By The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.
---- — Taxpayers should have higher expectations than Congress has for itself in a short pre-election session that started Monday.
Although there is no budget to replace the one that expires Sept. 30, congressional leaders of both parties appear willing to sign off on a six-month extension of the current budget in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Though the Senate has passed a farm bill and so too has a bipartisan House Committee, House leadership has shown no propensity to get this done while the current farm bill also expires at the end of September.
While letting the farm bill expire will not cause a crisis because this year's crop is still covered, its delay shows that even small political hurdles can stop even bipartisan legislation. House leaders, according to news reports, are wary of bringing the farm bill to a floor vote for fear tea party-minded members might demand more spending cuts in food stamps that Democrats would oppose.
Both parties also plan to waste a lot of taxpayer time and money introducing purely political legislation only designed to draw symbolic votes to be used as politial fodder during an election.
It's an unconscionable action given the serious problems the country faces.
There also is no plan by either party to try to deal with the so called "fiscal cliff," a recession caused by congressional inaction on renewing tax cuts and preventing automatic cuts in military spending scheduled to take place Jan. 1.
Both sides seem content to deal with that issue after the election, the thinking being whoever wins the election has more leverage for their side.
But even if Congress and the president are earnest in dealing with the fiscal cliff after the election, their wrangling will likely cause uncertainty in the markets affecting oil, and stocks and a whole host of other things that impact consumer spending.
If Congress acts in a manner consistent with its past, it's likely to go down to Dec. 25 to come to some agreement to stop the economy from going over the fiscal cliff. So, they will likely create consumer uncertainty throughout the entire Christmas shopping season.
Congress has the ability and duty to act on these issues now, before the election, and voters should hold incumbents from both parties accountable if they don't.
-- The Free Press