One hour after I met him in 1995 Grandpa Buehler bluntly told me he did not want me on his basketball team. “That's alright,” I told him. “I don't want me on my basketball team either.” I was playing basketball with Grandpa Buehler's 11-year-old grandson in front of their house in Minnesota and had missed all my shots from every corner of the little driveway.
That did not stop Grandpa Buehler from inviting me inside for drinks (we weren't related but I called him Grandpa because of the warmth with which his family received me). He showed me his car and I got a tour of the house. The car was 10 years old, looked pristine and had only 3,000 miles on it. Grandpa Buehler said he could trust me with the vehicle; He had no doubts about my driving skills as long as I wasn't driving up to the basketball rim.
It was 1995, and the presidential campaign was in full swing. Bill Clinton, George Bush (1), and Ross Perot were jostling for the presidency, but Grandpa Buehler thought they were all OK; after all, they were all Americans and could be counted upon to do whatever was right for the country. It was my first year in the United States, and I felt I had to speak up for my daughter, who, having been born in the United States, is an American. So, I wrote an article for the La Crosse Tribune in Wisconsin — just across the Minnesota border from Grandpa Buehler — and asked Washington to always remember families like Grandpa Buehler's.
It saddens me therefore to see how the current US Congress has debased my country and how our elected leaders have conducted discussions on the debt ceiling over the last several weeks. This Congress has been partisan, incredibly selfish, unbelievably puerile, and astonishingly myopic in their actions. While American soldiers are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan our political leaders are squabbling in Washington like little kids in a schoolyard. These soldiers are not fighting as Democrats, Independents, or Republicans; they are simply Americans fighting for their country.
The founding fathers, though having disparate beliefs and convictions, still managed to craft the best constitution in the world. Our congressmen could not handle the simple task of managing the country's fiscal affairs without messing up the image of the United States globally. Nobody should applaud these clowns simply because they now tell us they have finally reached an agreement. Did it really have to take so long and be so messy, so politically damaging to the country and its leadership?
What does any of this have to do with the electronics industry supply chain or the economy? Everything. Businesses need a stable political and economic environment to operate efficiently and competitively, but the country and the entire world has seen the opposite of this over the last month. Our stock markets have gyrated wildly, and many CEOs are wondering what shareholders would have done had they put their companies through such a wringer.
Through the dust of congressional tantrum, the credit rating of the United States was flung into jeopardy and the US president was reduced to begging for “compromise” as if he heads a dysfunctional Somalia. Both political parties, playing a game of brinkmanship, waited until the last minute to reach an agreement. Businesses are in danger today, worldwide, because our leaders could not strike a deal over something as simple as the US debt ceiling.
It is not enough to justify the current condition in Washington on the basis of having being elected to effect change and reduce our national debt. The idea of changing the constitution to include a requirement for a balanced budget is simply idiotic. The United States is not a bakery shop, where the level of flour and yeast must be carefully calibrated; it is the sole superpower in the world, and the realities of its position dictate that it should, at all times, have the means to carry out strategic policies without being hamstrung by a silly policy.
Grandpa Buehler is dead, but if he were alive he would have in his quietly blunt way told these fellows they do not belong on his team, the one that can win for the nation. On behalf of disgusted Americans everywhere — whatever their political stripe — I would like to hand out a bouquet of shame to each Senator and Representative who has discredited America while pretending to serve the nation.
P.S. I got the idea for this blog's headline from an article by Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.