Common ground on economic challenges

November 9, 2012 

President Obama stood his ground Friday in advocating a deficit and debt reduction plan that would extend tax relief to the middle class but also rely on tax increases (“a little more,” he said) for wealthier Americans. Thanks to re-election, the president’s ground is more solid. And finally, after four years of standing in Obama’s way on virtually every issue, Republicans in the House may be poised for compromise, though still not supporting a tax increase on the highest earners.

Speaker John Boehner indicated his GOP majority in the lower chamber might be willing to work with the president instead of against him, perhaps even looking to new revenue, the sources unspecified.

There is incentive for both sides, because absent an agreement by year’s end, automatic budget cuts, including in defense, will kick in and taxes will go up, possibly putting the country back into recession. Boehner seeks to delay those automatic actions for a year. Reaching an agreement would be a far better idea.

The president, perhaps with energy renewed by his victory over Mitt Romney, said that in future negotiations he would insist that additional revenue, not just budget cuts, would have to be part of the discussion. “We can’t cut our way to prosperity,” he said at the White House. With budget cutting and more revenue, he forecast trillions of dollars in deficit reduction.

Shortly after Obama began his first term, some Republicans in Congress pretty much stated their primary objective was to make him a one-term president. They worked hard at stopping his initiatives. Jobs plan? Dead on arrival. Health-care reform? The GOP dug in its heels but the president made the necessary deals. A routine raising of the debt ceiling? Nothing routine about it among Republicans who’d passed such measures under President Bush.

Now, although Republicans deny Obama’s victory last Tuesday represented a mandate, there are some refreshing signs – Boehner’s hint at a willingness to compromise being first among them.

The president said he would gather Democrats and Republicans, business and labor at the White House to discuss the economic future. Americans must hope that the partisan bickering that has dominated the last four years will be diminished by practical concerns about stepping in front of another recession. The president made one quick recommendation toward that end: extend middle-class tax cuts immediately, giving relief to 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses.

It’s a good step and would be a good-faith step for both sides in these discussions.

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