June 14, 2012
By Col. Steve Strobridge, USAF (Ret)
Everyone in the administration and Congress acknowledges the country has huge economic and other problems that will only get worse — in some cases, far worse — with the passage of time.
In the FY 2013 Defense Authorization Bill, legislators are trying to decide how — or whether — to cut nearly $500 billion dollars from the defense budget over the next 10 years as required by the budget law enacted last August.
All concerned acknowledge the multiple crises cascading at the end of this calendar year, including, among other things:
- the sequester (also required by last year’s budget law, in the absence of any legislated alternative) that will cut an additional $1 trillion from federal spending (with almost $500 billion coming from the defense budget) over the next 10 years;
- a mandatory 31-percent cut in Medicare and TRICARE payments to doctors that will happened Jan. 1, 2013, unless Congress changes the law; and
- the likelihood that the federal government will hit its debt ceiling, which will require an increase in the ceiling or national default.
And that’s not even considering that we’re still a country at war.
Surely in the face of such dire circumstances, one would think our legislators would be working to find solutions to try to avert the terrible consequences of these imminent crises.
Vietnam-era vets will remember when peace negotiations broke down because the negotiators couldn’t agree on the shape of the negotiating table. Those were the good old days.
In the current polarized political environment, the consensus among virtually all legislators is there’s no point in even starting discussions until after the November election. Leave it for the lame duck Congress, they say. Or leave it until the newly elected Congress takes office next year.
As if a bunch of lame ducks will be able to reach bipartisan agreement in a couple of weeks on all the tough issues multiple Congresses have been squabbling over for years.
As if there’s no problem putting off until next year the critical decisions that must be made now to let bureaucracies, states, defense contractors, and others plan and implement the vast array of complicated actions those decisions must drive.
Instead of serious discussions, we see political posturing — putting up partisan plans that have no chance of enactment, and whose main purpose is to try to make the other party look bad in hopes of gaining another fraction of a percentage point at the polls in November.
The logic here seems to be, “My party is good for the country. Your party is bad for the country. You should just agree with my party, whatever my party decides.”
And never mind that, in many, many instances, each party has swapped sides on major issues over the past years — usually based on who occupied the White House at the time.
What on earth has happened to the concept of working out bipartisan compromises to do the right thing for the country? The whole point of compromise is to acknowledge the likelihood that your political party might not have a monopoly on clear thinking and good judgment. It’s also an acknowledgement that it’s almost impossible for a single party to get anything through Congress without some support from the other side.
The current political thinking seems to be that working together to avert a national crisis, however dire or imminent, is less important than winning the fight to decide who’ll rule the rubble left in its wake.
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