Well, the American people have made it clear that they don't want – nor can they afford – Uncle Sam raising their taxes any time soon. Consequently, Congress has made it clear that it has no intention of raising taxes in the next two years. The only option left, then, is to cut spending, and given the projected budget deficit, they'll have to cut lots of spending in order to make any meaningful impact on the nation's balance sheet. It's time to bring out the hatchets.
If only it were as simple as it sounds. Here's where politics come into play and things get tricky. First, there is the problem that many Americans fail to appreciate the connection between a good idea and the costs of implementing that idea. Even the staunchest proponents of budgetary reform tend to balk when confronted with the real-world implications of that reform. Few Americans realize how much they've actually come to rely on government programs in the last 75 years or so. This is why you'll see Tea Party patriots wielding "Government Hands Off Medicare" signs with absolutely no sense of irony, and why any mention of entitlement reform tends to raise hackles on both sides of the aisle.
On the spending side of things, it is indisputable that the national budget is shaped, in no small part, by a phalanx of special interests. The cast of characters is familiar enough: Big Business, Big Labor, Big Medicine, the NEA... the list goes on and on. At the end of the day, then, government expenditures are often shaped by politicians who cater to special interests in an effort to preserve their political careers by exchanging taxpayer money for votes. To those politicians, the prospect of making substantive and meaningful budget cuts is terrifying; it is tantamount to committing political suicide. We can see this dynamic playing out today in places like Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker is feeling the backlash of standing up to Big Labor. We've seen it in New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christy has roused the ire of Big Education. This is only a glimpse of the fallout that will be felt if Congress gets serious about dealing with America's debt crisis.
Do our leaders have what it takes to endure the repercussions of decisive action? Are they willing to risk their careers in order to effect true reform? And, do the American people have the integrity and character to support authentic attempts to balance the budget? Or will we take to the streets in protest when the rubber hits the road and actual cuts are proposed?
The fate of our economy literally hangs on the answers to these questions. The remedies needed to right the Ship of State are not easy or comfortable, but they are simple. The only alternative to decisive action today is to continue kicking the can of responsibility down the road, mortgaging the future of our grandchildren. We can, and should, do better. Such a shameful course is not worthy of a nation that has for centuries stood as a model of liberty, justice, and financial responsibility for the rest of the world.