‘Compromise’ shouldn’t be dirty word in politics
We’re not great fans of either Senate President Harry Reid or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Both are often guilty of needless brinksmanship, overheated rhetoric and pandering to the fringes of their parties.
But, with the government partially shut down and federal default looming, the two old Senate lions did what elected officials are supposed to do in our representative form of government. They met repeatedly to hammer out an agreement to end the shutdown and prevent government default.
They each gave up something in that agreement, although McConnell conceded more because, thanks to some uncompromising and unrealistic members of his party, he had started from a position that just about everyone knew was untenable.
Under the compromise, Obamacare was left almost entirely intact, but Democrats accepted continued government spending at the sequestration levels implemented early this year. The government will be funded through Jan. 15, and the debt ceiling will be raised to meet our obligations through Feb. 7. Also, a bipartisan budget committee will be formed to attempt to avoid a future impasse.
As this was written Wednesday afternoon, it was unclear whether the compromise crafted by Reid and McConnell would win approval in the House, where some of the most uncompromising members of Congress reside. However, since their champion in the Senate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, agreed not to delay the measure in that chamber, there was hope that the House tea party caucus would let it pass, or would be outvoted by Democrats and the more sensible Republicans.
Observers expected passage of the compromise. If not, the United States could start defaulting on debt payments today. That wouldn’t cause the economy to crash immediately, but it would put us on a path toward that catastrophe.
This country has the largest economy in the world, but if people can’t trust our government to pay its bills, they will become less and less eager to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. That would lead to ballooning interest rates in this country, not just for the government, but in the private sector. And that, in turn, would be a significant drag on the already slow economy.
No, it wouldn’t happen overnight. But even a one-time default — which has never occurred in U.S. history — could substantially damage our reputation. As billionaire Warren Buffet put it Wednesday, “Creditworthiness is like virginity. It can be preserved, but not restored very easily.”
The fact that U.S. creditworthiness will apparently be preserved, at least for the time being, is thanks to two longtime political opponents in the Senate who understand that their job is not to remain ideologically pure on all matters, or to work only with people who share their beliefs, but to negotiate measures to operate our government based on interaction with people who hold different views and have different goals.
Next time you go to the polls for any election, look for candidates who understand that fact about how our representative democracy works.