The Guest Blog

Farr: No Super in This Committee

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It’s easier to celebrate Thanksgiving in Washington, DC - not only are we surrounded by the symbols of liberty and democracy, but the politicians all leave for home. Peace and dignity settle on our stunning parks and monuments, and residents are reminded that this is a magnificent place.

For non-DC dwellers, we wonder what reception you will extend to your returning representatives.

They’ve done such a fine job.

Since the last time you saw them, the debt ceiling stalemate led to a downgrade of our national debt, unemployment remains above 9%, the nation’s indebtedness is growing daily, and profligate spending continues at full speed. All of the sound and fury around the Dodd Frank law have not protected us from MF Global’s 44:1 leveraged collapse that eviscerated customer funds. Maybe the politicians will point to their successful healthcare legislation (if it’s not declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.)

Thanksgiving reflections are carrying me from criticism of our US officials to contempt, and it feels bad. It is hard to imagine how so many serious social and economic problems could be ignored for the sake of political expediency and election-year posturing. My fellow Americans, when you see your Congressional Representatives, please tell them you will vote for someone else. Tell them you will vote for anyone else who will have the courage to do the right thing for our country.

Rick Santelli’s cry to “Stop Spending!” is absolutely on point. A crippling debt is growing and will soon reach a point of inescapable pain. Please don’t close your eyes and dismiss this bit of Washington noise as beyond your understanding or concern. I promise it is neither. Imagine having minimum credit card payments that are bigger than your monthly income. As you consider what you might do, understand that this is where the US is headed. Please tell Congress to stop spending and to do the right thing.

Germany is the strongest member of the European Union. Chancellor Angela Merkel is treading a peril-filled path between her country’s interests and the not-very-different economic interests of the EU. A crack in the foundation appeared this week as Germany’s bond auction failed to attract sufficient buyers. It was the worst bond sale in Germany’s history. The EU is a major economic trading partner for the US, and signs of an impending recession in Europe mean that we are under greater pressure to get our house in order.

President Obama appointed this twelve member Super Committee in August and charged it with agreeing on specific ways to significantly reduce our deficit spending. They met privately away from the pressures of the press and public scrutiny – and they failed. They agreed upon nothing. One side refused to accept tax increases, and the other side refused reductions in funding for entitlement programs. Political expediency trumped doing the right thing.

Our economic situation, while recovering on the ground, is building a time-bomb for the not too distant future. Its gravity demands a clear strategy and decisive action that go beyond partisanship, and it has to happen now.

President Kennedy told Americans to “ask what you can do for your country.” Ronald Reagan said, “I have a special reason for wanting to solve this (economic) problem in a lasting way. I was 21 and looking for work in 1932, one of the worst years of the Great Depression. And I can remember one bleak night in the thirties when my father learned on Christmas Eve that he’d lost his job. To be young in my generation was to feel that your future had been mortgaged out from under you, and that’s a tragic mistake we must never allow our leaders to make again.”

Michael K. Farr is President and majority owner of investment management firm Farr, Miller & Washington, LLC in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Farr is a Contributor for CNBC television, and he is quoted regularly in the Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, USA Today, and many other publications. He has been in the investment business for over twenty years.