Lively Politics, Lousy Governance from Washington

There were no trumpets or fanfares. Celebration bands don’t march for commonsense, compromise proposals in Congress any more.

You might have heard the crash, though. It occurred in resounding fashion last week. That’s when the latest bipartisan budget proposal tanked.

Representatives Steve LaTourette, a Republican from Ohio, and Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee, introduced a bipartisan budget alternative based on the Simpson-Bowles commission’s deficit reduction plan. It would have cut the multi-year deficit more than $4 trillion over 10 years, balanced the budget, avoided harsh budget sequestrations next January, and begun paying down our huge national debt. Two-thirds of the plan came from spending cuts; one-third from revenue generated by tax reforms.

“Congressmen Cooper and LaTourette have shown tremendous courage, leadership, and determination in putting the national interest ahead of partisan interests by offering this bold fiscal plan that takes on sacred cows of both sides and callas for the kind of broad based reform that we simply must have if we are to avoid a crisis,” said former commission co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles.

Ah, there was the rub.

The midst of a presidential campaign is not the season for bipartisan courage. Democrats dare not stand up for Social Security and Medicare cuts. Republicans dare not stand up for tax increases. So, the LaTourette-Cooper proposal won all of 38 votes.

Instead, the House passed the latest version of the Paul Ryan budget. This one will be trumpeted by presidential candidates and talking heads. But, it’s dead on arrival in the Senate.

No tough cuts, no new revenue, no progress on the deficit, no courageous leadership, no commonsense from Washington…what Sousa march goes with that performance?

The sad truth is the Simpson-Bowles commission pointed out the way to budget responsibility back in December of 2010. Since then the President and Democrats and Republicans in Congress have chosen to spit and hiss over budget issues rather than act for the benefit of the nation. This makes for lively politics, but lousy governance.

Over the past quarter century, budget progress in America has only come through bipartisan agreements. The budget surpluses under President Bill Clinton came from bipartisan compromises begun under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Reagan said, “If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say, you take it and fight for the rest later.”

Here’s a question you might ask House Republicans. They compromised on the payroll tax cut extension in February, allowing those costs to add to the deficit. They compromised on disaster aid last week, saying extra disaster costs can be added to the deficit even as they adopted a budget saying the opposite. Why won’t they do a Reagan compromise on the budget?

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