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How to Avert Disaster in Washington

This post is written by Stephen McKerihan, a student at Covenant College.

The recent government shutdown has been the focus of the media’s spotlight, which is doing a phenomenal job making the situation seem exciting. But what’s the real story?

The budget battle is a result of Republican unrest over the fiscal policy of the current administration as well as the new health insurance program known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with taking a stand against a program believed to be destructive and dangerous. But if this stalemate is allowed to linger much longer, default and a possible financial crisis become a very distinct possibility.

If October 17th comes around and a solution has not been found, the nation will suffer because of the dysfunctional politics of Washington. America’s financial system is at the center of the global economy and the dollar is the world’s reserve currency. If a default were to occur, investors would lose faith in the reliability of our government to pay its bills, leading to an increase in interest rates. This disruption in the private market’s hard fought progress out of the 2008 recession will cause a ripple to pulse through most sectors of the economy and irreparably damage the U.S.’s international reputation.

U.S. Capitol

The only chance to avoid this potentially volatile situation is to find an area to compromise, which unfortunately seems to be the most difficult thing for our representatives to do. In order to begin the process, it would be wise for the Republicans to initiate the conversation by accepting the fact that they can’t repeal or delay Obamacare—it simply won’t happen. Democrats have too much political capital invested in this program to let anything short of the long awaited roll-out occur.

The new focus of congressional dialogue should be tax reform and spending cuts, which may actually be less contentious areas of debate than Obamacare. Formulating a deal to lower spending and/or taxes, while increasing the debt ceiling, would give Republicans something to show for this painful standoff. And for conservatives, tax cuts and decreases in spending may be as good of a victory as a minor delay in Obamacare anyway.

[pullquote]     The only chance to avoid this potentially volatile situation is to find an area to compromise…[/pullquote]

Over the last several weeks, our leaders have acted like reckless and purely self-interested drivers, which means a collision is a strong possibility. But the best way to avoid this is through fair compromise. Republicans must accept the fact that Obamacare’s application is inevitable, and Democrats need to understand that Republicans won’t back off without achieving a victory somewhere. Compromising on government spending and taxes is the only way to bring conservatives to the table.

With opinions and trust in government at an almost all-time low, action must be taken. If our leadership in Washington wants to retain the respect of the people and avoid a fiscal train wreck, their focus needs to shift and a common ground must be found.