FORTUNE -- I guess we're all supposed to feel relieved, happy, and gratified that our alleged leaders in Washington have finally managed to approve reopening the government and keeping our country from defaulting on its debts.
The stock market loved it, with the Wilshire 5000, the broadest measure of the U.S. stock market, reaching a record high on Wednesday, and extending it on Thursday, when the S&P 500 (SPX) also closed at a record high. The bond market loved it. The short-term Treasury market, which had been acting hinky as default moved from inconceivable to distinctly possible, loved it, too.
I don't know about you, but I didn't love what I saw. I'm relieved that we didn't have a debt default, which would have made the damage from Lehman Brothers' 2008 bankruptcy look like a rounding error. But I'm still angry about what I've just seen.
Why? Because we haven't resolved any of the underlying issues or even gotten good-behavior pledges from the major players. By the end of this year or early next year, we could be back in debt-ceiling crisis mode again. We've called a brief time out, but the game is still being played, and by the same rules.
Clearly, the most blame for this fiasco lies with the Tea Party types. But they wouldn't have had the impact they had without their enablers in the Republican Party, who through either conviction or cowardice didn't stand up to them until very late in the game.
And while the Democrats aren't to blame for this latest debacle, they've been, collectively, no prizes. Democrats could have long since solved the problem of the big entitlement programs -- Social Security and Medicare -- that will eat us alive if left unchecked. But rather than tweak these programs, Democrats are defending them -- and their current benefit levels -- as if they were Holy Writ handed down by the Lord from Mt. Sinai.
Then there's the White House. Two years ago, during the debt ceiling debacle in the summer of 2011, the Republican zealots managed to roll President Obama by getting him to agree to what has since become the sequester.
Then this year, we saw Obama proposing (publicly) to take military action against Syria, and proposing (semi-publicly) to nominate Larry Summers as head of the Federal Reserve. The Obama forces talked and spun and leaked, but at the last minute, faced with serious opposition, the President in both cases walked away.
If you were a Tea Party zealot, this history would encourage you to think that Obama could be rolled this time, too. In fact, had the tea party types gone after something other than Obamacare, they might have succeeded in extracting serious concessions.
In an ideal world, I would throw everyone in Washington out of office, even the good people, and start all over again with a new set. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to do that.
However, because I'm fundamentally an optimist -- an optimist who's deeply angry, but nevertheless an optimist -- I like to think that our alleged leaders might have learned something from this debacle.
It may have dawned on the tea party people that maybe they're not as right -- or as bright -- as they thought they were. It may have dawned on the Republican leaders that they should lead, regardless of the risk to their own political careers, because they have responsibilities to the country rather than just to themselves.
And it may have dawned on the Democrats in both Congress and the White House, who tend to go on about "root causes" when it comes to problems like poverty, that their unwillingness to tweak Social Security and Medicare or to challenge other runaway federal programs is the root cause of the anger that has given the Tea Party such outsized influence.
But, after all, we're talking about Washington politicians, possibly the only group who are more self-involved and self-regarding than the people in my business.
Therefore, even though I'm now about to put my anger back in the cage where I normally keep it, I'm afraid that after a brief hiatus, all the players will go back to being themselves.
And that, of course, is the most enraging thought of all.
President Obama's pick for Fed chair is also a stamp collector!
FORTUNE -- President Obama on Wednesday tapped Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. By now, many Americans know Yellen could go down in history as the first woman to lead the Fed, as well as the first Democrat to head the central bank in almost 30 years.
Here are a few facets you MORENin-Hai Tseng, Writer - Oct 10, 2013 5:00 AM ET
The Constitution forbids using the threat of national default the way some in Congress are now using it. There should be bipartisan rejection of this abuse.
By Roger Parloff, senior editor
FORTUNE -- As we enter the final countdown in our third debt-ceiling crisis in two-and-a-half years, most of us have heard at least some discussion of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which dictates that the "validity of the public MOREOct 7, 2013 10:37 AM ET
Republican leaders hope that if President Obama won't cave on the Affordable Care Act, he might agree to hold down costs on Social Security and Medicare instead.
By Nina Easton, senior editor
FORTUNE -- Here's a comforting thought: House Republican leaders didn't really think their actions would lead to a government shutdown. "We stumbled into a situation that nobody planned,'' confesses one GOP member of Congress.
Great. The economy teeters somewhere between MOREOct 4, 2013 10:48 AM ET
As the government nears shutdown, the fundraising arm of the Democratic Party is having a budget crisis of its own.
By Tory Newmyer, writer
FORTUNE -- There's another budget crisis in Washington, and it's unfolding inside the Democratic party. The Democratic National Committee remains so deeply in the hole from spending in the last election that it is struggling to pay its own vendors.
It is a highly unusual state of affairs MORESep 30, 2013 10:20 AM ET
Why have a debt ceiling? Politicians and policymakers have been asking the same question lately. Here are a few ways we can escape this mess.Nin-Hai Tseng, Writer - Sep 30, 2013 5:00 AM ET
The corporate sector overwhelmingly backed Republicans in the last election, yet they can't seem to get them to back down on their debt limit demands.
By Tory Newmyer, writer
FORTUNE -- As Washington backslides toward yet another man-made fiscal crisis, the group representing the nation's top CEOs is sending a new and suddenly urgent plea to Members of Congress: Fund the government and raise the debt limit, now.
The appeal comes in MORESep 24, 2013 8:42 AM ET
How President Obama became so enamored by Larry Summers despite the legion of critics, many in his own party.
FORTUNE -- Love him or not, Larry Summers has abruptly risen as the frontrunner to be the nominee for the next U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, the most powerful central banker in the world. He has a reputation for being brutal and blunt, having been criticized for making crude remarks about women during MORENin-Hai Tseng, Writer - Sep 9, 2013 11:22 AM ET
He's the potential Federal Reserve nominee that liberals love to hate. So how will President Obama handle the onslaught if he chooses Larry Summers to run the Fed?
By Nina Easton, senior editor
FORTUNE -- Call him the Freddy Krueger of potential presidential nominees. Liberals, feminists, and plain-old targets of his withering dismissiveness may have thought they destroyed Larry Summers' shot at the Federal Reserve chairmanship. But he's back -- haunting MORESep 6, 2013 5:00 AM ET
In a town where buck-passing, deflecting, and spinning is standard fare, our Treasury Secretary stands above all others. Fortune found out firsthand.
By Adam Lashinsky, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- I interviewed Jacob Lew, President Obama's second Treasury Secretary, last Thursday. A few nights earlier I asked a roomful of businesspeople if anyone could name the man who runs fiscal policy for the world's only superpower. No one could. And so I MOREAug 27, 2013 5:00 AM ET
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