Feature:Opinion

You’re going home? Wait! There’s still work to be done.

Gary Johnson Libertarian Presidential Candidate

Imagine for a minute that you hired a group of people to work for you at your place of business whose job it would be to develop a budget, including revenue and the allocation of funds.  You tell this group of employees that, while they may have a lot of other responsibilities, their most fundamental objective is to make sure that they figure out all the spending and revenue concerns for your business. It’s a big job, you say, but they have most of an entire year to do it.  You allow them to start in January, and they have until September 30 to finish.

Can you imagine your frustration when that group — who all work for you and are responsible for spending your money — casually say in late September, “Hey, sorry, we got busy with a bunch of other things, like taking over health care and buying General Motors, and just didn’t get around to figuring out budgets, like how much money we should collect next year or how much we should spend.” “But no worries,” they say, “we’ll just take a short break and then come back and figure it all out.  Don’t sweat, we promise we’ll get it done by Christmas…hopefully.”

As a businessman, and as a Governor, I have always believed that employees who shirk their responsibilities shouldn’t be employees for very long.  And I certainly would not be allowing them to pull the same trick year after year.

Well…this inexcusable scenario is precisely what played out in Washington this week when Congress left town without enacting a single appropriations bill for the fiscal year — and without answering the really critical question of whether a whole range of tax cuts enacted a few years ago will expire come January.

What are we as citizens to do?  Does Congress really not get it?  Every poll taken in the past year shows that Americans are concerned about the economy and jobs — and with historically high unemployment rates, real estate in the dump and the federal deficit growing by the hour, the American people have a right to be concerned.

While the politicians in Washington can give all kinds of lip service to the need to create jobs and get the budget under control, they are doing everything BUT what needs to be done.  Where is the leadership?  How in the world can a business, large or small, make meaningful decisions about hiring new employees when, thanks to Congress’ inaction, they will have no idea before December, at the earliest, what their tax rates will be for next year?  So much for creating jobs.

Does anyone believe that Congress will come back in a lame-duck session and do anything more thoughtful or meaningful?  Probably not — they will most likely just pass another continuing resolution to get them through the beginning of next year — providing us with only more uncertainty.

Sure, the federal government is big, and it’s complicated, and it is difficult to figure out how much we should spend and tax.  But virtually every state legislature does it each year — and they generally do it in a matter of weeks. If the truth is that the federal government is too big and complex to manage, well that is a problem.  When do we start cutting?  I am all for trimming the size of the federal government and making it more manageable.

If one believes, as I do, that the most important things government can do right now to stimulate the economy and help the private sector create jobs are cut spending and prevent tax increases that will occur in January if the so-called Bush tax cuts expire, it is absolutely unacceptable that Congress is packing its bags and going home without doing either one.  Cut spending, give businesses, farms and families some certainty about taxes, and then get out of the way. That is how you can help.

Congress has an opportunity to provide leadership and direction to an economy-soured country that is searching for positive signs.  Calling it quits and leaving us all in more economic uncertainty is what we in the real world would call a career-ending offense.  So…maybe it’s time we get a new Congress.

Gary Johnson is the honorary chairman of the OUR America Initiative (www.ouramericainitiative.com), a 501(c)(4) advocacy committee. He is also the former Republican Governor of New Mexico (1994-2002), and has been a consistent and outspoken advocate for efficient government and lowering taxes.