Politicians playing with fire

Jeremy Stull

Jeremy Stull

Over the summer, there was a media firestorm around the decision facing Washington to either raise the debt ceiling or default on the financial responsibilities of our country. For the everyday citizen this is no longer a matter of concern, just like Libya, the riots in London, and the countless other stories that flood our 24-hour news networks only to be forgotten and pushed aside to make room for the newest sensationalist topic that will grab viewers’ attention to spike ratings and increase advertising dollars. But I digress.

Have no fear, Quinnipiac, I am here to continue the conversation. What really happened was a political standoff between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House. Speaker of the House John Boehner, the man with the least enviable job in politics, must appease his new Tea Party contingency yet still remain a traditional Republican leader. Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid must stick to their ideals and yet not alienate a voter base that will most definitely remember this standoff come election time.

Boehner and his GOP cohorts know that a default under Democratic leadership looks bad for Democrats during elections. It was political posturing of the worst kind. It was risking not only American financial stability, but also global financial stability, for the chance to make the incumbent party lose power in the next election. It is not even a hard and fast Republican stance to keep the debt ceiling static. The Republican Golden Boy, former President Ronald Reagan wrote a letter to Republican lawmakers while he was in the White House urging them to raise the debt ceiling. Reagan said “denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The nation can ill afford to allow such a result.” The Tea Party clearly has a lot of pull if it can get a Republican congressional leader to fly in the face of the previously infallible Reagan.

So in the end, a deal was cut and default was avoided, for now. One of the three credit ratings agencies downgraded the United States from a rating of AAA to AA+. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann says this downgrade proved she was right in insisting on no raise in the debt ceiling. This is far from the truth. The downgrade came from Standard & Poor’s, the New York-based agency that overrated mortgages and helped us on the way to the “credit crunch” to begin with. The other two agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, kept the United States at AAA.

The report from Standard & Poor’s reads, “The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.” That sounds like they were worried about people like Boehner and Bachmann being more worried about their personal and party gains than about the stability of the United States.

I really do not want this to blow over. I want as much youth involvement in the next election cycle as we had in the 2008 election. I want students to know how much our future was gambled with by the Representative for the 8th District of Ohio and people like him.