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Opinion: Are Both Parties Headed Toward Fiscal Sanity?

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The National Debt Clock, around April 15th, 2010

It's fitting that the first song that came up on Spotify when I finally was able to have some time alone to process and recharge from the insanity of the RNC and DNC was 'Shake it Out' by Florence + The Machine.

After going into the belly of the beasts, the national conventions of the Democrats and Republicans, the last two weeks... I'm homesick. Not just homesick for Omaha, my bed, girlfriend, cats and all that comes with those things, but homesick for a regular day that doesn't involve being up to my eyeballs in overproduced reality television, which really is all that the conventions are. Just sitting here with my ear buds blasting, my laptop in front of me and coffee to sip on in peace is my way of starting to shake off the stress and (figurative) stink.

There wasn't as much drama at the Democratic convention in Charlotte as there was at the Republican in Tampa. The Green Party types, that are the closest segment on the left that compares to Ron Paul's slice of the Republican party, haven't made inroads inside the Democratic small tent as much. Jill Stein, the closest thing team Obama has to Paul, and the Occupy Charlotte protesters were relegated to areas far far from the floor of the Democratic convention... which is odd seeing as those a bunch of nutters with five foot tall magnified pictures of aborted fetuses were allowed to camp out right in front of the convention for long periods of time.

But the most notable thing I picked up on, after catching maybe half of the major speeches over the last couple of weeks, was how both parties are positioning themselves to vote for the Simpson-Bowles fiscal plan.

As is typical, the three day long coronations of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was a mix of ignoring the weaknesses in their own records, rallying the base with snarky rhetoric, a healthy dose of hyperbole, some outright falsehoods and highlighting the parts of their planks that play well in the polls and focus groups. I did hear something at both conventions that gives me hope about being able to avoid this fast approaching 'fiscal cliff', and get our government headed in a more fiscally sane direction.

Another line from the excellent song I mentioned at the outset of this post repeats the old saying, "it's always darkest before dawn." This is exactly what I hope we're seeing here. If our government is allowed to drive over the aforementioned 'fiscal cliff', it's likely that our economy will slip right back into recession. Certainly a dark picture.

Again we're facing a disaster, and the jokers inside the beltway, now on their way back to the home stretch of the campaign trail, finally seem to be peaking out from the holes in the sand that they've stuck their heads into enough to realize that the best option available to us has been staring them in the face for over a year and a half.

The Democrats verbally wrote a fairy tale that it was the Republicans that kept Simpson-Bowles from passing, while conveniently ignoring that Obama sank it from the start by requiring 14 of 18 commissioners vote on the recommendations being sent to Congress, a ridiculous and virtually impossible super-majority-and-then-some. Outside the bubble in Charlotte and DC, talking heads across the left are again trotting out the garbage that that Simpson-Bowles amounts to austerity.

Back in reality, for those who've actually read the recommendations, it amounts to short term stimulus, coupled with slowly phased in cuts and measures to slow the growth of entitlement spending and more revenue - largely through slashing tax loopholes. That short term stimulus is just what the economy needs, and unlike so much legislation that has been just sent through time for our kids and grand kids to pay, this actually pays for itself over time, and then some.

The Republicans spun a yarn of their own, conveniently leaving out that their own lead fiscal wonk, Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, was on the commission and voted against the recommendations going to Congress for a vote.

Simpson-Bowles isn't perfect, and it seems to me like both sides want to make it seem like they're the ones that are behind the common sense parts of Simpson-Bowles, likely so they can make the other side look bad and tweak it more to their liking. But all this positive talk of the plan indicates to me that it might actually pass, and put us on that glide path to solvency that we need to get on if we care at all about the economic prospects of the the generations coming up through school now, and make sure that Social Security and Medicare are there for seniors when they need it.