Congresss gamesmanship over the national debt is shameful | Opinion

Even if you look merely on the surface, there is something deeply shameful about the debate now dominating Washington.

Through the years, members of Congress from both parties have happily chosen to spend more money than the government takes in, creating ever-increasing deficits funded by a growing ocean of public debt. Now, the bills are coming due, with the Congressional Budget Office reporting that America’s government will tack another $19 trillion in debt onto the $30 trillion we already owe. But remarkably enough, many of the same members of Congress who ran up the debt are now threatening not to pay unless they are granted certain policy concessions. In other words, they’re prepared to let the greatest country in the history of mankind renege on its debts. That sort of political hostage-taking is plainly shameful.

But perhaps even more dispiriting is that this kind of behavior is not an outlier. Quite the opposite, it’s simply the latest illustration of what is a more perennial problem. Our country is on the brink of default today not because we’re incapable of paying our debts, but because leaders in Washington are too enmeshed in their propensity to bicker with one another to appreciate the damage they are doing the country as a whole.

The two parties are so obsessed with getting one over on each other that they fail to note the opportunities lost to getting big things done for the country by working together. Our politics at the national level has evolved to the point that even the specter of sinking the national economy–an inevitability if the government defaults—is no longer enough to get the parties to work cooperatively.

What perhaps is so remarkable about the situation is that the dynamics at work in Washington are so totally removed from the ordinary sensibilities that still prevail among ordinary people in places like Colorado. If someone ordered a meal at a Denver restaurant, paid for it with their credit card, but then refused to pay the bill unless people using the same account agreed to do something they wanted, no one would applaud them for taking a principled stand. They’d participated in ordering the meal. They’d taken pleasure in eating it. If anything, someone refusing to pay their debts would be considered a scofflaw. And yet, somehow in Washington, “eat-and-run” is being framed as some sort of noble endeavor.

We need to call the underlying problem out for what it is: The pull of partisanship has severed Washington’s ability to navigate reality, and Americans generally are growing desperate for something completely different from what’s being offered to them on the national stage. That’s now been confirmed by a national poll commissioned by No Labels, the national organization we help to lead. A recent No Labels poll found that only 29% of Colorado voters believe the country is on the right track, and a full 56% say we’re on the wrong track. Perhaps even more eye-opening, only 32% want President Biden to run for president again and only 35% want former President Donald Trump to run again.

Coloradans, like so many people throughout so much of the country, want new choices for political leadership.

Here’s the good news: Colorado’s disgust is born less from disagreement on the issues than it is on Washington’s failure to solve problems. The No Labels poll found that across a whole range of purportedly divisive topics, Coloradans were largely of one mind. 89% would support a 7-year balanced budget plan to reduce government spending. And 88% support allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of more medicines to bring taxpayer costs down.

In other words, as revealed by the polling, like voters across the rest of the country, Colorado’s electorate would embrace what many would call a “moderate” agenda. And they’re frustrated not only that the dynamics in Washington can’t seem to deliver that sort of policy–they’re becoming increasingly enraged that instead of doing what ordinary people want, Congress appears to be on the precipice of default.

This all points to perhaps the most remarkable finding of No Labels’ poll: A full 62% of Coloradans would support a moderate, independent candidate for president if faced with a rematch of Biden and Trump in 2024. Amid the ongoing disillusionment, voters are open to new possibilities. That should serve as a reminder to members of both parties: If things don’t change, someone else may emerge to fill the vast chasm separating American sensibilities and Washington realities. Voters will only abide the absurdity now on display in our nation’s capital for so long. Eventually, they will act decisively to end the extreme partisan madness.

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is a national co-chair of No Labels. He is an entrepreneur, NAACP life member and president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Roger Hutson is CEO of HRM Resources IV, LLC and state co-chair for No Labels.

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