The Congress now faces a choice. It must choose between the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. One or the other is certain. If House and Senate members take the easy way out of these debt talks, they and this nation will come to regret those actions. Regret defined here is an emotional and intelligent dislike for personal past behaviors. And that is clearly what they, and we, will face if we don’t turn this corner toward fiscal austerity.
The pain of regret will leave its scar for years. Even if we extend the debt ceiling in some artificial or short-term way, regret will still haunt us. For it will mean that policymakers weren’t prepared to make the difficult and lasting decisions to avoid such calamities in the future. That is why this debate embodies so many other policy discussions. Think about it – future negotiations over taxes, entitlements, new programs, old programs – they will all hinge on how this Congress emerges from these discussions. Will both sides agree that enough is enough, and put an end to the credit card mentality that has gripped this government?
The pain of discipline is equally unpleasant. I won’t mince words. It will not be easy or free of deep afflictions. We passed that threshold decades ago. Discipline means the tough decisions were made in the name of long-term dividends. We will surely benefit if Congress can get a grip on its spending habits. More importantly, our economy will breathe a little easier and run more smoothly without the crushing saddle of debt.
Yes, folks, it’s time to remind policymakers and every American that these debt negotiations will bring pain the likes of which we have not seen as a prosperous nation. But the first step toward economic recovery is first acknowledging the inevitable.
The stakes are getting higher. These next few days are critical.