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The Way to Win the Debt Ceiling and Budget Battle

August 1, 2011

Ernest Istook at the Heritage Foundation has written an excellent article describing how secret meetings with Obama helped him mislead the American people about how the two parties differ in approaches the debt ceiling and budget deficit issues. The left thrives in darkness. It communicates in images and emotions, never in solid proposals in fixed language. The object, to leftists, in negotiating is to make their enemies unpopular. If Obama is winning this game now, why are we still playing?

Majority Leader Cantor describes the president as “unserious” in budget talks. “This is not a game,” Cantor told National Review, “we have serious problems. We have put out very thoughtful proposals to try to address them. But sometimes, around here, that doesn’t always make it through.” Representative Cantor has the gift of understatement.

There is a way to win the policy battles over debt and deficit with Obama: do everything openly and put everything in writing. Require, also, that Obama deal with Republicans openly and respond to their proposals in writing. The last time Republicans tried this approach, in 1994, the Contract With America produced a conservative landslide. Crucially, Democrats have never tried a version of that brief, explicit, written promise in any campaign since 1994. They couldn’t. They don’t have proposals. Even their “reforms” are federal bills the size of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary which no one has ever read. After winning with the Contract in 1994, Republicans failed in 1995 when they tried to out-slick Slick Willie. The Republican budget proposal in 1995 was complicated and full of extraneous stuff.

What Republicans need today is a short written Republican proposal which should be sent to every home in America . This document should promise to only negotiate in public, either by letter or in meetings with open microphones, and it should include a few clean points: (1) We promised last November that we would not raise taxes and we will honor that promise to the American people; (2) We are prepared, as soon as the president and his party agree, to pass a simple law which allows and requires Obama to pay our nation’s lawful debts as well as Social Security, Medicare and related benefits on time; (3) We are prepared to pass, as soon as the president and his party agree, a simple law which will allow and require Obama to reduce federal salaries and workforce, abolish federal programs not mandated by the Constitution, and de-authorize any other federal expenses which are required to balance the federal budget in FY 2012.

Republicans should also make it clear that they will vote very quickly, once the president has agreed in writing to this proposal, and that Republicans will also respond very quickly in writing to any counter-proposal that the president makes to them, provided that proposal is public and in writing. Obama could not present a counter-plan because he has no real plan at all. Once America sees that, then they will grasp which political party and which political leaders are preventing a resolution to the present crisis.

This strategy by Republicans would also shift the initiative in the political battle. Republican leaders trudging up to the White House while Obama presides over a farce dressed up as serious negotiations is a losing game. Obama, after all, is the chief executive, the manager of the federal government and not negotiator-in-chief. It is his job to find parts of federal operations that should be trimmed, federal salaries that are overly generous and federal waste that needs to be eliminated. It is his job, and Republicans should demand that he do his job. Congress can offer Obama the tools and authority he needs to make unpopular decisions (unpopular, that is, within the domains of Washington) which are required to prevent our economic meltdown.

How would Obama respond? If the Teleprompter-in-Chief took to haranguing Republicans on television, they could ask what, specifically, was his public response to their public letter? Could he find no waste in the federal government? Could no federal salaries be cut, even as he asks for tax increases? Did he need help in identifying government programs that were less important than our nation’s economic survival? In short, put Obama on the defensive and make him be open and specific.

Would it work? If every American had a postcard that included what Republicans planned to do about the present crisis and if that postcard was clear, then that postcard - a document of specifics - would become the fulcrum point of debate and the dreary Marxist rhetoric passing as Obama’s position would melt into irrelevancy. The ball would be in his court.

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Copyright ©2011 Bruce Walker

Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.