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Gary Horton: ‘Crash II: Rise of the Hobbits’

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: August 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Two weeks back, in the middle of congressional “debt-ceiling vote” Russian roulette, I wrote Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

They say you’re supposed to write your congressman when you’re concerned about matters of local or national importance (or national impotence, whichever is more pertinent at the time.)

McKeon has been busy spending $700 billion in mostly borrowed deficit monies for mostly unpopular wars, but I still hoped he might see my letter among the bazillions that must have been hitting Washington that week.

“Dear Congressman McKeon,

Since this (debt ceiling) fiasco began a few weeks ago, and has turned to a fever pitch, I have lost over $XXXX in my retirement-investment value.

Nearly every businessman I know is urging Congress to stop posturing, and simply raise the debt ceiling — and to continue working on the deficit.

Clearly, we need deficit control. But this fight over the debt ceiling and default is self-created, and is hurting Americans.

Congress needs to stop it. You’re hurting Americans.

Please, please — urge your members to quickly, quickly solve this and move on.
Gary Horton”

Now, I don’t know if McKeon ever read my letter, or if any Congressman from any state reads anything from their non-fringe-element constituents anymore.

Apparently, in our hyper-polarized political reality, Nixon’s famous “silent majority” has become Obama’s “virtually invisible majority.” Normal people either have lost their voice, or their voices no longer count. Reasoning and sound logic carry no apparent currency in today’s polarized politics.

The fate of my letter aside, what I do know is that after washing our dirty, debt-soaked financial laundry out in front of the whole world for months — and after blowing chance after chance of “grand bargains” and “Gang of Six” real solutions — at the very last hour, Congress passed a debit-ceiling resolution with a self-contained deficit-reduction plan that was singularly unpleasing to most of America, and very unpleasing to one very important rating agency.

Perhaps the only light moment through this tortuous exercise in American self-immolation was John McCain’s characteristically witty assessment of the ideologically cemented but unplugged tea party caucus thinking it would pass a balanced-budget amendment: “The tea-party hobbits could return to Middle-earth having defeated Mordor.”

Well, the hobbits put the tea-heat on McCain after his telling jab, and past that, one would have hoped that life would have returned to normal. But the results of the hobbit debt-ceiling mischief continued to vex me and every other American who might still have two nickels to rub between our trembling, fearful human fingers.

But five short days later, CNN issued their news flash to my phone: “The S&P had downgraded U.S. debt to AA+ negative, from AAA.”

“Ugh, Carrie — this is very bad news,” I sighed to my wife.

I could have cried. Knowing enough about finance to have chronic high blood pressure, I foretold to my wife what would happen on Monday, and would likely happen thereafter: A great big kick to our financial groin, followed by continued slow mugging in the housing and retirement asset markets. Perhaps a second recession. The straw that broke the camel’s back.

This past Monday proved me right on the first point.

Fasten your seat belts for the rest of the ride down.

Lost your seat belts and car in the last recession? Hitch a ride with GE or any old oil company. They’ve got lobbyists whose letters do get read, so they’re not paying taxes, and likely have hundreds of spare cars at the ready.

None of this financial self-flagellation has been unavoidable. All of it is self-created, and with a long, traceable history.
While “borrow and blow” attitudes have preceded Bush the Lessor, I remember well the exact inflection point of our current debt crisis.

Carrie and I were watching the session of congress that was just then passing George W. Bush’s giant “tax cut for the rich” program. Bam! Our fate was sealed.

“Uh oh!” I commented to Carrie. “This is truly the beginning of the end. Kiss the budget surplus goodbye. Hello never-ending deficits. We’re going to be the next Soviet Union to go broke and get washed down the drain.”

Between the Bush tax giveaway, the Bush Medicare prescription-benefit boondoggle, the Bush “missed the 911 email memos,” a total housing meltdown and 10 years of continuous wars against nonaggressor countries — we have knowingly taken our sovereign wealth, lit it aflame and scattered the ashes to whirlwind.

How could a rational human expect any other result than what we’ve got now? Normal, non-hyper-ideological Americans still have brains to do the math. Slash tax revenue while running never-ending wars, and funding impossible health care costs, and you will have a problem. Duh.

And who’s going to pay? Everyone.

Congress just punished the entire country. This time, even the zillionaires got stung with a nearly 2,000-point drop in the Dow. They wont be happy. Congressmen will be compelled to read their letters and wince.

Closer to Earth, but far from tea-party hobbit Middle-earth, our own Joe Messina summed up the impact of all this to our own Tim Myers on Facebook, “Today, I locked my doors and hid under my bed.... Then I realized I had no money — lost it all the last time and, with the way things are going, I’ll have none in the future.”

We’re right there with you, Joe. Our leaders had better quickly get past politics and into policy, or we’ll all be huddled with Joe under his bed. 350 million Americans, all quivering under Joe Messina’s bed.

We’d better soon learn to sing “Kumbaya” together as a collaborative nation, or America’s destiny will be the hiding-under-the-bed capital of the planet.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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