A Terrible Gamble

Armstrong Williams | 8/24/2011, 3:29 p.m.
If you've been living in the United States during the past three months and you're...
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If you've been living in the United States during the past three months and you're not aware of this "debt crisis" everyone inside the Beltway is talking about, then you've been living under a rock.

The sad truth is, the rest of the world knows about it as well. They're watching, and let's just say they're even more scared than we are on these shores. The reason? The U.S. dollar acts as the reserve currency for hosts of commodities traded every second of every day around the world. Further, the dollar also acts as the "pegged" currency from which many more goods and services are linked, most notably oil.

And for anyone waking up yesterday in London, they would have read this headline in the Sunday Times, "WASHINGTON PLAYS POKER WITH WORLD ECONOMY." The editorial from which that headline came goes on to say, "It would be unthinkable now were it not for a dangerous standoff between the White House and Congress over the country's debt...With this humiliating and destabilizing threat hanging over them, one would expect that politicians in Washington would be rushing to strike a deal. Far from it.

"They are engaged in a game of political brinkmanship. The U.S. economy is in danger of looking alarmingly dysfunctional."

Dysfunctional, ladies and gentlemen. And after the weekend's events, I have to say I'm not sure what sort of poker game House Speaker John Boehner is trying to play, let alone win.

I'm on a roll with this "poker" analogy, so let's keep it going. Both the White House and Republicans are holding measly hands, say, a Jack and 10 off-suit. The rest of their hand is full of meaningless low cards, and they're essentially drawing dead. They've both gone all-in, and at best, they will split the pot.

Yet, here we find ourselves barely 10 days from "debt-ageddon," and it seems both sides are trying to out-bluff and out-maneuver the other. For what? What would it accomplish? Are these politicians so hell-bent on beating the other side that they have forgotten why they're working around the clock, that is, to save the financial health of the country?

Let's be honest, both sides are to blame here, so they should stop jockeying for more political points, because it will do neither any good.

Of course, if the speaker keeps up this "exit strategy," where he leaves seemingly every other day, then Americans may decide at whose feet they would lay responsibility. Even a recent FOX News poll said Americans would blame congressional Republicans, not the president, if the United States were to default on its loan obligations. That's a FOX poll, folks. That should scare Republicans, but more importantly, it should tell them that, even if they are right on the mission here (which they are), they're doing a terrible job of sharing that with the American people.

Either way, this is a terrible gamble to make. I'd just as soon see both sides fold and start the talks fresh than risk going right up until the deadline with no deal. Every day they dawdle, the world's financial markets squirm at such political brinkmanship.