After 16 days, the government shutdown and debt crisis is finally over… for now. Though a temporary deal has been struck, the issue will return come the new year. We’ve been here before, with no long-term agreement.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for all sides to work together and develop a comprehensive plan going forward and to stop governing from crisis to crisis. It’s a lesson we can all benefit from, and we encourage readers to reach out to their representatives and let their voices be heard on the issue.
Though we were glad to see a plan pass that will bring federal employees back to work and forestall a looming debt crisis, the deal struck late Wednesday by Congress funds the government only until Jan. 15, 2014. The debt limit is pushed back until a few weeks later. Next year, the same issues will once again dominate political discussion. Hopefully, it will not take a last-minute agreement to keep our nation out of another shutdown.
This can only be achieved, however, if Congress works hard over the next three months to settle the differences that got us to this point in the first place. It is unfortunate that our national creditworthiness and financing of our government was used as a bargaining chip, leaving thousands of workers without pay and millions more stressed about their finances should negotiations not prevail.
Congress must do everything to ensure this does not happen again. However, it will not be easy. While this week’s agreement calls for a budget conference committee to negotiate out a long-term spending plan by mid-December, that idea is not all that different from the budget super-committee that was supposed to avoid the so-called “sequester” cuts last year (that group was deadlocked) and the Simpson-Bowles Commission in 2010 (partially deadlocked with a list of suggestions ultimately ignored).
The makings of a fiscal “grand bargain” are there, but as of now, both sides have been unwilling to compromise on the core principles that must bend in order for the nation to put our fiscal house in order over the long term. Democrats will need to accept serious entitlement reform, while Republicans will need to accept that the current tax structure does not take in enough revenue to run the country without perpetual deficits. We all must move forward and anticipate the looming crisis, working together to develop a plan. If we start negotiations now, maybe there will be time come January to achieve legislation that a majority of people can actually accept.
If there’s one thing everyone can agree on about this situation it’s that the American people have lost confidence in their legislators. To regain trust and assure the public that a government shutdown and/or debt default drama will not be a yearly occurrence, it’s up to our representatives to earn back that trust and get on with their jobs of compromise and problem solving.
And if they don’t? Well, there’s an election coming up next November, and voters will have the opportunity to tell their incumbents what they thought of their performance by going to the polls. We hope everyone will make their voices heard one way or another.