Between brinkmanship and gridlock, Washington appears bent on falling off the end-of-year fiscal cliff despite citizen demands for a solution. Conversely, voters oppose all the options on the table, save one. A new McClatchy-Marist Poll only found favor for higher taxes on the wealthy by a 3-2 ratio.
With Republicans and Democrats holding tight to political positions over the national interest, prospects look dim even as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner continue to talk in secret but barely budging.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson holds the only reasonable approach, telling the Herald Washington Bureau voters want consensus and bipartisanship: "They want to stop the ideological rigidity."
As Florida's only member of the House Ways & Means Committee, Congressman Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key stands in a unique position to be a bipartisan leader and consensus builder. The powerful tax-writing panel should be deeply involved in a solution.
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During his recent re-election campaign, Buchanan advocated such a position, stating: "The time has come to put aside partisanship and make the tough choices necessary to balance the budget for taxpayers today and future generations."
We challenge the congressman to walk that walk now and take a leading role in pushing for a bipartisan solution to the fiscal cliff.
On Friday, Buchanan came close, telling "Morning Joe's" national television audience that Obama and Congress must "get out of the business of political posturing" to prevent the cliff's $500 billion in tax increases and $109 billion in spending reductions. The unemployment rate is expected to rise and bring on another recession as a result.
Vague calls for an end to posturing fall short of meaningful bipartisanship. Buchanan should insert himself deeper into the national discussion by citing specifics.
One of the most contentious issues is higher taxes on the wealthy while allowing the Bush tax cuts for others to expire, as advocated by a clear majority of voters in the McClatchy-Marist Poll. As one of the wealthiest members of Congress, his voice on this topic would carry considerable weight -- possibly by negotiating a compromise between the two parties.
The poll reveals the tough conundrum in dealing with the looming fiscal crisis and helps explain the political predicament.
By large majorities, Republican and Democratic voters alike reject cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, raising the eligibility age for Medicare, trimming the home mortgage interest deduction, and eliminating the charitable tax deduction. Citizens also oppose the expiration of the cut in the payroll tax, which funds Social Security.
Without popular support for a broad-based strategy to shrink the nation's debt and reduce spending, we'll continue to be stuck in neutral. And adding to the national debt, which will reach its current $16.3 trillion limit this month. Tough sacrifices must be made by one and all to bring this under control.
This calls for statesmanship and compromise, not partisanship and posturing. Congressman Buchanan, we call on you to step up to this vital task at a critical time.