Resolving the Current Budget Impasse in Congress


Congress is facing two critical fiscal deadlines in the very near future. Our current debt ceiling of $18.1 trillion will be exceeded by November 4.  A temporary 2016 budget was passed that will fund the federal government at its current level through December 11.  There is much pressure on Congress to lift the sequester limits for discretionary spending which have been in effect since early in 2013.  The Republican majorities in Congress should use their leverage to promote fiscal responsibility in the following way:

  • Extend the debt ceiling by $1 trillion or enough to last about two years at our current rate of deficit spending. Control over the debt ceiling gives Congress an important tool with which to remind the voters of the urgency of shrinking the national debt. Make it clear that in return for supporting payment of existing obligations, Republicans will insist on far more spending restraint in the future.
  • For example, Congress should agree to only additional short term extensions of this year’s budget at current spending levels, including sequester limits, until a long-term budget plan is locked into place along the lines of:Capture
  • The ten year budget plan adopted by Congress last Spring produces a balanced budget by 2025. Perhaps surprising to many people, it still allows spending to increase by 3.3% annually which is approximately double the current rate of inflation.

Such a plan of indefinite short term budget extensions at current levels will get the focused attention of all big spenders including conservatives who want more military spending as well as the President and his Democratic allies in Congress.  Everything should be on the table: entitlement reform, tax reform, immigration reform, etc.  There need be no deadline for agreement; the current budget could simply be renewed at short term intervals until a mutually acceptable plan was achieved.  No plan, then no budget increases.  Take your pick.
Conclusion: a national debt of 74% of GDP is in fact a fiscal crisis and the Republicans have enough leverage to force a showdown in a sensible way.  They should use it!

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4 thoughts on “Resolving the Current Budget Impasse in Congress

  1. Jack,
    I have no problem with your suggestions, except that I doubt that whites, rich or poor, will accept any loss of their entitlements. And, I imagine the Republicans will seek to chip away at the Affordable Care Act. I have probably said in the past. I don’t have any respect or trust in either party. It is just that the Republicans are meaner than the Democrats when it comes to the least fortunate.

    How big is the factor of racism between the Republicans and Democrats on this issue? Also, are the cultural wars, whether it be religions, Gay rights or aid to the poor and unfortunate established as a diversion simply to allow the Republicans to avoid the tremendous gap between the rich and the poor? Finally, how do you explain the close relations between business and government when it comes to such matters as taxation, military protection throughout the world and the hullabaloo over immigration if we are not an empire?

    I have lots of questions and criticisms; but sadly, I have few answers. I have always been skeptical of authority and power. I like Lewis Lapham’s [He was the editor of Harper’s Magazine for years.] definition of ‘politics’ as getting someone else to do the dirty work. That part of humankind has always best been explained by Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. You seem to be more optimistic than I am.


    • You say that Republicans are meaner than Democrats when it comes to the least fortunate. I say that Republicans are more fiscally responsible than the Democrats about deficit spending. We should not pick on the poor but we should be more frugal with government spending across the board.
      Racism is endemic in society because the differences between races are so stark. The only way to combat it is to lessen the differences. To me the cultural wars are a different matter and social conservatives, who tend to be Republicans, are the most aggrieved.
      I don’t like the close relations between business and government. This is crony capitalism and should be opposed and resisted as strongly as possible.
      I am highly in favor of immigration reform. To me the key to doing this is to have an adequate guest worker program so that businesses are able to hire the workers they need.
      In spite of all of the problems we have I do remain optimistic that we will remain a strong and prosperous country able and willing to provide leadership to the whole world.

      • Jack,
        You leave me many opportunities to comment. Today, I shall focus on the issues of racism, immigration and optimism. There are no races only the human race. Unfortunately, Europeans enslaved Africans and then allowed a false concept about people that led to the many false ideas that separate all peoples of varied colors. The false idea became institutionalized in many forms whether it be the ghetto, drug laws, et cetra I could go on and on.

        On immigration we probably are in agreement. The issue is when corporations encourage people to come here as they did when in the 60s, they broke the unions in meat processing plants; I saw it as a class problem. But here again racism played its part.

        My reason for not being the optimist is that humans are basically the same as they were thousands of years ago. Self-interest predominates. On this matter I am very conservative. I find most liberals foolish or naive.

        I am sure we will have many times to explore our differences. Again, it is an enjoyment to parry with you.


  2. I agree that humans have not changed much in thousands of years. The developed world, at least, is simply a lot more prosperous which makes life easier for most Americans.
    On immigration we need a well regulated system (e.g. a guest worker program) so that businesses such as meat packing and agriculture can get the labor they need. Americans simply don’t want to do this very physically demanding work. Mexican immigrants are willing to do this work so let’s hire them for it.
    Self-interest will always predominate and needs to. That way most of us will learn to be self-responsible.
    Our political system has broken down. The task that confronts us now is how to get out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. So far we’ve always been able to find a way forward. In that sense I’m an optimist that we’ll continue to be able to do this. But what is our way forward at the present time?

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