And, stuck is precisely where Congress and President Obama have kept us since 2011, when the president first proposed the sequester. The concept was simple: If Congress couldn’t come up with spending reductions by the sequester deadline (originally, the first of the year), the cuts would kick in automatically as a “last resort.” With spending already at historically high levels, it seemed a reasonable bet that Congress could work something out with the Obama administration to come up with a budget that reduced spending, or at least a meaningful reduction in spending increases.
Lamentably, and in a clear example of the leadership vacuum in which our federal government now operates, no such plan emerged before last week’s deadline.
There is no credible public policy organization that would deny government spending is seriously out of control; at least one that would make such a claim with a straight face. Yet, Congress has not been able to agree on a budget since 2009; relying instead on a series of “stop-gap” appropriation resolutions to keep the lights on. The result has been debilitating and embarrassing for the country’s fiscal policy, as spending has continued to rise while offsetting cuts never happen.
Things need not be this way.
Despite many pundits concluding pessimistically that it has become impossible or inadvisable in the modern era to reduce government spending (or to do so without at the same time increasing taxes), history proves otherwise. It simply requires political will and leadership.
In 1997, with Republican Newt Gingrich as Speaker and Democrat Bill Clinton as President, a balanced budget was enacted into law (and actually prevailed for a short, four years), even as taxes were reduced.
On the leadership side, despite what appears a vacuum in national politics, there actually are a few bright spots. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and his newly-elected colleague from Texas, Ted Cruz, are lighting a fiscal flashlight for their compatriots to follow.
There even are a few legislative vehicles lying around that could be dusted off and jump-started. The “Cut, Cap and Balance” measure that passed the House in 2011 comes to mind.
The bottom line, however, is that without a president willing to step from his gilded pedestal and deign to actually work with the Congress for a fiscal solution the achievement of which both sides could then claim credit for, our country and We the People will continue to suffer. And right now, MoveOn.org remains a part of the problem not of the solution.