You probably remember the childhood game Kick the Can. It is amazing how kids can keep an empty tin can moving for blocks by kicking it down the street, over and over.
A different, grown up version of Kick the Can is played all too often in Washington. But this is no game. It involves what Harry Truman called "passing the buck:" ducking responsibility, dodging and avoiding taking any action until absolutely compelled to do so. Kicking the Can has grown into a tradition no American is proud of. Yet it happens all too often on Capitol Hill.
The problem is, Congress has kicked the can too many times over the last few years, and a potential fiscal crisis now looms on the horizon. The current tax rates are set to expire at the end of this year. They include payroll taxes paid by most employees, capital gains taxes paid by investors, your individual income taxes, plus many others. At the very same time, an additional round of mandatory, across the board reductions --including dangerously deep cuts to defense- are set to take effect in early January. The Congressional Budget Office and fiscal experts have warned that could trigger another recession.
These are serious problems that require serious, thoughtful discussion and consideration. And what is Washington doing to address them? It is kicking the can down the road yet again, delaying action until after the November elections. By then, its back will be against the wall and Kick the Can will turn into Beat the Clock.
But it doesn't have to be that way. There is still time to shift direction and take a different course.
Instead of waiting until November, Congress needs to act now. Liberals, conservatives and independents alike agree these matters all carry profound consequences for our economy. We cannot afford to make a misstep, especially with the recovery so fragile. Serious situations require serious remedies, not haphazard approaches that are patched together at the last minute. The economic stakes for all of us are too high for that.
Granite Staters sent me to Capitol Hill to do a job. They want responsible action. They expect results. People in every section of our country share that expectation for their Congressmen and Senators, too. It is what the people elected us to do.
There is simply no justification for putting off these pressing problems until the closing days of 2012. What city or town would conduct its affairs that way? What small business would delay taking action until it couldn't wait any longer? It just wouldn't make sense. So why should Congress be allowed to act differently?
Here in New Hampshire, families are enjoying the last summer getaways, and parents will soon shift their attention to preparing to send their children back to school. But because of the serious fiscal issues heading our way, Washington should not take a break because of an election. It should start tackling these problems right now. You don't take time off in the face of a crisis. You don't take a breather when so many challenges are lurking right around the corner.
As Granite Staters, we all share a set of values. Personal responsibility is one of them. Our parents raised us to practice it, and we teach our children to do the same. It is time for Washington to summon the spirit of personal responsibility and work across the aisle to finally do the job the people elected us to do.
The time for Kick the Can is over. The time for action is here.