Washington has been consumed with a protracted and distracting debate that tied the need to raise the Nation's debt limit to budget cuts. All reasonable people know that default was not an option. The failure of the country to pay its bills would have a catastrophic effect on the economy and on the lives of all Americans for years to come. This was a debate we shouldn't have been having. Every day and every hour that was spent in this battle was time that wasn't devoted to job creation or economic growth.
I voted against the deal that was made to end the crisis that paralyzed Congress and threatened the economy. A default had to be avoided, but this was not the best way to do it. First and foremost, the plan does nothing to create a single job and does nothing to aid the ailing economy. In fact, it could cause both immediate and long-term harm to the country's economic well being and to our ability to pursue economic opportunities.
In addition, I believe the deal will put vital programs and services at risk of harmful cuts. Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid could be put on the chopping block, along with an array of government services that are needed now more than ever. With a depressed economy making it hard for people to make ends meet, we should not be cutting college loans, unemployment funding, child care, housing or health care.
Now is not the time to disinvest in the economy by making broad cuts. Slashing spending while the economy is still struggling to recover from the prolonged recession will be more of a drag on the economy. As Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist said, this deal "will damage an already depressed economy."
I believe we should be investing in infrastructure, education, clean energy and research. This would be the smart way to create jobs, to provide the economy with a jolt and to create long-term opportunities.
At the root of this battle on Capitol Hill is a fundamental disagreement about the role of government in America. The arch-conservatives in the Republican Party want to drastically curtail the programs and services that I believe the majority of Americans value. This includes Medicare and Social Security. The Republicans have long been hostile to these programs and they've made repeated attempts to destroy them. We shouldn't be surprised that they would try to do it again.
While the first round of cuts are severe, the next round could be even more damaging. The special committee that would be established could target Medicare, Social Security and a wide array of programs that serve so many, especially the elderly, the young, the needy and the middle class. If the committee is deadlocked and the automatic cuts take effect, the result could be even worse.
This is not a balanced plan. It is all cuts and no revenue. It does nothing to discontinue tax cuts for the wealthy, Big Oil or corporations that ship jobs overseas. This is another reflection of the misplaced priorities of the Republicans.
We can make smart reductions in the deficit on a timetable that doesn't hurt the economy or working people. In addition to the tax breaks for the privileged, we should end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and make cuts to the defense budget.
We can structure the economy in a way that benefits everybody and is fair to everyone. We can work together to use our resources - both human and financial - to create jobs and create long-term economic opportunities for all Americans.