It’s time to put the pledge to Grover Nordquist in the circular file, cut spending and address the nation’s liabilities in earnest.
The day after the election House Speaker Boehner and President Obama held concurrent press conferences, complete with suggestions that each was ready to meet in good faith and address the nation’s atrocious debt and pending fiscal cliff. Since then each has voiced their respective non-negotiable demands. Observers quickly concluded the two positions couldn’t be reconciled, leaving hope of an imminent agreement as scarce as a Romney/Ryan yard sign.
Obama’s second conference this afternoon was more troubling. Suggestions of a limited agreement by year-end pushed the stocks lower with each scan of the teleprompter. Not even the press corps was interested. The first follow-up question was miles off topic, an inquiry into the tangled soap opera of General Patreaus and a growing list of questionable characters.
Now isn’t the time for a short-term patch. It is time for meaningful, long-term reform, complete with higher revenue. Most Republicans are bound to a pledge to Grover Nordquist not to raise taxes. If a few break rank they face retribution in the form of imminent unemployment. If they collectively realize it is in the nation’s best interest to consider tax increases (and/or limited deductions), Nordquist loses his grip and we can proceed with discussions for a balanced solution.
Spending has to be curtailed. We’re two months away from having to raise the debt ceiling yet again. We must concede the sacred cows of Medicare and Social Security are sick and agree to meaningful reform to ensure their survival.
We may have no other choice. A temporary deal or incomplete solution is unlikely to restore the confidence needed to overcome this latest bout of economic paralysis. Furthermore, kicking the can won’t impress John Chambers. Perhaps Chambers isn’t a household name just yet, but the head of the Sovereign Debt Ratings Group at Standard and Poors has made it clear the United States risks another credit downgrade in the absence of a credible resolution. The former swimming standout at Grinnell won’t be fooled by accounting gimmicks. For those familiar with the sport, his record-setting time of two minutes in the 200 butterfly (a time that is still respectable 35 years later) quickly dismisses any suggestion that he’s a pushover.
They say reaching an agreement in 45 days is impossible. I disagree. This isn’t the first time this government has seen any of these issues on the docket. Moreover, a sensible, bi-partisan blueprint has already been drafted. Congress needs to earn their $174,000 salary by tweaking the framework from the 2010 Simpson-Bowles plan and agree to a grand bargain. Now.