Several attempts have been made to find a compromise, but nothing has come of any of them, and it begins to look as though many members of Congress simply don’t want to find a compromise. Some absolutely refuse to look at reforms in programs; …
Once again, Congress has failed to do its duty with regard to the nation’s budget.
Several attempts have been made to find a compromise, but nothing has come of any of them, and it begins to look as though many members of Congress simply don’t want to find a compromise. Some absolutely refuse to look at reforms in programs; others are adamant that no additional taxes be considered.
But from the beginning of this crisis, it has been obvious that the deficit does not have a single cause. Congress has spent way too much money over the years, of course, but the tax cuts enacted at the same time as we embarked on two wars are obviously a major part of the problem. The aging of the American population that is raising health care costs and the recession that has drastically reduced tax revenues also are part of the problem, not to mention the economic troubles in other nations that are affecting our markets.
Given that reality, it should be obvious to Congress that the problem must be approached from several angles. Tax increases alone won’t solve the problem, and spending cuts large enough to eliminate the deficit would cause major damage to vital government functions and the economy, which is just beginning to improve.
It should also be obvious to every member of Congress that solving the problem cannot be done in one giant step. The deficit has been growing out of control for almost a decade, and it will take years of careful management of the nation’s budget to resolve the problem. Steps to address the deficit should be taken delicately, not approached with a meat axe.
The most frustrating thing about Congress’ inability to take appropriate action is that a reasonable plan was offered over a year ago by the bipartisan commission appointed by President Obama and chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. A couple of weeks ago, both men testified before the “super committee” charged with finding a compromise, and they even offered a new outline designed to effect a compromise.
But Congress rejected that solution last year and has effectively rejected it again, and the troubling truth is that there are too many members who don’t want to find a solution. Democrats know that any plan that threatens Social Security or Medicare can be used against the Republicans next year, and Republicans want to use the deficit issue against President Obama. Apparently, winning the next election is more important to them than resolving the nation’s fiscal crisis.
Any solution is going require some sacrifice from most, if not all of us. We all might have to sacrifice some benefits, pay higher taxes or both to eliminate the deficit, and it’s time Congress admits it. They can’t continue to protect their own constituencies at the expense of carrying out their fiscal responsibilities.
They also can’t blame the president for their failure. Constitutionally, the president is required to provide information to Congress and recommend measures for their consideration. He has done that both directly and indirectly through the Simpson-Bowles Commission. Congress has basically rejected his recommendations, and that’s their right. But since U.S. senators and representatives rejected it, they are obligated by their oath of office to produce a budget. It’s their Constitutional responsibility, not the president’s.
It’s also their obligation as patriots.
One step they could take is to heed a suggestion made this week by Simpson’s successor, Sen. Mike Enzi. Enzi said passing a comprehensive deficit reduction plan may be too difficult, and Congress should take smaller steps focusing on parts of the plan that both sides can agree on to “eliminate what both sides see as leverage.”
If Congress really wants to solve the nation’s deficit problems, it will take Enzi’s advice, and it will seriously reconsider the compromises suggested by Simpson and Bowles.