After months of campaigning, two conventions and two debates, this much is clear in the presidential race: Neither side is up to telling important truths about the economy and the budget. That’s tragic, because all of the other issues won’t matter if we can’t right the fiscal ship.
President Barack Obama’s slogan is “Forward,” but he hasn’t put forward a detailed plan for the next four years. Staying the course won’t cut it. He inherited a $1 trillion deficit, and the Great Recession. But as the nation’s chief executive, it’s been his job to chart a course toward a balanced budget. He hasn’t, and his dithering has discouraged businesses flush with cash but unwilling to invest until they know what changes he has in store in a second term.
He seemed on the right path when he assembled the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which was a bipartisan effort to devise long-term budget solutions. The panel produced a well-thought-out analysis and action plan. Obama walked away. He didn’t use the bully pulpit to sell the plan, which made it easy for Congress to ignore it. That’s a significant failure in leadership.
So now what? The president doesn’t have an answer.
His time for solving this crisis – and it is a crisis – has come and gone. He has little leverage with Congress. He hasn’t changed the tone in Washington, and we cannot endure four more years of gridlock. This standoff is not entirely his fault, but he hasn’t figured out how to end it.
We believe Mitt Romney could bring a fresh approach unburdened by recriminations. He has extensive management and leadership experience, and worked with the opposite party as Massachusetts governor. The nation needs that Romney, not the one who pandered to the tea party wing of the Republican Party to secure the nomination. If elected, he needs to take on that faction with the same resolve he’s shown challenging Obama.
By the same token, he’ll need to renounce his anti-tax pledge, and in so doing perhaps embolden others to do the same. Those pledges are killing deals before they can even be discussed.
In Massachusetts, Romney was able to work with Democrats to achieve important successes, including health care reform. Despite his threat to repeal Obamacare on Day One, we trust he won’t do so without coming up with an effective alternative that targets cost containment.
We will learn more about his foreign policy and defense positions in Monday’s debate. So far, he has been too ready to rattle his saber, and too willing to open the Treasury to the defense industry.
The truth that neither candidate will tell is that we need a combination of large spending cuts and some tax increases, and not just the kind that punish the wealthy. Businesses do need a break on taxes to be competitive globally. The nation needs to tax carbon to lower greenhouse emissions and expand green industries. Direct capitalization, as evidenced by Solyndra, is the wrong approach.
We need immigration reform.
President Obama has failed to make sufficient progress on most of those issues. We think voters should give Mitt Romney a chance.