Washington is not just out of money, it is out of big and bold ideas

The stock market continues to plummet. Unemployment is stubbornly stuck above 9 per cent. A record 45 million Americans are on food stamps for the first time in U.S. history. The median wealth of white households is now 20 times that of black households. The debt ceiling legislation underscores Congress’s unwillingness to make the tough choices necessary to get our budget under control.

One is tempted to ask how so many bad things could be happening at once. But the real question is: how could they not? Because these are not randomly coinciding unfortunate events. As is often the case they are inextricably interconnected as symptoms of a deeper problem. That problem has to do with a political agenda that is set by and centers on the needs of the influential and elite.

Did it really take the stock market dropping 1000 points and losing 15% of its value for the light bulb to go off that when nearly a fifth of the nation’s adults are out of work or have quit looking they are unlikely to have the money to buy the kinds of things that cause businesses to expand and leads to economic growth?

One of Washington’s iron laws is that nature abhors a vacuum, and its corollary is that you can’t beat something with nothing. The President came to the podium yesterday, in the midst of Wall Street’s precipitous plunge, and sought to counter it with nothing more than platitudes. Instead of reassuring he inadvertently showed a hand that held no aces, and the effect was just the opposite of what was intended.

Washington is not just out of money, it is out of big ideas. Or perhaps worse, it lacks the courage to put forth big ideas that may seem unfashionable in the prevailing political climate.

Given the enormously complex economic issues facing our country, our challenge of ending childhood hunger begins to look manageable by comparison. And in a way it is, especially since the programs are in place to achieve it, and the need is so basic as to be undeniable. But the deep hole we’ve dug for our economy means the forces of gravity must be surmounted at the same time. That means we must multi-task – executing our No Kid Hungry campaign with focus and determination – but also getting behind bold new ideas to move our economy forward.

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