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House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, and President Barack Obama. (Associated Press)

House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, and President Barack Obama. (Associated Press)

Editorial: People in Washington must put country's fiscal health above party politics

Last Modified: Tuesday, January 08, 2013 6:36 PM

As Americans continue to digest the details of last week’s 11th-hour deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, it’s obvious that President Obama and Congress did little to address the nation’s looming debt crisis.

In fact, there’s little to crow about, other than the avoidance of higher taxes on most Americans and deep across-the-board cuts that would have kicked in had no deal been consummated.

But the White House and majority in Congress continue to ignore the fact that the country’s national debt increases by $3 billion every day.

Anyone who believes this sustainable can only be classified as irrational.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the deal will increase deficits by $4.6 trillion by 2022 and that under the current revenue and spending forecasts, the United States’ debt will, in 10 years, reach 79 percent of this country’s Gross Domestic Product.

By all measures, that falls under the definition of insanity.

Two former U.S. senators, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who co-founded the nonpartisan Fix the Debt organization, decried the fact that our leaders turned their backs on an opportunity to whittle the debt.

‘‘Washington missed this magic moment to do something big to reduce the deficit, reform our tax code, and fix our entitlement programs. We have all known for over a year that this fiscal cliff was coming,’’ Simpson and Bowles said in a joint statement. ‘‘In fact, Washington politicians set it up to force themselves to seriously deal with our nation’s long term fiscal problems. Yet even after taking the country to the brink of economic disaster, Washington still could not forge a common sense bipartisan consensus on a plan that stabilizes the debt.’’

In essence, the president and Congress are trying to fill a massive hole by using a teaspoon.

Few in Washington appear ready to discuss, much less address, serious reforms to such programs as Medicare and Social Security. Fewer than a handful appear to be courageous enough to craft legislation that would reform the tax code and close ridiculous loopholes that allow wealthy individuals to shelter income and corporations to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

Simpson, a Republican, and Bowles, a Democrat, are among the reasoned observers who have argued that the solution to the United States’ debt must involve both additional revenue and spending cuts.

Following last week’s agreement, they said, ‘‘it will be absolutely necessary for both sides to move beyond their comfort zone and reach a principled agreement on a comprehensive plan which puts the debt on a clear downward path relative to the economy.”

The question remains if there are enough good men and women in Washington who will put this country’s fiscal health above party politics and their fortunes in the next election.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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