It was encouraging to see 40 U.S. House Republicans joining 60 Democrats last week in urging the deficit-reduction supercommittee to explore new revenue options to help cut $1.5 trillion from future U.S. budget deficits.
There are, however, 535 members of Congress, so we have a long way to go. But it’s a start.
“To succeed, all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table,” the group wrote in an open letter to the committee. “Our country needs our honest, bipartisan judgment and our political courage.”
The supercommittee is facing a Nov. 23 deadline and has been deadlocked on the same issues as the Congress at large.
Democrats are reluctant to make entitlement cuts, while Republicans have pledged not to increase taxes for any reason at all.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is poised to make all of these problems even worse by seeking further reductions in Social Security taxes in the name of economic stimulus.
The president is subscribing to the same cut now/pay later philosophy that’s to blame for our current national debt problem.
Obama would cut taxes now and increase them later to make up the shortfall. As we have seen in recent years, that just doesn’t work.
The conservative Washington Post economist and columnist Robert Samuelson recently had an intriguing idea.
His “fantasy” would be to have retired presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush tour the country together as a “two-man truth squad.”
They could tell the country what it needs to hear, that it will take a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases to put a real dent in the U.S. deficit.
This is the same thing Alan Simpson and Erskin Bowles recommended after heading a presidential commission that studied deficit solutions in 2010.
The commission’s co-chairs recommended a host of entitlement cuts, including farm subsidies, Social Security, civilian and military federal pensions and student loan subsidies.
They recommended gradually increasing the payroll tax and the retirement age, while reducing various tax breaks such as the home mortgage interest deduction.
The co-chairs suggested cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 26 percent, while eliminating various loopholes.
Their recommendations were attacked from all sides and then ignored by the president who appointed them.
That opposition is why we are in the fix we’re in today. Members of Congress are afraid of offending the interest groups and corporations that fund their campaigns.
The ex-presidents certainly understand the pressure, and they clearly owe the American people some leadership.
Clinton could have helped solve the entitlements problem when the country was relatively flush in the 1990s. Instead, he did nothing.
Bush could have tackled the deficits in 2001 when the country was projecting budget surpluses. Instead, he chose to cut taxes, fight two wars on borrowed money and give seniors an unpaid-for Medicare drug benefit.
The two men could now educate the American people while putting pressure on Congress to compromise for the sake of our economy and our country.
It would be an act of courage that Americans would long admire.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.