Things are starting to fall apart in Washington. We're 16 days into the first government shutdown since the '90s, and if Congress can't patch together a deal by the end of the day, the U.S. is at risk of defaulting on its debt for the first time ever. And who stands to lose the most from this massive failing of the political system? Millennials, and the generations that come after us. It's time for Congress to prioritize long-term solutions over quick fixes and start tackling our national debt.
Former hedge fund manager and proactive philanthropist Stanley Druckenmiller and Geoffrey Canada, President of the Harlem Children’s Zone, headlined a panel at the University of Southern California last month to discuss this very issue. The discussion focused on the massive transfer of wealth from the younger generation to the older. This generational inequality shows the drivers of the national debt are entitlements, while the part of the budget that receives the most damage is discretionary spending, which includes everything from education to investments in infrastructure.
Whatever happens in Washington over the next several days will decide the future of America. It could entail a full-scale budget at best or a continuing resolution at worst, but at least something will happen in the way of progress as opposed to perpetuating the sense of malaise in our nation's capital. That term may remind your parents of President Carter’s speech in 1979, and there are similarities between then and now. That is, a lack of confidence in government’s ability to solve our fiscal problems.
Once fiscal problems get to the point where they are now, it impacts how other countries view the United States. Take a look at the recent economic summit in Asia. President Obama was forced to send Secretary of State John Kerry instead of representing the U.S. himself. And America’s loss is China’s gain: Obama missed a golden opportunity to make good on his pivot towards Asia. The partial government shutdown is hurting the U.S., both at home and abroad.
Any attempt to predict the outcome of the shutdown would be like trying to play a guessing game where nobody knows the answer. The issues a real grand bargain would tackle — such as spending cuts, entitlement reform, full-scale tax reform, and a debt limit hike — are incredible complex.
Democrats and Republicans need to set partisanship aside and realize their responsibility is to America as a whole, and not just their constituency. Their votes don't just impact the Americans who vote for or against them. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) put it best when he said “This is our moment to get a down payment on the debt and boost our economy. But we have to act now.”
Rep. Ryan was not referring to a grand bargain on the debt but rather a promising starting point. A down payment on our massive debt is something Democrats and Republicans can agree on, and without a grand generational bargain, everyone will lose.
With Democrats and Republicans choosing to cling to their principles instead of negotiating, there's a real chance the government could hit the debt ceiling default on its debt in the coming days. Playing the blame game ahead of such a catastrophic event is not only childish, but irresponsible. Congress and the President hold the economic future of the United States in their hands, and their decisions will not just affect the millennial generation, but future ones as well.
This post was originally posted on The Can Kicks Back blog.