U.S. budget debate good example of principle over common sense

A conversation with a U.S. boating couple on Saturday at the Little Current dock underscored a commonly held point-of-view on the deadlock in the U.S. congress on our southern neighbours’ budget issue that is, hopefully, on its way to being resolved.

The skipper of the sailboat, reluctantly heading back to the heat and high humidity of southern Illinois, maintained that one of the pleasures of cruising the North Channel each year, especially this year, was leaving behind the televised strife of U.S. politics.

He was plainspoken in his criticism of the polarization of politics in his homeland that has come to characterize the American system. “It’s come to be a matter of hatred for people with views you don’t agree with. That’s counterproductive,” he said.

He recalled that, in the 1950s and 1960s, “our leaders, especially our senators, were statesmen. They may have disagreed with each other’s positions, but they respected one another. That’s all gone now and now they’re ruining our country.”

He was referring to the debate that led to the eleventh-hour agreement about raising the U.S. debt level and a program that would curtail U.S. federal government spending.

At the time of the conversation, this agreement between Democratic and Republican leaders in both the U.S. house of representatives and the U.S. senate had not yet been reached and, late Saturday afternoon, this gentleman was pessimistic about believing any such compromise would be achieved, blaming the “culture of impasse” on the seeming need for each of the two political foes in the U.S. system to either have their own way or at least to make the other side look as bad as possible in the process of debate.

There was a clear sadness in his observations and he urgently wished that Canadians don’t find themselves similarly polarized, left to right.

We should heed his warning, especially in light of how the world’s economic interests responded to the dangerous brinkmanship American politicians demonstrated the past couple of weeks and the terrible consequences for all nations had American politicians not been able to reach an agreement, because they had chosen principle over common sense, and had left their country in a position to default on its financial obligations