Ken Connor
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"Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others – never finish paying that." Romans 13:8 (TLB)

As predicted, the American government this week reached it's $14.3 trillion debt limit. With our credit line officially tapped out, our leaders in Washington are scrambling to cobble together a compromise for responding to the situation. As usual, the highly-touted "bipartisan talks" that have been ongoing have produced much in the way of political rhetoric and little in the way of meaningful results. Fox News Channel's Neil Cavuto offered a humorous illustration of the controversy on his program Tuesday, comparing America's debt burden to a 20 pound turkey and the size of proposed multi-year "budget cuts" to a tiny chunk of a chicken thigh.

As absurd as it was to watch a bespectacled, business-suited Cavuto contend with a frozen turkey on air, his point was rock solid: Despite the severe implications of America's debt crisis, Washington politicians appear unwilling to take any serious measures to get the situation under control.

Congressman Paul Ryan is, to date, the only elected representative that's put any kind of tangible proposal on the table, and he's being blasted from both sides of the aisle for daring to touch the sacred cow of American politics: Entitlements. Meanwhile, the President continues to be long on rhetoric and short on substance, Democrats pursue the same old class warfare, and Republicans try to find a way to appease reformers within their party without alienating key constituencies. All of this adds up to a whole lot of inaction, and ultimately, a whole lot of nothing. Meanwhile, the numbers on the national debt clock continue to climb.

At this point, there are still a number of Americans who remain relatively unaffected by the ongoing recession and tough economic picture. Aside from higher prices at the pump (and perhaps a slightly inflated grocery bill), the practical impact of America's fiscal irresponsibility on these folks has yet to really hit home. But this won't last forever. Eventually the debt crisis will begin to impact daily life in America at virtually every socioeconomic level – unless we get serious about reversing the problem now.

Getting the national debt under control will not be easy. We didn't get to this point overnight, and the road back to long-term fiscal solvency will be a long and rocky one. Without discipline, determination, and discernment, restoring strength and confidence in the American economy will not be possible.

Balancing the budget will require discipline.

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Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.