They are sitting at home and waiting.
They are in Baltimore and Boro Park, in Silver Springs and in Manhattan, and in communities throughout the country. They are prominent members of our community; fathers and mothers who are desperate to return to work so they can support their families with dignity.
They haven’t been laid off, nor are they actively seeking a job — although they might be forced to soon. They have been furloughed since October 1, because politicians in Washington haven’t been able to come to an agreement about funding the government. They are among the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been barred from coming to work — even as volunteers — because of the shutdown.
As painful and disturbing as the shutdown is, America still stands on the brink of default. Unless the quarreling sides are able to forge a compromise by Thursday, the United States government will lose its ability to borrow and would be required to meet its obligations relying only on cash on hand and incoming tax receipts.
As these words are being written, Congress — pressured by urgent pleas from American businesses and bankers, as well as by foreign countries, that both the U.S. and global economies could suffer severe damage if a default occurs — was scrambling for a way out of this man-made, wholly preventable crisis.
Even under the most optimistic of the possible scenarios — that by the time you read these words Congress will have passed and the president will have signed a measure that will re-open the government and avoid the potentially catastrophic default on the U.S. debt — the shenanigans have already had a detrimental effect.
The Fitch credit rating agency warned on Tuesday that it is reviewing the U.S. government’s AAA credit rating for a possible downgrade.
While Fitch expects the debt limit to be raised soon, it stated that “the political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default.”
Each member of both houses of Congress took the following oath on the day they took office:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”
The President recited a very similar oath on the first day of each of his terms as well.
The current debacle in Washington raises a simple question: How well are these elected officials keeping their promise to the people they are supposed to be serving?
Can the reckless political posturing that has so embarrassingly been on exhibit in recent weeks possibly be reconciled with the commitment to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office?”
The blame game and cross-aisle fingerpointing will continue for weeks if not months, but in reality all sides in this affair are to a certain degree at fault. The very fact that a shutdown occurred, let alone that the country was brought so dangerously close to a default, is inexcusable. Whether it is a creative, long-term solution or a temporary stopgap measure, a way out will eventually be found — and that deal could just have easily been drawn up before October 1.
The concept of compromise has been a cornerstone of the American government since its founding. It was a series of bold and dramatic compromises that made it possible for the United States Constitution to be agreed upon in 1787.
The primary reason behind Washington gridlock isn’t a sharp divide of opinions and fundamental disagreements about policies — though they certainly play a role as well — it is the plague of inflated egos and an obsession to achieve political victories regardless of any collateral damage to the American people.
As America continues to wait, growing more disillusioned with each passing hour, we would all gain by learning a lesson from the glaring lack of moral courage being exhibited in the District of Columbia.
As long as man puts the “I” before all, everyone around him continues to suffer.
For all it takes is enough willpower and a determination to put their own self-interests aside, and work for the benefit of the American people, to reach a reasonable agreement.