Hopefully this group will be more than window dressing for a serious problem. I’m not too certain there are many decent short-term public debt fixes out there, but both the mid- and long-range fiscal outlooks need a basic road map at the very least.
Entitlement spending — Medicare, Social Security, etc. — combined with the ever growing black hole that it is the defense budget will bankrupt the United States before the middle of this century without an application of serious fiscal conservatism. This was the kicker from a link I blogged about yesterday, “At stake ultimately is the United States’ status as a first-class economy.” The subject in question there? The federal deficit.
From the first link:
President Obama will sign an executive order Thursday to set up a bipartisan fiscal commission to weigh proposals to rein in the soaring federal debt, according to a White House official.
The official, who requested anonymity because the President has not made the announcement yet, said the co-chairs of the commission will be Democrat Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming. It’ll be officially titled the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
A new idea bumping around the blogosphere, and a good idea at that. The concept is to set up some formal or semi-formal exchange between the executive and legislative branches of government. Politics in D.C. is so dysfunctional right now Question Time would go a long ways toward breaking up some of the ossified Capital ways, and very possibly get government back on the track of actually solving problems and not trying to win the latest four hour news cycle.
Hit the link and check out the initial signatories — a strongly bipartisan and mixed ideological group. This is an idea whose time has come. An idea that might even be necessary right now. Once you hit the link be sure to sign the petition.
Here’s a take on the concept from 538’s Nate Silver:
As you may be aware, I’ve teamed up with a group of about 50 other thinkers, bloggers, insiders and outsiders to help promote the idea of Question Time — a regularly held, televised and webcasted forum in which the President would take questions from Members of the Congress, much as President Obama did with the Republican House delegation on January 29th and members of the Democratic Senate yesterday. This is truly a bipartisan endeavor, with everyone from Markos Moulitsas to Grover Norquist on board.You can sign our petition to Demand Question Time here, and follow us on twitter here.
And here’s more from the first link:
We live in a world that increasingly demands more dialogue than monologue. President Obama’s January 29th question-and-answer session with Republican leaders gave the public a remarkable window into the state of our union and governing process. It was riveting and educational. The exchanges were substantive, civil and candid. And in a rare break from our modern politics, sharp differences between elected leaders were on full public display without rancor or ridicule.
This was one of the best national political debates in many years. Citizens who watched the event were impressed, by many accounts. Journalists and commentators immediately responded by continuing the conversation of the ideas put forward by the president and his opponents — even the cable news cycle was disrupted for a day.
America could use more of this — an unfettered and public airing of political differences by our elected representatives. So we call on President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader John Boehner to hold these sessions regularly — and allow them to be broadcast and webcast live and without commercial interruption, sponsorship or intermediaries. We also urge the President and the Republican Senate caucus to follow suit. And we ask the President and the House and Senate caucuses of his own party to consider mounting similar direct question-and-answer sessions. We will ask future Presidents and Congresses to do the same.
They voted for change, and change may be coming as they age into power.
From the link:
In her research with Neil Howe, also of LifeCourse, they noted that the youngest generation is a consensus-driven bunch. Professors have noticed that group is less likely to engage in debates in class and more likely to come up with a conclusion everyone can agree upon. Howe predicted a “very different kind of political discourse 10 to 15 years from now,” when millennials are not only in Congress but also influencing the media. (He pointed out that right now the media is run by baby boomers and generation Xers “who love that kind of carnival culture.”)
If that’s the case, it’ll be interesting to see whether that influences the political system for better or for worse. Despite all of the striving for bipartisanship, could there be merits in partisan politics?
Former Republican Rep. Tom Delay of Texas certainly thought so. In his farewell speech he said, “We debate here on the House floor, we debate in committees, we debate on television and on radio and on the Internet and in the newspapers and then every two years, we have a huge debate. And then in November, we see who won. That is not rancor, that is democracy. You show me a nation without partisanship, and I’ll show you a tyranny. For all its faults, it is partisanship, based on core principles, that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream, and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.”
It’s far too soon to tell if millennials will remain a consensus-driven, left of center bunch. But if that’s the case, the idea of “change” in American politics has only just begun.