Dodging the deficit won’t help country

There is a growing realization in Washington, D.C., these days that the time is ripe to do something about our deficit and the national debt. Many politicians of both parties, along with economic experts and political pundits, say we must act now to prevent economic catastrophe in the not-too-distant future.

Unfortunately, many Washington politicians, our own 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton among them, are doing their best to avoid taking a stand on the issue.

That’s not a political position unique to Republicans. Democrats, too, fear the political ramifications of supporting real measures to corral the debt.

AARP and the National Union of Taxpayers, two of Washington’s top lobbying organizations, are ready to pounce on any politicians who veer from their accepted playbooks.

Support for changes in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare could draw the wrath of the senior lobby, while backing anything that could be construed as a tax increase, even if it amounts to no more than closing tax loopholes, will draw fire from the taxpayers’ group.

Fortunately, not everyone in Washington is so timid.

Last week, 10 former chairmen and chairwomen of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers — Democrats and Republicans who have served all but one president since Jimmy Carter — urged Washington politicians to take up the debt issue now, and use the proposal by the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission as the starting point.

“The unsustainable long-run budget outlook is a growing threat to our well-being,” the economic advisers wrote. “Further stalemate and inaction would be irresponsible.”

The week before, (64!) U.S. senators — equally divided among Democrats and Republicans and led by Colorado’s Sen. Michael Bennet — sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to display more leadership on a comprehensive deficit reduction package.

Some have noted that if 64 members of the Senate support such a package, they don’t need presidential leadership. They could pass a deficit reduction package and override any presidential veto.

That’s true, and a bill along those lines may soon be forthcoming from the so-called “Gang of Six,” a bipartisan group of senators who are using the Simpson-Bowles plan as their starting point.

Although there will undoubtedly be disagreements about the specifics, we hope the 64 co-signers of Bennet’s letter remain committed enough to push for an acceptable compromise.

Those cosigners — including Bennet’s Colorado colleague Sen. Mark Udall, an outspoken advocate for debt reduction — deserve credit for keeping the issue near the forefront of public debate. So do the 10 former leaders of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Meanwhile, those politicians who are content to nibble around the edges without taking a stand on debt reduction — and that includes virtually all of Colorado’s House delegation — are doing a disservice to their constituents and their country.


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