Continuous budget fighting in Congress makes government irresolute
In the late hours of Friday night, Congressional leaders announced to the American people that they had reached an agreement to fund the government, avoiding the shutdown that would otherwise have begun at midnight. President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the agreement as a compromise that took each side’s interests into account.
They portrayed their last-minute accord as responsible governance. A New York Times headline stated that “Both Parties Claim Success in Averting a Shutdown.”In spite of this positive spin, we view Congress’ behavior over the last several months, and the last week in particular, as absurd. Politicians are trying to take their abject failure to govern and sell it as saving the government in its hour of need. The United States government is now operating under its seventh continuing resolution of the year pending the passage of a full budget this week. Funding the federal government is not a matter of making convenient compromises between parties. It is a constitutional responsibility of elected representatives to make the best budget possible, a job that they have thus far neglected.
In the end, the compromise reached last Friday will cut overall spending by $38 billion out of a multi-trillion-dollar budget. Included in the deal is a $5 billion increase in Pentagon spending for the year, according to the Times.
Spending cuts are essential in order to reduce America’s deficit — and ultimately the national debt — but not at the expense of putting hundreds of thousands of employees on furlough. Any increase in spending should not go to the defense budget, but should be distributed to programs for public radio and arts endowments, which are in dire need of funding.
The budget fights over the last few months have, more than anything, shown the Orwellian hypocrisy of our divided government. Democrats and Republicans blame each other for failing to compromise while refusing to give ground on the smallest of issues.
Perversely, last December’s lame-duck Congress accomplished more than the current government has in the last three months.
Congress’ budgeting fights are far from over — and once the 2011 budget is passed, the bickering over next year’s spending will begin. We hope that politicians have learned from last week’s debacle. However, we fear that the squabbles will continue, embarrassing not only our government but the United States as a whole.