THE BLOG

Voters Will Reward Democrats for Budget Courage

03/03/2011 06:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Despite last week's news that a government shutdown will be temporarily avoided, most Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are preparing for what seems to be the inevitable. After all, the Republicans feel they were given a mandate by the Tea Party to drastically cut spending and the Democrats know they control the White House and the Senate and therefore should not give into the demands of Speaker John Boehner. Neither party believes they should concede to the other.

Not only is this political stalemate is bad for America - I believe that Democrats should seize opportunity to show the American people they are serious about getting our fiscal house in order. Democrats need to get serious about budget cuts, even to programs they support, if they are going to have the political capital that they will need to shame Republicans into raising tax rates on the wealthiest one percent of Americans. After all, unless we increase taxes for only the richest Americans and cut some government programs -- many of which are good programs -- we face fiscal insolvency.

I am not suggesting Democrats just roll over and give into the demands of the Tea Partiers. I am urging the President and Congressional Democrats to demonstrate that they are serious about getting our national debt and the deficit and under control. That should include willingness to accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare. This may anger some traditional Democratic constituencies, but the vast majority of Americans (and voters) will reward the President for having the courage to make the tough choices that governing requires.

Congressional Democrats and the White House can start this process by enacting the recommendations made by the bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The panel offered a blueprint for making budget cuts and raising taxes that would fix our nation's short-term and long-term problems without stunting the simmering economic recovery. The American public will likely support the party most willing to wholeheartedly support the bipartisan Commission's recommendations.

Democrats can find ways to protect important programs for the disadvantaged by axing bloated or useless programs. For example, taxpayers are currently on the hook to pay $804 million dollars to develop a missile defense system -- known as MEADS -- which the government will never actually purchase. The government (without shame) actually admits that it cannot afford to buy these missiles even thought it will spend hundreds of million dollars on their development! Democrats should follow the recommendations of another common sense bi-partisan report and eliminate MEADS immediately. Funding a missile defense program to the tune of almost a billion dollars that will never actually protect American troops or our nation is a tragic waste of ever dwindling resources.

I am not going to try and predict which political party the American people will blame more for a government shutdown. My guess is that people will probably be frustrated with both parties because neither side is willing to do what it takes to get the deficit and the debt under control. My point is that the Democrats have the opportunity now to demonstrate to the country that they are serious about governing and living within our means. Let's expose the Republicans for what they are - a party with a mandate to cut spending but lacking the will to actually do so. In November 2012, voters will reward Democrats for showing the courage that Republicans seemingly lack.