All the Republicans, and even some Democrats, who ran for Congress last fall promised to do something about the federal government’s out-of-control budget deficits.

We need drastic budget cuts, they said. We need to overhaul entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, they said. Our country cannot continue to pile up debt the way it has and continue to be a leading economic power, they said.

So why don’t they put their — our — money where their collective mouth is? Better yet, why don’t they quit spewing words and put all those November campaign promises into action?

Oh, sure. The Republican majority in the House passed a budget calling for $62 billion in spending cuts. But that plan was dead on arrival in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats — and the House knew when it voted that the Senate would never approve it.

All last week and into Friday evening, Republicans and Democrats were hurling brickbats at each other and threatening to shut down the government in a shameful display of political gamesmanship that did little to advance the cause of deficit reduction — or anything else, for that matter.

Republicans in the House have been talking a good game, railing against budget deficits and offering up ambitious plans to reduce spending for a wide variety of government programs and services. But until they forged a last-minute deal with Democrats to avoid the much-lamented prospect of a government shutdown, they had not succeeded in cutting one dollar from the budget or trimming one nickel from the national debt.


Did they make all those promises and threaten all those budget cuts during the campaign just so they could go to Washington and make more promises and threats?

Every candidate who met with us last fall in hopes of winning our editorial endorsement talked about the need for deficit reduction, for paying down the national debt. Every candidate, regardless of party affiliation, talked about the need for fiscal responsibility.

So where it is it? Where is the fiscal responsibility they promised us? The country voted for action; all we’ve seen so far is rhetoric and gridlock.

Listen up, politicians: It’s time to stop the financial bleeding. It’s time to do in Washington what you promised out here on the stump when you were asking the voters for the opportunity to play a crucial role in securing the nation’s future.

The government shutdown flap has been a distraction, a pointless and infantile indulgence. You weren’t elected to hold your breath and stomp your feet. You were elected to get something done, to rescue America from the debt-ridden road to self-destruction we’ve been traveling for too many years.

This is your chance. Take it or be prepared to answer to the voters who sent you to Washington to fix a problem, not wrangle about it.


That said, we should all keep in mind that the battle leading up to Friday’s shutdown showdown was an argument over chump change, relatively speaking. The real debate begins with consideration of the 2012 budget proposed last week by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Ryan’s budget calls for massive spending cuts and a major overhaul of two extremely popular and costly entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid.

It’s a budget that can and should separate the contenders from the pretenders as Washington politicians wage an epic struggle for supremacy in the rambunctious realm of budget-cutting.

Richard Connor is president and CEO of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

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