It’s that eerie time of year. The days grow shorter, night encroaches earlier, cold winds push aside summer breezes, and children shiver at the stories of Halloween ghouls, ghosts and goblins.
Scariest of all, however, is the ominous annual approach of our federal budgetary crisis that looms more menacingly each year. Truly terrifying is that we have charged timid national lawmakers with controlling the monster. But they are too afraid to confront it decisively.
This year the specter of economic collapse was barely averted when the Congress passed a last-minute budget compromise that reopened the federal government. But that agreement keeps the recurring threat at bay only until early 2014.
Under the new accord, Democrat and Republican legislators must once again form a committee to reach a long-term solution. Americans have reason to fear if this sounds too much like the so-called Super Committee that failed three years ago. It didn’t work then; and it won’t work now–unless we do something different.
A Better Idea
Non- or bi-partisan groups for years have churned out well-deliberated, sensible, bold recommendations for fixing our financial folly. The Debt Reduction Task Force (Bipartisan Policy Center) delineates a number of steps to take in “Restoring America’s Future.” The Bowles-Simpson Plan is the product of a group appointed by President Obama. The study “Getting Back in the Black” from the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform proposes a number of reforms.
We don’t need another partisan-posturing, finger-pointing, blame-game congressional committee. What we need is the following:
Blue Ribbon Panel
1–An external, non-government Blue Ribbon Panel to synthesize the findings of three studies above. This panel would comprise 14 members selected jointly by the President as well as the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.
2–There would be two chairpersons (bi-partisan but holding no elective or appointed government offices)
3–Eight non-political committee members would represent five key sectors of the economy:
–Two economists (one academic, one financial)
–Two service/industry leaders (one for profit/one non-profit)
–Two union leaders (one private sector/one public sector)
–Two agriculture/mining and military leaders
4–Four external members
–Two persons ages 21–55
–Two persons ages 55 and older
Blue Ribbon Panel Recommendations and Government Action
The Blue Ribbon Panel would identify Four Budgetary Categories. These could be defense, domestic stimulation, education, and health/social programs. That choice would be up to the panel. But two categories must be Medicare, Social Security and related entitlements.
The panel then would review the key recommendations of the Debt Reduction Task Force, Bowles-Simpson PLan, and the Peterson-Pew Committee on Budget Reform. The panel would agree to the top four recommendations under each of its own four main categories.
These categories and their corresponding recommendations then would be submitted to a Congressional Joint Committee on Budget Reform. That committee would consist only of the four congressional leaders: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi.
These four would be charged with drafting a bill that would include their compromise agreement on the proposals submitted by the Blue Ribbon Panel. These four would be prohibited from adding other proposals. They would be restricted to discussing only those recommendations from the task force.
The compromise bill from Reid, McConnell, Boehner and Pelosi, would then be submitted to both the Senate and House. Debate would be limited to only those few items in the bill. Again, there could be no amendments proposed, added or approved. Only the original Reid/McConnell/Boehner/Pelosi would be subject to discussion.
The President would sign the final measure according to the original agreement under which the Blue Ribbon Task Force was created.
The plan detailed above should not be necessary. But it’s obvious that America now is operating with a dysfunctional political system. Until both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue can learn to work together for the well being of the United States, someone else has to do their job for them.
It’s time for an outside group to fix our financial folly.