Once upon a time in America, the wise among victorious rebels framed a set of laws to avoid the need for future rebellion. They sought to thwart tyranny, foster freedom, and require competing interests to find common ground.
We honor those wise as our Founders, cherish their set of laws as our Constitution, but readily flout their admonition to find common ground.
The Founders sought to balance competing interests through “separation of power,” embedding in the Constitution individual rights, periodic national elections, and dispersing power between state and national governments and among the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government. This balance, they reasoned, would force competing interests to find common ground for their mutual benefit.
Today, there is much unbalance in America and little apparent concern for mutual benefit. Such unbalance opens the door to both anarchy and tyranny.
We just saw consequences from this unbalance. A nation founded on common purpose and compromise found itself festering and floundering over the national debt ceiling, and its pristine credit rating tarnished.
This results from massive unbalance in our fiscal system. Remember, both Republicans and Democrats share blame for this unbalance. Deficit spending pushed the national debt up 75% under George Bush. It’s up 43% and rising under Barack Obama.
Wise, experienced Americans have looked at this unbalance and recommended a balanced mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to restore balance. Both the Simpson-Bowles “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” and the Domenici-Rivlin “Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force” said three things must be done: 1) cut discretionary spending; 2) reduce the costs of entitlement programs; and 3) increase federal revenue.
Congress ignored both commissions.
Instead, we got a limited deal that provides no real solutions. Yes, the deal got us past the debt ceiling deadline. Yes, it refocused debate in Washington around spending cuts. But, even if all parts come true, Congress will continue to run annual deficits for 10 years and increase debt by $7 trillion.
Ultra conservative Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) called it a “farce.”
Standard and Poor’s agreed, downgrading the credit rating of U.S. bonds for the first time in history.
Coburn served on the Simpson-Bowles commission and is a member of the “Gang of Six” senators seeking long-term solutions. He proposed his own balanced approach to debt reduction. It’s worth reading. See “Back in Black” at http://coburn.senate.gov.
Congress ignored Coburn’s plan and the Gang of Six plan too.
While Republicans and Democrats hiss and spit at each other, America’s fiscal unbalance grows and grows.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only great unbalance menacing America today…more on those in future columns.
Meanwhile, beware those who belittle mutual benefit while exploiting unbalance to gain power.