Can anyone see a path to resolving these financial issues or will both camps simply retreat to their extreme political bases with neither side giving an inch, thus putting America’s future on the line while they play tug-of-war? David Wessel, a Wall Street Journal columnist, recently released a book titled "Red Ink," a handy new guide to understanding the politics of the federal budget. While nobody loves the cost of government, everybody cherishes the things it specifically does for them. Wessel sums up the politics this way: "These diverse financial arrangements have one thing in common: at the end of the pipeline is some real American person who is getting a check or a promise. Most are convinced due to their circumstances they deserve the money and/or the promise granted by Uncle Sam."
On the other side of the ledger from out of control government spending is the lost income from billions of dollars in tax deductions, exemptions and loopholes, for the rich that they too are convinced they rightfully deserve. Such tax bennies are no easier to do away with than reducing beloved spending programs: Congress and presidents know full well seriously addressing both sides of the ledger — spending and taxes — is the only way to correct the course, but until a true leader steps up and makes a convincing case to the American public that both spending and taxes must be a part of the solution, each side will play to fears and cheers of their immediate constituency and the day of reckoning is pushed farther out into the future.
It is for that reason that many people believe the day of reckoning should be addressed now without waiting until the issue is so massive the solutions will be far more costly and painful. With the US debt now nearing $16 trillion and the debt per taxpayer at about $140,000 how much longer can we go on allowing our president and Congress to ignore this crisis? It’s painfully clear neither side can solve the problem alone, but neither is prepared to work together and until that happens, nothing will happen except what we should really be fearing.
America has many problems and the national economy, while topping the list, is but one of the hot buttons in this year’s election. So listen closely over the next two weeks and keep an open mind. Discount the mudslinging, ignore the vicious attack ads and listen closely for what you would consider a reasonable solution to break the stalemate. But remember, only when the plan is equally painful to all will there be something of value on the table and my greatest fear, one I hope is unfounded, is that neither side is prepared to go that far.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.