Speaker John Boehner now has proposed that the GOP House will pass a short-term debt increase if the president agrees to negotiate on the bigger problems of entitlement reform. The ball now rests in the president's court. But it's unclear what he will do.
What Obama should do is take the high road: Welcome Boehner and other Republican leaders into the White House. Sit down at the table and negotiate in good faith. If the president were bold, he could offer long-term reductions in spending on entitlements by raising the retirement age modestly for future retirees. He could agree to changes that would limit automatic increases in Social Security payments in the future. He also could suggest raising the age for Medicare and offer financial incentives to the elderly for improving their lifestyles, such as lower premiums if they lose weight, maintain good glucose and cholesterol levels, and engage in regular exercise.
The president could suggest changes that would deny Medicaid coverage to drug addicts or alcoholics unless they enroll in treatment programs and stop their abuse. The president also could use the bully pulpit in a helpful way by talking directly to the American people and explaining why these changes are necessary.
But the president isn't likely to do any of these things until the public begins to hold him and the Democratic Party at least as responsible as the GOP for the mess the country is in.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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