On debt limit, Congress plays with fire

July 18, 2011

I am deeply distressed by the willingness of our politicians to engage in brinkmanship merely to score political points. The threat to the U.S. economy from a default on the national debt is simply too dangerous to be playing political games. There is no question that we must find a way to bring our budget more in balance, and I, for one, don't believe that we can do that without taking painful measures to both decrease spending and enhance revenues — and all of us must share in that pain.

It has taken years for our national debt to get to where it is today, and we are not going to solve the budget problem overnight as the tea party wing of the Republican party seems to want to do by holding the debt ceiling vote hostage. For the last 10 years we fought two costly wars. We didn't increase taxes to pay for those wars but rather told people to spend, which they did, leading to the financial crisis of 2008. We also cut taxes for the highest income earners, further fueling the debt, so that they would create jobs, but those jobs never materialized at the levels promised. And finally, our health care costs continue to spiral out of control creating a massive budget problem in Medicare and Medicaid.

I would like to know how the absolutely intransigent politicians like Reps. Eric Cantor or Michele Bachmann, who seem to think ideological purity is more important than the serious risks to the economy posed by a default, plan to balance the budget overnight. How many federal workers would have to be laid off? How many programs that are a lifeline for people eliminated? How much research funding from NIH and other agencies that supports our universities and is a major source of innovation in this country cut off? How many private sector companies that contract to the federal government would have to go out of business?

I can only imagine what major dislocations such draconian cuts would cause in our economy, and I don't think that we would be better off.

Democrats must also compromise on their sacred cows by restructuring entitlement programs to make them sustainable.

The only silver lining that I see to this debate, if you can call it that, is that perhaps our politicians will finally realize that they must finally make the tough decisions that we elect them to do as our representatives — not decisions that will necessarily enhance their political popularity with the members of their party, but that will save this country for the long-term to the benefit all Americans. I'm not holding my breath.

Julie Evans, Baltimore

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