My oldest son called me a night or two ago to tell me how upset he was at "my" Congress. I reminded him that I voted for only one member of Congress, Representative Don Young, and I told him that I didn't claim any responsibility for either Senator Begich or Murkowski. He didn't accept my reasons for why I'm not responsible for what Congress is doing and told me that he was blaming me anyway - probably because I am so conservative.
My son was really angry and expressed thoughts similar to those of many Americans: None of us care if any of the politicians are re-elected, but we do care about the national economy and our own personal financial situations. We want our representatives to take care of the business they were elected to do and stop thinking about their own futures. We think the politicians on both sides of the aisle are acting childish and petulant in not coming to an agreement that will be best for the United States of America. He made the statement that we should "lock them in a room" and not let them out until they come to an agreement.
As I write this post, the media is reporting that an agreement has been reached between Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama; however, the Senate and the House of Representatives still need to vote on the matter and either or both could vote "no" on passing it.
The agreement apparently has two "steps" to it. The first step would raise the debt ceiling immediately by almost $1 billion and cut federal spending by a slightly larger amount over a decade.
The second step would involve the creation of a new bipartisan congressional committee - six Democrats and six Republicans, three of each from the Senate and three of each from the House - that would have until November to recommend $1.8 trillion or more in deficit spending. Their target is supposed to be benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security or making changes in the tax code. New deficit cuts would allow for another increase in the debt ceiling. If the committee failed to reach the target of $1.8 trillion or Congress failed to approve the recommendations of the committee, it would automatically trigger a congressional vote on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. If the amendment failed to pass Congress, spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion would automatically take place, and the debt ceiling would rise by the same amount. The automatic cuts would not include Social Security, Medicaid or food stamps.
It appears that the current debt crisis may be over for now, and both liberals and conservatives can claim that they won. The budget battle is apparently over until after the 2012 elections, but fiscal problems will continue as long as Americans rely so heavily on the federal government and as long as the government borrows nearly half of every dollar it spends. The entitlement programs have been off the table for now, but they will consume our entire budget in future years unless they are trimmed. There is still much work to do on the fiscal problems of our nation, but for now it appears that we can all breathe a sign of relief.
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