The current brouhaha in Washington D.C. concerning the debt ceiling leaves us wondering about the ability of our elected representatives to conduct what should be simple business, and also leaves us in awe of many Americans’ inability to distinguish important issues.
Yes, we are implying the debt ceiling issue is, in a way, trivial.
Why? Because far too many voters have been led to confuse the debt ceiling debate with the need to reduce the deficit and with the problem of future accumulation of debt. In reality, there is a difference, and it is a crucial one.
The debt ceiling issue relates to the nation’s commitment to pay its bills: debts already approved by the Congress. In short … we owe the money. There is little difference between this and a personal debt. You use the credit card, you owe the money; you default, and you are a deadbeat. The nation defaults, and we are deadbeats.
Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than 100 times since the creation of the (relatively useless) concept. It raised the ceiling 17 times during Ronald Reagan’s term in office. It raised it five times during the recent Bush presidency, from $5.9 trillion to $9.8 trillion.
But now, with a big election year on the horizon, politicos are playing games with the issue when they should, in fact, approve the increase ASAP and deal conscientiously with the deficit and future accumulation of debt — conscientiously crafting a means of dealing with these more pressing problems, over the long term and not a cynical six months, and without tying agreement on the debt ceiling increase to concessions on greater issues.
It is obvious most of our elected leaders are more anxious to jockey for political gain than they are to solve a problem that has hardly caused a blink of a congressional eye in years past.
Here is where the issue is not trivial: There is a chance default could do great damage to the national and world economies. We need leaders, unbound by partisan ties, to spend their time working on reducing the deficit and spending, and finding new sources of revenue. Yes, more revenue.
No doubt, big government spends too much money — a great deal of it in areas treasured by the right (defense) and by the left (entitlements). No doubt spending cuts must happen; big cuts, and soon. But revenues must increase, to partner with spending cuts to drive the deficit down. More important, they should increase in order to help remedy the most dangerous fault in the current political circus — the failure to deal with the job problem — our country’s biggest threat. Government must act, as must private industry, to find a way out of the unemployment dead zone.
With spending cuts, and with revenues increased, U.S. industry should be confident it can expand, and the financial sector should lend.
And there must be something in the mix to kick-start the process of growth and economic rejuvenation. We believe that could be public programs, with initial, tightly monitored, effective spending of public funds.
The programs? Large-scale projects, using U.S. capital, U.S. workers and U.S. plans to take our now aging and ailing infrastructure into a new and greatly improved mode. Transportation systems — highways, bridges, airports, rail systems — need repair and development. Schools must be built. This is work that can employ millions of Americans, for a sustained period of time. It is work with which American business can profit, with the private sector taking complete control of the process once public spending primes the pump.
It is time our Congress stops playing games and tends to the real needs of the American people.