I’m back in the middle of my semi-annual episode of outrage about the American system for budget and debt management and other governance problems.
Earlier this year we concluded the last cycle of budget/debt ceiling turmoil with a debt ceiling agreement. The U.S. could breath again, but for how long? A few weeks ago it became clear that we would miss one more opportunity to actually experience careful analysis and debate during the budget process. I’m referring to reestablishing “regular order.” That means that our legislators would be required to hold budget hearings and actually hold separate votes on 12 separate spending budgets. It’s been decades since we’ve followed that process on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, this year we’ll extend for another year the embarrassing use of omnibus spending bills strung together with emergency continuing resolutions until some sort of permanent annual budget is approved. Ultimately an omnibus bill, generally without adequate detailed analysis, will be agreed upon and we can breath easy, right? Sorry, no. The budget will be passed, but the funding process will be left hanging. The approval of a debt ceiling won’t be addressed until panic arrives, and a debt crisis is declared, usually several months later. Ultimately, after much angst, gnashing of teeth, and
threats of government shutdown, a new debt ceiling will be put in place.
Blame should be placed on both parties for this bad financial management. Fairness requires pointing out that the Democrats reversed course by claiming the debt ceiling serves no purpose andshould be terminated. That’s irresponsibly wrong.
The debt ceiling is an important control mechanism for ensuring spending discipline. It was set up to create orderly, thoughtful, and responsible budget and funding decisions. Responsible financial management requires that spending and borrowing decisions be made as part of the same process, not months apart. That separation of the inseparable decisions of spending levels and funding sources is what causes these predictable debt crises.
The 2023 version of this process emphasizes its foolishness. GOP infighting during the budget process brought about an irresponsible removal of the House Speaker. It must be labeled irresponsible because there was neither a viable plan, nor the ability, to name a replacement. Our leaders shouldn’t take drastic measures which need solutions unless those solutions are provided for.
That dilemma continues as I write this. Representative Jordan is out of contention for House Speaker, with nine others apparently taking his place as “wannabees.” It’ll eventually end, but when? It’s
already turning into a sad national joke, further suppressing confidence in our nation’s government institutions.
America’s government is at a legislative standstill while national and international events have intervened to create a serious geopolitical “perfect storm,” made significantly worse by America’s bad governance – or should I call it “temporary non-governance.”
While we “muddle through” here at home, the Mideast is on the verge of being the center of international military conflicts following the massive Hamas led terrorist attack on Israel, with the predictable
military retaliation on Gaza by Israeli military forces. The Ukraine war is escalating with requests for more U.S. support. Government officials are speculating on how to avoid the potential military conflict with China. And America can’t act due to its leadership void. The GOP’s infighting has the potential to disrupt the nation’s security.
Sprinkle on top of that pile of existential threats the distraction of a serious impeachment investigation of our unpopular President. Add to that the dozens of charges in four indictments against the outrageously controversial leading GOP candidate for the next presidential election. Unpopular and controversial candidates, and foolish legislators seem to define the prevailing situation in 2023.
This particular governance void in the House of Representatives may be solved by the time you read this, but I think I’ve made my point as to the risky path the nation has taken. A perfect storm of bad
governance along with international tensions, doesn’t bode well. I’m wondering if the U.S. can get its ducks adequately in order to continue the leadership position it has held for so long.