Andrew Harnik, AP
In this March 21, 2018, file photo Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., attend a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring the Office of Strategic Services in Emancipation Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the nation is facing a constitutional crisis because she believes the president is not living up to the oath of his office.

The president, meanwhile, has declared a crisis at the border, declaring a national emergency that would allow him to allocate money for a wall.

And the trade war with China — a series of escalating tariffs as the two sides try to negotiate an agreement — has been dubbed a global crisis.

Everywhere you look these days, a “crisis” is afoot. That is great for political fundraising and the ever-present need to “energize the base,” as politicians call their hope of exciting supporters, especially wealthy and generous ones, who favor their cause.

But it does nothing for the nation. If everything is a crisis, nothing is a crisis. The very word becomes meaningless or, at best, is demoted in meaning to a “problem.”

Worst of all, this incessant labeling of every problem as a crisis distracts the nation from the real crises at hand.

One large and real one concerns the federal pocketbook. During times of plenty, such as today, it’s easy to downplay the national debt and the growing annual budget deficits that fuel it. But it would be irresponsible to suppose that a day of reckoning won’t come.

As the nation learned a decade ago, America is not immune to financial collapse, and the federal spending that helped to avoid complete disaster back then would be harder to muster today when deficit spending already is high.

The total federal debt has passed $22 trillion, and the annual budget deficit exceeds $1 trillion. The Social Security Board of Trustees estimates that the entitlement program will exhaust its reserves by 2035, just one year before Medicare becomes insolvent. Trying to find someone of either party willing to sound alarms about this is about as rare as a snowstorm in Death Valley.

But the biggest crisis, and in fact the underlying problem of just about every current “crisis” being touted in Washington, concerns Congress’ refusal to perform its constitutional duty. The people’s representatives are supposed to debate difficult issues, strike compromises and pass laws. Instead, legislative leaders seem content to grandstand for political gain, leaving the really hard decisions to the other branches of government, where the president attempts to govern by executive order and the courts determine whether what he has done is legal.

53 comments on this story

Simply put, if Pelosi feels the president has committed an impeachable offense, she should initiate the impeachment process and see where it leads. If members of both political parties believe increased tariffs are bad for the economy, they should wrest the power to impose them back from the executive branch and vote to cancel them. If lawmakers find a border wall to be a poor solution to the influx of refugees and asylum-seekers, they should commit themselves to the hard work of negotiating meaningful immigration reform measures, and perhaps reallocate resources so that Border Patrol and the courts are better able to handle the problem.

We get it — reasoned dialog and good-faith negotiations don’t rack up political points and big donations as well as half-truths and demagoguery do.

What we don’t get is how elected representatives could let the nation suffer as they ignore real problems, all the while pointing fervently and shouting “Crisis!” at things they have no intention of confronting.