An investment advisor has been deluged with angry e-mail and Facebook messages from around the world after debating CNBC commentator Rick Santelli last Thursday afternoon on the U.S. debt ceiling.
Michael K. Farr, an investment advisor with Washington, D.C.-based Farr Miller & Washington LLC and author of A Million is Not Enough, appeared on the television show with Santelli, who has a background in institutional trading and hedge funds and is an on air editor for CNBC Business News Network. He also is a leader in the Tea Party movement.
The passionate debate between the two on the U.S. debt ceiling, which will hit its limit August 2, has gone viral and raised as many questions about the debate process in America as it has about the issue.
"Many of the e-mails lauded or derided me or Rick without much discussion of the issue. Some were very angry and used inappropriate language. This is an important issue for our country and deserves serious, thoughtful consideration," Farr said in a release.
"I don't like labeling people because labels bring preconceptions that preclude open-minded consideration," Farr continued. "After Thursday's four-minute segment, I was labeled as a 'what's-wrong-with-America, tax-and-spend, liberal.' Nothing could be further from the truth, and my years of writings and CNBC appearances stand in evidence. The dismissive notion that, if you're not with us, you are both totally wrong and totally against, us is very dangerous."
The two disagree about the process of dealing with the debt ceiling, although Santelli did a lot more yelling on the television confrontation. If August 2 is reached without raising the $14.29 trillion debt ceiling, it will mean the government will have to pay current bills out of incoming revenue without the ability to borrow. Currently, bills are higher than revenues.
Santelli feels bills should not be paid beyond what money is available. Farr feels drastic changes have to be made in big-ticket, entitlement programs at the same time the ceiling is raised to give time for meaningful debate.
"My problem with the debate is that absolutes get you nowhere. To characterize those who disagree with you as being against you and being wrong is not the way our Constitution was developed, and is very dangerous," Farr says. "The polarization that has developed does not help anyone."
The televised debate has created a hailstorm of angry replies from the public, some of which have degenerated into name calling, improper language and little discussion of the issue.
Farr notes that, rather than being enemies, he has "great admiration for Rick Santelli for standing up and yelling and bringing America's focus to this reprehensible blight on our character and our history. Rick Santelli and I are philosophically much closer than you might think and both passionately patriotic."
This is not the first debt-ceiling crisis and will not be the last, Farr notes. Farr criticizes those who insist that U.S. debts simply not be paid to force the government into line because he believes the economic situation is too fragile to handle that option. Farr says Congress is tinkering with insignificant matters in its discussion of spending cuts rather than dealing with the major budget issue of entitlement spending.