The fight for a grand bargain

By David M. Walker
November 29, 2012

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.

A growing number of Republicans have now stood up to Grover Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform, and disavowed the pledge they signed to not raise taxes. We should all commend legislators like Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.), who have recently joined in refusing to put ATR’s pledge ahead of the nation’s interests.

They and other elected officials give us hope that Congress will get behind non-partisan solutions to address both the near-term “fiscal cliff” and the larger “fiscal abyss,” represented by our enormous projected deficits and growing national debt.

But the battle is far from over. Ideologues and special interests on the left and right are marshaling forces to crush all efforts to achieve a reasoned fiscal compromise. We are about to discover if our elected representatives are leaders or minions.

Each party has its sacred cow, untouchable in previous negotiations. For the Republicans, it is their insistence on no tax increases; for the Democrats it is a refusal to consider cuts to social insurance programs.

Both positions are irresponsible — because we cannot address our structural deficits and mounting debt burdens without additional tax revenues and reform of existing social insurance programs. After all, total federal liabilities, unfunded promises for Medicare and Social Security, and other commitments are more than $71 trillion and growing by about $100 billion a week.

Already, however, several major unions and other special interest groups – for example, AARP and The Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare – have launched campaigns to pressure members of Congress to keep social insurance programs off the table in connection with any fiscal Grand Bargain.

These efforts coincide with the “Social Security Protector’s Pledge” championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). His pledge now has signatures from 110 representatives and 11 senators.

Meanwhile, Americans for Tax Reform still has signed no-tax pledges from more than 200 representatives and many senators. You can bet that right-wing ideologues will be threatening to punish any Republican legislators who stray.

There are no guarantees that enough of our elected representatives in Washington will stand up to the special interests and the wings of both parties, which have an outsized influence on fundraising as well as the parties’ conventions and primaries.

Fortunately, we have a group with a strong spine in the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” an informal, bipartisan group seeking to forge a fiscal Grand Bargain. Another encouraging sign is the commitment of rank-and-file members like Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Representative Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who rejected special-interest pledges and committed to put everything on the table some time ago.

There is another important reason we might finally get meaningful action no later than the end of 2013. That is the fact that the special interests and ideologues are out of step with a vast majority of the American people. The key message from Nov. 6 was that the voters want Washington politicians to work together and compromise to achieve real solutions for our challenges.

This didn’t surprise me, given my extensive travels on fiscal issues. Everywhere I went this fall, during a nationwide fiscal responsibility bus tour, more than 95 percent of our audiences agreed that putting the nation’s finances in order should be a top priority. More than 80 percent agreed that it would take both additional tax revenue and reduced spending, including social insurance reforms.

A significant majority of “We the People” are ready for tough choices. They are tired of Washington policymakers evading their fiduciary duty and stewardship responsibility to America and Americans.

That message should be loud and clear to every elected official who has shackled himself to special- interest pledges — whether express or implied. People who do so represent part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

In contrast, those who resist and reject the dictates of special interests and who put the interests of the country first are in tune with the American people. It’s time for all federal elected officials to rescind these pledges, get to work and achieve real results.

Our collective future may depend on it.

 

PHOTO (INSET): Grover Norquist  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

778 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Nice blog here! Also your web site loads up fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

Thanks for any other great article. Where else may just anyone get that type of information in such an ideal approach of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I’m at the search for such info.

I have to show thanks to you just for rescuing me from this particular challenge. As a result of surfing through the the net and getting ideas that were not pleasant, I assumed my life was over. Living without the presence of strategies to the issues you have sorted out by means of your good website is a crucial case, as well as the kind that would have in a wrong way damaged my career if I hadn’t come across your web blog. Your natural talent and kindness in taking care of every aspect was valuable. I am not sure what I would have done if I had not discovered such a thing like this. I can also now relish my future. Thank you so much for your expert and results-oriented help. I will not hesitate to refer the website to any individual who should receive tips about this subject.

Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

Thank you for sharing superb informations. Your web-site is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this website. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for more articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found just the information I already searched all over the place and simply couldn’t come across. What an ideal web-site.

I am constantly looking online for ideas that can help me. Thanks!

I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also visit this website on regular basis to take updated from hottest gossip.|

Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you actually understand what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Please also seek advice from my web site =). We will have a hyperlink exchange contract between us|

No matter if some one searches for his required thing, therefore he/she wishes to be available that in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.|

This info is invaluable. How can I find out more?|

This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!|

Attractive component to content. I simply stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to claim that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing on your augment or even I fulfillment you get right of entry to consistently quickly.|

Hi there, all is going perfectly here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that’s in fact fine, keep up writing.|

I got this site from my pal who told me on the topic of this web site and at the moment this time I am visiting this web page and reading very informative posts here.|

My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find the majority of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome weblog!|

hello!,I love your writing so so much! share we keep up a correspondence extra about your article on AOL? I require an expert in this space to unravel my problem. May be that’s you! Taking a look ahead to peer you.