This column is being written on Friday, before any announcement about a possible agreement by U.S. Senate and House members on spending cuts in the long-overdue 2011 federal budget.
The infighting, name calling, posturing, threats, phony sob stories and everything else that surrounds the budget-cutting debate illustrates just how political the showdown actually is.
“Political” because the debate didn’t have to happen. The heated arguments about “shutting down the government,” the consequences of a shutdown, government services that would be shuttered, questions about when Congress and the president will get serious about significantly reducing government spending and cutting into the historic and dangerous national debt — all this and more — didn’t have to happen.
Democrats accuse Republicans of wanting to shut down the government while Republicans say Democrats are not serious about making deep and genuine cuts.
Even though Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada calls his Republican colleagues “extremists” and “radicals” and makes emotional pleas from the well of the Senate, he and his Democratic associates do not have an answer for why this budget debate was not held a year ago, when it should have come before the Congress.
A year ago, Democrats controlled the House and Senate and had a Democrat in the White House. They controlled the legislative and executive branches and did nothing.
Why? Democrats are sure to have nice-sounding and what they consider reasonable answers to this question, but it is clear they did not want to have the debate and have to call for cuts in a multitude of government spending programs before the November 2010 elections.
They certainly knew major cuts were needed. They knew government handouts needed to be reduced or eliminated, and they knew this country could not sustain its gigantic, constantly growing debt.
The nation is in an extremely serious fiscal situation, and most every state is facing a huge budget crisis. Governors who have called for substantial reductions in their various budgets are facing massive political protests.
It’s a serious accusation, but it seems clear the Democrats placed more importance on the outcome of the 2010 congressional elections than they did on the importance of taking timely and meaningful actions on the federal budget. They did not want to do anything that might put Democratic candidates in a more vulnerable position with voters who depend on federal assistance for their livelihoods.
Again, they controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, but they postponed the 2011 budget debate until after the election. This political maneuver brought us to the end of this week with everyone saying “the clock is ticking” on a government shutdown. If there is a shutdown, who is to blame? Democrats could have controlled this debate a year ago when they had majorities in both congressional chambers.
Political pundits question how a possible shutdown will affect the 2012 elections and Obama’s chances of re-election.
Today, the government is broke. Our debt and the interest on this debt is rising by the millions and billions of dollars every day and every week. And yet, those in Congress seem incapable of taking action and making even relatively small cuts.
After the 2011 budget, next comes the question of whether or not to raise the national debt limit and then hammer out a 2012 budget.
It would be refreshing if Obama, as well as all members of Congress, would make the welfare and fiscal health of this nation their No. 1 priority rather than playing political games with the 2012 elections taking priority.
It’s a sad situation, and the public should demand, and expect, something better.