WASHINGTON, D.C., December 28, 2012 — Obviously the Mayas got it wrong. The world did not end on December 21. But one thing is for sure, the era of strong leadership in Washington is over.
Gone are the days when a president and a Speaker of the House can reach a bipartisan deal to reform Social Security and taxes, like President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill did in the 1980s. Gone are the days when an American president can propose a grand idea like putting a man on the moon, and work with Congress to make it a reality.
America, your political system is broken. Your elected officials lack the political will to solve the country’s great challenges, and your Congress is dysfunctional. The 18 percent of Americans who still approve of the job Congress is doing must be lying to pollsters.
Responsible governance and visionary ideas have taken a backseat to finger-pointing, and partisan-bickering. Quick fixes and stop-gap measures have become the new normal. A short-term investment here, a temporary tax-cut extension there. Long-term solutions are no longer a national priority.
There are serious challenges facing the United States. Unemployment is high. The American Dream is slipping away from many Americans. Middle-class families continue to see their wages go down year after year. More than 46 million Americans are living in poverty. America’s infrastructure is crumbling. The tax-code is bloated and inefficient. There is no energy policy. No plan to reform education. No plan to make entitlement programs more solvent for future generations.
America is set to hit its $16.4 federal debt limit on December 31, according to the Treasury Department. $16 trillion is nothing to sneeze at. $16 trillion is over 400 million times the country’s median household income.
If you spend a dollar every second, you would not reach a trillion dollars for over 30, 000 years. If you spent a million dollars every day since the birth of Jesus Christ, you would not be at a trillion yet. And that is just a trillion. America has $16 trillion on the credit card, yet there is no serious plan to rein in the debt.
Medicare is the big elephant in the room, and no one is talking about it. Without Medicare reform, America’s long-term debt will continue to rise.
In the last 10 years, the amount the federal government spends on healthcare for the elderly has risen from two percent of the economy to four percent. By 2050, it will rise to eight percent according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are devouring 40 percent of federal spending. If nothing is done, in ten years, it will rise to 54 percent. The trajectory is clear. Entitlement spending will bankrupt America. Where is the sense of urgency to solve it?
Gradually raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 is not unreasonable. Delivering benefits to only those who fall below a certain income level (means-testing) is not unreasonable. Doing nothing at all is irresponsible.
There is a leadership vacuum in Washington, and no one is filling it. Not the president, not Congressional leaders. The American people are waiting, and the world is watching.
Can our national leaders still govern responsibly? That remains to be seen.
Ayobami is a graduate student in George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
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