Most consumers would welcome some events again; the birth or college graduation of a child, paying off our mortgage, or man on the moon.   But government shutdown and debt ceiling “chicken” are not on the welcome list.  In October this year, politicians grossly overestimated their constituents’ support for a budget grudge match.  Those hostilities may return soon and most politicians appear no smarter.  

Current government funding expires on January 15, 2014 and a small team from the Senate and House are negotiating an agreement for about $1 trillion in a federal budget and automatic spending cuts (sequesters) that will run into 2015.  

Republicans want a fiscal spending limit of $967 billion and Democrats argue for $1.058 trillion. Both are deep deficit spending. Both parties want flexibility in applying sequesters, but ties to specialinterests prevent agreement on cutting or adding, yet both agree Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid entitlements must remain intact.  

The House and Senate continue small minded obstructionism.  The House plans to adjourn on December 13th and the Senate plans to be present from December 9th until December 23rd, allowing a 5-day overlap to negotiate spending $1 trillion.  Attendance adjustments will arise from the potential media coverage.

The budget must be passed by both bodies and avoid the President’s veto.  The current debt limit may be reached on March 7th.  If in a fit of pique, Washington ties the budget agreement to a debt ceiling increase, then January 15th likely brings major disruption, again.

In polling, 78% of the public say they track government shutdown and debt ceiling revision closely or somewhat closely.  A big majority, 84% say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the US.

Jim McNerney, CEO of Boeing, says Washington must “[sort] themselves out [to] give businesses a more predictable environment to invest the cash on their balance sheets and hire people.  Instead our leadership tries to distract us with non-stop ACA sales campaigning. 

If consumers let Washington botch the budget twice – then shame on us.

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research