After a purely symbolic vote by House Republicans to not raise the debt limit in order to pay America's obligations by August 2, efforts to reach a compromise that will pass both the House and Senate to stem a potential catastrophe and find a sustainable path for the future are faltering. The nation's debt problem is a large one that must be fully addressed and all options must be on the table: deep spending cuts paired with tax increases and the closing of tax loopholes. A bipartisan compromise is needed to avoid default and set this country on a track that it can maintain.
As of June 2, there are 60 days before the Treasury's fiscal maneuvering is projected to come to a standstill and our government defaults on our debt and obligations. Taking out weekends and the Fourth of July, that would be 41 days to solve this problem, instead with the scheduled recesses, including the 2nd and 3rd of June and the week following the Fourth of July, there are 34 scheduled session days for the Senate. Think that's bad? There are 23 scheduled days in session for the House. That will certainly make it even harder to find a solution.
Our legislators cannot and should not be expected to sit at their desks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; however, until this problem is solved, they should forego their scheduled vacations and session breaks. The bipartisan organization No Labels has created a petition to ask our elected officials to do just that. Refusing to recess until a deal is struck will show the American people that our legislators are working towards solving our problems instead of posterizing for coming elections. It will show us that they are willing to sacrifice now as the American people have been.
Moody's has publicly announced that it will review and possibly lower the U.S.'s credit rating because "the heightened polarization over the debt limit has increased the odds of a short-lived default."
If progress is not made by mid-July, the U.S. credit rating could be lowered, which would drive up interest rates on any future borrowed money if a deal was passed shortly thereafter. This would in turn raise the interest rates that banks borrow at from the government making its way down to consumers and businesses, most likely stalling the economic recovery that is already having a slow time reaching down to the American people. If a family is having trouble paying its bills, the responsible thing is not to stop paying the bills, but to find a way to pay them: a combination of decreased spending, increased revenues and borrowing to buy time for the first two options to take effect. If your family is struggling to make ends meet and you're teenage daughter is running over her minutes by the thousands and racking up your phone bill, you would not try to convince her to stop by threatening to not pay your mortgage and ruin your own credit score.
Until the U.S. is on a sustainable track, it will need to borrow in order to pay its obligations. Sure, not doing so would serve as a wake-up call that the U.S. needs to reduce spending, but it will increase the amount of hardworking American people that would need government support. Increasing the debt ceiling now will buy the necessary time for the Legislature to hammer out a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It is amazing how quickly we seem to have forgotten the last minute deals that had to be struck in April to stop the government from shutting down over halfway through the current fiscal year. Reaching a compromise to increase the debt ceiling will give our leaders time to hammer out and compromise on a fiscally and socially responsible budget for the start of the new Fiscal Year in October and the future.
While some Democrats are saying that legislative pay should be the first thing cut if the U.S. defaults before a deal is struck, they are using this idea as a political tool that seems more likely to benefit their upcoming re-election campaigns than solve this problem. Considering that the U.S. already hit the debt ceiling on May 16 and is currently relying upon the Treasury Department to move money around creatively to avoid default, Senators Boxer and Casey should suggest Secretary Geithner stop legislative and executive pay now to delay defaulting in the first place. Instead we have continued bickering and hardline stances on both sides of the fence designed to win voters in 2012.
With Mitt Romney's official announcement of his bid for the presidency, endless speculation revolving around Sarah Palin and others on the right, and President Obama looking to raise $60 million for reelection campaigns by the end of June, our leaders and our media have shown a desire to postpone the actual handling of our problems in favor of preparing for an election a year and half away. No Label's petition to our lawmakers to suspend their vacations is a solid start, however, as long as our elected officials are more concerned with their own campaigns than compromising to fix this stalemate and potential crisis, we must go further. Until the debt ceiling issue is solved, there should be no pay for politicians, no vacation, and no campaign spending or fundraising. If a budget for the next fiscal year is not set before it starts in October, a no pay, no vacations, and no campaigning policy for our elected officials should take effect until one is created.