Politics as usual

Brinksmanship politics in Congress leaves us with only bad options.

Daily Editorial Board

Congress has been stuck in gridlock since the 2010 midterm elections and the Tea Party wave that gave the Grand Old Party control of the House of Representatives. As a result, a series of crises has characterized federal politics: the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff and now sequestration.

Although the federal government losing its AAA credit rating and tax rates increasing might not directly affect students — who, for the most part, are in the lowest tax bracket and barely earn enough to pay any federal income tax — the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester will finally bring the effects of congressional gridlock directly to students.

There are tangible consequences to Minnesota students worthy of acknowledgement. Unless sequestration is averted, the state would lose $16.2 million earmarked for primary, secondary and special education. The most direct and immediate impact for college students will be a decline in the amount of financial aid benefits for low-income students and funding for work-study jobs. Numerous other impacts will affect the state as a whole.

Brinksmanship politics is a result of several factors, first among them is how redistricting has established partisan congressional districts, resulting in the threat of primary challenges if members are seen as breaking from polarized positions in order to reach a compromise.

Furthermore, because so few Americans truly understand the process of compromise and only hear a few seconds of sound bites, any attempt to facilitate a compromise is viewed negatively. This results in behind-closed-doors negotiating at the last minute only to avoid some greater evil instead of transparent and open debate.

Whether the sequestration occurs or is prevented by a last-minute deal, Americans can expect continued brinksmanship unless they work to more fully understand the process.