This morning you may have woken up to the shocking news that the government, once again, shutdown. The media is reporting that the brief shutdown (about 6 hours) was caused by one man, Senator Rand Paul, who railed against the bipartisan budget deal to blow through the spending caps by $300 billion. Not only was it a massive spending increase, it also included other major policies including health care extensions, tax extenders, disaster aid and a debt limit increase.
But in truth, the short funding lapse could have been avoided if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have allowed a vote on a single amendment by Senator Paul. Rather than allowing debate and a likely failed vote on a single amendment to maintain the current budget caps, leader McConnell decided that it would be better to allow for a shutdown. That describes the decrepit state of our democratic institutions in a nutshell. Unless you are reading this from Kentucky, New York, the 1st district of Wisconsin, or the 12th district of California, your representative had no influence over – or even the ability to influence via amendment or debate – the biggest fiscal policy bill he or she has ever considered. The problem is, they barely even tried.
Though the end result was not what Paul hoped for, he successfully shined the spotlight on Congress’s broken budget process, the national debt, and Congress’s inability to keep promises made on the campaign trial.
After years of campaigning about debt, deficits, and fiscal responsibility, Republicans successfully took back Congress and the White House with promises to voters that the status quo in Washington would change. With this bill, Republicans have lost all credibility on the issue. This budget deal combined with the recently passed tax cuts will lead us into $1 trillion annual deficits, something Republicans repeatedly campaigned on against President Obama. Now that they are in charge, they have gotten a severe case of fiscal amnesia.
Our leaders in Washington are failing the American people, especially the young Americans who will be burdened by the debt the current generation in congress has saddled on them. While the effects of the national debt may not seem as evident as, for example, being required to have health insurance or landing in a different tax bracket, it places a serious burden on economic growth.
Deficit financing crowds out private investment, which impacts American jobs, and must eventually be repaid in the form of higher taxes or lower spending, hindering economic growth. In fact, young Americans are already starting to see these come to fruition. According to the U.S. Census, young Americans today are making about $2,000 less, on average, than their parents did when they were young.
Congress is only making the problem worse for young Americans by not going through the normal budget process. Did you know congress has only completed the budget process on time four times in the past 42 years!
As they say, “there is no substitute for good leadership.”
Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders are saying that both parties got what they wanted in the budget deal, so it’s a win-win. But “when both parties are happy, they’re usually looting the treasury. And that’s what this bill does,” said Paul. “Some said this is a great deal because it’s bipartisan. But really in some ways its a bipartisan compromise in the wrong direction. Both sides have come together and said we’ll spend more money on the sacred cow that each side wants, but in reality the person that gets shafted is the taxpayer and the next generation that’s going to be burdened with this debt.”
Perhaps the most discouraging sight from last night was that Rand Paul was the only one fighting to represent the views of his constituents through his actions rather than through empty campaign rhetoric. For that lonely stance, Sen. Paul is receiving the blame from the media for the shutdown and ridicule from his colleagues. The question we have is: Why was he the only one?