You often hear, “This is no way to run …” ... a business, a theater, a team, a school, or yes, a government.
In today’s political mess in Washington, D.C., it is most certainly true: This is no way to run a government!
Because of the scandalous inability of the political parties in the nation’s capital to reach any form of compromise, we don’t have a budget, and we can’t agree on the simple and sensible notion that the country’s economic problems—after the worst economic recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s—need to be solved. And they can only be solved through savings, new revenues and new investments to create jobs if they're going to make a substantial dent in unemployment, which, hovering around 8 percent, is still much too high.
We need a plan. We need action from Washington. But we have neither, because the White House, the Democratic Senate and the Republican House of Representatives cannot agree on anything. There are many separate plans and the result is deadlocked, when we all seem to agree that the country needs to push forward, urgently. Instead, we are standing still, waiting … for what? Godot? He’ll never come, we know that.
And in these times of deadlock and waiting, something happened that was never supposed to happen: sequestration. A strange word, which in this case means automatic budget cuts. It came out of the big debt ceiling crisis last year, agreed to by the White House and Congress, and its goal was to force a real budget agreement by way of the so-called Super Committee (remember that one?) because sequestration—the automatic budget cuts—were so harsh that neither side wanted them.
But here they are—85 billion dollars’ worth of cuts only this year—in health, transportation, social services, defense, starting this week, across the board, with no priorities. Unbelievable.
It is, indeed, a sad verdict of the state of affairs in today’s Washington, D.C., where the ideological battle is fiercer than ever and where “bipartisanship” has become a dirty word. There is blame to go around for everyone. Obviously, President Obama, who entered the White House four years ago with bipartisanship as a main message, has now given up. His message is now one of a “balanced approach” to the country’s economic woes, meaning cuts, but also new revenues. He won the election on that message and he has continued to take it to the American people, who, according to the polls, support him, but not by much.
The Republicans, meanwhile, who had to agree back in January on the first tax hikes in decades, are saying no to any further new revenues. No more. All they want to do now is to cut, cut, cut—the only thing they agree on. But, it is strongly felt and the party seems united behind this message. So, even though the automatic budget cuts include serious cuts for the Pentagon, which is ordinarily anathema to the Republicans, they have decided to accept them, all in the name of spending cuts and savings.
Their goal is to balance the budget by 2023—without any new taxes. That’s not realistic, and, on top of that, it’s politically risky, because it will mean cuts in extremely popular programs like Medicare and Social Security. Will the Republicans be able take the political heat that such proposals will bring? That’s unclear.
Now, the good thing here is that this will never happen, because the Senate, controlled by the Democrats, will never agree to it, and, even if they did, Obama would veto it. But where will this lead us? To one crisis deadline after another as the frustration in the nation grows.
“This has to stop,” wrote Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, Jr., putting the blame on a Republican party intimidated by its Tea party members, which no longer knows the meaning of the word “middle.”
“The nation is exhausted with fake crises that voters thought they ended with their verdict in the last election. Those responsible for the Washington horror show should be held accountable. And only one party is using shutdowns, cliffs and debt ceilings as routine political weapons.”
As I said, this is no way to run a government.…