— Don’t delay fiscal cliff
(New Castle, Pa., News)
There are two obvious possibilities regarding Washington’s struggle with the fiscal cliff.
First, Republicans and Democrats could engage in tough negotiations that reach a compromise to spread some very real — and very unpopular — pain.
Second, efforts to negotiate a fiscal deal between the two parties collapse, resulting in harsh budget cuts and tax increases across the board. Many economists say the impact of this drastic move would force the nation’s economy back into recession.
Neither of these options is the sort of thing a politician typically wants to be associated with. That’s why we’re worried about a third alternative, one that could look increasingly attractive to the nation’s lawmakers as they near that fiscal cliff.
We refer to a temporary extension of existing taxation and spending figures, the proverbial kicking the budget can down the road. It’s a variation of what got America into this position in the first place.
The fiscal cliff that everyone’s talking about is the penalty placed on the nation after last year’s budget negotiations failed. Congress and President Obama agreed to create the cliff. The intent was to present an alternative so ugly and so politically unpopular that Washington’s politicians would be forced to compromise.
Unfortunately, that idea didn’t work very well. Amid election-year posturing, the two parties failed to resolve their differences. And now the nation is dealing with the cliff.
We hear lots of accusations and see lots of finger pointing from Washington as Republicans and Democrats argue the other side is taking an extreme position and unwilling to budge. Some of this undoubtedly is the sort of maneuvering the parties typically engage in ahead of any negotiated agreement.
In fact, plenty of political observers believe what’s happening now is merely for show. Ultimately, a deal will be struck to avoid the fiscal cliff.
We want to see Washington reach that deal — assuming it’s one that offers real restructuring in terms of spending cuts and tax reform. The way we see it, neither of the plans being pushed by Republicans and Democrats is sufficient on its own.
On the other hand, we don’t want an agreement that does nothing more than extend the status quo. The fiscal cliff may be a clumsy mechanism, but its harsh consequences may be the only thing — short of an election defeat — that politicians actually understand.
If Republicans and Democrats can’t reach a meaningful and practical deficit reduction plan, then they should allow the nation to go over that fiscal cliff. We think this outcome would force voters to make some much-needed wholesale changes in Washington.
Lugar helped make us safer
(Kokomo, Ind., Tribune)
The Department of Defense honored Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn this week with its Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Pentagon’s highest civilian honor.
The award recognizes two decades of effort to help the former Soviet Union secure its stockpiles of weapons, and it underlines the hope that the work will continue in spite of Lugar’s approaching departure from the U.S. Senate.
“We cannot let our guard down,” President Barack Obama said during a speech at the National Defense University in Washington.
Calling efforts to fight nuclear terrorism one of his top priorities as president, Obama praised the 20-year-old Cooperative Threat Reduction program that has provided billions of dollars in equipment and know-how to help former Soviet bloc nations safeguard and dismantle nuclear and chemical weapons.
Obama cited the “extraordinary progress” that’s been made in securing nuclear materials and thanked Democrat Nunn and Republican Lugar for their leadership. He called the two men “visionaries” who “challenged us to think anew” about ways to secure nuclear stockpiles produced during the Cold War. He called the two models for bipartisan cooperation, who showed great integrity, decency and leadership over their long careers.
The program helped to deactivate more than 7,600 nuclear warheads. The program Nunn and Lugar created played a major role in preventing deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands while the Russian government was facing a severe money crunch amid an economic meltdown and political turmoil that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The program is set to expire this spring, and Russia has said it will not be extended without a major overhaul. Obama expressed a willingness to do that.
Nunn and Lugar represent the kind of bipartisan cooperation that is so hard to find in today’s political environment. Their work should be celebrated. It should also be imitated.