As I prepare this blog I have received word that the President has signed the legislation that extends the debt limit. My immediate reaction is relief–not that we increased our debt ceiling, but that finally the barrage of vitriol inundating the air waves for the last month will perhaps end soon. I am afraid, though, what we have experienced is just a dress rehearsal for the next round of elections. Meanwhile, what some say was a fabricated crisis to advance a particular agenda has kept us as a nation from addressing the needs of the most vulnerable among us, who are truly victims of what was unquestionably the excesses of the last decade.
I will leave to others more versed in these issues to analyze how we got into this situation. We can blame it on the polices of former administrations, the financial meltdown in 2008 or the increased costs of entitlements, but it would seem to me that the balancing of our budget at both the State and Federal level on the backs of the most vulnerable without soliciting the support of those most able to assist is the most un-American thing I can imagine.
Some have described the “deal” reached in Washington on the debt limit as a compromise. I suggest that it is rather a tactic in a strategy to build the political momentum that either side needs to address not just the pressing issue of debt reduction, but also entitlements.
Entitlements are the safety net that supports education, services to the needy, and access to health care. How can we consider cutting these crucial services and asking the most vulnerable to sacrifice without soliciting the support and sacrifice of those far less vulnerable? How fair is that in such a great nation?
Let there be no doubt the impact of potential cuts would be significant for the children, youth and families we serve. Further cuts at the federal level to education funding would only make it more difficult for local school districts to provide for children with special learning challenges. Cuts to services for foster care will only further jeopardize children and youth who are already very vulnerable. Reductions in health care would continue to limit access and ironically drive up the costs of providing care.
You don’t have to be an economist to know the solution to this problem. Several examples from our own history demonstrate how we can successfully reduce our national debt while maintaining our commitment to the needy. The solution requires not only prudence and discipline with regard to spending, but also requires fair access to resources to maintain the safety net and invigorate the economy. The sacrifices can not be borne just by some; they must be taken up by all.