Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

December 24, 2013

Saying "yes" to progress

My mother always taught me that “you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” The Rolling Stones sang similar advice with their lyrics “you can’t always get what you want.” Unfortunately, the partisan gridlock of recent years in Washington has left most Americans wondering why their government doesn’t understand this simple wisdom.

Last week, Congress sat differences aside and broke through partisan stalemate for the first time in years, gaining a few inches toward budget reform. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 is far from perfect, and it is certainly not the agreement I would have written. But, it does reduce the deficit by $23 billion over the next 10 years. It also provides two years of budget certainty at a time when our country can’t afford to continue lurching from one economic crisis to the next.

I agree with the critics, both inside and outside of Congress, who say this agreement doesn’t solve all of our nation’s budget problems. I wish we could do more. Last spring, I voted for a federal budget that would have balanced in four years with no tax increases. It was a common sense budget that got serious about all of our nation’s spending problems. Unfortunately, that budget received less than one hundred votes. The ten year balanced budget, that I also supported, did pass the House, and it would be a major improvement over past overspending. But, Senate Democrats refused to even bring that budget up for a vote in their Chamber.

Whether we like it or not, the 2012 election produced divided government. The Republican-led House is joined by a Democratic President and a Democratic-led Senate. Given that political reality, the Bipartisan Budget Act is a solid agreement that moves our country forward.

“No” cannot always be the answer, and this budget agreement is better legislation than many give it credit for. It reduces the deficit without raising taxes. It imposes real spending controls on programs that need them, while allowing funding for important domestic and defense initiatives. The deal will keep spending on non-defense domestic programs slightly below the 2008 level. To hold actual spending at levels from five years ago is a remarkable achievement in a town that’s been on a spending spree for decades.

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