How long can the national debt continue to increase before it finally collapses under its own weight? Congress seems to think it’s indefinite but when the debt is growing twice as fast as the economy, the country’s financial stability is so compromised it’s making the rest of the world nervous.
Just like having a credit card with an over-extended balance that racks up fees and penalties when defaults occur, the federal deficit grows exponentially with time. Even knocking a few billion off here and there won’t make much of a difference if the economy remains as stagnant as it has in the last several years. America cannot simply keep borrowing more money to cover debt that should have been reduced far earlier.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it means to raise the debt ceiling. But continually increasing the amount of money the country is allowed to borrow will only add to the problem. Amid the congressional battles and strong-arming is a dance that averts the actual problem – the only way to reduce the deficit is to cut spending – period. That’s a tall order when all congress seems to want to do is sit by and watch the country hemorrhage money.
As the government shutdown enters a third week, congress is no closer to a solution than it was on October 1st. Government employees are still either furloughed or working without pay. Sure, they’ve been promised back pay, but how does that help when a family has mouths to feed and an upside-down mortgage to pay?
The real question is, apart from the small percentage of Americans who work for the federal government, who has really noticed the shutdown? Many experts say, very few. There are even those who say the park and memorial closures were done more as a publicity stunt to elicit public outrage towards the Republicans than to save money.
Looking at it objectively, that actually makes sense considering that government workers will receive back-pay for any and all days missed on furlough or unpaid time. If the shutdown of national parks services was really because “there was no money to pay them due to the fiscal crisis” during the shutdown, why would there be back pay to offer?
It has also been suggested that the shutdown has exposed another inherently expensive issue within the federal government – redundant or unnecessary employees. Excluding the military from the discussion for the moment, a certain level of redundancy is necessary for various reasons, but there is such a thing as overkill, even at the federal level. That overkill could be costing the taxpayers billions spent on unneeded civilian, contracted and other extraneous personnel.
After all, if you were running a small business and hired six employees when three would have sufficed, your business would soon be in financial distress. After a period of time, even large companies feel the effects of that kind of waste. It’s entirely possible that the government hires many more people than it needs (yeah – shocking, right?). This happens for a number of reasons from bad accounting to nepotism, but it does happen.
Which brings back the original point – Reduce spending and the deficit will come down. Clearly there are cuts that could be made without affecting the government’s overall operation or causing widespread layoffs. Reducing congressional salaries and perks would be a great place to start – particularly their perks. But the shutdown is proving that there are other areas of waste to be addressed. The trick is going to be finding the ones that are genuinely wasteful compared to those that need to be funded.
The difficulty exists in coming to an agreement about what needs to be cut and how much. Different sides have opposing ideas about the definition of “necessary” and required. Eventually they’ll have to come to some common ground and work it all out, but for now things still seem stalled.
The president’s approval rating, according to the Associated Press, is down to 37-percent and congress still lags behind at less than 20-percent. If people re-elect any of these people to congress they have only themselves to blame when this all happens again.