Editorial: Who’s kicking whom?

By Rob Nikolewski on October 20, 2013
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In the end, the most amazing thing about the entire partial government shutdown/debt ceiling crisis screamfest and garden party is that there’s still a can left to kick down the road.

You’d think there would only be a few shards of tin remaining, given that after all the melodrama the members on Capitol Hill still haven’t tackled the nation’s ever-growing problem with deficits and debt.

Rob Nikolewski. Photo courtesy of Santa Fe New Mexican/Clyde Mueller.

And even after the 16-day shutdown and debt ceiling debate that rattled the cages of financial markets around the world, the bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives and signed by President Obama late Wednesday night don’t bring an end to legislating by brinksmanship.

That’s because the deal only . Yep, that means we could very well face the same Perils of Pauline scenario in less than five months.

So what to do?

I’ve never been a fan of sweeping, either/or legislation to fix political problems.

For example, while I agree there are way too many calcified members of Congress who should be booted from office, I’ve never supported a term limits bill. Maybe it’s the libertarian in me, but in a system ultimately governed by the electorate, we already have term limits. They’re called elections — once every two years in the House and once every six years in the Senate.

But having said that, during this most recent debacle, I started thinking that to the Constitution may help solve the gridlock in Washington.

Here’s why: While politicians on the state level have the same philosophical differences between conservatives and liberals that you see on Capitol Hill, they end up getting many more things done.

That’s because for all the fighting between political parties, Democrats and Republicans on the state level have to get along because they have to balance their individual state’s budgets. States don’t have the luxury of printing money so at the end of the day, their politicians have to act like grownups and hammer out budget agreements.

On the other hand, the federal government has the power to print money and, therefore, balancing the budget can be merely a goal and not a legislative necessity. If you don’t absolutely have to make a deal then you don’t.

With the , it’s clear D.C. ain’t working so maybe passing a balanced budget amendment could be the answer.

In the meantime, some other musings in the wake of the shutdown/debt ceiling drama:

First, the Ted Cruz wing of the Republican Party made a mistake by insisting on defunding Obamacare to the shutdown. With the GOP controlling just one chamber of Congress, it was simply an unwinnable strategy. There’s a world of difference between what’s right and what’s feasible. There’s nothing wrong with fighting for what you believe in but politics is about winning and you win by picking your fights wisely.

As I wrote in these pages two months ago and as conservative columnist , if you think the Affordable Care Act is a disaster, you let it fail on its own. You hang it around the necks of Democrats and President Obama, reminding voters in 2014 that, , the ACA passed without a single Republican vote.

Sure enough, the rollout of the Obamacare federal website has been an embarrassment (not my words, but ). But the site’s failures were put on the backburner because the nation’s attention was fixed on the daily soap opera of the shutdown and debt ceiling deadline.

The GOP got in the way of its own message.

But, judging from the ACA’s glitches and if many come to learn — – that they won’t be able to keep their insurance plans and doctors if they like them, then the Obamacare debate did not end last Wednesday night after all.

 (This column originally , 2013)

Posted under Capitol Report.
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One Comment For This Post So Far

  1. Charles
    9:23 pm on October 20th, 2013

    I don’t think the 2038 year is accurate, and that we will hit the 100% figure long before that year (publicly held debt to GDP of 100% is often considered to be the tipping point).

    Our current GDP is about 16 trillion. Our current national debt is 17 trillion. The publicly held portion of the national debt is about 12 trillion (the other 5 trillion consists of IOU’s from the treasury to the social security administration for excess social security withholding taxes that did not go into the social security lock box but were instead transferred to the treasury department to pay for other government expenditures). Considering that we are running annual budget deficits of 500 billion to 1 trillion per year, the 100% figure of publicly held debt to GDP will be hit in a few years.

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