For three years, Congressional leaders have relied on tactical maneuvers, sleights of hand and sheer gimmickry to move the nation from one fiscal crisis to the next — with little strategy to deal with the actual problems at hand. Medicare and Social Security continue to swell with an aging population. Health care costs grow. A burdensome tax code remains unchanged, and economic revival is shadowed by the specter of Washington’s crisis-driven mismanagement.
Now, with a government shutdown looming at month’s end and a crippling default on the nation’s debt possible by mid-October, Congressional leaders may have run out the string on legislative trickery. Conservative Republicans in the House have declared they will not go along with any more gimmickry from their leadership. Democrats have vowed they will not help Republican leaders out of their jam without some easing of spending cuts. And a way forward — to keep the government operating and solvent, and to protect the international economy from a default-driven shock wave — is nowhere to be found as the House is set to vote this week on a stopgap spending plan.