Editorial: Piloting the partisan ship of state
Here’s a riddle for you: What kind of ship is it that often comes apart even before it sets sail for the first time? Bipartisanship.
That doesn’t stop politicians from trying, nor should it. It’s just a sad reality of our modern political age that efforts to forge coalitions across party lines are increasingly hard to keep together long enough to create any meaningful results.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner is working with his fellow Democrats, as well as Republicans, in an attempt to reframe the debate about the federal budget. Together, they hope to achieve a $4 trillion deficit reduction in the next decade.
In the recent past, talk of fiscal responsibility has centered on domestic discretionary spending—something that accounts for less than 12 percent of the federal budget.
"We need to reform what’s really driving our debt problem: an antiquated tax code that gives away more than it takes in through too many loopholes and special interest tax breaks, entitlement programs that promise a lot more than we can ever deliver, and excessive spending on redundant programs that do nothing to jump-start economic growth," Warner wrote in an e-mail asking his supporters to join him in this bipartisan effort.
To solve our long-term fiscal problems, everything needs to be on the table—entitlements, defense spending, tax code reform and, yes, even the possibility of tax increases. But to do that, legislators will have to make decisions that will go against the deeply entrenched feelings of the constituents that elected them in the first place … not to mention those of their campaign donors.
Can it happen? If past experience is any indication, probably not. For all the talk of a new era of bipartisan spirit in last year’s lame-duck Congress, little was really decided that caused any real heartburn for Democrats or Republicans. Extending tax cuts and jobless benefits were hardly sacrifices for either side.
But you never know until you try.
We wish them luck. And we hope this ship will make it out of dry dock.