The shred of good news Wednesday in Washington was that our nation won't default on its debt, at least not yet.
The Republican-run House passed a three-month suspension of a $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, calming worries for now that an impasse could badly hurt America's creditworthiness and economy.
The Democratic-controlled Senate quickly agreed to the temporary truce, as did President Barack Obama.
But it's just the latest in a series of piecemeal punts that can't go on for much longer.
Attached to Wednesday's stopgap measure is language to cut off the pay of either house if it fails to produce a budget by mid-April.
That's welcome. The Senate hasn't approved a formal budget in years.
If anything, additional triggers are needed to block paychecks for all the politicians — including Wisconsin's congressional delegation — who can't cooperate, meet deadlines and get things done.
The gridlock needs to end. Real solutions need to start.
The Republicans shouldn't be political playing games with the federal debt limit. As the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan watchdog group, has explained: The debt is from past policy decisions, and those obligations won't go away if we ignore them. They'll continue to accrue.
"Refusing to pay some or all of its bills would not be an act of fiscal responsibility," the group wrote in a news release. "It would be turning the federal government into a deadbeat."
At the same time, the Democrats need to get serious about restraining how fast spending goes up. The Democrats got their tax hike on the rich, and that won't come close to closing the gaping federal budget hole.
What's needed is a sweeping deal to control the soaring cost of entitlements and defense, while making smart investments in priorities to grow the economy, such as research and development.
Start doing your job, Washington. Avoiding the latest self-imposed calamity isn't close to being enough.