Editor's note: Lawmakers and the administration announced they had receached a compromise that will forestall default, if it is approved in Congress today. This editorial was written before that announcement:
If the U.S. Treasury has to start choosing which bills to pay and which to ignore Tuesday, the first that should be ignored are the paychecks and perks for the people who got the country into this mess; the president, his staff, senators and representatives, and their aides.
For months now, politicians and pundits have been warning that, in early August, the government’s debt would hit $14.3 trillion. There is legislation that requires the debt not exceed that amount, but the reality is our government will have to borrow to keep operating. So Tuesday — some officials and economists say that may not be the exact deadline — the government may have to start operating on a pay-as-we-go basis.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, his staff and, presumably, President Obama’s White House, will have to start deciding if subsidies to Liberty Transit’s bus system will be paid before teachers on Fort Stewart, or if Social Security recipients should get this month’s benefits before disabled veterans get theirs. Some speculate that partial pay/benefits/entitlements may be sent out until the crisis is resolved.
Make no mistake about it, if that happens Liberty County will feel the impact. We are a “company town” and that company is Fort Stewart and its federally-backed support system, as well as the retirees who have chosen to live near it.
An ironic aspect of the debate is the notion that this is about how the country spends in the future, what can be cut to balance spending with revenue, but the debt itself is what has already been spent. Of course, racking up that debt is what put us in the fix we are in now. But in recent years, we’ve tried to finance two wars while increasing benefits and entitlements to citizens. Our representatives and elected leaders were strangely quiet as we were spending like there is no tomorrow.
Throw in the lack of confidence citizens have in their government and you have the looming crisis. Stir in the number of competing proposals to address the problem and even our elected officials don’t appear to know what they are doing. In fact, it’s so confusing they won’t have to answer for what they’ve done.
In an interview with area reporters Thursday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss said, “…This town is pretty dysfunctional right now. That’s all the more reason why I think a bipartisan plan is important… We need a proposal that brings Americans together.”
It is possible the dire predictions coming from politicians just appealing their base constituents. And it’s likely there will be a resolution before the deadline. But there has already been damage to the country’s financial reputation and in people’s belief in the two major party’s ability to work together.
Maybe if our lawmakers face the possibility of losing some of their $174,000-a-year salary and catered-to life in Washington, they’ll resolve it so that the country can get back on sound financial footing.