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The Rational Center | Commentary by John Zaring
| Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the so-called Fiscal Cliff, which refers to the possibility of yet another financial crisis caused by a double-whammy of tax increases and spending cuts mandated to take effect Jan. 1 unless the 112th U.S. Congress, which returned for its lame-duck, 36-day session Monday, can find enough political courage to pull America back from the ledge.

To do so, Republican leaders in Congress will need to strike a balanced deal with President Obama and Democrats – which includes the revenue increases the president is seeking with the spending cuts the Republicans want.

Recent polling has shown that most Americans believe some sort of deal will be struck, although most likely at the 11th hour. Over the past several days there have been a few positive signs that the “grand bargain” Obama sought during last year’s self-inflicted debt ceiling crisis just might be possible before they all go home – some of them for good.

Prominent Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss (Geo.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) took to the Sunday talk shows to express a willingness to raise revenue if Democrats will also agree to spending cuts and entitlement reform, something President Obama repeatedly said throughout the campaign that he’s willing to do.

Are they bluffing? Maybe not. This time, the shift even includes key Republican leaders in the House, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Ohio) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who also indicated a willingness to raise revenue, though they hedged their bets somewhat by suggesting it might not come from raising tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent, a key tenet Obama also ran on, but instead from reforms to the tax code.

I say get it where you can, but revenue is revenue, and pulling America back from the ledge will require more of it coming into the federal coffers.

When word leaked Monday that Obama had spoken to Republican House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) over the weekend, political pundits across the cable news channels took notice. In my opinion, any softening in tone from the right is a good sign for sensibly centrist Americans who are hoping beyond hope that enough moderate Republicans will disenthrall themselves from extremists like anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform organization has managed to choke off reasonable behavior based on a 1980s-era pledge.

If the GOP can truly break free of its straightjacket pledge to Norquist never to raise taxes under any circumstances, while it might be messy and ugly getting there, Obama’s grand plan is very doable.

If enough politicians work constructively to find common ground and forge a balanced, bipartisan plan forward, the gridlock which has gripped government can be broken.

Santa Clarita’s representative in the House, Republican Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, should take note of a poll released Monday by CNN, which demonstrated clearly that Americans prefer compromise to the tune of 72 percent to 28 percent. While it is yet to be seen where McKeon, who recently disavowed his own vote on sequestration, will land, his hero Norquist has made it plain that he won’t give up his anti-tax absolutism without a fight. Norquist went on CNN’s Starting Point on Monday openly to threaten those Republicans having “impure thoughts” that they will face an angry Tea Party constituency come primary time, and he boldly cited the ouster of GOP elder statesman Sen. Richard Lugar in the Indiana primary as an example of what might befall them.

Of course, Norquist conveniently overlooked the fact that reliably red Indiana then sent a centrist Democrat to Washington in Lugar’s place, not the Tea Party’s extremist pick, a fact apparently not lost on more rational leaders within the GOP.

Folks, America’s problems are solvable, and this president seems to have grasped that his re-election provides a real opportunity for him to lead us to long term fiscal solvency – as Bill Clinton had once done – and reshape our country’s spending priorities for a decade or more, by getting politicians to simply put country before party.

Conversely, his Republican opponents seem finally to understand that with unemployment and economic growth trending in the right direction and consumer confidence at a five-year high, it is better to be known for something other than just saying no, which might have worked as Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug mantra but isn’t very effective as a campaign slogan.

President Obama has laid out the broad outlines of a grand bargain, but he must now welcome these GOP overtures by encouraging both rational debate and principled compromise, and by calling out politicians from either party who put ideology before reconciliation, party before country.

We The People must do the same by letting Rep. McKeon know that we expect him to leave the lunacy of extremism on the Capitol’s steps and instead move into The Rational Center -or at the very least, in the adjacent neighborhood.

 

John Zaring describes himself as a reformed Republican turned moderate Democrat who believes democracy works best when its government actually functions because its leaders are working together. He serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee, Castaic Middle School’s Site Council, the Hart District’s WiSH Education Foundation, and he is the West Ranch High School representative on the Hart District’s Advisory Council. A self-proclaimed “New Democrat” a la Bill Clinton, he lives in Castaic with his wife of 21 years and their daughters, Fiona, 16, and Kylie, 12. His commentary publishes Tuesdays.

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1 Comment

  1. Petz says:

    It really does not matter where Zaring posts his opinion-he is consistently wrong. Raising taxes on the “rich” is only symbolic and not meaningful to deficit reduction. The people put the GOP firmly in charge of the House the legislative body entrusted with raising revenue for the government. Zaring ignores the Constitution as do most Democrats and reverts to a populist appeal to the uneducated masses.

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