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Finally, GOP Gets Guts on Budget

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BARACK OBAMA 2012 FUNDRAISING

House Republicans, led by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, this week say they will release a budget set to cut $4 trillion over the next decade.

Hallelujah! Until this act, both major political parties have refused to address the biggest challenge of our generation: the growing and unsustainable debt we are thrusting upon our children.

Democrats made me question whether they can add, as they've piled one well-intentioned yet costly social program on top of another. Republicans acted as if they could not subtract as, despite lots of rhetoric, they largely limited cutting efforts to programs like public broadcasting to score rhetorical points.

This is a defining moment for politicians of both parties. Americans know we have a major problem and they want action on it. But no one wants their special programs or benefits cut -- unless, and this is a big unless -- they feel others are also sacrificing.

This is President Obama's moment -- he is at a leadership crossroads. He can oppose the Republican cuts on social programs and suggest the old canard that we can solve the deficit by taxing wealthy Americans -- which, by the way, is not even a temporary solution to balancing the budget.

Obama can remain passive and see if Congress can work it out. With his reelection kick off this week, this appears to be his strategy -- much like the football team winning after half-time shifting to only running plays and defense. But for Obama to play defense so he is re-elected is not just disappointing to fans, it would be a total failure of leadership on our nation's biggest long term problem.

Or, the President can lead. He can call for shared sacrifice and propose the type of spending cuts, tax increases and growth-oriented policies that we need to cut our deficit and give our kids a better world.

Everything should be on the table. The goals should not only be numerical but also principled. We need to make hard choices by recognizing we can no longer afford costly entitlement programs. We must tie government checks to rules, for instance, limit unemployment to those volunteering or welfare reimbursements to healthy foods. We have to embrace entitlement reform -- simply challenging the use of one drug almost identical to another could save nearly a billion dollars annually.

We must cut tax loopholes without sacrificing growth in our economy and jobs. All in all, we must work together to make America a place where our children can thrive, unsaddled from our debt.

Cutting the deficit presents huge opportunities for our nation, but also challenges the integrity and fortitude of our elected officials. Politicians worried about their careers need to demonstrate extraordinary courage to save the next generation of this great nation. It's time we all sacrifice to cut the deficit and protect America's future.

Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents more than 2,000 technology companies and owns and produces the International CES. Shapiro is the author of The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.

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