What others say: Congress having the wrong budget discussion

It must be terribly frustrating to work for the Congressional Budget Office.

Every year around this time, the group issues a report about just how grim the nation’s long-term financial health is. A few lawmakers wring their hands and say they will get serious about fixing the problem, but then they don’t. We, as a nation, rush toward a debt-induced disaster if no one heeds the warning.

The nonpartisan budget office issued its new forecast this month. It offered one glimmer of hope. Short-term, the federal budget is in better shape today than in recent years.

Thank a slowly recovering economy, sequestration spending cuts and a few tax changes. Annual deficits that topped $1 trillion in recent years have shrunk to their smallest level since 2008. They will continue to decline until about 2018.

Then, if nothing changes, everything starts going haywire again.

Budget deficits will increase each year, driving up the national debt.

Washington just isn’t listening. Lawmakers, activists and lobbyists get twisted up over discretionary spending programs that the budget group forecasts will remain basically flat over the next 25 years. The Farm Bill, for all its other problems, stalled over the minor (in the grand scheme of things) expense of food stamps.

Even now, partisans are bickering over what should be a routine increase to the debt ceiling so that the government can spend money Congress already authorized.

Default and a government shutdown loom while Republicans insist on fighting over the Affordable Care Act again, a battle they cannot win given that President Barack Obama holds a veto pen and the Senate has a Democratic majority. ...

Kansas and Missouri lawmakers are positioned to forge a compromise. Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts sits on the Senate Finance Committee. And half of Missouri’s U.S. House delegation (Democrats Emanuel Cleaver and Lacy Clay, and Republicans Blaine Luetkemeyer and Ann Wagner) serve on the Finance Committee.

The Congressional Budget Office once again has given America a peek at its future. If it comes to pass, in 2038, Americans will hold few fond memories for those who were warned that fiscal disaster was coming and did nothing.

— Kansas City Star,

Sept. 22

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