Felicia Muftic: Imagine, a bipartisan compromise
August 4, 2011
Lo and behold … a deal in D.C. on the debt ceiling? It was no surprise that part of the solution was to send the hard decision-making to yet another committee, so that only a few would take the fall for killing off sacred cows and the rest of the elected representatives could go on record and keep their campaign pledges not to compromise on anything.
What was new was the charge to the panel to come up with a solution or face the firing squad of across the board cuts, which would cause pain to both ideological sides. The compromise included cuts to Medicare providers and the Pentagon, but not to Social Security and assistance to poor and vets. Note that the fundamental decisions of what to cut still awaits the bipartisan panel’s judgment calls, though parameters were set by the deal.
On balance, the GOP won most of the battle, but they could also lose the war in 2012. Some Teaparty types may lose their seats if they are viewed by enough voters as having been willing to destroy the economy in order to save it, including taking down Wall Street and harming seniors counting on full benefits. Their “my way or the highway” excluded other more rational alternatives offered by their party leaders, think tanks, or nonpartisan commissions.
The Teaparty’s uncompromising ways also failed to change the way Washington works other than to make it even more dysfunctional and more partisan than it was before.
The Democrats did not get taxes raised on millionaires or cuts in spending that were less than what the GOP demanded. They did succeed in keeping the agreed upon debt ceiling until 2013 to provide more stability to the economy and cutting defense spending.
The compromise may also have rescued the U.S. from the World’s perception that we were incapable of governing ourselves, but the seeds of doubt have been planted. We will be viewed by investors and lenders as more risky than before. Those with whom I have spoken in Europe feared we had been captured by right wing crazies who were willing to destroy both ours and their fragile recoveries and renege on obligations. That may haunt us later with higher interest rates.
To find the most irresponsible players in this drama, we just need to look in the mirror. The minute anyone proposes to hit our pocketbooks, whether through higher taxes or cuts in entitlements, 70 percent of us want our Social Security, our Medicare, our educational institutions, our defense but we do not want to pay for it. Instead, many want a smaller government, less taxes and more fiscal responsibility. We cannot have all simultaneously; there is not enough wherewithal to go around … at least that has been the conclusion of every commission to date. The compromise panel will have to face that reality, too.
There are some who deserve praise for acting responsibly and who made honest efforts to find compromises. Among those were Sen. Tom Coburn (conservative Republican from Oklahoma), who at least was willing to converse with Democrats, and our own Colorado senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats. In February Udall proposed a constitutional amendment to require the annual budget to be balanced. Democrats approved a FUTURE VOTE ON a balanced budget provision in the compromise. Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, credited Udall by name Sunday.
In March Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) wrote a letter to the president asking him to engage in budget negotiations beyond FY2011 that included discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform, to create meaningful deficit reduction. Thirty two Democratic senators (including Udall) and 30 Republican senators signed on to their letter. This became the basis for the last ditch effort of the bipartisan Gang of 6 to work out a compromise within the past month.
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