I ran across this op-ed piece from Senator Udall of Colorado and it made me shake my head. He argues that the federal debt is so important that we should — that’s right — establish a bipartisan commission to recommend cuts and program changes to bring the budget into balance and reduce the debt! Otherwise, he frets, the “partisan politics” in Congress may make it impossible for legislators to agree on a debt reduction plan, and as a result we may face massive debt interest payments that cripple our economy for decades.
The “bipartisan commission” idea is nothing new. Devices to force a balanced budget, like the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction act, were proposed in the 1980s when deficits were soaring, and every few years politicians propose a “bipartisan commission” to look at Social Security solvency issues. None of these approaches worked. And while I have no reason to doubt Senator Udall’s sincerity as a vigorous deficit fighter, this proposal also could be viewed as an expedient way to pass the buck. Congress gets to say that it did something about the national debt by establishing a commission, but in the meantime no spending gets cut, nothing meaningful happens, and Congress gets to continue to pass outrageous spending bills.
I have an outlandish alternative proposal for Senator Udall and the others who have co-sponsored his bill: how about doing your job, instead? How about earning your salary and working with your colleagues to actually review and cut unnecessary programs and wasteful spending through the legislative process the Constitution created for that purpose? How about making a few hard choices to achieve what you portray publicly as a crucial national priority? If other members of Congress resist, how about publicly criticizing them, or holding public hearings that expose the more absurd spending schemes?
The best way to make progress on paying down our debt and curbing out-of-control spending is for Congress to have some backbone and make some hard choices. It is well past time that Congress did so, and I have no sympathy for whiny politicians who argue that “partisan politics” make it impossible for them to do their jobs.