My latest column for The Huffington Post reflects one of my great frustrations about today’s politics: The absence too often of rational, civil dialogue. I try to explain why so many disaffected Americans — particularly those in the Tea Party — don’t accept many incontrovertible facts at the center of policy debates, and how the rest of us can become more engaged to dilute the influence of extremism and misguided politics.
Here’s an excerpt:
One of the critical lessons from the debt ceiling debacle is not to underestimate the Tea Party’s influence on Washington policymakers.
But perhaps even more alarming was the strikingly willful disdain many Tea Party activists demonstrated towards some of the rationally indisputable facts at the center of the policy debate.
I saw this phenomenon firsthand on the virtual pages of this very website. Last week, frustrated by my failure to find my teenage daughter a simple explanation of the budget crisis online, I decided to pen one myself. My column, Debt Ceiling for Dummies, was an attempt to provide a dispassionate, non-partisan guide to the sometimes archaic, and often complex, subject matter associated with the credit default debate. As a former state Treasurer and CFO, I hoped to share what I’ve learned from a myriad of experiences dealing with concepts like debt limits and credit ratings.
But as is far too typical in today’s blogosphere, my article provoked an avalanche of bitter invective in the comments section of this site, my own blog, and even my personal Facebook page. I was called a “liar,” a “fraud,” even an intimate of the international conspiracy to fool real Americans and rob them of their hard-earned savings.
My more than two decades of politics taught me not to take any of the criticism personally. But it’s hard not to be flustered when a not-so-insignificant segment of the body politic refuses to accept the incontrovertible fact that lifting the debt ceiling honors the debts we’ve already incurred through our prior spending, and does not require higher levels of future spending or borrowing. Or that the inevitable U.S. credit downgrade that would result from a failure to lift the ceiling would inarguably worsen our national debt problems by dramatically increasing the cost of borrowing.