No Winners in the Debt Standoff

No matter who is declared the political victor, the American public will think politicians are all out of touch

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As the intricacies of budget cuts, tax increases, and the debt ceiling are hashed out by the president, the speaker, and Democrats and Republicans in Congress, one thing is clear: From a political perspective, no matter the result, there will be no winners.

The American public looks at the last two-week conversation in Washington, D.C., as symptomatic of a deeper, broader problem. Why can't our leaders and the two political parties behave like adults and fix the problems in America? And as each day passes without a deal, the public gathers further evidence that politicians are out of touch with their lives and Washington is incredibly dysfunctional.

And in that context, if an agreement is reached, whether the terms favor one side or the other (or if no agreement is reached and America is in default on its obligations), the public is not going to reward anyone in Washington for something that should never have gotten to this point. Parents around this country don't reward their kids for doing the chores they were told to do weeks ago at the very last minute, under extreme duress, and in a shoddy way. We shake our heads, and say we will remember this next time.

The best-case scenario for these politicians is not that somebody will "win," but only that victory can be defined as losing less than someone else. So with no winners in any of this, an increasingly frustrated and anxious public will turn further away from the federal government and our leaders in Washington as a place to find answers. The public has sent wake-up alarm after wake-up alarm to politicians, and many of those politicians keep hitting the snooze button and thinking they can spin their way out of this.

The voters won't forget and won't reward any of these politicians no matter what happens. And come the 2012 elections, get ready for a reaction. Or, to paraphrase Doc Holliday from the movie Tombstone: Make no mistake, it's not revenge they're after; it's a reckoning.

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