Save the nation

The gathering storm of a recession for the nation and a depression for tens of millions of our neighbors threatens America with the danger of a lost decade of crushing economic pain. President Obama and Congress can save the nation from this fate by reaching a new agreement to lower the deficit and create jobs by Labor Day.

The president and congressional leaders should bring a new player to sit at this jobs-and-deficit table on behalf of all who love and serve the nation. That player should be one of the most respected nonpartisan leaders of our generation: former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.

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Including Powell in this negotiation would add the powerful moral force of his experience, integrity, stature and good faith when he asks all parties in Washington to come together for our country at a time of devastating economic hardship, dangerous economic crisis and destructive political divisions.

If a jobs-and-deficit deal is finalized by Labor Day:

1. The outpouring of public support and increase in consumer and business confidence would be instant, dramatic and lasting;

2. The GDP would rise, employment would grow and the deficit would shrink because of new budget savings and because every 1 percent increase in the GDP lowers the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years; and

3. Rating agencies and global investors would enthusiastically return the USA to unquestioned AAA status.

It is not hard to develop a balanced plan that virtually every serious fiscal expert believes is needed. Modest new revenue and modest new entitlement reforms that ask those who have the most to contribute just a little bit, coupled with modest new domestic and defense spending cuts, could surpass the spending targets without imposing more pain on those who suffer.

A short-term jobs boost including one-time jobs-and-housing tax credits and infrastructure spending, along with fiscal soundness, would save the nation from more painful recession and financial crisis.

If the president and congressional leaders seek this clear and achievable goal by Labor Day, they will receive an avalanche of public and business support to get this done. Any partisan or ideologue who prefers business as usual would pay a punishing price.

In my column last week, “Washington vs. America,” I praised advertising executive Roy Spence and his book “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For,” as well as his view that America needs a unity of national purpose. 

America could use some Reagans and Kennedys. We could also use some Don Drapers, from the great TV show “Mad Men”: business leaders who step up for America.

I propose Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) jointly host a patriotic summit of CEOs. The price of admission to this exclusive club of economic patriots would be to announce at this event that they are hiring more American workers.

These CEOs would win the enthusiasm and pride of their employees, the respect and appreciation of their communities and the loyalty and dollars of their customers, who would believe in these companies because these companies believe in them, their families, their future and their country.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were called the North and South poles of the birth of our nation. If recent days embody the polar extreme of policy failure and public outrage, the polar opposite of high patriotism, new prosperity and public acclaim is easy to envision and well within reach.

The public will further loathe our leaders if they spend the next four months the way they spent the last four weeks. Everyone knows the issues. Let’s save the nation from the punishment of economic crash, the pain of recession without end and the poison of politics as usual. Let’s do this deal by Labor Day.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics, and can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.