Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Two silver linings in the debt ceiling deal

So, apparently we have a debt ceiling deal. Maybe. The House voted for it last night (you can see how your Member of Congress voted here) and the Senate will vote today.

There are some serious negatives with this bill. It's garnered harsh words from both the right and the left.  (Best comment goes to Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO 5th), who called the deal a "sugar coated satan sandwich.") Personally, I think they raised the debt ceiling too far and for too long. Obama got one of his major objectives: to not have to deal with this again before the 2012 elections.

Another criticism I have is that it seems that far too many of the spending cuts are put off until later. It reminds me of what University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said regarding the mid-season firing of football coach Ron Zook in 2004, "What must be done eventually, should be done immediately." We know our national debt is too high, we know we're spending too much money, why not tackle it now?

It's not a perfect deal. Not by any long stretch of the imagination. But there were two "silver linings" in this deal that should give everyone hope, for very different reasons:

A welcome sight.
First, last night's vote marked the return of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, her first vote since she was shot in Tucson, AZ in January.

Her recovery continues to be nothing short of miraculous, and her return to Congress was one thing that everyone could agree was a positive and blessed event.

As Giffords posted on her Twitter account, "The looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight."

CNN Video | Giffords returns for House vote

Second, while I am disappointed that the Cut, Cap, Balance Act failed to pass the Senate and recognize that this was not a perfect bill, one significant achievement stands out in my mind: the fact that we had this debate at all.

In years past, the debt ceiling would be approached and Congress would vote to raise it as a "routine" matter, just standard operating procedure, with very little attention from the media or the American people. There might be a bit of partisan wailing and stamping of feet from the representatives who didn't belong to the majority party (as Marco Rubio recently pointed out), but the debt ceiling would be raised, with little debate and even less reform.

This time, however, under intense pressure from their constituents and a media that was actually, finally paying attention, Congress had to address the issue of our national debt. I doubt that in years past a bill like the Cut, Cap, Balance Act would have even made it inside the Capitol Building, much less been debated and passed in one of the chambers. If the "first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem," then Congress took an important step this summer by admitting there really is a spending problem.

So, yes, the bill is not perfect. We haven't solved the problem; we haven't balanced the budget or significantly reduced the national debt yet. But it is a start, and we have to start somewhere.

Let's take this for what it is, a single step in the right direction, and focus on figuring out the steps to follow...like the 2012 elections...

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