Editorial: Budget showdown points to lack of moderate leaders

September 30, 2013

Monday ended up being an ugly round of dueling faceoffs in Washington, so there is plenty of confusion over what will happen next in the latest budget battle. That includes over the upcoming debt ceiling fight.

But what is clear is that partisans who represent the never-give-an-inch Right and the unbending Left have given the U.S. another black eye to show the world.

What a mess. And what’s frustrating is Americans in the middle have little voice.

Passionate “red state” Americans rely upon tea party conservatives to represent them. Dedicated “blue state” Americans make their voices heard through liberal lawmakers. But what about “purple state” Americans, the ones who blend left, right and center together into a middle-ground approach to politics? Where are their voices of reason in debates like the one roiling Washington?

On the sidelines, that’s where. State legislatures draw congressional districts to pack conservatives together here, liberals together there. As a result, there’s no incentive for an elected leader from one district to work with the elected leader of another because their districts are drawn to emphasize the extremes. Voters in the middle get squeezed out; moderates in the U.S. House struggle to be heard, and the Senate is only marginally better.

Something’s gotta give.

We’re intrigued by a proposal from the No Labels organization to move the country past its current fiscal crisis. Tired of seeing Congress’ constant conflict, the bipartisan group proposed a Jobs First Plan. It would freeze tax-and-spending decisions until the unemployment rate hits 6.5 percent, which the Federal Reserve projects the nation could reach in a year. Meanwhile, each party would go to “time out” to rethink their strategies.

The proposal also would give each party something to cheer about in the short run. Republicans would get to keep the budget sequester in place, and Democrats would have Obamacare as the law of the land. What’s more, there would be no debt ceiling fight for a while.

We’re intrigued by this strategy because it could keep the economy from being thrown into a ditch by Washington’s extreme partisanship. Congress could provide the economy a year of stability instead of afflicting it with management by crisis.

Sure, partisans on the left and right won’t like this idea. But No Labels counts 85 Republican and Democratic lawmakers as members of its Problem Solvers Coalition. This is an idea worth fighting for.

Americans who want well-reasoned, middle-ground solutions in the future also should think about lobbying their statehouses for better congressional districts. By pressing state lawmakers to draw districts that reflect a mixture of voters, rather than packing Democrats together and Republicans together, voters can help avert the brinkmanship.

Districts drawn to make them all liberal or all conservative make compromise hard to achieve. Until Congress has more legislators willing to find the smart middle ground, we will keep lurching from crisis to crisis, or from black eye to black eye.

“Congress is developing a dangerous habit of allowing vigorous policy debates to escalate into brinkmanship that threatens our economy.

Every time Congress manufactures its own crisis, it weakens our recovery. Every time a midnight deal is brokered to pull our nation’s finances back from the brink, job creation suffers in turn.

For example, during the four months of uncertainty during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, the rate of job creation declined by one-third. We can’t allow that to happen again.”



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