There are mixed signals coming from Washington about the deficit.
This isn't new, but at least the mixed signals include a growing number of lawmakers who are beginning to be more honest and hint at supporting real action on long-term debt.
Unfortunately, President Obama is not among them.
Even left-leaning think tanks, like the Brookings Institution, are beginning to push the president on the issue:
We will address it, or we will face a future of less savings and investment, lower living standards and less U.S. leadership around the world. We cannot remain the world’s leading economic, military and political power while generating larger deficits and debt without end. It is not exaggeration to say, as economic historian Niall Ferguson has warned, that America’s national debt is reaching catastrophic levels.
The president must lead. He must make clear, to both Congress and the public, that the United States faces a problem that could turn our great nation into a second-rate power. No one else can lead the charge.
I disagree that no one else can lead the charge, but if Obama wants to live up to his campaign message of being the change we have been waiting for, this is his chance. This issue, more than any other in my opinion, illustrates the magical thinking rampant on both sides, that we can get what we want without paying for it. Every year, as the debt grows and interest payments eat away at the budget, this gets harder for even the most blindly partisan lawmaker to ignore.
The president has all the information he needs. He has just chosen to take the low road of more of the same — just what he campaigned against. While Obama punts, common sense Republicans and Democrats are working on the issue in Congress. It remains unclear if they have a chance at passing legislation. If they don't make progress this year, with the presidential cycle coming down the pike soon, it is unlikely it could pass until 2013, when the solutions we'll have available to us will be even more painful.
Brookings continues, listing a coalition of politically courageous senators putting their careers on the line for the long term financial solvency of our country:
The best hope for progress lies in the bipartisan discussions that are already occurring in Congress. Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Crapo (R-Ind.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) were all members of the president’s fiscal commission who signed the proposal. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) have formed a bipartisan group working together on a debt-reduction plan that reportedly includes more than 30 senators.
This is a chance for President Obama to put his money where his mouth has been on taking a more centrist tack. As I said a few weeks ago, if he wants to be seen as a centrist, he needs to act like one in the face of pressure from not only the right, but also the left.
More importantly, if he wants to be seen by future generations as something other than just another selfish politician who passed their problems onto the next guy — and the next generation — he has to act, and soon.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.