Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Raise the Roof

This week, while my ENG 230 students wrestle with Melville's short fiction ("Benito Cereno" and "Bartleby") and my ENG 231 students tango with Hemingway ("The Killers") and Fitzgerald ("Benjamin Button"), my ENG 100 students are writing comparative analytic essays about mainstream news sources. I find that understanding the news--especially political news--can be as baffling to first-year college students as Melville's moral ambiguity, Hemingway's minimalism, or Fitzgerald's magical realism can be for second-year students.

To open up discussion on one of the most important issues of the moment--the raising of the national debt ceiling and the plan to reduce the national deficit--I assigned a couple short readings from ABC News and MSNBC that claim to give "the basics" behind the debate in clear language. We'll see how clear and informative those articles were tonight.

From my own perspective, I am more than a little appalled that Congress has let America come so close to a potential default on our financial obligations. Such a default is virtually unprecedented, and many economists, although unsure exactly what the consequences will be, agree that nothing good can come of it. Some think a default could potentially trigger another global recession, perhaps one even more severe than 2008. We are, right now, struggling as a nation to make ends meet as our economy recovers painfully slowly from the last economic crisis. How could we be so foolish to risk another, even greater crisis, when we have not come close to fully recovering from the last?

Although I personally agree with Obama's plan to raise the debt ceiling immediately and to reduce the deficit with a combination of spending cuts and tax reform, I think minimally the Congress should, without delay, pass what most rational people agree on: raising the debt ceiling and cutting government spending. This will help us meet our short-term obligations, and it will begin to reduce the deficit in the long run. I think the Democrats are right that more tax revenue from super-wealthy individuals and corporations are fair and responsible, but if Republican representatives won't pass them, then that's their right. They won their elections last fall. What is nobody's right--from either party--is to allow a default to happen. That would be catastrophically irresponsible.

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