We need to get our fiscal house in order
The U.S. Congress is reconvening after a long holiday recess. Its approval rating has hit an all-time low of just 11 percent. Our representatives could not even agree on a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extension prior to the holidays, so they kicked the can down the road with a very short term extension that got them home for the Holidays and delayed facing the music into the new session. Both political parties are sticking to their ideological philosophies like sand dabber crabs stuck to a north bound whale. Civility in our body politic has been abandoned in favor of a "win at all costs" mentality. This behavior is bordering on the adolescent.
Our dysfunctional Congress has been unable to meet the pressing economic needs of the country. In December 2010 the "Moment of Truth," otherwise known as the Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was turned in to President Obama by his own appointed bipartisan commission. It met the wastebasket within days, branded as radical, too tough and lacking opportunities for our nation to grow its way out of its national debt problem. The single characteristic of shared sacrifice and a clarion call to move to national will power and back bone in order to fix our skyrocketing deficits doomed it from the start. It was basically delivered dead on arrival. Why? At this moment in America's history, will power and backbone are absent in our leadership.
Meanwhile the clock ticked and the debt continued to grow.
In the middle of 2010 the Nation's authorized debt ceiling was reached and President Obama and Speaker John Boehner wrestled with raising the debt ceiling to prevent our runaway freight train from grinding to a halt due to running out of that "fuel" known as borrowing capacity. What resulted was an unprecedented bargain of sorts that sat another commission (after the first one was ignored) to wrestle with the problem and set a financial booby trap of a $1.2 trillion in cuts that would actuate if they failed to come up with a plan. Something north of $4 trillion was the real amount needed.
The results were predictable. The "Supercommittee" limply admitted defeat Nov. 21 of last year. All the while, the clock ticked and the debt increased. The mandatory cuts now move into actuality but wait ... not until 2013! In the meantime, we incur more borrowing and more debt.
We now face another looming debt ceiling deadline and the background on this crazy financial scenario is a national election, a world dangerously in economic turmoil and a great nation bingeing and pauperizing itself on borrowed money.
We are playing a morally corrupt game on several counts. We are surcharging our children and future generations with our financial irresponsibility and hoping against hope that they will somehow be able to pay for it. We are indulging in financial brinksmanship in our House, Senate and executive branch and calling it "good leadership." We didn't elect these folks to fight one another. We elected them to engage one another and move the business of this nation forward. Justifying action, or lack thereof, by positing unyielding positions is amoral. Setting various components of our society against one another (rich/poor, worker/businessman, middle class/upper class, educated/uneducated) divides our citizenry and we are less a nation because of it. We are all in this together, and we have to solve it together. Advocacy groups, special interests and media must back down and put country and national purpose first. Leadership is in denial, and it is killing our nation today and for generations to come.
The well written "Moment of Truth" (Simpson-Bowles) used the following guiding principles and values.
"We all have a patriotic duty to make America better off tomorrow than it is today."
"Don't disrupt the fragile economic recovery."
"Cut and invest to promote economic growth and keep America competitive."
"Protect the truly disadvantaged."
"Cut spending we cannot afford — no exceptions."
"Demand productivity and effectiveness from Washington."
"Reform and simplify the tax code."
"Don't make promises we can't keep."
"The deficit problem is real and the solution will be painful."
"Keep America sound over the long run."
These guiding principles and values are like those any rational business, farm or ranch would posit or put into a strategic operating plan. Businesses routinely fire people and management teams who do not execute well or carry out plans. The citizens of America own the business. It's time to get our house in order.
To Access the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission Report, simply google "The Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — The Moment of Truth." The report is 66 pages in length and can be read in an hour. This is a must-read document for any interested, curious and committed citizen.
(Jim Roscoe is the owner of Roscoe Steel & Culvert Company, a Montana Corporation. Dennis McDonald, Montana rancher, is a past president of The Montana Cattlemen's Association, past chairman of the Montana Democratic Party and 2010 U.S. Congressional candidate.)