While the politics swirl, and conflict drives the news cycles, the country continues a steady march toward fiscal peril.
The debt has reached $17 trillion and continues to climb. According to the Congressional Budget Office, entitlement and other mandatory spending will rise by $1.6 trillion, or 79 percent, over the next ten years.
The bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson-Bowles) concluded in its 2010 report "Our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path. Spending is rising and revenues are falling short, requiring the government to borrow huge sums each year to make up the difference."
The commission recommendations include a balanced approach of spending cuts, tax, health care and Social Security reforms to bring spending back in line with revenues. It's a reasoned framework for a legitimate negotiation to repair the country's fiscal house.
Congress is supposed to have that debate now; it's part of the legislation to avoid default and send government workers back to their jobs. But we've heard that tune before, and it's difficult to be optimistic given the magnitude of the challenge and the history of inaction.
A continuing resolution to fund the government and raise the borrowing limit for a few months is to fixing the debt what putting gas in your car is to rebuilding the engine.
Somehow Washington has to regain its footing, rededicate itself to the altruism of public service and ensure that we're not repeating the same fight a few months from now.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.