There’s nothing like starting your job smack dab in the middle of a crisis. New U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach, and new U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, took their oaths on Thursday as the nation they seek to help lead struggles through a particularly nasty patch of partisan bickering and stonewalling.
Governing has taken a back seat to mud-slinging and shouting. Rather than work together to improve the United States, Congress has settled for lurching from crisis to crisis, barely averting each fresh disaster just days or hours before it happens. What a reality to encounter on your first day on the job.
It’s tempting to wish our new leaders the best and urge them to hit the ground running, but what’s needed is really the opposite. Congress has plenty of members – too many – that are already running full speed ahead, making decisions and taking positions at light speed trying desperately to plug each new hole in the dyke. Their efforts are appreciated, but we also need leaders willing to slow down, to take a step back and look at the nation’s big picture problems, which will require long-term solutions.
Rice put forward exactly this idea when talking Thursday with The Sun News’ Steve Jones. We can’t keep bouncing from emergency to emergency. Flailing in the water simply doesn’t work. It’s time to relax for a minute – just a minute – and then start swimming.
“This fiscal cliff is just the latest in a series of continuing ‘emergencies’ that will continue until we address the underlying issues, the major one being overspending,” Rice said. “The problem with what we’re doing by just being totally reactionary is that we have no plan. People don’t know what to plan on. Until we do that, I think business is going to be at a stalemate.”
Rice is right. Intelligent and learned minds will differ on what that plan should be, and that debate needs to happen, but it must end, and soon. Those at the top, namely the president and the leadership of both parties, cannot string along the nation forever. Put a strategy in place. Map out the next few years. With everybody’s input, it will be one that none of the participants thinks is perfect, but even an imperfect plan is better than no plan. Then, and here’s the crucial part, after agreeing on a plan that nobody really likes, let the plan continue.
Tweaks will need to be made, to be sure, but leave in place a basic framework to build from. The indecision and inaction of the past couple of years have shown us what happens when our leaders are constantly at odds, working with the primary goal of improving the lot of citizens but seeking first to undo the work of their opponents (and win re-election).
If the plan that our leaders develop turns out to be a wrong turn, then we can make an adjustment down the road and get back on the right track. But we’ll never get anywhere if we just sit and yell at each other at the crossroads.