John Powell is worried – perhaps even scared.
Powell has watched the whole debt-ceiling debacle unfold down in Washington. He knows that our elected officials literally hold this country's future in their hands. He also knows that our leaders love nothing more than to squander opportunities and currently are poised to foul up our economy even more than it already is.
"Darn right I'm worried," Powell, a Money Morning reader, told us in an e-mail. "It's unbelievable. In 64 years I have never seen Washington so dysfunctional."
In response to some bleak USA Today/Gallup Poll results last week, we asked you, our loyal readers, to tell us how you think Washington has done with the debt-ceiling debacle. Most of you came to the same frightening conclusion: Our politicians' selfish antics have jeopardized our future.
Take Powell, who told us that he feels Washington's political posturing and brinksmanship has been a hindrance to the U.S. economy. But here's what really troubles him: He believes that with the way the system and our leaders currently function, none of this is fixable.
"Politicians are decimating the middle class and creating a new class of poor, banks and corporations are sucking the life out of the economy, and there's 9.2% unemployment – plus those whose benefits have run out – and Washington isn't doing anything to change this," wrote Powell.
Powell isn't alone.
The USA Today/Gallup poll showed that four in 10 of those surveyed thought Washington's job on the debt-ceiling debacle was the worst they've ever seen in their lifetimes.
Two-thirds of respondents said elected leaders in Congress were putting their own political interests ahead of the country's interests – leaving U.S. taxpayers to suffer.
That's a sentiment our readers have been conveying for years.
"This situation has crystallized for all to see the depth of the political agendas which are running our country under the guise of government," wrote reader Sharon S. "I think the job that President Obama and Congress have done during this developing debt-ceiling debacle could hardly be called 'doing the job' at all. With the U.S. economy struggling to rebound I see no collaboration or cooperation from the leaders and elected officials."
Many fear this political bickering and self-serving activity has created a country far from what was intended for its citizens.
"I think our federal government is being reshaped into something our founding fathers fought with their very lives to prevent," said Gary S. "I believe it has been slowly evolving since the early 1900s and is gaining critical mass."
Honest answers like this are why we wanted to hear more from you for a change, instead of listening to, and repeating, more frustrating words out of Washington.
Most of you agreed: Our government has taken this country almost to a financial dead end. And if something isn't done, we may see backlash like never before.
"The government now has the U.S. economy in a box, with the size of our debt, that may not be totally fixable, and shifts in interest rates or a debt default may lead to revolts and other political problems we have never seen in this country," said Jim D. "It is time to quit playing political football with our lives and that of our nation, massively cut federal spending and entitlements."
If our elected leaders can't agree on change, we absolutely need to change our elected leaders – hopefully to some we can trust.
"It is sad that we can't trust a word being said in D.C. and the solutions being presented are not for the long-term survival of our country but the politicians' own agenda," wrote Gary P.
Distrust of our politicians is why many of you called for a change in the election process, in hopes of choosing leaders motivated less by their largest campaign contributor, and more by what's best for the country.
"This country is not run by individuals who have our best interest at heart, but by the people they are indebted to and that is very scary," wrote Rhea Fullmer. "If all potential office holders had the same resources, we might be fortunate enough that the best and brightest run for office. I'd just like to start over with a group whose mission is not to be a star, whose ego doesn't require running the show, or who is not bought and paid for. How about someone who is knowledgeable about the problems, votes with their conscience and believes that doing a good job has benefits of its own."
Some suggested introducing term limits, while others proposed the heartily supported – but unlikely to be implemented – idea of docking pay during times like these when political gridlock makes progress nearly impossible.
"I would cancel all checks going to the president, his cabinet, the House, the Senate members until a debt agreement is reached," wrote M.D. "And I would not compensate the lost pay. To get paid they must produce."
One reader suggested that some members of Congress truly do want to produce – and it's their determination to deliver on promises to reduce the debt load that has forced Washington to confront a budget issue it's tried so hard to avoid.
"What we are really seeing in Congress is a more intense version of the debate going on all across the nation, and it is a needed debate: How are we going to pay for all the government that we have?" said Gordon F.
The sobering reality is that while the United States attempts to answer that question, we are likely in for years of a dangerously troubled economy. And what many politicians seem to miss while they impede progress is that Americans are increasingly worried about how they will stay afloat.
Many households never fully recovered from the financial crisis, and with a government likely to squeeze taxpayers and citizens more in coming years — and unlikely to prevent soaring inflation — there's no end to financial pain in sight.
"I'm already in retirement, the chances of finding employment at age 62 are zilch," said Kearney B. "If I can't preserve my savings against inflation, I'm a goner. I've already warned my teenage boys that this is no time for a wimpy career prep, we are facing very tough times."
While many hope for an agreement that can prevent a U.S. debt default, thinking that will limit the "tough times" ahead, some think default is the only way the country can eventually return to a place offering financial security and opportunity.
"Only an honest default – rather than the kind done gradually through intense inflation – can get us once again on a firm footing," wrote Timothy S. "Apart from that, we face an inevitable Japan-style multi-decade collapse. Better to just get the pain over with and return (hopefully) to the roots that made us the best place on Earth for investment and invention. I want my children and grandchildren to have a future in America."
The debt-ceiling debacle remains unresolved with the Aug. 2 deadline only a few days away.
News and Related Story Links:
- Money Morning:
New Poll Says Washington Has Done a Lousy Job During the Debt-Ceiling Debate – But What Do You Think?
- Money Morning:
'Washington Math' Adds Up to the Debt-Ceiling Deadlock
- Money Morning:
Brace for the Worst as Debt Ceiling Crisis Deadline Nears
- USA Today:
Low ratings for Obama, Congress on debt talks