The Bipartisan Way Forward

It has been just over a week since the election and it has never been more apparent that neither party, nor the President himself, emerged from this election with a clear mandate to govern. President Obama promised the American people that the impending fiscal cliff would be atop the agenda and after conciliatory gestures from both sides in the early days post election – Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner all vowed to work together – we are now back where we started: division.

In the President’s press conference this week he broke no new ground. He was focused more on tax cuts for the middle class than he was on resolving our overall fiscal challenges. To be fair, he did speak to the impending fiscal cliff, but there was no obvious willingness to compromise with the Republicans on tax rates via revenue.

It has become increasingly clear that politicians in Washington are far from achieving their mission of arriving at some overarching agreement that speaks to our debt and deficit. But while there is no consensus amongst politicians, there is consensus within the electorate as to how we must address our serious fiscal challenges.

My recently completed survey of 600 randomly selected Americans shows a broad consensus for a set of free market, pro-growth policies that can bridge the gap between an intractable President and an equally obstinate Republican party in the House.

The survey shows that over three quarters of the American people would support a compromise that lowers tax rates, reduces deductions as well as promoting pro-growth fiscal policies – all the while reigning in spending and entitlements.

Both parties are now viewed extremely negatively – 58 percent view the Republicans in Congress unfavorably and 56 percent say the same about the Democrats. What’s more, both parties receive almost equal blame for the country’s economic deterioration. This is not a Republican or Democrat problem – this is a politician problem. And the public is fed up with it.

To this end, a full 70 percent now agree that we need a new party dedicated to compromise, conciliation, fiscal discipline and economic growth that draws on the best ideas from both sides. This result is unsurprising in light of the fact that over 40 percent of the electorate now describe themselves as not affiliated with the Democrats or Republicans. This figure has been steadily increasing and shows no sign of slowing.

So what do the people want? An overwhelmingly majority of the electorate favors a bipartisan compromise that would have as its end result stimulating economic growth and creating jobs. An extraordinary 88 percent endorsed a bipartisan agreement that would put all possibilities on the table including tax and entitlement reform with the goal of generating a pro-growth, free market economic system that creates new jobs.

As I have argued here and elsewhere over the past two years, the Bowles-Simpson framework is a clear starting point for negotiation. The plan is widely supported by the business community and it appears that in the early days of President Obama’s second term, the Bowles-Simpson plan is getting its fair share of attention.

But this has happened before and the results of my survey demonstrate convincingly that the American public is not willing to wait any longer for a solution.

Indeed, the President could do worse than to appoint Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the two chairmen of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, to head a special White House initiative to find compromise before sequestration automatically kicks in resulting in over a trillion in cuts to the budget on January 1st.

The path forward is clear. Tax reform that reduces rates and limits deductions will stimulate the economy and job growth as well as providing a way to address both President Obama’s desire for greater revenue from the wealthy and Speaker Boehner’s desire to lower tax rates.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle must get on board with a bipartisan, conciliatory agreement. There must be recognition that the implementation of an economic framework that grows a stagnant economy, stimulates growth and begins the process of reforming entitlements and reducing spending is a necessity. We have no more time to waste.