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Fiscal responsibility and bipartisanship

President Obama signing executive order to create commission as Biden, Bowles, and Simpson look on.
President Obama signing executive order to create commission as Biden, Bowles, and Simpson look on.
UPI/Gary Fabiano/Pool

With trillion dollar deficits projected for years to come, the national debt is a fiscal train wreck waiting to happen. By 2020 the national debt will equal 90% of the economy.

We’re approaching a cliff. The debt is unsustainable, and it’s the height of selfishness for us to continue on a track that purchases the present on the backs of our grandchildren and likely, our great-grandchildren.

The crisis is looming on a horizon much closer than anyone imagines. We’ve been kicking the can of responsibility down the road for so long it’s become knee-jerk business as usual. Those games of partisan bickering fueled by one-upmanship spin and sound-bites must stop now. The time to take action is immediately. To dillydally any longer is truly unconscionable.

In February, in an effort to slow the train and perhaps even correct its course, President Obama created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He did so by executive order, endorsing bipartisanship.

The panel—commonly known as the Debt Commission—begins its work this week. It is co-chaired by former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, onetime Clinton White House Chief of Staff. Both men are clear-eyed and realistic, committed to carry weight in their circles of influence

10 Democrats and 8 Republicans make up the commission. 14 votes will be required to approve recommendations, which are due December 1st.

It’s not likely to happen, but it’d be nice if everyone else would shut up for awhile and allow the work to go forward. Sadly it is always the far sides of the spectrum that drive wedges and division.

In this instance—at least until the commission reveals its character—the extreme voices on the Left and Right ought to stick a sock in it. If the undertaking proves to be just another high-profile gab session instead of laying new tracks away from the disastrous crash, that’ll be the time to hold the blue-ribbon panel's feet to the fires of accountability.

This is not an issue confined to any political party; it’s an American problem requiring partnerships and coalition building. Trust is sorely lacking in Washington. Blame for the suspicious and snarky climate can be placed at the doorstep of both ideological houses.

There are extremely difficult choices to be made. If statesmanship does not rise to the forefront in these discussions and decisions, then the runaway train will go over the cliff.

Sooner or later, China is going to say to Uncle Sam that payment is due. When that occurs—if this Debt Commission accomplishes nothing—what exact currency will be used to satisfy China’s demands? What leverage will China utilize on the world stage with America’s official support and approval?

The challenge is monstrous. Alan Simpson referred to it as a “suicide mission”—Erskine Bowles didn’t disagree with that assessment. The task is to gather all available information and come up with proposals to reduce the federal budget deficit to 3% of gross domestic product by 2015. It currently resides in the 10% neighborhood.

President Obama is on record saying that all options are on the table. Time will tell whether or not he possesses the political backbone to be true to that intention.

Simpson and Bowles are adamant—to be serious about coming up with something that resembles a balanced federal budget there cannot be any sacred cows. Given the dire and desperate nature of the times, we ought to all give the commission the benefit of the doubt.

Call me crazy or a cock-eyed optimist, but perhaps this whole process can be an education for America. Maybe, just maybe we’ll begin counting the cost before indulging in instantaneous gratification as a nation.



  • lg 5 years ago

    This current mentality of winning is a self-fulfilling prophesy for failure. Historically speaking, we need to work together to fix some of the problems created by LBJ's "Great Society" and the failures of "Reaganomics" that squeezed the average Joe too tightly. There is plenty of blame to go around. We have to realistically explore where we are Right Now and work together to fix it. This is not a game with a winner. This is a real war, with real consequences and done correctly, minus political posturing, we can all win. I seem to be an optimist as well.

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