The Right and Left Hands of Congress
By Alicia McBride on 06/06/2011 @ 11:30 PM
There's something that's been bothering me about the whole discussion of the debt ceiling and whether/how/by how much Congress should raise it. A podcast from the NPR project Planet Money finally made me realize what it is.
Some members of Congress are arguing about whether to increase the amount of money that the government is allowed to borrow. They're saying that the government has promised to spend too much money, so drastic measures are needed to keep those promises from bankrupting the country.
But who is it that decides how much the government should be spending in the first place? Congress.
It calls to mind the old idiom about the right and left hands not knowing what each other are doing.
I'm no expert on the budget, but it seems to me that Congress is looking to avoid taking responsibility for making hard choices. Congress could look to bring in more money to cover the obligations that it approved. (Tax increases: perceived as a difficult vote). It could look at making cuts in some of the parts of the budget that are out of control. (Military spending cuts: perceived as a difficult vote).
These kinds of votes might not get someone re-elected, but they might get the deficit back under control in a way that would honor the obligations that Congress itself has made.