Obama’s Budget: Can Fiscal Reform Cross the Political Divide?

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It would be useful if we could use something like chess or go as an analogy for the game of political positioning that policymakers have been playing in Washington for the past few years, but we can’t — not if we want to be accurate. While there is no doubt an enormous amount of strategic calculation being performed, there is a pragmatic elegance to chess or go that has been absent in the political arena. Instead of positioning, it may be best to describe the rhetoric lobbed like grenades between Democrats and Republicans as posturing and to categorize most of the dialog as a farce.

It’s easy to hate the current situation, but it’s hard to see how it could be any different. Washington appears to have institutionalized incompetence on one hand and corruption on the other, and between left and right is a deep ideological fissure that is a political no-man’s land. Somewhere in the fog of war, like blind men groping different parts of an elephant, policymakers have built America’s fiscal house, and the one thing everyone can agree on is that it’s falling apart. What Republicans and Democrats can’t seem to agree on is how to repair it.

It’s not fair to paint the entire GOP or the entire Democratic Party with the same brush, but for practical purposes we have to use broad strokes. The blue brush, wielded by the Obama administration and the Democratically controlled Senate, is trying to paint over and add to America’s economic landscape with additional stimulus and extended benefits. The red brush, wielded by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), is trying to redact parts of the picture that have become illegible or unwieldy, primarily with spending cuts.

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