The President insists on a ‘balanced approach’. We as a people interpret and understand that insistence in different ways. To those who pay little attention it is about image, celebrity and identity. To others, it is pure ideology, left and right. On the Left, feel good social justice on the Right code for creeping income redistribution, they are both correct in their own way. There is also an informed view, tending toward the middle and weakly ideological; willing to encourage and accept a truly balanced ‘balanced approach’. The natural coalition is from the right to the middle.
The Right/Middle sees the need for fundamental financial reforms and will accept a bit of personal pain in the process if true reform is in the offing: material spending cuts, tax reform and the easily identifiable reforms that will put entitlements into the 50 year window of solvency. They realize that if 50% of us have no skin in the game in terms of both taxing and spending, no stake in accountability, our financial situation begins to look like an insolvable problem.
There have been two specific proposals for a ‘balanced approach’. We have Paul Ryan’s plan which is DOA in the Senate and Simpson/Boles. Simpson/Boles is the best we’ve seen in terms of a ‘balanced approach’; a real plan served up on a silver platter. Everyone hated part of it; perfect! Even those who voted against it saw merit in substantial portions of it.
Simpson/Boles required Presidential leadership as the remaining key ingredient. One has to wonder what the President could have accomplished if we were ‘for’ something that was acceptable to a majority of the members of the commission? The absence of acceptance in the White House is at the core of the remaining financial ‘crises’ that we’ve faced: fiscal cliffs, credit downgrades, higher taxes absent reform, growing deficits and downward tumbles.
Simpson/Boles would have pushed the tipping point far into the future. The White House wanted nothing to do with it and that set the context for everything that has happened since. It was a clear message to all.
Imagine the President’s rhetorical skills aimed at both the Left and the Right in support of Simpson/Boles; 70% approval ratings, legacy secured. The President and his people don’t see it that way!
Were the President in full throated support for common sense, basic reforms he could have led us to a place where we could have proven to ourselves that we’re not ‘broken’. There could have been a sense that we are still capable of accomplishment and true balanced approaches. We could have enjoyed a renewed sense of the power of unity. Instead we’ve been led to a reinforced sense of perpetual dysfunction and class warfare. Unity of purpose is, for most leaders, the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail remains hidden!
The demand for a ‘balanced approach’ is belied by behavior. What is demanded and what is supported do not meet in the middle.