On Sunday's "Meet the Press," in his usual ingratiating tone of voice, Sen. Harry Reid urged Republican lawmakers to abandon their partisanship and join him in passing everything Democrats could dream of. The GOP House, he said, had been "led over a cliff" by Tea Party "extremists" and thus misled into supporting unpopular positions such as their temporary opposition to a 2% payroll tax cut. As a final gesture of goodwill, the Democratic leader said that he hoped Republicans had learned their lesson and would not repeat their mistakes in the future.
It's reassuring to know that we have such sensible, even-handed men as Harry Reid in charge of our government. I have to join him in urging that both houses of Congress work together and get things done. And I'll begin by listing six fundamental items upon which all reasonable persons should be able to agree, no matter what party they belong to.
- Balance the budget by cutting spending. All private citizens must balance their household budgets. They don't have the luxury of writing a check with no funds in the bank or of charging their spending to an endless line of credit. Government should be at least as responsible as private citizens in this regard. Balancing the budget involves much more than the super committee default program cutting $1.2 trillion over 10 years. $1.2 trillion sounds like a lot, but that's only $120 billion per year off of an ever increasing baseline. The baseline shellgame ensures that spending continues to increase indefinitely. What's needed is to cut entire departments, including the three that Rick Perry can't remember.
- Impose no new taxes. Nearly everyone understands that the burden of taxes on both individuals and corporations is too high. Even those who pay at lower rates recognize that the marginal federal income tax rate of 43% taking effect in 2013 is too high. And this 43% is on top of state and local taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and death taxes. The corporate tax rate of 35%, the highest in the world among major economies, is also a disgrace.
- Repeal ObamaCare. Congress itself has already repealed the CLASS (long-term care) provision within ObamaCare. The President has granted hundreds of waivers to corporations and states exempting them from other unworkable provisions of the bill. Everyone, even Democrats like Sen. Reid, recognizes that the Affordable Care Act was thrown together in a rush and never even read before being voted upon. The only reasonable thing to do is to repeal ObamaCare in its entirety and reform healthcare as needed in a cautious and deliberate manner.
- Create jobs by promoting economic growth. The President says he will do just about anything to create jobs. Sen. Reid has talked about the need to create jobs. Even Nancy Pelosi wants to create jobs, albeit by writing unemployment checks. As she insisted back in July 2010 and has restated since, unemployment benefits "create jobs faster than anything else you can name." With such general agreement about the need for jobs and economic growth, one would expect immediate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which all acknowledge would create 200,000 direct and spin-off jobs. I'm sure Sen. Reid can get that approval done by next week.
- End the bailouts for banks and for serial offenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which have cost taxpayers $185 billion already and continue to lose tens of billions every year. Total liabilities for Fannie and Freddie have been estimated as up to $1 trillion. It would also be helpful if Sen. Reid would open investigations as to which members of his party voted to loosen lending standards in the name of expanding affordable housing, thus bringing about the largest fiscal crisis in American history. It would be good if he could do this before his colleague, Sen. Dodd (Democrat of CT) retires.
- Reduce regulations and end government intrusion. Just last week President Obama experienced an epiphany. After just 1,079 days in office, he came to the realization that there were too many government agencies. So he decided to ask Congress for permission to merge six of them into one, to report directly to the White House. Despite those who suggest this was just another presidential power grab, I think Obama is onto something. There are some 1,300 federal agencies, each administering hundreds of programs and enforcing thousands of regulations. It would be quite an accomplishment if the President, working with Sen. Reid, were able to reduce that number by five in just four years, though that's probably asking too much.
All of these principles have been endorsed by President Obama, as well as by GOP presidential candidates and congressional leaders. I expect Sen. Reid will be more than willing to come out for them as well, and begin supporting legislation to translate them into action.
After all, Sen. Reid is not just a partisan hack who repeatedly accuses the opposition of "extremism" while he pursues a far more extreme course himself. He must have misspoken in the several hundred times he used that word during the last legislative session, and again on Sunday. Of course, he may have just been mumbling that word in his sleep. It's often hard to tell whether the senator is awake or not, even when he is conducting business on the Senate floor.
This, of course, is the same Sen. Reid who accused the GOP of being "mean-spirited" for blocking funds for a cowboy poetry festival. I'm as much a fan of cowboy poetry as anyone, but that doesn't excuse calling someone "mean-spirited" just because he wants to balance the federal budget. But I suspect Sen. Reid did not really intend to use the phrase "mean-spirited." How could he, since he is always so non-partisan and balanced in his approach?
He probably just meant something like what he said back in October when he accused Republican colleagues of rooting for the economy to fail. At least he didn't use the word "extremist" or "mean-spirited" on that occasion.
Sen. Reid has such a record of bipartisanship, in fact, that I'm sure he will jump at the chance to endorse the six principles listed above. Those six common-sense ideas can form the basis of a bipartisan way forward. They are so obvious that I'm surprised Sen. Reid did not think of them before.
There is one group that has thought of them and that promotes these sensible ideas on their website. That would be the Tea Party Express. I'm sure that, being the reasonable sort of person he is-always in search of compromise and "balance" (one of the left's favorite words since their shellacking in the 2010 election)-Sen. Reid will waste no time and endorse all of them.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and article on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).