There’s a lot to be said about experiences in life. One of the experiences that anyone who’s had an auto accident will recognize: you feel as if the events are happening in slow motion, although you know it’s occurring in real time. But there’s nothing you can do about it. The injury will come. You might be able to adjust yourself from the injury, perhaps adjust the trajectory to limit damage or reduce the liability. But for all intents and purposes, there is little you can do, once you realize there’s a collision coming.
In the Navy, this is about the time they sound the alarms for collision, and call to brace for impact. Even though we’re not in the Navy, I am sounding that alarm.
We’re going to see it happen – and it may seem like it’s happening in slow motion – during the first quarter of next year: additional downgrading of our country’s credit, forced budget cuts, and in some cases perhaps a replay of the civil unrest we’ve seen in Europe in the past year. After the impact of running into something halts the vehicle, it’s the second impact in which the human damage occurs, when the people themselves become part of the collision. And in these protests there may be hurting people saying: cut somewhere, cut anybody’s benefits but not mine. They’ll be all about cutting something, unless it’s in their backyard.
Is there nothing we can do about it? Regardless of the political posturing in Washington D.C., we are facing a situation that’s the result of the policies on government spending and debt of not only this administration but past administrations. It’s not like we didn’t know it was coming. Remember the debt supercommittee? the 12-member Congressional panel charged with finding $1.5 trillion in debt savings over a ten-year period; whose failure last November – including a statement that "after months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline" – led to the raising of the country’s debt ceiling to avoid default and the U.S.’s first credit downgrade ever, as well as the usual round of pass-the-blame.
As each side draws lines to explain what caused this collision and what to do about it, look for the Democrats in Congress to say they’re caving into Republicans, while the Republicans say they’re caving in to Democrats. As you read about it in the papers, realize that we are the ones who are having to cave in under the impact. When we consider the past election, in which there’s a difference in the popular vote of only 1-1/2 million people – about how the country should be run and who should be running it – in the months ahead, that difference of opinion is going to reflect what will happen. There is no mandate. All of us see the accident coming, but we all want to do something different to try to avoid it. And the current administration gives no confidence for being able to avoid the worst of the impact or to lead us through the aftermath. Will we have to just accept the pain until the 2014 midterm elections, and in addition to the lame
ducks we’ll look for parrots – those who will just be repeating what they’ve heard in talking points and drawing partisan lines?
Or do we have to look to the newly-elected president of Egypt, making sure he’s in absolute control of the government and voiding out the legal system – to get things done his way? Do we have to walk like an Egyptian, or is there a better way for the United States? Instead of absolute control (like it was during the first two years of this administration), can our leadership recognize that half the country does not agree with its past policies? If not, there are alternatives: they can simulate the collision that has been taking place in Europe – where the Europeans could see the accident coming but took their hands off the wheel and threw them in the air in panic.
What can we do to try to change the trajectory of this impact? Putting all the information on the table would be a start – yet now the presidential election is behind us, it appears there can be no criticism of the administration and its failures that are trying to screech to a halt. It appears they cannot please their base of supporters, or even address it in a rational manner, so the critical information is being withheld until the (spin) doctors get here. Will we just look away, when we are only a short and closing distance from the fiscal cliff?
We witnessed the accident in Europe, and from that experience we should have learned how to limit our damage here. We don’t know where the vehicles will roll to a stop, but then it may be a case of win, lose, or draw. We’d win if we come out unscathed and unharmed; we’ll lose if we produce no action and all the failures of leadership that put our country on this collision course are displayed for the world to see, and we feel financially the pain of the accident. It will be a draw if we wind up with some cuts here, some tax increases there, but the overall wreckage – the slow-motion collision we’re trying to mitigate – just gets passed to the next generation.
We can’t look to the Navy to save us – they are facing cuts, too. But heed the alarm. They’ve sounded for collision: brace yourself for impact.