Sequester came just over two weeks ago. It follows, of course, the debt ceiling, rounds one and two, and everyone’s favorite year-end nail-biter, the fiscal cliff.
Now, there’s talk of a government shutdown later this month (though current reports say a ‘deal is likely’).
President Bill Clinton famously said, “I feel your pain.” That’s the missing ingredient here: not one member of Congress feels any real pain, any personal consequences, for the tremendous failure to lead with the decisive moral courage Americans expect of them. It’s analogous to arguments against the draft that resonated during the Vietnam War – congressional members were criticized because they sent the sons of the poor and middle class to war but their own families were rarely touched by similar sacrifice.
That’s true today, too. Nearly half of Congress has an “estimated net worth of more than 1 million.” They are so much better positioned than most to weather any economic storm, it’s a wonder they can tell when the rest of the country is getting wet.
And while I’m ever the optimist that our government will put this country ahead of self and party, I just can’t help entertaining my own fiscal thought experiment, in which members of Congress are compelled by statute to design and pass a sustainable, responsible fiscal solution. Failure would result in the following, alone or in combination:
- Losing their seats
- Pay 100 percent tax retroactively for the time they've been in office
- Forfeiting 100 percent of their pay received from their federal position
- Charged with fraud, waste, & abuse
Of course, these are merely musings, borne out of frustration, mostly with those members of Congress who are chiefly in safe districts, where they remain impervious to the consequences of their mistakes. As the CEO and founder of a company, the “Groundhog Day”-style repetitions of partisan wrangling and deals that are made (or not made) at the nth hour while citizens, economies and markets tremble in the balance are reckless in the extreme. No management team would be allowed to bring a company to the door of bankruptcy over and over. They would deserve to be ousted – and shown the door they would be, without ceremony or argument.
Like a word that is just on the tip of your tongue, our government is ever this close to being productive – if it can just get out of its own way and stop repeating this disheartening pattern of “upward failure.” I’m still hopeful that it can live up to our expectations before March 27th.