Paul Ryan: We Must Act Now to Boost Economy

Whenever there is a deadline in Congress, short-term considerations generally gain more importance than long term goals. Politicians have a tendency to focus on fixing whatever is broken through a piecemeal and temporary approach rather than taking a look at how the quick fixes will affect generations to come. In other words, the can gets kicked a little further—eventually becoming the next generation’s problem.

In the most recent case, the deal Congress passed last night funds the government just until January 15 and the debt limit is extended to February 7. Was this really a debt deal or just a postponement? Ideally, Congress would comprehend that they can’t face the same perilous path they were staring at the past few weeks again in a few months.

Whenever a bill like this passes, it is a sign that something positive may come out of it. One of these signs is mandatory budget discussions with the deadline set on December 13.

Former hedge fund manager and proactive philanthropist Stanley Druckenmiller and Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, headlined a panel at USC last month to discuss this very same issue. The discussion narrowed 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, but the part of the budget that receives the most damage is the discretionary spending, from education to investments in infrastructure.

Senator Patty Murray (D-Wa.) and U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wi.) have their work cut out for them as chairs for their chamber’s respective budget committees. Any attempt to imagine what possible outcomes a long-term budget deal will look like is like trying to play a guessing game with nobody knowing the answer.

Their December 13 deadline for solutions will be the focus of renewed debates on how to preserve the credibility of the U.S. government, lest another partial shutdown follow like it did in 1995-96. The concepts behind a real grand bargain such as spending cuts, entitlement reform, full-scale tax reform, and a debt limit hike are complex.

The greater debate should be narrowed on the role government plays in individuals’ lives. In other words, it should take into account how education spending will affect a student’s future. Or how rejuvenating infrastructure will boost unemployment. Researchers and scientists need proper funding to remain competitive in an ever-changing world.

Partisanship aside, Democrats and Republicans need to realize how their responsibility is to America as a whole and not merely their constituency. Their votes impact more than those who vote for or against them. Paul Ryan put it best when he said:

Ryan was not referring to a grand bargain, but a good starting point. The down payment would be what Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Without a grand generational bargain, everyone will lose.

Fortunately, a debt deal, albeit a temporary one, has passed. Playing the blame game before something happens is not only childish, but irresponsible. This is real life and what Congress and the president decide upon in the coming months will impact not just my and my parent’s generations, but future generations as well.

Editor’s Note: A pre-deal version of this article was originally posted on The Can Kicks Back blog.