The Times West Virginian

October 13, 2013

Self-inflicted wounds during budget process make no sense


Times West Virginian

— Self-inflicted wounds make no sense.

That, however, is how the federal government in Washington, D.C., is operating.

The government has been partially shut down since Oct. 1. Oct. 17, a day of threatened unprecedented default by the U.S. Treasury if there is no approval in an increase to the nation’s debt limit, is approaching.

Nevertheless, political gamesmanship continues to prevail.

It comes at a high cost.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, noted Friday that the shutdown is “doing great harm to our country.”

“In 2008 and 2009, this country went through the worst recession since World War II,” the senator said in a prepared statement. “We will probably never all agree about who or what caused it, but we know that our recovery from ‘the Great Recession’ has been slow and painful. Five years after the crash, unemployment remains at stubbornly high levels. And while our country is finally growing again, it is growing much more slowly than we would like. Our financial experts and our business leaders are telling us this is still a ‘fragile recovery’ – that the economy is still not fully healthy. They are saying that if we are not careful with our actions, a misstep could easily slip the economy back into a recession.

“A small group of people in Congress have been ignoring these warnings. They have been recklessly putting our economy at risk of a relapse. Last week they wanted a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. This week they don’t know what they want. But instead of coming to their senses, they are digging in. This only inflicts further pain on our businesses and families. Some people seem to think that manufacturing budget crises is good politics. I think they have been learning over the past two weeks that it’s not good politics. And I hope they also are realizing that it’s even worse public policy.”

Rockefeller also quoted a letter that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and 250 other business groups sent to Congress on Sept. 30:

“It is not in the best interest of the employers, employees or the American people to risk a government shutdown that will be economically disruptive and create even more uncertainties for the U.S. economy.”

How costly is the shutdown?

One that lasts between three and four week — it’s now approaching two weeks — could cost the economy about $55 billion, by the estimate of Moody’s Analytics economist Brian Kessler.

The shutdown would “reduce federal spending” by about $8 billion, which could reduce GDP growth by .8 percent annualized, according to a report released in September by Goldman Sachs.

Moody’s Analytics’ Mark Zandi pegs the amount lost in economic growth in the fourth quarter at as much as 1.4 percent.

One billion dollars a week from the pay of the roughly 800,000 federal employees is being lost from the U.S. economy.

On a personal level, these hundreds of thousands of individuals now off the job and their families are being directly affected, and needed — possibly lifesaving — work is going undone.

If there is not approval of an increase to the debt limit and the country defaults, the impact will be far greater. Another severe recession is a likely best-case scenario.

In his weekly address Saturday, President Barack Obama said, “Manufacturing crises to extract massive concessions isn’t how our democracy works, and we have to stop it. Politics is a battle of ideas, but you advance those ideas through elections and legislation – not extortion.”

We, of course, are all for political debate. It’s what makes our country special.

The chance to get rid of the Affordable Care Act ended when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it, Democrats retained control of the Senate and Obama won re-election in 2012, but even most of its supporters agree that the measure could be improved. We strongly disagree with numerous parts of Obama’s energy policy. The annual deficits are coming down, but there’s much to be done to get the country on a better financial footing.

The country can neither cut nor tax its way to prosperity. The only path — shown as recently as the 1990s — is a strong economy.

Political maneuvering that cripples economic progress is a self-inflicted wound that makes building a better United States for all impossible.

It’s time for the current folly in Washington to end — now.