Failure to compromise no longer an option for leaders

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My Views

By Alex Wimsatt

 There’s a simple concept that everyone’s familiar with, one that’s been the driving force behind humanity’s greatest triumphs. 

It’s built nations, fostered historic partnerships and pulled us from the brink of destruction. In a word it’s compromise. 

The United States was built on compromise, but somehow the idea has become a four letter word in Washington, where partisan bickering among stubborn ideologues has taken the place of reason and civil political discourse. 

If you haven’t been paying attention to the drama that’s been playing out on the national stage over the past few weeks, Congress and The White House have been engaged in a dangerous game of chicken in which the primary players took ardent positions on deficit reduction and raising the debt ceiling while using the Aug. 2 default deadline as leverage for their own political advantage.

The spectacle would have been amusing under different circumstances, but the costs are too high and at the end of the day the real losers aren’t the politicians, but the American people. 

What began only weeks ago as a much needed debate among members of Congress and the president over whether to raise the federal government’s debt limit and how to reign in our out-of-control debt has since left Americans worried and the economy reeling. 

The stock market has been a rollercoaster since Standard and Poor’s downgraded America’s credit rating from AAA, its highest rating, to AA+, a step lower. In addition to lowering the country’s credit rating, S&P forecasted the outlook on America’s long-term rating as “negative.”

Several policy makers have pooh-poohed S&P’s  assessment, however, reading the report explaining their decision it’s easy to understand their motivation as it points to the federal government’s failure to reach an adequate compromise to pay off our national debt and get our spending under control. 

Here’s what S&P had to say just after the president signed a deal made by himself and lawmakers:

“The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.

More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.

Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.

The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the long-term rating to ‘AA’ within the next two years if we see that less reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.”

In response to S&P’s demand for less spending, a 12-member bipartisan “Super Committee” of congressional lawmakers has been charged with the task of cutting the federal budget by at least $1.2 trillion. 

If they don’t reach an agreement by late November, across the board cuts will be made in every area of the budget, including defense, Medicare and Social Security, areas that take up the vast majority of the budget pie, but have traditionally been off limits. 

I’m not so sure how much faith I have in this super committee, but I hope they can at least try to appear that they’re putting their partisan differences aside and making concessions for the good of the country. Compromise is needed more than ever to calm the fearful American public and get things done. 

Americans are worried; worried about their investments, their jobs, even their homes as talk of how the U.S.’s downgraded credit rating stokes fears that higher interest rates may be on the horizon.

S&P downgraded America’s credit based on the federal government’s rising debt and a lack of confidence in the U.S.’s ability to get its fiscal house in order.

For the first time in this country’s history the American people and the world seriously doubt our nation’s ability to pay our bills and I’m afraid this is just the beginning, given our leaders’ inability to pull up a seat at the table and work things out. 

Any politician who says he or she won’t compromise ought to be thrown out of office.

The fact that many of the same politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, who over the years have voted on numerous occasions to add to the U.S. debt are trying to claim any moral high ground on the debt debate is preposterous.

 Republicans like to blame Democrats and vice versa because it makes for good TV and they think it makes them look good to their constituents back home, but as we’ve seen in recent weeks it’s only counterproductive. 

Now I understand there are some politicians in Washington who don’t have a “my way or the highway” mentality and are willing to reach across the aisle for the best interest of the people, but to me it seems most are more concerned about their re-election and gaining political points with the radicals and reactionaries in their respective parties than they are with solving the grave problems facing this nation. 

Congress and The White House should have engaged in a conversation on spending decades ago when buy now pay later became the Washington mantra, but they didn’t and now they’re pointing fingers. 

In a recent poll by The Pioneer News, a Mount Washington woman I spoke to said “everyone” in Washington was being childish when asked who was to blame for the debt issue.

From what I’ve read, I’m inclined to agree.

It’s going to take a balanced approach to fix our economy and tackle our exorbitant debt and we need serious people who can negotiate as adults, not squabble like toddlers sitting around the children’s table at Thanksgiving.   

Politicians on the left seem to think tax increases will solve our problems while those on the right are under the impression that simply cutting the budget is the answer. 

Both options should be considered and both parties need to make concessions on the way our government spends and operates. 

It’s not going to be easy; compromise never is, but if the founding fathers could come together to create an entirely new form of government while debating the intricacies of this grand experiment called the United States, our leaders today can certainly balance a budget and get our debt under control.