Ongoing budget battles reveal a deeper problem

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Many long-term care providers seem to be experiencing a case of budget battle fatigue right about now.

Yes, it was earlier this year that a fiscal cliff compromise was reached. And now two more budget-related crises are about to kick in?

The first pending hurdle arrives Tuesday, in the form of our government's new fiscal year. What's the problem? Our lawmakers just can't seem to approve the appropriations bills necessary to keep our government running. In the all-too-likely event that a budget resolution is not reached in the coming days, yet another partial government shutdown appears inevitable.

And that's just an appetizer. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned congressional leaders that he will exhaust emergency borrowing measures by Oct. 17, possibly sooner. He urged Congress to raise the federal debt limit, which now stands at $16.7 trillion. Lew noted that without additional borrowing authority, “It would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history.”

Care to guess how these developments might affect your future reimbursement outlook?

All things considered, it's almost unfathomable that we now find ourselves in this fiscal mess. After all, we live in a nation that's universally recognized as the land of plenty. We are blessed with unmatched natural resources, as well as a capitalist system that has generated unprecedented wealth across every class. We enjoy a system of government that offers virtually unmatched freedom. And our various branches of government are run by some of the nimblest and creative minds on the planet. So why can't we figure out a crisis-free way to pay our bills?

The conventional wisdom is that the two major parties are so ideologically distant that needed compromise can't occur. No disagreement here. But the real problem may be simpler, but in some ways more unsettling.

For it appears that somewhere along the way, too many of us traded the goal of being just for the goal of being legal. Individually and collectively, we seem to be more concerned with hiring needed muscle than in doing what we know is right.

Evidence of this warped perspective is all too easy to spot: The parents who pull strings to get their kids into selective classes, teams, colleges or jobs. Or threaten to sue if those tactics fail. The adults who fudge on their taxes. The drivers who hang onto handicapped placards long after Grandma no longer needs a ride. The businesses that lobby for unique and unfair favors. Governors who try to cadge businesses from other states. The list is practically endless.

Our forefathers may have envisioned us as One Nation under God. But these days, it feels a lot more like survival of the leveraged. So long, justice. Hello “just us.”

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.