What would it take for the Congress and the White House to take the country’s current financial crisis seriously enough to put their month-long vacation on hold and take immediate action on the debt?  Apparently nothing.

For the first time in 94 years the U.S. credit rating is less than stellar. In a world where the dollar was once the sanctuary from financial challenges, we no longer stand atop the heap. Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the U.S. credit rating is a wake-up call, but our legislators and President seem hardly stirred.

debt clockIt took but a few minutes for the lawmakers to scurry away to waiting planes to bolt from the capital to begin their vacations while everyone from bus drivers to doctors went about their daily tasks; it’s akin to driving your car half off a cliff, teetering over the edge, climbing out and walking away.

Congress will return after Labor Day, a month wasted while the stock market plunges and the deadline for the new “super committee” of Thanksgiving looms ever closer. If the S&P downgrade didn’t shock them into action, can anything?

August 16th Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi, Minority Leader McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid will each appoint 3 members to the committee tasked with coming up with $1.5 trillion of additional cuts. The Republicans will appoint folks opposed to any tax increases while the Democrats will appoint those that insist on revenue increases; it’s a stalemate written in stone.

Should the debt reduction committee fail to reach a majority of 7 affirmative votes, stop-gap measures kick in. All we know about these “triggers” is that they will be one half defense and one half entitlements, aimed to be so egregious to either side as to assure they’ll come to a majority decision. Regardless, $1.5 trillion simply won’t cut it; recent stock market performance states clearly that investors have had enough of the U.S.’s failure to deal with its soaring debt. Standard & Poor’s downgrade now turns a grim situation into an emergency.

Debt to GDPThere are a few points on which most in Congress agree: some combination of steep cuts in entitlement programs and a broadening of the tax base are in order. While those in Congress have been warning for decades about the aging of our society and its effects on Social Security and Medicare, they’ve taken no action. What they have done is passed into law a new health care entitlement that will take the current debt far beyond what caused S&P to downgrade the U.S.’s credit.

Somewhere between 49 and 51 percent of all Americans pay no taxes, while the top 3 percent pay nearly 90%; this is a recipe for disaster. Some favor a flatter tax code with fewer rates, while others prefer the Fair Tax, which imposes a tax on consumption. In either case, the current tax code with its twenty thousand pages of loop holes and favors for special-interests insures that Washington’s pension for spending isn’t in line with its revenue.

The explosion in spending certainly is the top priority. Washington for decades has carried on a policy of simply printing money to cover its excesses. When revenues don’t meet the demands of our spending, we borrow money from foreign sources. Currently 40 cents of every dollar generated in the U.S. goes to pay interest on the debt; it a self-fulfilling prophesy; those 40 cents leave our economy further depressing economic growth. At the current rate some are predicting that as much as 70 cents of every dollar will flee the U.S. by 2024.

Now is not the time for a vacation. If Mr. Obama had a spine he’d call for an emergency session of Congress to act immediately to address the debt, but, alas, only his retirement will produce the leadership this country so deeply needs.

The Tea Party says we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem; they are correct. Unfortunately we’ve had this spending problem for our entire lifetimes and now we find ourselves in a quandary. We simply cannot cut enough to dig ourselves out of this hole because we’ve dug a hole so deep that filling it would mean cuts that will never pass our Congress. Standing on principals is fine; standing on impracticality isn’t. It would be a different matter had the Tea Party movement come along 30 or 40 years ago, but instead we kept electing the same people over and over again that acted in a irresponsible manner so we’ve one to blame but ourselves.

It’s time to heave out our current tax code and start over with one that makes sense and we must hold each member of the legislature responsible for every dollar spent. The Tea Party will hold lawmakers to the fire; now we must build a special-interest free tax code where everyone has skin in the game.