The trials and tribulations of a new knitter...

Addicted to Upheaval

How much can our (literally) poor economy take? In the middle of high-stakes negotiations to raise the debt ceiling, new unemployment numbers were released that show significantly lower job growth than expected and needed. Foreign economic turmoil continues to wreak havoc on our fragile recovery. On top of this, both political parties have shown an increasing desire to play politics with our economy and risk defaulting on our debt obligations. This is not a moment of crisis: we are already there.

It all stems from a few bad habits. Unfortunately, there is no Debtors Anonymous for entire countries or governments. We continuously spend beyond our means when we know we can't take in what we need. Our chronic spending is bankrupting our children before they even have a chance. Just recently, President Obama announced that social security checks might stop coming if we cannot reach an agreement on the debt ceiling. Sure sounds like a solvent program and economy when we will default on our promises to our own citizens.

We also have a nasty partisan habit. Both parties are guilty of kicking the pork barrel down the road, waiting until the last minute to fix disastrous problems. In the name of electoral politics, we've let programs like social security and Medicare become so unaffordable that they will either dry up or consume any last hope of economic growth. On our debt problem, leaders of both parties are considering tactics that will lead to political gain, evidenced in the statements they make blaming others for their problems. In the short term, we will no doubt have to sacrifice politics for the common good. In the long run, it will make sense for both parties to do what is right for the future. Instead, this is what we get in return for our tax dollars.

Our worst bad habit however is our failure to make significant structural changes necessary for our long-term future. This goes beyond even reforming entitlement programs. What we need is a reform for the way we spend money, for example. It doesn't mean simply raising the retirement age, because this is only a short term fix. We have an aging population that poses a great problem: who will care for our growing number of seniors? Some jobs are simply gone and not returning. On the issue of foreign policy, we are still adapting to modern warfare and terrorism but do not address our standing around the world that causes the deep-seated hatred. On immigration, we simply have no clue what we are doing. These problems cannot be fixed by even the best reform acts our Congress can come up with. We need to recognize the relation between our actions and their consequences. We need to think and act consciously and comprehensively. This is the real solution to our crisis.

In the meantime, what do we do? These changes cannot be made overnight, obviously. The first thing we have to do is vote to raise the debt sky. Though our spending is through the roof, we cannot default on our obligations and send our economy into further downward spiral. No more short term fixes; we deserve a budget that sets us on a sustainable path for the future. Next, we have to start holding our politicians accountable for what they do. Whether you like the tea party or not, this is something they do well. On both sides of the aisle, we need effective politicians who are results-oriented and willing to put our country above their own interests. No more "politics as usual." Finally, we all need to own our responsibilities as American citizens and initiate these changes beginning at home. One thing that has not changed is that we can all make a difference. It is our right, and it is our duty.

Andre P. Audette is author of the blog No Politics As Usual - Challenging partisanship, calling out corruption, and confronting "politics as usual." Read it online at