The Republican leadership is holding the government hostage. With control over the House, it is the Speaker and his party’s responsibility to propose and implement a budget that will keep the government functioning, while keeping our economy on track. Yet with the recent talks of a government shutdown, leadership in Congress has proven weak.
The current spending bill expires at the end of tomorrow. According to the Labor Department, if the government shuts down, the IRS will stop processing paper tax returns; the Small Business Administration will stop making loans; federal home loan guarantees will be put on hold; and over 800,000 government employees will be put on furlough. That means almost a million Americans won’t get a paycheck!
Some of the government's biggest jobs, like defense and medical research, would also take a hit. The Department of Defense says that U.S. troops would be paid through April 8, but after that, paychecks to members of the military, including those in war zones, would stop. The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients, and put clinical trials on hold. The Environmental Protection Agency would stop reviewing environmental impact statements, which will slow crucial energy related projects. E-Verify, the Department of Homeland Security program that helps businesses determine the eligibility of employees, would be suspended, which could lead to hiring delays.
These are real impacts that will affect real people. We cannot afford a government shutdown.
Leaders on the right are blaming President Obama and the Democrats for not taking action sooner and, instead, focusing their efforts on “wasteful spending practices.” But when Democrats agreed to cut $33 billion from current spending levels, Republicans wanted more.
Yes we need to keep our budget in control, but at what cost? Even in these touch budget times, we must not take actions that will hurt our economy and halt whatever progress we have made.
"Don't believe that somehow the argument is about whether we should cut spending or not," Obama said. “Instead, the question is what to cut. We must target waste and unneeded programs while continuing to spend on innovation, education and rebuilding America's roads, bridges and other infrastructure.”
According to Republicans, focusing on clean energy issues, including wind and solar power, electric cars and energy efficient buildings; or educating our children by investing in education and innovation is “wasteful”. Yet these are essential factors that keep America prospering.
Last week, a report by the U.S. Labor Department says the economy is on the right track:
“Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 230,000 in March, marking 13 consecutive months of private employment growth. Private sector employers added 1.8 million jobs over that period, including more than half a million jobs in the last three months. The unemployment rate fell for the fourth straight month to 8.8 percent. The full percentage point drop in the unemployment rate over the past four months is the largest such decline since 1984.” This proves, most importantly, that the continued decrease in the unemployment rate is due to an increase in employment, rather than people leaving the labor force.
President Obama and his administration, whether through saving the U.S. auto-industry; holding Wall Street firms accountable for their actions; creating more college graduates with student loan reform; extending unemployment benefits for millions who lost their jobs with no fault of their own; ensuring tax cuts for 98% of working families; providing various incentives for small businesses who hire domestically; increasing investments in cleaner and more sustainable energy; or strengthening our infrastructure, is showing true leadership.
However, it is essential that we continue adding on to the progress we have made, thus far. This means that we should stop focusing on the political jargon used by many in Congress, and start focusing more on concrete actions.
Republicans now have control of the House. But where is the leadership?