We're five weeks out from the "fiscal cliff deadline," and it’s becoming
apparent one of America’s two political parties has to give.
One has to level with the people about the choices that lie ahead, face up to the results of the election, cease considering itself bound by promises to outsiders and commit itself, finally, to finding a durable solution.
And that party is the Democratic Party.
This is not about Grover Norquist, leader of Americans for Tax Reform, however much our friends in the media would like it to be. Nor is it about the Taxpayer Protection Pledge his organization devised or about spotlighting every congressional back-bencher who signed the pledge and now grouses about the limits it places on their ability to take more of our money.
The pledge is not made to Norquist or ATR. It is made to the people who voted for those members of Congress. Voters trust them to keep their word and avoid solving our fiscal problems with new taxes. The pledge doesn’t ask too much; it asks too little. At this point, it also should demand signatories to agree not to increase spending as well.
And it’s not Republicans’ turn to submit to the results of the election and cave. True, their candidate at the top of the ticket fell short. But they retained their majority in the House of Representatives. Members who voted for Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' MORE's budget, which realigns our priorities in terms of entitlements and sets us on a course to fiscal sanity, survived — flourished, even.
As columnist Rich Lowry points out, we often hear of the debate during the Republican presidential primaries in which candidates were asked if they would accept a deal with $10 in budget cuts for every $1 in tax hikes, and all said no. But the fact is, such a deal never has and never will be offered.
So how about some real deals that are under discussion? Entitlement reform offers the best, most sensible way to reduce spending without compromising growth. It would raise far more money and do far less to discourage growth than President Obama’s proposal to “ask the wealthy to pay a little more.”
But powerful Washington special interests — labor unions, AARP, etc. — are more intransigent than Norquist ever attempted to be. This intransigence produces some occasionally comical results.
For instance, this week, we’ve had the specter of Dick DurbinDick DurbinConservatives target Biden pick for New York district court Democrats, GOP pitch parliamentarian on immigration policies in spending bill Senate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill MORE, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, arguing Social Security doesn’t add to the national deficit and thus should be off the table for these negotiations, and White House press secretary Jay Carney actually backing this up.
But according to USA TODAY, which cited charts in the president’s own budget documents, Social Security finished 2011 $48 billion in the red and will finish 2012 $50.7 billion behind and 2015 at $86.6 billion in arrears. The number only continues to grow if not addressed.
So let’s pose a few questions and figure out who truly refuses to budge here. If Republicans agreed to return to Clinton-era tax rates, would Democrats agree to return to Clinton-era spending rates? If Republicans accepted the 10:1 cuts-to-taxes deal, would Democrats consider means-testing Medicare, holding off on the most costly taxes and programs of ObamaCare or — forget and — embracing a premium support program for Medicare?
Of course not. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBottom line Voters need to feel the benefit, not just hear the message Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama MORE has said he won’t even consider entitlement reform in the negotiations. It’s time Democrats find a way to say yes. And it’s time for more umpires in the press room to remove their rose-colored glasses and start looking at this honestly.
Ford O'Connell is a Republican strategist, conservative activist and political analyst. A frequent commentator on Fox News, CNN and other broadcast media, he worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign.