Back from the Edge of Disaster?
You know you probably got the best deal possible when everyone across the political spectrum is angry! It appears that just a day before the Federal Government would be in a default position, when it wouldn't be able to pay all of its current obligations, a deal was struck to raise the debt ceiling. That no one is happy with the deal is a sign that we are in a difficult period of our political history. We are here because we have a divided government, with one house essentially controlled by a Radical group of Republicans, while the Senate has not been able to move any real legislation because the minority party can keep votes from occurring. Thus, even though the Democrats hold the Presidency and the Senate, it can't do very much. President Obama is constantly being criticized for his "lack of leadership," but even with a majority in the Senate he has a hard time getting his nominees for judicial appointments and other areas of government life approved. We can this dysfunction!
So here we have a deal. Republicans on the Right are unhappy because they didn't get a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would be a disaster in the making, while the Left is angry because there are no revenues involved that will lessen the blow on programs held dear. Of course, part of the deal is a commission that will need to decide what kind of revenue enhancements and cuts can be made. There will be a time for Democrats to make their presence felt. I expect all of this will be done in a partisan fashion fit for an election season. But, both sides will have their opportunity to make their case before the American people.
Here is our dilemma. We like to receive freebies. We like bargains. We want goods and services, but we don't want to pay for them. That is why we have a budget deficit. During the Bush Administration we entered two wars while cutting taxes. Thus, we committed ourselves to large outlays to support troops in two theaters, while reducing revenues. In the end, the country ran up big debts. Then came the recession, which made things worse. We "bailed out" banks and auto companies (the auto companies have come back nicely, thank you very much), and put together a stimulus package, which was likely too small and thus didn't do enough to spring us from the doldrums. We are in a growth cycle, but just barely. The housing market remains down because there are simply more houses on the market than buyers willing to commit, despite low interest rates and much lower prices on homes. This is a "recession" that we'll not be able to build ourselves out of.
Ultimately the issue at hand concerns what we're willing to commit ourselves to doing. Are we willing to pay higher taxes? Are we willing to make tough decisions on beloved programs. The reality is that Medicare and Social Security need to be addressed. There are fixes, but are we willing to entertain them? Or, if leaders start to address them we will turn on them, like we did in 2010?
Is this debt deal and good deal? Probably not! Does it keep us from going off the edge of economic disaster, we hope so. Is this a sign that we can do other politically tough work? That remains to be seen. The question ultimately is: are we committed to the common good or only the private good?