Panmunjom is best remembered as the village where the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953 thereby marking the end of the Korean War. It is considered a visible reminder of the Cold War as the tensions between North and South have not abated and, as such, it has become iconic for the concept of "stalemate." In fact, a peace treaty was never signed, only an armistice, a cease file. Both sides have distinctly different views of the world, each incompatible with the other. As I watch the histrionics of our government, I get the uneasy feeling that Panmunjom has come to Washington, DC.
It has been over eight months since we elected a new House of Representatives. As you will recall, the Congressmen were sent to Washington with a mandate to clean up the economy, the budget deficit, the federal debt, immigration, energy independence, and reverse Obamacare. So far, nothing of substance has happened; nada, zero, zip, and frankly, we shouldn't be surprised as our government is stalled in hopeless gridlock which we anticipated when the Republicans won back only the House, leaving the Democrats in control of the Senate and White House.
To illustrate, Vice President Joe Biden recently held a round of talks at the White House to give the illusion the Obama administration was reaching out to the Republicans to find a bipartisan solution for solving the debt ceiling problem. When it became clear the Democrats were not budging on budget spending cuts, the Republicans understandably walked out. The point is, all of the country's problems have been politicized and will not be settled until after the 2012 elections.
August 2nd represents the one chance of breaking the gridlock which is when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner believes the United States will no longer be able to pay its bills in full. In order to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans want major spending cuts in the budget, and the Democrats want tax increases. Now it's a matter of who is going to blink first. If neither side budges, both will blame the other for the problem. This issue is so divisive I do not see any way of overcoming it, be it August 2nd of 2011 or August 2nd of 2012. Our government is playing a game of chicken and the taxpayers are helpless to do anything about it. We could call for a national referendum to settle the dispute by the people, but that is not how our country works. We are locked in a political Panmunjom.
As August 2nd comes and goes, the debt ceiling will likely not be raised and the members of our government will continue to argue and point fingers. Under this scenario, we will stop paying certain bills in full, and our national credit rating will likely drop. This, in turn, will have an adverse effect on the value of the U.S. Dollar (which is already perilously weak), the stock markets, as well as the GDP, exports, and unemployment. Regardless, we will continue to be grid locked until the November 2012 elections and possibly beyond if there is no change in the balance of power. This is why the 2012 elections are so important.
The approval ratings for Congress and the President are dropping to new lows. Watch them hit rock bottom after August 2nd when neither side budges and the economy begins its free fall. Nothing of substance is going to happen until after the elections.
In Panmunjom the border is clearly delineated and protected by guards on both sides. The north represents a communist dictatorship, the south is a freedom loving democracy, two distinctively different ideologies. As such, they find it impossible to cooperate on anything. Technically, they are still at war. Frankly, I fail to see how Panmunjom is any different than what is going on in our own government. Unless we can change the gridlock in Washington in November 2012, we will remain at war with ourselves.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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