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Steve Lunetta: Government by crisis

Posted: October 28, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 28, 2013 2:00 a.m.

With the stroke of a pen, President Obama ended both the government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling, allowing national parks to re-open and the government to borrow more money to finance its spending.
Obama declared that Congress must stop “governing by crisis.”

Well, isn’t that special? Mr. President, isn’t it time we started planning ahead to avoid this sort of issue?
Why don’t we do some common-sense things now to avoid problems later?

As I recall, Mr. Obama said: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills.

“It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies.” (2006, as retold by National Review 1/11).

If the president opposes raising the debt limit, then why did he agree to do it? Again.

Answer: failed leadership and an inability to plan ahead.

This debt thing is going to kill us. I understand that every man, woman and child in the United States owes $58,000.

Why are we Baby Boomers willing to pass on this massive debt to our children and grandchildren?

I, for one, am not. I say we stop this crazy train and figure out a better way to manage our government.

Here is an idea. We are a year away from another debt limit crisis. Why don’t we start talking about it now?

Then we solve the issues before crisis happens and we effectively manage our affairs. It could work.

I prefer to think of things in a more simple fashion. I understand some things are perceived to be extremely complex (like the federal budget). Or have we made them more complex simply because government wants to make it that way?

What if we did this. Let’s look at the projected federal budget for next year and calculate how much it is scheduled to be over revenue (which will cause the debt limit to increase).

Then reduce the budget in selected areas until it is balanced and no debt limit increase is required.

Those departments that have their budgets cut may appeal, but they must provide an alternative plan as to where the funds may be cut.

Of course, those departments proposed for cuts may respond as well.

If a reasonable compromise cannot be obtained, then a select committee of representatives and senators will decide.

This process must be completed two to three months before the budget cycle ends.

If a compromise cannot be obtained (translation: people aren’t willing to be reasonable and work together), then the overall budget is reduced by the percentage needed to get it in balance.

Think “sequester.”

If this works well, begin building into the budget a provision for deficit reduction accompanied by lowering the debt ceiling.

Yes, my free-spending Democratic friends, it is possible to spend less and reduce our debts.

I think the beauty of such a system is that it would take much of the political name-calling out of the process.
For example, if the Department of Health and Human Services budget got reduced, it would have to propose that the National Parks Service get cut in its counter-proposal.

Claims of the Republicans (or Democrats) being mean-spirited and cruel would, instead, be countered by claims that they want our national parks to be closed. Those mean HHS people.

After all, that is what it really boils down to. Limited resources must be divided as fairly and equitably as possible. Hard choices must be made.

These things have little to do with being “hard hearted” or “cruel” but simply because the well is not bottomless.

Is this plan fool-proof? Hardly. But something must be done to change a system that is clearly broken.

Congress has lost the ability to plan ahead and seek compromise before a budget deadline comes due.

As president of our nation, Mr. Obama must seek to find better ways of doing the people’s business. It seems like he has been content to allow his administration to be swept along by the tide, not finding abetter path forward.

By his own words, it is time to find a way around our “reckless fiscal policies.”

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and will be more than happy to take over the Congressional Budget Office, if asked. He can be reached at


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