I am embarrassed for America. During my recent travels abroad, I was peppered with questions by foreign business leaders and press about how our government shutdown happened, and why our politicians fail to compromise. Although I try to put a good light on the messiness of our democratic system, I am deeply concerned our leaders are failing the nation.
It should be obvious to every American that this high-stakes game of chicken could do serious harm to our country. We will see increased interest on our massive debt if we suffer a default or lowering of our credit. We might lose our role as the nation other countries look to for guidance. Worse, we are hurting our neediest citizens by cutting vital government services, disrupting the serious work of government and further undercutting the desire to get and keep competent people in government service.
Both parties have backed themselves into a corner. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama refuse to negotiate about funding Obamacare. Meanwhile, the Republicans and the Tea Party are demanding that Obamacare be defunded. Neither side will meet in the middle.
No Labels, a non-partisan effort I am involved with to restore functioning democracy in America, has recommended a one-year freeze to give our leaders time to negotiate without the constant pressure of being in crisis mode. But even if they won't agree to that, Congress has to compromise.
This standoff is not good for America, and ultimately it won't be good for either political party. They both need to do some soul searching about ethical leadership and consider real American heroes, who built this country and sacrificed lives and limbs for our future and our freedoms.
The parties need a reality check.
The Republicans must admit that the Supreme Court ruled Obamacare is constitutional. And the American people spoke loudly last November when they re-elected President Obama. The Republicans may want to be Custer on his last stand, but as everyone from columnist George Will to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has recognized, their strategy of reversing the president's signature program when the president has the support of the American people simply will not work.
The Democrats have to stand down, too. Obamacare was a massive, one-party power play, rushed into law without consideration for its many ramifications. More, it is already proving to be vastly more costly than promised. The Senate Democrats' refusal to consider any House-passed, commonsense budgetary exceptions to allow portions of the government to stay open is simply harmful to our nation. Closing monuments and parks and stopping visible programs like the one benefiting children's cancer treatments is not going over well with the American public when they know that other costly, less visible programs continue unabated. Frankly, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's declaration that there is nothing left to cut in government defies credulity.
Yet, there may be a middle ground for compromise. First, both sides have to give and they have to get something. Democrats should recognize that Obamacare is not perfect. The president has already used some unclear executive authority to delay the employer mandate for a year. Given the massive IT problems, resentment and lack of clarification, he could accede to a one-year delay in the individual mandate and thus give the Republicans some cover.
More, the Congressional Budget Office recently declared that over the next decade, Obamacare will cost almost twice as much as the original projection of $900 billion - which was what representatives agreed to when they voted for Obamacare in the first place. Considering this, the president should give a bit and help cut the budget deficit. And since there is bipartisan majority support for repealing the anti-innovation medical excise tax portion of the law, he could throw this in and attract support from both parties. And new revenue for the deal can come from a deal allowing foreign revenue to return to the U.S. at a lower tax rate. This would boost the economy, create jobs, and a portion could even fund infrastructure investment.
The Republicans have to accept that a compromise is better than a crippled nation with a dysfunctional government. The GOP is losing presidential elections, and their trend line is not good. They are being portrayed as the anti-government party seeking to destroy the nation rather than the smaller government party trying to make it better. They are losing the PR war, and they will continue to lose national elections. They could even be putting their control of the House in jeopardy.
So, both sides have to give. Whether it is a compromise as laid out above, or a one-year freeze as proposed by No Labels, we need a solution. The president and congressional "leaders" have been anything but true leaders. It's time they stepped up and took one for the nation.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro.