Is anyone so gullible that they think oil companies raking in record profits from the windfall of $100-a-barrel will stop drilling if they lose a few of their tax loopholes?
Does anyone watching what’s happening to Greece, Ireland and Portugal seriously believe that, as the tea partiers assert, that there will be no lasting consequences to a U.S. government default?
Steven Pearlstein is a Pulitzer Prize-winning business and economics columnist at The Washington Post.
So much of the policy debate now occurs outside the hash marks of political and economic reality that there can be no constructive debate. How can you have a conversation with someone who looks up and says the sky is green?
Apparently the White House view is that the president can win reelection by letting this craziness continue unchallenged, even if it means accomplishing little over the next 16 months. Maybe so. But in the process, his party is likely to lose control of the Senate while falling short of winning back the House. He’ll find himself with a weak mandate and no way to implement it, with congressional leaders of both parties no more willing to accept reality than they are now.
The better strategy is for the president to forget about trying to broker deals between congressional leaders who have no instinct for compromise and put forward his own bold program — not the liberal fantasy he and his party might prefer, but practical, centrist compromises the country will actually accept: A 10-year budget-balancing plan that mixes spending cuts and tax increases. Market-based compensation for federal workers. Cost-saving reforms to Medicare and Social Security. A big push on trade, exports and worker training. An energy tax to reduce carbon emissions, rebated annually to taxpayers. More drilling for oil and gas in exchange for tighter regulation and higher royalties. Elimination of hundreds of low-performing government programs. A big new infrastructure bank. Tougher regulation of Wall Street, and lighter regulation on Main Street.
The aim wouldn’t be to get any of it through the current do-nothing Congress, but to create a mandate for the next Congress and the next administration. By demonstrating his willingness to take on the ideologues, the special interests and the cable bullyboys of both the left and the right, Obama would liberate himself and the country from the political rut we’re all in. And in the process he could finally make good on what was always the central promise of his presidency: to change the way business is done in Washington.