of dignity rings a little hollow.
Powered by Facebook Comments