From an editorial Monday in the Washington Post:
If you think this summer of presidential campaign politics has been wild, and the news from Wall Street a bit scary, wait until Congress gets back after Labor Day. The federal government is heading toward a fiscal train wreck, and, at the moment, it’s far from clear how lawmakers will avoid it.
Due to partisan polarization on Capitol Hill, the United States currently taxes and spends on the basis of temporary legal authorities, which, in turn, reflect the barest minimum of political consensus necessary to keep the federal government operating. Discretionary spending levels, for both defense and non-defense programs, were set by the nearly two-year-old Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act, which relaxed across-the-board sequestration spending caps, but which expires at the end of September. Absent new appropriations bills or a stop-gap continuing resolution, the government could shut down on Oct. 1.
At a time when financial markets are already showing serious signs of stress caused by events in China, Europe and emerging economies, U.S. politics loom as yet another source of uncertainty rather than stability. The increasingly populist, decreasingly sensible election season discourse in this country is veering far away from practical issues – such as how best to raise and spend money for public purposes at the federal level.
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Instead, the ostensibly most powerful nation on earth has a federal budget patched together out of temporary law and borrowed private savings – and all of the people who aspire to lead that nation are talking about other things.