Nonsense. I've seen two historical instances in which Republican leaders chose diametrically different strategic paths to deal with supposed impending doom. In the early 1990s, President George H.W. Bush, under pressure from Democrats, the media and even some Republicans, "moved his lips" and agreed to a tax increase.
Then there's Newt Gingrich. Today, his campaign for president looks to have been sabotaged not only by a potential rival, but also by himself. But back in 1995 and early 1996, House Speaker Gingrich refused to budge on federal budget negotiations. This forced the government to shut down for a few days. It also forced President Bill Clinton to take a whole new approach to budgeting. And that led to balanced budgets. Sometimes an entrenched determination to face reality serves better than a last-minute patchwork solution.
I applaud the Gang of Six for their efforts to eliminate the burdensome Alternative Minimum Tax, and to reduce the overall number of tax breaks. But there is too much kabuki theater in their proposal. There's also some potential real damage. Their proposal might eliminate home mortgage deductions, right in the midst of a lingering housing crisis. Their plan is simply a nonstarter.
It's easy to cast new House members as beginners who are wedded to simplistic rhetoric. That's the oldest trick in book in Washington. But Americans who voted these House freshmen into office did so largely because of these same ideas. Most Republican voters, and many independents who voted for Republicans in 2010, expect the GOP to extend the debt ceiling only if that is accompanied by cuts in spending, and without any hocus-pocus that leads to more federal revenue. It's just that simple.
My best advice to the three Republicans among the Gang of Six is to join the gang of over 200 House members that voted for a proposal that would limit spending and require a balanced budget.
Senators may look upon that proposal as simplistic and beneath the dignity of their chamber. But these leaders may be about to find out that dignity plus a dollar may get them a cup of coffee -- just not any useful legislation, and not re-election.
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