Cuts, and deep ones at that, must be on the table and proffered by both sides. There are no sacred cows. Every day, Americans understand this truism more and more. They see it in the hard realities of no jobs being created, private investments and innovation being stifled because of federal spending “crowding out” such enterprising pursuits. The federal leviathan is slowly constricting our economy. The voters now understand that. It’s time those they elected did as well, and made some hard choices to address all of our concerns.
2) Compromise cannot succeed without the second principle – the courage to pursue that course of action, no matter the outcome. So long as reelection remains the proximate goal of elected officials, we will never place the best interests of the nation first. Reelection is about political survival. Making the cuts we need to make as a country is about political sacrifice.
One thing is certain, the American people are growing tired of those who offer excuses for their inactivity. Earlier this month, a Washington Post poll asked which party Americans trust the most to address the country’s largest problems. A record 20 percent of Americans indicated they put their faith in “neither” party, the highest percentage in over three decades. One in five doesn’t trust either party to set aside its partisanship long enough to tackle the big issues. Think about that; not abortion, or farm credits or even welfare. We’re talking about the ability of our country to meet its financial obligations, and 20 percent of Americans would rather see the milkman take an honest stab at it. Hence the need for “doers”, those who are willing to check their party labels at the door, and, consequences be damned, they’re going to do what they feel is in the best interests of their constituents.
Keep in mind that courage without the first element – compromise – is folly. It’s not enough to get tough with the issues, one must be willing to not only go after someone else’s ox, they must be willing to place their own on the altar of fiscal discipline.
Reelection is the arch-enemy of courage. The two cannot coexist peacefully in this debt reduction climate. At the very least, policymakers must rearrange their priorities to the point where getting elected to office is not the first and last thoughts that dictate the positions they take. It’s happening now with the collection of House Republican freshmen, and it will only fester as voters grow weary of gridlock.
3) Finally, those who do versus those who watch must establish a process of continuity. We didn’t create this debt overnight. And it will take years to eradicate it. Just look at Greece. Not even one year has passed since the European Union chose to bail out the country and Athens is not only failing to repay its obligations, it’s piling on new ones. The nation’s leaders thought this could be fixed quickly, but it cannot.
It is in this instance where lawmakers must examine themselves and prove they are worthy. The pursuit of self-esteem must yield to self-control. We live today in a society where emotion precedes behavior. If lawmakers feel good about a path they are taking, they’re more apt to choose it. Such an outcome will not and cannot occur with the debt. Behavior – action – must rule the day. And those actions of austerity must continue whether a lawmaker feels good about it or not.
America is waiting for its next class of political heroes. And I sense those who step forward and answer the call will be remembered less as Republican or Democrat, and more as those who chose to stop watching the process and started transforming the process.