U.S. Sen. Jim Risch isnít feeling sorry for himself but, like many of us, he is looking back wistfully to less complicated times.
Walking out of the conference room after a recent editorial board meeting with The Press, the former Idaho governor and long-term state legislator shook his head and smiled. He talked about the good olí days when members of Congress were knee deep in relatively stress-free issues like figuring out what to do with the federal minimum wage.
That was then.
This is now: Instead of minimum wage, Congress needs to wage maximum war on our federal deficit. Our nation faces a $16 trillion debt. That number is so numbingly large, itís impossible for most of us to grasp, let alone figure out how to make it go away.
We agree with Sen. Risch that fixing the economy isnít the governmentís responsibility, and we agree further with the good senator that getting out of the way of free enterprise is one of the best things the government can do. But we also believe stronger leadership across the board in our nationís capital ó not just in the White House, but throughout both chambers ó would instill some of the confidence business leaders are so desperately lacking.
As Sen. Risch acknowledges, vast sums of private sector cash are sitting on the sidelines. Thatís money for new jobs, for more research and development, for ramping up production to meet rising demand in a stronger economic environment. But so unpredictable is the business climate in America that those funds arenít going to be invested until principles are convinced leadership has plotted a suitable course backed by sensible policies.
A little leadership from men and women willing to step above the partisan fray would go a long way in setting America back on the right track. While the fear of losing political leverage in a presidential election year might paralyze some, real leaders from both parties should be working overtime to find out from the business sector specifically what governmental impediments are stifling growth. That $16 trillion hole in the ground wonít be filled with one unprecedented dump. It will be filled a shovel-full at a time, one job at a time, and it will be filled not by more governmental policies and regulations but by instilling confidence in industry that the rules arenít going to change the minute the sun of prosperity starts to shine again.
Weíre convinced that itís neither possible nor necessary for everyone to agree on what those rules will be; predictability is the key. But predictability requires confidence, and nothing bolsters that better than effective leadership.