Wising up from the shutdown
President Barack Obama stated the obvious Wednesday night when he said, “We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.”
The latest crisis finally ended Thursday morning when the president signed legislation to stop the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.
But Washington’s “habit of governing by crisis” won’t easily be broken.
Nor will other reckless governing habits that both major parties have perpetuated in recent years.
Some Republican lawmakers can be fairly accused of counterproductive partisanship in the latest clash of wills over budgetary matters.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and others, including the president, warned of a potential federal default if Congress didn’t raise the debt ceiling by Thursday.
Maybe, as some experts insist, that alarm was overstated.
Yet there’s no doubt that the extended debt-ceiling stalemate gave world financial markets a severe case of the jitters.
Still, all six of South Carolina’s Republicans in the U.S. House voted against the compromise, as did GOP Sen. Tim Scott.
The only members of the S.C. congressional delegation to make the right call by voting for it were Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and 6th District Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House.
However, before being too hard on the conservatives who forced the debt-ceiling and shutdown showdowns, keep in mind that President Obama displayed some partisan stubbornness of his own during this dreary drama. (Or was it a familiar farce?)
The president repeatedly refused to negotiate spending cuts as a condition of the debt-ceiling increase.
And though he prudently proclaimed Thursday that there were “no winners” in this political brawl, many Democrats were predictably crowing about their party’s victory.
Yes, the debt ceiling needed to go up — again. But raising it when the national debt is already a record $16.7 trillion is hardly cause for celebration.
Yes, the 2013 fiscal year’s deficit was the lowest since Mr. Obama became president. But it’s also the fifth highest in U.S. history — and the top five all came in the last five years.
That, however, didn’t stop the president from stretching the positive case Thursday: “Our deficits are half of what they were a few years ago. The debt problems we have now are long term.”
At least he acknowledged the long-term red-ink challenge.
And at least now that the GOP has given up its misguided effort to “defund” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, public attention shouldn’t be as distracted from how utterly unaffordable that law is.
As for that Oct. 1 Obamacare website “rollout,” it looks more like a wipeout.
However, the president got another point right Thursday when he conceded that “the American people are completely fed up with Washington.”
That widespread dismay isn’t confined to either party.
Republicans should learn some basic math from their most recent exercise in quixotic legislative futility: One Democratic Senate plus one Democratic president equals more than one GOP House.
Sure, Republican lawmakers have a constitutional right to oppose the unsustainable budgetary policies of the opposition party.
But to prevail in the ongoing debate about Washington’s proper role, conservatives must do more than just say no to big government. They must win elections by presenting positive alternatives.
Meanwhile, another “crisis” looms. Wednesday night’s deal authorized current spending levels only through Jan. 15, and the debt-ceiling hike only through Feb. 7.
So brace for more blame games in Washington as politicians from both parties keep dodging difficult spending — and taxing — decisions.
And as their rancorous rhetoric keeps rising, so will our record national debt.