Here’s what a leader– say, a President—might do in the midst of this childish battle between Democrats and Republicans over a few billion dollars in the 2012 budget, and to stop the threat of a government shutdown (that, so cynically, would still allow the very people who caused the crisis—Senators and Representatives and the President—to continue being paid).
President Obama calls an address to the nation and says the following:
“Fellow Americans, I and your Congressional representatives are failing you right now. We find ourselves at a watershed moment in which our decisions will either lead our country to bankruptcy and fiscal disaster, or allow our country to return to a path of prosperity and retain its place as the most financially dynamic and energetic economy in the world. We are engaged in a juvenile, utterly irrelevant debate over a miniscule amount of money that solves none of our underlying structural problems. Let me be clear: the current budgets being negotiated solve nothing!
Today I am asking Speaker Beohner and Majority Leader Reid to agree to pass an 8 week continuing resolution. This will continue to fund our government at current levels for the next 2 months. During this time, I will reconvene the bi-partisan Deficit Commission, this time to work with leaders from both parties in the Congress to develop a budget for 2012, and for the decade beyond, that allows us to reduce our spending by $4 trillion.
Let me be frank and tell you where I failed you, and I ask for your understanding and forgiveness. I started down the right path, and I strayed, but now I want to get us back on that right path again. When I set up the Deficit Commission I knew we had a crisis on our hands, and that Commission confirmed this was the case and proposed transformational measures to prevent this crisis from being realized. The proposals were bold, they were innovative, they were non-partisan, and they were immensely challenging to implement in a hyper-partisan environment in Washington. But there is no question in my mind that the measures they proposed, or measures with similar effect to them, are necessary to fight off a disaster of epic proportions.
Here’s where I failed you. I put the Commission in place, I saw their recommendations, and then for political purposes I dismissed their recommendations and proposed a budget and 10 year plan that in retrospect I’m ashamed of. I ask you to forgive me for that, or if you don’t I ask you to please focus on what’s in our future, not what’s in our past. We must do something. No reasoned look at our current economic path has us headed anywhere except towards bankruptcy.
As your President I cannot let this continue. We have a blueprint as to how we should proceed from here in the form of the report of my Deficit Commission. It is not perfect, it needs to be adjusted and negotiated, but it is 75% of what we need. During these next 8 weeks I, and I hope you, will pressure our congressional leadership to resolve that other 25% and put a budget in front of me that rights our listing ship.
This will not be easy, and we are all going to have to compromise and accept fundamental changes to the way our government, entitlements, and our society operate. But if we act now, before things become exponentially worse, the changes will be completely manageable, and will be for the greater good.
I ask our congressional leadership to do what I’m doing, which is to willingly put their jobs on the line to do what is right for this country. No Democrats saying “Republicans want to kill older Americans and vulnerable children”, and no Republicans fighting for every non-financial principle they stand for. This will take real compromise, it will force us to resist demagoguery, and yes it may even cause me or members of congress not to be re-elected.
I commit to you that during this process I will be equally hard on Democrats and Republicans. I will be your leader, the leader of the country, NOT the leader of the Democrat party. I will ensure we do what is right and acceptable to the majority of our country knowing that most of you are centrist, reasonable, non-partisan citizens dedicated to the future of America.”
Editor’s Note: Here is a link to the “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” report. Every adult American should read this.