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A Dangerous Brand of Politics

Christopher Hildebrand and Laura Hatalsky contributed to this post.

Last week, a bipartisan group of ten former Chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) sent an open letter (in POLITICO) to the president and Congress adding to the chorus of pleas for our lawmakers to address the nation’s long-term debt crisis. This well-timed letter notes that political leanings and “divided government [are] no excuse for inaction.”

In fact, bipartisan workable solutions and reasonable calls for action seem to be coming from everywhere. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Domenici-Rivlin Restoring America’s Future report and the Fiscal Commission’s Moment of Truth both provide reasonable blueprints for action. The wide array of political ideologies signing onto the CEA letter includes chairmen from five of the previous six administrations. Possibly most crucial of all, the Senate’s Gang of Six continues to make slow-but-steady steps forward. All of these players are loyal partisans – but above party, they believe that we must band together to confront this problem before a debt crisis drives our country off an economic cliff.

Some, however, are seeking to garner political leverage by attacking those across the aisle who are positioned to offer remedies to our serious fiscal condition. This type of assault discourages others from pursuing compromises that could lead to a bipartisan deal, as any serious deficit-reduction proposal will have to touch many “sacred cows.” The debt issue is too serious, and the consequences of doing nothing are too dire, to let political posturing stand in the way.

Speaker Boehner has promised political cover to President Obama should he enter negotiations to reform entitlements, but many Democrats understandably remain skeptical about just how broadly this commitment applies (will the GOP hold hands on revenue increases for Social Security?). Congressional Democrats should reciprocate the offer of political cover on entitlement reform proposals in exchange for the GOP extending their truce to include taxes.

We cannot tackle this extraordinary problem without confronting it from all sides – including spending cuts, revenue, and adjustments to the major entitlement programs. The writing is on the wall: unserious solutions and campaign rhetoric should be checked at the door.

2011-03-30 00:00:00

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