Belfast Telegraph

Spoiled kids on Capitol Hill happy to play blame game

There's been some pretty hysterical talk from American politicians over the past few weeks, but I think Democrat Nancy Pelosi, minority leader of the US House of Representatives, wins the prize.

During the debt-ceiling negotiations, she explained at a press conference: "What we're trying to do is save the world from the Republican budget. We're trying to save life on this planet as we know it today."

Life on this planet as we know it today is certainly under threat, not because Republicans have forced the Obama administration to trim its intended spending increases, but because the markets increasingly fear that many Western economies will eventually default on their debts.

Global investors are selling stocks and putting their money into gold, safe currencies or under the bed. The only certain way of calming the present panic is for the hitherto cautious and frugal German Chancellor Angela Merkel to bet party and country on the survival of the Eurozone by guaranteeing the debts of Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and any of the other members who might face ruin from their own profligacy.

But even Germany couldn't do much to help out the mighty United States, which is still reeling from the bad-tempered carry-on on Capitol Hill over the past few weeks.

The blame-game is being played at fever-pitch and will intensify now that Standard and Poor's has cut America's credit rating. Fingers are being pointed at the Tea Party, Republicans, Democrats, the liberal Left, weak centrists and Obama.

Maureen Dowd, columnist on the New York Times, expressed the view of the disappointed metropolitan elite when she wrote of how "the Tea Party slashers roaming the corridors of the Capitol have feasted without resistance on delicious victims and will only grow bolder".

Tea Partiers retort that without them, Republicans wouldn't have had the guts to negotiate right to the line and impose some fiscal discipline. Republicans point out that the top 5% of taxpayers already provide 60% of tax receipts; that killing golden geese has proved historically to be a poor idea.

Centrists are distressed that the country had its reputation damaged by the spectre of a debt default, deplore the acrimony and bitterness of public debate and generally damn politicians. A CNN poll had 77% of Americans saying politicians had behaved like 'spoiled children'.

Meanwhile, whoever Obama's blaming, it's not himself. Understandable, really, when you consider 2012 is election year.

Last week, celebrating his 50th birthday at a $35,800-a-plate fundraiser in Chicago, he adopted statesmanlike language and condemned "partisan games" on the Left or Right.

There is a school of thought that the American system of government no longer works properly and must be reformed to eliminate discord and rancour.

What's more, as disillusioned voters look unenthusiastically at Obama and his uninspiring Republican challengers, a group called Americans Elect is trying to start a revolution that the Founding Fathers would surely have smiled upon.

It invites citizens through online discussion to choose the key issues and the candidates and finally nominate a centrist ticket for 2012, with the winners going on the ballot in every state.

The people are mad as hell, but they're looking for constructive solutions rather than hysterical abuse. This initiative just might take off.

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