Editor’s note: Considering our options, the politics of delay might not be all bad

January 6, 2013

I started to write a different column. I wanted to wring my hands along with the other pundits about the failure of our elected leaders to devise a true plan to bring the nation into fiscal balance.

I’m tired of all this kicking the can down the road, of “fiscal cliff” crises, of political showdowns. Will this bickering never end? We’re already halfway through a lost decade of sluggish economic growth. I told a colleague if Congress and the president can’t get this right, then I truly fear for the future.

Whoa!

I suddenly realized I sounded like one of those breathless commentators on cable TV. Cue the ominous music and the scary countdown clock.

The world is coming to an end, just like the Mayans said.

Except, then, nothing happens.

And that’s okay. The harder task I realize is actually trying to reach some consensus, because the choices we face are going to bring pain to someone, and we should proceed cautiously before doing harm.

Impatience can hardly help here. We are at a logjam because the options are so unappealing.

We can keep finding more taxes to raise. Or take away benefits. Or go deeper into debt.

Or maybe all three.

So I am all for a deliberative process. I’m fine with new deadlines and separating out the decision points over taxes, the debt ceiling and spending.

I’m going to be an optimist here, and assume a drawn-out process will lead to better decision-making. This week’s initial step shows compromise is possible, even when the two sides are so dug in. I’ll be rooting for the home team — federal Washington — and jumping on the bandwagon of any elected official willing to take command of the process.

What other choice do we have? The day of reckoning is approaching — some say it is already here — when we must take responsibility for the choices we made that led to the economy we have.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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