Congress dealt with many responsibilities this summer, but the debate around resolving the debt ceiling arguably emerged as the top agenda item.
President Ronald Reagan elevated the debt ceiling 18 times during his administration, sharing that Congress generally treats this process as a formality. Still, if Congress hadn’t successfully done this each time, the United States would have defaulted and not paid off its foreign loans.
Had Congress not worked together to resolve that crisis, the implications would have been devastating.
It’s time for partisan politics to end to have a successful new year.
The fact that Congress could not cooperate on this important task exposed one glaring flaw about this Congress: It stands so divided that it is virtually dysfunctional, and with summer recess officially ending Sept. 6, one cannot help but wonder if this dysfunctionality will carry over to another year.
The deficit issue is looming with Congress set to debate which programs to cut under the new budgetary terms. If the leaders of our country do not let bipartisanship, mutual respect and cooperation prevail, we might dip into even more of a political and economic crisis.
With conservatives and liberals and other factions in between, settling this issue became nearly impossible.
For instance, democrats notably pushed to preserve social welfare while republicans staunchly criticized tax hikes. With frustrated representatives, senators and executive officials walking away from the table at crucial moments, Congress barely met the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. We were, as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed, “playing chicken with our economy.”
The gridlock negatively impacted both the domestic and global economies.
First, the credit rating company Standard and Poor downgraded the United States’ standing from AAA to AA+. Next, more European markets began plummeting. Then, to top it all off, the stock markets dropped over 1,000 points.
Other factors could have contributed to this instability, but it was not a complete coincidence that these events occurred in proximity to the debt ceiling crisis.
Though Congress knew hesitating to lift the debt ceiling could generate debilitating consequences, it couldn’t act efficiently. It could have negotiated a deal substantially superior to the 11th hour to avert this default.
This happened because several members seemed more invested in ensuring they got exactly what they wanted and refused to compromise.
They acted out of personal interests to support their political party and constituents rather than their country. They didn’t consider which policy was substantively best for American citizens overall. With our economy hanging on by a thread, and presidential primaries on the way, they cannot afford to take these missteps in the coming political year.
Those members should have realized that if the country loses, everyone inevitably loses — everyone becomes affected by how the nation improves or devolves.
The various other problems the United States faces today remain monumental and require further cooperative efforts. They span national security, economic and environmental concerns. If the government continues on this splintered path, the country might risk experiencing worse downfalls.
The 2010 BP oil spill irreversibly destroyed thousands of lives and crippled the regional environment and economy.
This catastrophe demanded a collaborative approach mobilized by democrats and republicans; these bipartisan coalitions have assisted the victims significantly. This proved if Congress worked together it could rectify even the worst situations.
Policymakers need to cast their disagreements aside and create a common disposition.
The public elected them to operate as the country’s leaders and their primary job is to implement the policies most beneficial to the American people.
A strong leader isn’t necessarily someone who holds unwavering ideological positions to protect his or her respective constituencies. Sometimes it’s about committing to the difficult, unpopular decisions that might receive backlash and facing the opposition with courage and conviction.
We are all Americans. We are united by this fact and we should all be playing for the same team. This means prioritizing country over personal interest.
Deborah Oh is a junior majoring in political science.