New Britain Herald
February 8, 2013
By John Larson

Since the beginning of President Obama's first term, we've heard countless narratives about Congress' inability to deal with the debt, and how this could affect our nation's economy. As recently as a few weeks ago, Congress finally raised the debt ceiling, but only after putting families and businesses through an unnecessary period of uncertainty. In August of 2011, Congress raised the debt ceiling, but only after instituting automatic budget cuts no one wanted. This politically-driven crisis was not only unnecessary, but it left Connecticut's cities, towns and citizens watching and waiting during this Congress-created showdown as waves of anxiety and uncertainty weighed heavy on their minds.

The impact of the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff debate on Connecticut cannot be understated. During my forum on the debt ceiling this past January, Mike Walsh, director of finance for the town of East Hartford, spoke of how hostage politics and brinksmanship in Washington can affect residents in East Hartford. Just the threat alone of our nation defaulting on its bills, and the threat of automatic spending cuts across the board is enough to negatively impact the financial marketplace, which in turn affects the finances of our municipalities. The stakes are high as continued uncertainty affects retirement plans, pension funds, and the ability of cities and towns like East Hartford to invest in the infrastructure they need to thrive. Mr. Walsh's account of how uncertainty in Congress trickles down to East Hartford, and subsequently to the tax payer, was eye-opening and should underscore to members of Congress the need to put an end to these self-imposed crises.

As we have heard from numerous experts and officials, the fight over the debt ceiling is really a fight over whether our country should pay its bills. Let me be emphatic: the U.S. has never defaulted on its debt. Since the early 1960s, Congress passed over 75 separate measures to change the limit on our federal debt. Under President Ronald Reagan the debt ceiling was raised 18 times, and under President George W. Bush the debt ceiling was raised seven times. Using the debt ceiling to hold our nation's economy hostage for purely political or ideological reasons is not only unprecedented, it is irresponsible. We must end this pattern and focus on the real needs of the American people: job creation and economic stability.

While there is no question that we must deal with our national debt, the risks of default are too high and too many to continue our endless debate on the debt ceiling. In 2011, we witnessed the impact of a Republican-controlled Congress threatening default on the full faith and credit of the United States. Moving forward, Congress should take the debt ceiling off the table, and give the American people and financial community the guarantee that defaulting is not, and never will be, an option. The last thing residents of Connecticut need in these difficult economic times are increased costs because Congress cannot work together to solve our economic issues. Democrat or Republican, we are all Americans, and should work together to pay our bills and give everyone an equal opportunity to work and succeed.