By Christine Todd Whitman
July 27, 2011

Time for Compromise

The tea party Republicans do not represent a majority of the members of the House of Representatives, yet they control the House as surely as if they were the only party. Unfortunately, their mantra seems to be “no”: no new taxes, no more spending, no votes before the passage of a balanced budget amendment, and most damaging, no compromise.

Taken individually, none of these no’s seem to be out of sync with what the American people want, and I think they are excellent long-term goals. Taken together, and with an immediate time frame, they mean gridlock in Washington and a national government that is speeding toward further economic meltdown.

I understand that these tea party members see this as their moment of greatest leverage in the deficit and spending debates, but they have made their point. I hope that spending and the size of government will not be looked at in the same way going forward. Spending increases will have to be tied to revenues and vice versa, as well they should. Unfortunately, it seems that, each time these members win a point, the goal posts are moved.
These members may not care about the economic ramifications of a national default, but they should. The fastest way to destroy economic growth is the undermine the credit of the U.S. government. If money has been tight in the past, it will dry up for any project back by the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government because there won’t be any. Retirees who counted on their government bonds to fund their retirement will find themselves rushing to cash in, if they can. Major necessary infrastructure projects will dry up. Unemployment will become an even greater problem.
I also realize that these new House members don’t really care about the rest of the world or what they think of us, but the current spectacle of the talks in Washington have gone from bemusing our allies around the world to undermining their confidence in our stability as a nation. As our influence wanes, or ability to impact international debates is reduced, we will find it harder and harder to assure our friends that we matter and convince them to support us in things such as the war on terror. If our full faith and credit is eroded, it will lessen the purchasing power of the dollar in international trade (a trend that is already well underway). And we better be really concerned if China decides to call in its debt.

It’s time to end this debacle. Raise the debt ceiling with all the provisos that are similar in the Boehner and Reid plans, but not with the six month time frame as Boehner has proposed. Such timing is simply a thinly disguised attempt at creating a partisan advantage in the presidential debate, even though I can’t imagine that any thinking Republican wants to be having that debate in an election year. Six months doesn’t solve our problems, it only means we’ll have to rehash the debate again shortly. Once Congress takes action on the debt ceiling, they should immediately start to debate the Simpson/Bowles Debt Commission’s recommendations for the longer term.

We need a leader who can broker the necessary compromise. The president injected himself too early instead of letting Harry Reid act as the Democrat spokesman and thus lost the ability to bring things to a conclusion. That leaves us with the Gang of Six who are acting as the adults at the moment, but who are being rejected by the partisans on both sides.

America deserves better than this. Unfortunately, it is the voters who created this dynamic, so now it is time for the voters to demand a truce. Both sides will need to give a bit to get our house in order. If ever there was a time for rejecting partisanship in favor of wise statesmanship and compromise, now is that time.