After 16 tumultuous days of political unrest, Senate leaders Mitch McConnell,R-Ky., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., finally came to an agreement on a measure that ended the partial government shutdown of 2013. The 17 percent of furloughed government employees can now go back to work, national parks and monuments can reopen to the public and our government can continue to fund, well, the government. Whew. Everything has finally been resolved, right?
Absolutely not. The agreement on the measure, which was signed by President Obama the same day, merely postpones the inevitable discussions Congress must have regarding federal expenditures and debt ceiling limits until early next year. This means that by mid-January, the words “shutdown,”“fiscal cliff” and “default” will begin littering the airwaves all over again. The problem has not gone away, and it seems that Congress is negligent toward permanently fixing the problems that undermine the fiscal health of the U.S. Thus, the threat of another shutdown looms in our near future.
Our national debt is already just shy of $17 trillion — the equivalent of $148,000 per tax-paying citizen — and according to Luke Johnson of the Huffington Post, the recent shutdown “cost $24 billion,” or about $700 per U.S. citizen. The additional financial burden imposed on the nation due to the shutdown should be unpardonable, and another shutdown would only further compromise our financial security. Though the threat of a government shutdown is a fairly new concept, the frequency at which one occurs is overwhelming. As Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post said, “[S]ince the modern congressional budgeting process took effect in 1976, there have been a total of 17 separate government shutdowns.”With the end of the most recent shutdown, we are now at a grand total of 18.
How do we keep finding ourselves in this predicament, and when are we going to break these habits? Every time there is even the rumor of a shutdown or threat of a fiscal cliff, the NASDAQ and DOW Jones markets suffer, government programs are delayed, businesses tighten their belts in preparation for potential revenue losses and hundreds of thousands of government employees anxiously wait to hear whether or not their jobs will be furloughed. When Congress’s inability to compromise causes real, measurable American heartaches, something is desperately wrong with the Congressional budgeting process. If the negative ramifications listed above are part of fighting “the good fight,” ,which House Speaker John Boehner called the most recent shutdown, then Congress’s priorities are antipodal to those of which we actually need from our representatives.
If you are like me and you feel fed up with the fed, then take the time out of your day to write to your representatives and tell them that you are not willing to stand for their bickering, their inability to compromise, and most of all, their unwillingness to make the decisions that need to be made. It does not matter whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent or whatever! Every shutdown or threat affects all of us. Take the time to let your representatives know how you feel. Yes, we are the first to criticize and point our finger of blame at our leaders, but remember, our votes elect those in office, and if there were enough force behind the disgruntled voice of the populace , then we may just have a chance to avoid further shutdowns.
So, keep two things in mind in mid-January when the word “default” is once again on the front pages of morning newspapers: Our nation is potentially at risk of defaulting on its loans, and Congress is defaulting on its obligations to the American people.
Mark Leszczynksi, Senior