Editorial: Our gratitude is awaiting debt solution

Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:26 PM

Thursday’s breakthrough budget deal passed by the U.S. House of Representatives reiterates the depth of despair in Washington.

Congressional leaders are getting a glass half-full pat on the back. But our national debt isn’t resting at $17 trillion. It’s refueling in a packaged health care law passed three years ago and launched with a clap of thundering problems in October.

The law’s comparison, in terms of helping Americans, is rightly being made to the impact of introducing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Fair enough. Save the arguments for and against Obamacare for another day. Concentrate on dollars.

Federal spending is growing and 44 percent of the $17 trillion is from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Social Security has a trust fund projected to be empty in 2033. Then it’ll operate at three-quarters strength.

Anyone remembering Bill Clinton’s first term will understand how close 20 years from now will get here.

Among the puzzling moves so far is President Barack Obama’s commissioned deficit-reduction plan, written by Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. It’s been ignored.

Whether the Senate approves the budget deal or not, we still have an unsolved financial problem — regardless of 2014 election winners.

Simpson’s plan is one of many approaches that have failed. Secret, and probably double-secret, talks haven’t gotten the debt job done. Neither have panels, super committees or any other strategy.

If the president is correct and this bipartisan compromise from the House is a step, that is indeed encouraging news. We hope he and the other members of Congress will tell us where we’re going. A tree must be blocking our view of their forest.

The fact it is even drawing “glass half full” chatter should be appalling. It is not.

Sadly, it is some of the best news out of Washington this calendar year. We’ll take the deal because of how badly gridlock has crippled the country.

But the deal’s biggest dent to deficit reduction isn’t expected to happen for nearly a decade. That’s a lot of elections, and a lot of budget decisions from now. We don’t even know who’ll decide them.

Half-full glasses that leak are not quenching our thirst for a solution.