Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It canít be Groundhog Day forever


Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson laid out a blueprint for addressing the nation’s budget woes this week with the statement, “It is time for our country to put this ultra-partisanship aside and pull together, not apart.”

Bowles and Simpson were the co-chairs of a bipartisan commission on fiscal reform in 2011. Bowles was President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and Simpson is a former senator from Wyoming. The commission didn’t accept their plan in 2011, but the two have continued to speak as a team to try to push federal budget reform and deficit reduction.

Their newest nagging of Congress comes as the clock is ticking down and the country is pitching headlong into what policy wonks call “sequestration,” which the rest of us would call mindless, automatic budget cuts that will go into effect unless Congress acts to stop them. Stopping them would require Congress to pass a real budget or delay the across-the-board “sequesters” that could leave public services reeling.

Watching Congress today is like watching the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which the main character awakes each day to find that it’s Groundhog Day—again and again. But the way Congress has delayed putting a new budget in place is giving new meaning to the Latin phrase “ad nauseam” and it’s not entertaining.

It’s got to stop. It can’t be Groundhog Day forever. The election was over in November, but too many members of Congress continue to repeat sclerotic campaign slogans as though they have real meaning and can produce real action.

The nation can’t function if Congress continues to trump up one crisis after another. The nation doesn’t need another debt ceiling crisis or fiscal cliff scare.

The gridlock is dispiriting to businesses that need stability after years of managing in uncertainty to have the confidence to invest and hire. A survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business last week found that more than four years after one of the nation’s biggest financial disasters, small-businesses owners are still pessimistic and turned in one of the lowest confidence levels in 40 years of the survey’s history.

Business owners are not pessimists by nature. They take measured risks in the marketplace and live with the consequences of their success or failure in making the cash register ring. They have to be optimists or they wouldn’t do it.

But putting optimism to work requires a stable playing field and a congressional fan club that roots for success instead of manufacturing obstacles because of some unfathomable and destructive political agenda that is keeping Main Street mired in Groundhog Day.




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