Well folks, if you didn’t think it was crunch time for lawmakers in Washington, it’s clear now. Talk is cheap. That’s not me saying it. That’s one of the big three credit agencies, Moody’s Investor Service, which threatened yesterday after the markets closed that the U.S. risked losing its top-notch credit rating if it couldn’t fix the debt mess.

Some Democrats would see that announcement as proof positive that Republicans are playing with fire here and they should abandon their childish antics to force President Obama to make deep spending cuts.

What nonsense.

If the Republicans were to allow the limit on the debt ceiling to be raised, it would give the country what, a two-year reprieve? We need long-term reform and austerity, not short-term political fixes that get us through the next election. That’s how we get in trouble every few years.

What Moody’s announcement does tell me is that gridlock in Washington is not isolated to the Federal City. That rhetoric and lack of action means something to real-world people out trying to move products, goods and services in a global economy.

Both parties are responsible for this mess. And the sooner lawmakers stop running to their favorite cable studios after every meeting at the White House to blast the other side with cheap insults, the sooner we can address some serious issues.

I’ve learned one thing this month that should continue to teach future leaders lessons for decades — we can’t afford to have politicians who sit around and do nothing and expect to get reelected. It’s no longer enough to “wait till November” to let elections decide who the winner and loser are in the prior cycle.

Voters should pay close attention to this impasse. Billions of dollars and perhaps trillions more in lost economic activity hang in the balance. Unlike Ireland, Spain, Greece and other countries that either have or are coming eerily close to default, the U.S. can actually DO SOMETHING about its current fiscal straits. And that does not mean a quick vote to raise the debt ceiling. In effect, all we would be doing is taking out another credit card. We don’t do that at home when we’re tens of thousands in debt. Why should our federal government do the same when we’re trillions in the hole?

The stakes are getting higher. These next few days are critical.