Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011 | 2:04 a.m.
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The news that the congressional “supercommittee” had failed to reach an agreement came as no surprise. Given the partisan divide in Washington, the committee, which was assigned to come up with a plan to cut the nation’s debt, was destined to fail. Lawmakers spent several days talking about the committee’s failure before it was even officially announced. They apparently were laying a foundation for the real work ahead in Washington — assigning the blame.
That’s not a surprise either. Since President Barack Obama’s election, Republicans on Capitol Hill have done their best to pin the blame for the nation’s economic troubles on him. By blocking his plans and then refusing to meet him halfway, they have delayed the recovery.
If there’s one thing Republicans have accomplished, it’s this: Their incessant negative rhetoric has further polarized the nation. Thanks to Republicans holding on to their rigid ideology and an all-or-nothing approach, there is precious little middle ground to be found anymore in Washington. Compromise has become a four-letter word, a curse to anyone who invokes it.
It’s no longer enough to make a good deal, politicians have to win completely. Consider that House Speaker John Boehner was criticized by some fellow conservatives for cutting a deal with the president this year — even though he boasted that he got “98 percent” of what he and his party wanted.
Republicans and Democrats can both point to polling that purportedly shows public opinion on their side, and as a result, members of Congress have further become entrenched in their opinions. That behavior is being mirrored in the public. A recent CNN/ORC International poll showed that there is a large partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats nationwide, particularly on two key issues involving how the nation handles the debt: taxing the rich and corporations, and cutting domestic spending.
The poll says that two-thirds of Americans are in favor of raising taxes on the rich and corporations, but the GOP has dug in against that position — nearly six in 10 Republicans are against a tax increase. At the same time, the poll says 60 percent of Americans favor cuts in domestic programs, something opposed by 60 percent of Democrats surveyed.
Is it any wonder why there hasn’t been progress?
The answer lies in the middle ground, as it often has in American politics.
“Nearly seven in 10 independent voters don’t have a problem with raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “But independents also back major domestic spending cuts.”
This shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp: Cut the debt with a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. To this point, proposals that include that combination have been shot down.
The question now, with public anger over Congress’ failure rising, is not only whether Congress can pull itself together and find a way to enact a combination of cuts and increases, but also whether the entire public would support it.
We hope so. The divisiveness has been bad for the country, and while everyone is arguing, the nation’s problems aren’t being addressed. For America to find a solution, everyone has to pitch in, and a combination of budget cuts and tax increases makes sense.
A compromise means that nobody gets everything they want, but if it provides a solution to address the nation’s financial issues, we can live with that, and we think most Americans can too.