Has America Crossed Its Rubicon?

Jim Blasingame

Last week in our online poll (see below), we asked this question: “Should the House of Representatives stand on budget cuts, even if not passing a budget shuts down the government?”  

And we offered these four answers, with response numbers at the end: 

  • Doesn’t matter. It’s just more GOP theater – either way they’ll lose. 23%
  • Yes, we have to stop spending ourselves into bankruptcy. 47%
  • No, because government shutdowns always cost Republicans more politically. 27%
  • Doesn’t matter. The U.S. is already too far gone on so many levels. 3%

Of course, as is the case in so many questions about our federal government, this week’s topic came loaded with associated issues: 1) the basic obligation of getting a budget passed; 2) the political leverage both parties try to acquire in the process; 3) the dysfunction of deficit spending; 4) our prohibitive national debt; and, of course, 5) the beautifully messy system we call a representative republic that doesn’t leave the minority without options, however limited. Our aim this week was to offer answer options that would cover these issues.

In America, there’s an entire court system and set of laws devoted to what happens to regular folks when their financial reality looks like that of our federal government today. It’s called the bankruptcy system. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see that almost half of our respondents essentially agree with the rogue Republicans in the House who bollixed up their GOP leaders’ plan for a continuing resolution (CR) – instead of passing a real budget. Remember, our largest response group this week is likely comprised of business people who have to balance budgets every day to stay out of bankruptcy themselves. And it’s likely that a handful of GOP Reps held out because … well … they were channeling 47% of our folks.

Of course, bound up in this option is also what surely drives the most emotional response in our list this week, our national debt, now over $33 TRILLION. In the year 2000, our national GDP was $10.25 Trillion, against a national debt of $5.6 Trillion. Quick math calls that a 2:1 GDP-to-Debt ratio. Businesses survive and thrive with a balance sheet ratio like this. Wasn’t that a nice trip down Memory Lane? That condition was before the 9-11 attacks, two overlapping wars over 20 years, the financial crisis of 2008-09, concurrent with the GREAT Recession, and the most recent nightmare, our government’s nightmare response to the global pandemic. 


Today, our financial condition looks like this: GDP of $25 Trillion carrying a national debt of $33 Trillion. Even a 3rd grader’s quick math could see that those numbers are upside-down. Words to describe this reality include, but are not limited to unprecedented, untenable, back-breaking, bankrupting, national-security-threatening, (your words here).

The 23% “GOP theater” responders to our poll are only right because Republicans currently have the majority. When the Dems are in charge, we get the same theater of CRs and essentially not doing the prime job the House is supposed to do – pass a budget on time. Quick! When was the last time Congress passed a budget on time? Well, it was over a quarter-century ago, in 1997, which was only the fifth time in a half-century. This is why we no longer talk about Washington being a swamp. Today, it’s a cesspool with no hope for change in sight.

A little more than a fourth of our poll participants correctly recognized the reality/history that government shutdowns have typically hurt the GOP to a much greater extent than the Democrats. Say what you will, but in the ugly, nasty, shameless, soulless, bloody, Machiavellian game of American politics, Democrats are just better at it than Republicans. Sometimes, it looks like boys playing a contact sport against men. And worse, the boys don’t know the rules or how to keep score.

It was a little surprising that only 3% of our folks have thrown up their hands on the U.S. I thought there would be more. But don’t take that as a good sign. It could be that the other three options more effectively pulled at their sense of fear, disgust, and indignation. But nothing as messed up as how our government operates and treats its financial reality is sustainable.

Our country has been in danger before. Just in the last century, we survived two world wars and a Great Depression. But not since the Civil War has America been as close to existential peril as today. And the longer we act like Bizarro World is normal while trying to make government math compute, the closer we are to collapse. And when that happens, it won’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, left, right, woke, are pro-life or pro-abortion, MAGA, or suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome.

When the implosion of America happens, it will be no respecter of person, politics, or your damn pronouns.

Write this on a rock … The only unknown is where America is today on our Rubicon crossing.

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

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