U.S. will pay high price for bad deal

As this edition of the Post-Bulletin went to press, the U.S. Senate was preparing to vote on one of the most important and deeply flawed pieces of legislation ever to emerge from Congress.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 pleases no one. Far-left Democrats believe President Obama gave away everything but the kitchen sink by agreeing to at least $2.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years with no guarantee of any tax increases on the wealthy or closed loopholes for corporations. The far right — a.k.a. the Tea Party — wanted more spending cuts and a guarantee that Congress would approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget.

Those in the middle — the ones who voted for the bill — are keenly aware that this months-long battle has dramatically reduced the world's confidence in America's economy and system of government. And to what end? The creation of a "bipartisan commission" that might at least talk about entitlement reform? Spending reductions that don't specify what will be cut, thus requiring future battles in Congress?

This whole debacle once again demonstrates that in today's political climate, no compromise seems possible without a drop-dead date. Nothing meaningful happens until the last minute, when a state or nation's toes are dangling over the edge of a cliff. In those circumstances, good legislation is virtually impossible, so we settle for anything that will keep us from falling into the abyss.

That's what's been happening in Minnesota for years. With the DFL and GOP unable to unite behind any plan to rethink and reform state government, our legislators and governors have resorted to balancing the budget with smoke and mirrors.


Now, the birds are beginning to come home to roost, as Moody's Investors Service has downgraded its outlook on Minnesota from stable to negative. According to the Wall Street Journal, Moody's says that the state's persistent failure to adopt any permanent revenue-raising measures, opting instead for "one-time measures for a quick fix," means that Minnesota "will face significant obstacles in achieving a structurally balanced budget in the next cycle."

How many nations and international banks are saying the same things about the United States right now?

We're not saying that we prefer what we'll call the "Bachmann Approach," which is to drive off the cliff and see what happens. Given the choice between this bill and default, we'd choose this bill every time.

But as the clock starts ticking toward Dec. 23, when Congress must vote on the bipartisan committee's deficit-reduction plan, we have little confidence that the outcome will be any different. America must fundamentally revise its tax code, entitlement programs and military objectives, but with Election Day less than 11 months away, our elected leaders will be focused on reelection.

At such times, history has taught us to have very low expectations.

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