That the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — the Congressional Super Committee — failed to reach an agreement on a debt reduction plan may or may not come as a surprise. After all, the select members of the committee represent the same bodies that could only come to an agreement on a debt ceiling plan and avoid a government shutdown at the very last minute this past summer by postponing all the difficult decisions — resulting in the piece of legislation that created the Super Committee in the first place.
We won’t waste too much space here with finger pointing over blame. The Super Committee’s failure to reach an agreement over spending cuts marks a failure of leadership, and every elected official in Washington, D.C., should feel responsible. Elected representative after elected representative have strode to a podium, pronounced that he or she knows the American people expect Congress or the White House to take action, then promptly does nothing. When will an elected representative actually accept the accountability and responsibility for doing the job for which they’ve been elected — governing?
But of greater concern to Alaskans is what comes next. Congress continues to punt on spending measures, putting off decisions over ideological divides, making decisions only when failure to act becomes a political liability. Meanwhile, our state, which relies heavily on federal funding, is left to wonder what funding will come our way in the future — and for what else we’ll be asked to pick up the tab. An even larger portion of Medicaid? Transportation and infrastructure projects? If military spending is cut, what will become of the installations here?
We’re being told to brace for cuts in federal spending. Roughly a third of all jobs in Alaska are tied to federal funding. Just how big a hit to the workforce should we expect?
It’s time for Congress to act. We’d hazard a guess that if members of Congress weren’t worried about the next election cycle and the associated political gamesmanship, a commonsense, reasonable solution to our debt crisis could be worked out. Ironically, if approval ratings are any indication, due to their inaction, the likelihood that voters return current members of Congress to office is quickly plummeting.
Members of Congress say they know Americans expect a solution. It’s time for them to roll up their sleeves and give us one.
By the way, most of our federal agencies are functioning on temporary authority that expires Dec. 16. Congress needs to work through nine spending bills between now and then.
We hope they don’t need another Super Committee to do it.