Nation’s Focus On Debt Crisis

A reader told me earlier this week it is the Democrats, not the Republicans, who refuse to compromise in order to solve the nation’s pending $14.3 trillion debt crisis.

You decide.

President Obama continues to want the rich to bear the biggest tax burden, but that effort hasn’t gone anywhere. Republicans don’t buy it. And time is becoming critical.

The debt ceiling has to be raised by Aug. 2 in order for the federal government not to default on its loans. Three plans are being considered in order to solve the potential financial meltdown.

Six U.S. senators, known as the “Gang of Six,” have offered the latest solution, which is considered a compromise. The “gang” is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans. The GOP members are all conservatives.

Their plan would cut the deficit by about $4 trillion over the next decade. Those savings would come from slowing the growth of Social Security payments, cutting at least $500 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs and reducing billions of dollars spent on government programs.

Tax overhaul is also part of their plan, and it would produce $1 trillion in new revenues. That would come from reducing a number of existing tax breaks. The top income tax bracket would be reduced from 35 to 29 percent or less.

The GOP plan

House Republicans passed their own plan Tuesday with legislation called “Cut, Cap and Balance.” It is the tea party’s favorite. The vote was 234-190.

The proposal would cut federal spending by $6 trillion and require that a constitutional balanced budget amendment be sent to the states.

Even some conservatives who think a balanced budget amendment is a good idea realize its chances of going anywhere are slim. And the odds of the House-passed bill making it through the U.S. Senate are even worse.

Should the bill get through the Senate, Obama said he would veto the legislation.

The third alternative is to let the president increase the debt limit in stages without a vote of Congress. And a special committee would be set up to recommend reductions in federal programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

Some members of Congress believe it’s going to take two of those plans to get something done. They question whether there is time to put the Gang of Six proposal into effect.

“We need to proceed with Plan B in case this thing unravels,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland.

Van Hollen is talking about letting Obama raise the debt ceiling until the plan can be enacted.

Public reaction to the Gang of Six plan has been mostly favorable. Both GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor think it has merit.

The Dow Jones industrials average climbed 202 points Tuesday, the biggest one-day increase this year, when investors heard the news.

Political polls show clearly that the American people want both political parties to compromise, and that is what the Gang of Six plan does.

Unfortunately, tea party activists see compromise as surrender. They don’t even want to raise the debt ceiling, saying failure to do it won’t bring chaos.

“This is Barack Obama’s debt, this is Barack Obama’s debt ceiling,” said U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

The president is definitely a big spender, but he isn’t the first chief executive in recent history to send our debt into astronomical figures.

We hear a lot of tea party talk about the need to restore this country to what our founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

The most successful form of government in history is built on compromises. As one government text puts it, “Many of the Constitution’s provisions we take for granted today were the result of compromises reached only after long and intense discussion … .”

One of the great compromises gave each state equal representation in the U.S. Senate and a U.S. House membership based on population. Some wanted a one-house Congress and others wanted both houses based on population, which would have given the big states all of the advantages.

Some founding fathers wanted a long term and others a very short term for the president. Some wanted the president to be elected by Congress, but others wanted a direct popular election.

When the delegates couldn’t agree on voting qualifications, the decision was left up to the states.

“… In many ways, and perhaps more important to its great and lasting strength, the Constitution is a ‘bundle of compromises’,” the text said.

Only way out

Politics is the art of compromise. Much of the time it is the only way things get done.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a sobering assessment for members of his own party who don’t want to compromise. He said failure to raise the debt ceiling could be blamed on the GOP and ensure another term for Obama in 2012.

Most important of all is the fact a majority of the American people believe Congress shouldn’t play Russian roulette with the debt crisis. They also want Congress to get serious about reducing that $14.3 trillion debt.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].

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