Friday, January 11, 2013

We have the time

“Cut the budget, shut down the government. There is no time to talk, no time to craft public policy, no time to reason together.” Confrontation over cooperation has become the mantra of the hard right. Elected officials like Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have appeared publically on television and in print pushing this kind of slash-and-burn rhetoric.

Those who call for a government shutdown to save it remind us of the Vietnam War era when we were told we had to destroy the country in order to save it. In that war, the consequences of the rationale was that whole Vietnamese villages disappeared in fireballs of dynamite and napalm.

Now, the hard right seems to feel there is some justification for blowing up the entire United States financial system. Their weapons include refusing to extend the debt ceiling, a move that simply announces to the world that the U.S. government has already spent money loaned to it but won’t be paying it back. They are threatening to cut off funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans benefits, threats that scare millions of Americans into checking whether pet food is safe for human consumption.

 There is a danger that those in the financial capitals of the world might believe that we really will shut it down for some indefinite period. Simply making threats over the federal debt risks making credit rating agencies take actions that could, as they did before, raise the country’s borrowing costs. The greatest risk of all comes from those ignoring our full faith and credit obligation. It is not just the costs that are involved. A default on our nation’s obligations, or a downgrade of America’s credit rating, would undercut both the business community and the individual investor, dramatically worsening our nation’s already difficult economic circumstances and ruining our standing in the world financial community

Sen. Cruz and his cohorts proclaim that there is no time to work together. But Sen. Cruz is wrong. There is time for discussion and obviously time for compromise, and time to show the nation’s concern for veterans, time for those who depend on Social Security on Medicaid or on Medicare. Yes, we need give and take to control the cost of government. We need to plan and to work together. There still is time.

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