Congress needs to fix the budget deficit

Alex Belz

Much has been said lately about just how effective the new Congress is going to be in the next two years. With a Republican majority in the House and a Democrat majority in the Senate, critics think progress will be deadlocked. But a crisis is facing this nation, regardless of political rhetoric and rivalry. Our national debt cap is set for 14.3 trillion, but as of this writing our debt exceeds 14 trillion. This means either we need to drastically cut spending or raise the debt cap again, which could mean borrowing even more from foreign investors.

While Congress wastes time arguing over the Environmental Protection Agency and health care, the debt is rising. According to defeatthedebt.com, the United States adds 150 million to the deficit every hour. That number comes from an Associated Press report in May of 2010, which reported that the Treasury Department is predicting the federal deficit for 2010 will increase by 1.38 trillion.

Andy Harmon/NW

If you divide that by 365, you get approximately 3.8 billion per day. Divide it further a few more times and it equals 2.5 million every minute and around 43 thousand per second. So in the time it’s taken someone to read this far into the article, somewhere around the amount of 150 million dollars has been added to the deficit.

Last week, Congress read the U.S. Constitution aloud in its entirety. The event took around two hours –– while 300 million dollars bled from the treasury.

This past Saturday, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords –– the same Congresswoman who read the First Amendment aloud before the assembly –– was shot. In the days that have followed, the shooting has been used as an excuse by nearly everyone in the United States with some sort of agenda.

People are saying everything from the toxic political landscape, the mental health care system, the college the alleged shooter Jared Loughner attended and the Tea Partiers are to blame. Where exactly the truth lies is hard to say –– the news of Giffords’ shooting was politicized almost from the moment it was announced, starting with local Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s claim that it was the charged politics of the time that led to the shooting. One Republican Congressman was even bold enough to point out that Loughner had a copy of Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto” on his bookshelf –– implying, I suppose, that Loughner is a communist.

But all of these claims seem to be missing the point. What happened to Giffords was a tragedy. Arguing about the cause of the tragedy is important, of course, but it’s not the point. The truth is we are living in a nation beset by national tragedy and rising deficit. If we don’t do something soon, this nation we live in will be in so much debt we might not be able to climb out again.

We need to not be distracted by political divides. Everyone seems so certain that was the cause of the shooting, and perhaps they’re right. If that’s the case, then this nation needs to put aside petty differences and turn the economy around.

The new Congress seems to be deadlocked. But that doesn’t have to be the case. People on both sides of the party divide can learn from this tragedy and come together.

I was a sophomore in high school on 9/11. In the weeks that followed the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, I remember everyone coming together as Americans. Even the petty worries of high school were washed away. People pinned American flags to backpacks and lit candles outdoors in memory of those that had been lost.

Here we are, with a tragedy perhaps not on the same scale, but certainly just as devastating. A Congresswoman was shot and we’re all feeling the affects of that.

We need to put aside political differences and work on the problem at hand. Political demonstrations like reading the Constitution  are a waste of time and energy. This nation is facing a financial crisis and if we don’t do something soon, we might find ourselves in a position to be unable to do anything at all.