August 12, 2011

'Common sense has got to prevail' if progress comes to Washington, DC | Times West Virginian

You can excuse Americans if they wonder about the chances of sanity to rule any time soon in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this month, for example, they saw the United States pushed to the edge of financial default by a partisan battle over increasing the nation’s debt ceiling. The debate was marked by huge declines in the stock market and a downgrade of America’s debt by Standard & Poor’s last Friday.

Now there is pessimism over Congress’ new debt-reduction supercommittee. The 12member panel, divided evenly among Democrats and Republicans, has until Thanksgiving to propose $1.5 trillion in 10year budget savings. If it does not propose a package or if Congress doesn’t approve it, $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts will be triggered.

As The Associated Press reported, members of both parties said the job of cutting the government’s enormous debt is urgent, yet critics expressed little hope that the panel would be able to overcome stark political divides.

“It’s not going to be simple to come to a deal,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates balanced budgets and a larger package of savings. She said meaningful debt-reduction would require addressing the entire budget, meaning both parties would have to yield — Republicans in their opposition to revenue increases and Democrats in their resistance to trimming benefits from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“I’m nervous that the far left and the far right are in here, and I don’t see them being the ones” likeliest to strike a compromise, said G. William Hoagland, a former top GOP Senate aide who now lobbies for Cigna Corp.

Common sense indicates that America can’t cut or tax its way out of the economic doldrums that have dragged on for far too long. Consensus on a plan conducive to a vibrant economy — not a winner-takes-all political battle — is the prescription America needs.

It’s a message being pushed by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., during his “Rebuild America” Week.

“We’re not talking a red problem or a blue problem, but a red, white and blue problem — an American problem,” Manchin said during his visit to Fairmont Wednesday. “So it is going to take us acting like Americans at this point in time because we are on the edge right now financially.”

Increasing revenue, Manchin stressed, is not code for higher tax rates.

“What we have to do is look for ways to eliminate fraud and abuse and prevent loopholes,” he explained.

At the same time, he added, it’s critical for the nation to set priorities, which Manchin did on the state level as governor of West Virginia.

“That means you don’t have to grow other programs and you can downsize government through attrition,” he said. “I don’t say that because I think it will work. I know it will work. ... We had six straight years of surpluses and three straight years of increases from our credit ratings. ... Common sense has got to prevail.”

President Barack Obama and Manchin have had their policy difference despite being members of the same political party, but they agree philosophically on attacking the nation’s budget woes. The president called again this week for a deficit-reduction plan that includes both new revenue and spending cuts, a solution that he said would require “common sense and compromise.”

There is no one-size-fits-all prescription guaranteeing economic success.

In 1993, as Bloomberg reported this week, President Bill Clinton forced a tax increase through Congress that Representative Dick Armey, then chairman of the House Republican Caucus, condemned as a “job killer” that would push the economy into recession. That increase was succeeded by the creation of 23 million new jobs, and the Clinton administration left a budget surplus of about $236 billion.

By contrast, President George W. Bush pushed through two rounds of tax cuts and created just 3 million jobs. He also turned the surplus he inherited into a $1.2 trillion deficit.

At the same time, it must be noted that the economy had slowed when Bush took office in January 2001, and the country was hit by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The point is that all sides have points to bring to the national discussion, and shutting people out or venturing to the extremes is not in the national interest.

That, of course, is just common sense. We can just hope that the concept hasn’t been buried in Washington.


By:  Editorial, Times West Virginian