The failure of the congressional ‘supercommittee” to reach accord on deficit reduction legislation is, to put it mildly, discouraging.
The structure of government established by the Founding Fathers placed budgetary authority in the hands of Congress so that there could be an effective check on executive power. Now Congress has abrogated its authority in one of the most important budgetary issues of the century and has also basically destroyed one of the most important of the “checks and balances” built into constitutional government.
This is a crisis that goes beyond incompetence. This is a constitutional crisis of the highest significance. As a result of Congress’ inability to craft deficit reduction legislation, the president can now implement draconian cuts both on the military and on entitlement programs, cuts that may well threaten the longterm national security and reduce American influence in the world, not to mention the horrific effect it will have on the lives of many poor and elderly Americans whose benefits will be reduced.
Even more frightening from a constitutional standpoint are the president’s remarks that, now that the supercommittee has failed, he will not permit Congress to fashion an alternative deficit reduction plan. Presumably, by these statements the president means that he will veto any budget legislation passed in an attempt to prevent the automatic cuts now mandated. If the president actually intends to do this, then he, too, is deliberately sabotaging the constitutional checks and balances we have always lived with. If he is simply posturing, then, in my opinion, such posturing is utterly inappropriate.
The failure of Congress and the recent statements by the president may well prove to be a catastrophe for the American economy and an equal catastrophe for our present form of constitutional government. I think it was a terrible error to create this situation in the first place. Why must we have a situation that sets an artificial date for legislation to be passed and, thereafter a default to automatic cuts in the budget? This is more like a children’s game of “chicken” than the behavior of responsible adults who have been given the care of American government.
Can anyone imagine what the reaction of Jefferson or Madison or Hamilton would have been to the current scenario? Why are we, the people who elect these men and women, permitting them to behave in such a manner? Why is there no public outcry against what is going on in Washington?
The latest opinion polls indicate that the popularity ratings for Congress have plummeted to a historic low, in the single digits. The president’s popularity rating is not much better. It seems to me that when Congress and the president can no longer run the government effectively, when the financial operations of the government are set on autopilot, then it is time for the American people to recognize that we have far more than a fiscal problem. We have a constitutional problem that must be resolved if the nation is to continue to thrive.
There is a solution here. It is time for responsible Americans to take back control of the government. It is no longer acceptable to leave the fate of our nation to the special interests who elect officials incapable or unwilling to govern. There are elections coming up within the next 12 months. Perhaps, it is time to wipe the slates clean and start fresh. If Congress and the president cannot govern, then they should be tossed out of office and replaced by those who can.