People sometimes see me as an apologist for Congressional inaction. I tend to go on and on about how the founding fathers actually WANTED to structure a government that can't really get anything done except in times of great distress (think Roosevelt's New Deal, for example.)
I've asked people to recognize that the vehement differences between members of Congress who represent very rural Alabama versus those who represent urban New York, as examples, will sometimes put the U.S. Congress in a giant game of "chicken" as legislators do their best to represent their constituents' views.
The responsible way out of this game is through compromise. After a variety of shenanigans we usually get out of it, but I'm not so sure about that this time.
It seems to me we have two options:
• Option One: Refuse to compromise, let the government default, see our credit rating decline and, eventually, be unable to pay our bills because no one will give us any money. Umm, not optimal. If we're worried about spending cuts and/or revenue increases now, we're sure not going to like the depth and breadth of them when we go bankrupt.
• Option Two: Agree to compromise on spending cuts that are less dramatic and revenue increases that are manageable, see our credit rating decline slightly (probably can't avoid it now) and recognize that in taking these steps now we'll have more control over what happens to us in the future.
Yes, I know that some members of Congress ran on a commitment to balance the budget immediately if not sooner. Frankly, this was never possible. Governing is very different from campaigning and it is folly for citizens and elected officials to think differently.
Next time a politician tells you "I won't raise taxes and I'll balance the budget" I suggest you point out that those responsible for protecting the long term interests of the United States may need to compromise -- and ask them what their plan is for building bridges, not burning them.
In fact, I encourage you to deliver this message now which, given the state of the Capitol switchboards, it appears thousands are already doing. You can figure out who your legislators are at www.congress.org, e-mail them through that site or call the Capitol at (202) 224-3121.
Unless we want to give someone the pink slip on the United States, we've got to tell the leadership on both sides of the aisle to stop letting their fringe hold the rest of us hostage in this debate.
If we think government is broken, It's time for the American public to fix it by being the grown ups in this situation. Call or write your legislator today and let them know compromise is OK and even expected. Apparently, only we can solve this problem.