A lot of high-fiving is going on in Washington D.C. right now. After months of ignoring the issue of the fiscal cliff, the legislative and executive branches finally put their heads together and put their divisions and divisiveness aside long enough to pass a bill on New Years Day.
But don't break out the champagne quite yet. Many of the most important issues facing Washington were kicked down the road a bit, allowing the federal government to get a little breather, but not for long.
One of the biggest issues still on the table is the nation's debt ceiling. The U.S. government has a limit on what it can borrow. That limit - about $16.4 trillion - was reached on Dec. 31. If you were watching the Congressional follies in 2011, you remember the last time we hit the debt ceiling. The government almost shutdown in the showdown between Congress and the President and the United States' credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history.
Raising the debt ceiling should be a no-brainer. The government has to pay its bills. The debt ceiling has nothing to do with the trillions of new dollars being spent; it's the debt we already owe. The $16.4 trillion in question is the bill that's due, not the bill for anything Congress enacts in the future.
All the posturing in the halls of Congress and the White House isn't going to fix the issue. As George Herbert
once said, "A hundred load of worry will not pay an ounce of debt."
Action is required. Swift, decisive action.
So how did we get this deep in debt? Spending. As former President Ronald Reagan
noted: "We don't have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven't taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much."
The national debt is complex, granted. If we didn't spend another dollar going forward, the nations still owes $16.4 trillion. And that doesn't include the interest on the debt. Congressman Bobby Scott
brought that issue to light when he said, "When you run up this kind of deficit, we talk about increasing the debt limit, but one thing you have to do is pay interest on all that debt."
It will be interesting to see how the ensuing days and weeks play out. The United States is the only government in the world that spends money on programs and services without funding them as well. This is what led to the huge deficit over the years. Like a drunk at a bar, Congress continues to put everything on its tab, never thinking about the moment when it's closing time and the bill finally arrives.
"Overspending is a very attractive trap. If people like what they're doing, despite the worry of debt, they won't do anything about it,"
notes Adriane Berg
Unfortunately, the national debt, and the debt ceiling in particular, is something that can't be kicked down the road any longer. We can only hope that cooler heads will prevail this time around and that Congress will readily increase the debt ceiling so they can pay their bills, our bills.
Perhaps it's time to send everyone in Congress to Debtors Anonymous so they can learn that they have an addiction and take the steps necessary to address it before it shakes the very foundation of our economy. As Thomas Jefferson
once said, "I, however, place economy among the first and most important republication virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared."
It's time for the posturing and verbosity to end in Washington D.C. as it does not solve the problem, but only makes matters worse. Talk is cheap, and as William Shakespeare
once noted, "Words pay no debts."