By TAYLOR HAWKINS, Staff Columnist
Now that Barack Obama has been elected, there are some things that need to change for this country to continue to function. As we approach the “Fiscal Cliff,” Congress needs to get its act together.
This means both parties need to compromise (I know, I know) to effectively balance the budget. While I personally think it’s a terrible idea to cut spending mid-recession (as do most economists – it would probably push us back into economic decline), Congress’s inability to come to consensus on how and why we should reduce the deficit has actually locked us into a budgetary doomsday device in which spending will be automatically cut (read: sequestered) from both defense and social programs if congress can’t agree on a budget.
There seems to be some sentiment that if we don’t balance the budget Right Now(!), we may end up like Greece – with incredibly aggressive austerity cuts to social programs, a deep financial crisis, and a decade long recession to look forward to. The problem with this scenario is that Greece and the US aren’t really alike.
The most notable of differences is that the US has control over its own currency. The much more similar case is the UK. If we wanted to look to Europe for an example of what not to do, the United Kingdom’s severe austerity of 2010 that pushed its unemployment rate from bad to worse is a great example.
What congress needs to consider as it moves forward is that the budget cannot and should not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society. What congress also needs to consider is that stomping ones feet and refusing to raise taxes while simultaneously demanding that we balance an enormous deficit mid-recession is a ridiculous load of ideological nonsense.
It’s not that our government shouldn’t be smaller or more efficient (there’s actually been a decline in the number of government employees), it’s that the government has an obligation to do best for society. And when even the IMF (International Monetary Fund) is willing to concede that austerity is ineffective, it’s time to confront the fact that we can and should have adult conversations about the role of government without relying on the absurd notion that the only great America is one that is fiscally healthy (and not socially) healthy.