Paris Post Intelligencer Editorial: Momentum builds to act on U.S. debt But can Congress agree before 2012 election?

Mar 28, 2011

That sound you hear is a growing drumbeat in Washington to do something serious about the federal debt.

More and more individuals and factions in our nation’s capital are realizing that half-hearted steps can’t solve the problem. 

As members of President Barack Obama’s now-defunct bipartisan fiscal commission continue to preach, only radical and painful action will work when we Americans together owe $14.3 trillion and add 10 percent to that debt each year.

“This is like a stink bomb in the garden party — it isn’t going away, and neither are we,” said the commission cochairman, Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo.

In a recent letter to the president, a group of 64 senators — nearly two-thirds of the Senate, half Republicans and half Democrats — wrote, “We believe comprehensive deficit reduction measures are imperative.”

That group believes that Congress can reach consensus, especially if the president will respond with “a strong signal of support.”

The White House so far hasn’t done that, the House Budget Committee chairman complains, so he’s preparing his own scheme, due out next month.

In addition, loners like Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee have proposed their own solutions.

All those signs point to the possibility of action, but Washington is so highly politicized that it’s foolish to make assumptions.

Preliminary skirmishes already are in progress for next year’s presidential election, the monster gorilla of all Washington political events. The closer that event comes, the less likely is Congress to reach agreement on anything major. 

That makes timing critical. The national debt now stands at about 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic output, the highest since World War II. Without significant change, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, that could reach 90 percent by the end of the decade.

Now is the time to act.

 

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