The nation’s debt ceiling is looming on the horizon, and as the U.S. moves closer to default, there is little reassurance from Capitol Hill. The U.S. is already in the throes of financial crisis, and the mere threat of not extending the debt ceiling is causing economic instability. Congress needs to arrive at an agreement on spending, taxes and a new debt ceiling that doesn’t just push the problems a few months down the road. Both Republicans and Democrats may have to make ideological sacrifices for a compromise — but with a national default as the alternative, a deal must be reached.
Congress has taken advantage of the necessity of the debt ceiling’s extension to make their political desires a reality. Rather than responding to the issue of entitlement reform or other spending issues with appropriate democratic measures, the debt ceiling is being used as leverage to force major changes. The spending that is pushing the U.S. closer to the debt limit was provisioned and passed by Congress in the past, and Congress can make changes to spending in the future. A reform of this spending does not need to be rushed by the current debt limit deadline. Adjustments to borrowing, spending and revenue must be made carefully, without the weight of the debt ceiling pushing down on the process. Unfortunately, Republicans remain steadfast in their refusal to raise the ceiling, so negotiations must go forward.
Both House Speaker John Boehner and many Republicans in Congress are demanding massive expenditure cuts, mainly along the lines of entitlements, and many of their concerns are legitimate. Social Security certainly needs to be revamped and current government spending is growing to precarious levels. The debate between Boehner and President Barack Obama has been going on for some time, but little progress has been made. It’s not that there has been a paucity of deals or solutions being offered, but simply an unwillingness to compromise. While some Republicans are interested in making deals with the Democrats across the aisle, but Boehner is not one of them.
The problem with the discussions between Boehner and the White House is that he refuses to tackle the national deficit from the other side — with revenue increases. Raising taxes would doubly improve the deficit issue and help the nation grapple with its current financial woes. But Boehner refused on all counts to raise tax rates, even though Obama pledged to trim Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It’s hard to imagine how a deal could be reached with Republicans giving so little.
As attempted parleys between Obama and Boehner continue to fail, the debt debate will most likely be resolved in Congress. Boehner and Congressional Republicans shouldn’t continue to wield the debt ceiling as a weapon. Reforms must be made, but the Republican’s current strategy is far too volatile. Their muscling puts the country’s recovery at risk and may prevent both Republicans and Democrats from getting what they want. No matter what happens, the debt ceiling must receive an extension. And if a spending deal is required to do it, an effective one would include compromise and concessions from both parties.