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from The Great Debate:

Why Obama must prevail for a ‘grand bargain’

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President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) (R) in Washington, Mar. 19, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

It's been a while since we've had good news about our economy, so the recent upbeat reports are welcome. The deficit picture for 2013 has brightened a bit, along with an upturn in the housing market. Yet those developments don't tell the full story. Our economic horizon remains cloudy due to serious structural challenges.

In fact, this improving economic picture threatens to diminish our sense of urgency about striking the needed "grand bargain" to address our fiscal disease. That shouldn't happen -- and Washington policy makers should use the continuing talks about fiscal 2014 appropriations levels to nail down a framework for the deal we all need.

First, let's look at the good news in context. Several weeks ago, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal budget deficit for fiscal 2013 will be $642 billion. That's a substantial drop from 2012's $1.1 trillion deficit. But several significant reasons for the decline are unusual events: large dividend payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; savings from the ill-conceived and unsustainable sequester; and accelerated tax revenues from wealthy individuals anticipating the fiscal cliff.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s political options

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Fiscal crisis? What fiscal crisis? The stock market is up, unemployment is down and the deficit is shrinking.

The fiscal crisis is in Washington, and it's a crisis of Washington's own devising. All those deadlines! January 1: the fiscal cliff. March 1: sequesters. March 27: a possible government shutdown. Sometime in August:  the debt ceiling, again.

from The Great Debate:

The route to a real budget deal

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There are glimmers of light in our battle to put America’s finances in order. New hope for a long-term budget deal has come in the form of two ideas, both from outside Congress, that many of our elected officials have embraced:“No Budget, No Pay” and “No Deal, No Break.”

The critical matter now is whether these two initiatives will lead to serious negotiations, or just be rhetorical weapons in Washington’s political warfare.

from The Great Debate:

The fight for a grand bargain

The Gang of Eight: (Top Row, L to R) Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) (Second Row, L to R)) Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)  REUTERS/File

There is growing momentum in Washington and around the country in the fight to restore fiscal sanity. So get ready for the counter-attack by the special interests and ideologues.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s mandate: tax increase on rich

Republican leaders such as Grover Norquist and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continue to strike a hard line on taxes and revenues, “warning” President Barack Obama that the GOP will not negotiate or compromise when it comes to tax policy and deficit reduction.

From an electoral politics standpoint, the Democrats should “have at it.”

As the election made clear, this policy is out of step with voters. Obama made raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year a centerpiece of his economic message – something he emphasized in his recent press conference - and he was rewarded with a resounding victory. Voters also handed Democrats an increased Senate majority, where the tax debate played out front-and-center in many campaigns.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The missile shield and the “grand bargain” on Afghanistan and Pakistan

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Back in 2008, even before Barack Obama was elected, Washington pundits were urging him to adopt a new regional approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan involving Russia, India, China, Saudi Arabia and even Iran. The basic argument was that more troops alone would not solve the problems, and that the new U.S administration needed to subsume other foreign policy goals to the interests of winning a regional consensus on stabilising Afghanistan.

It would be simplistic to suggest that the Obama administration's decision to cancel plans to build a missile-shield in eastern Europe was motivated purely -- or even primarily -- by a need to seek Russian help in Afghanistan. But it certainly serves as a powerful reminder about how far that need to seek a "grand bargain" on Afghanistan may be reshaping and influencing policy decisions around the world.

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