In Our View: Both Parties Share Blame

Congress might have escaped a cliff, but state's newspapers aren't impressed

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Our assessment last week of the so-called fiscal cliff compromise was partial to neither political party. The Columbian blamed Republicans and Democrats for postponing federal spending problems rather than solving them.We weren't alone. Unlike other issues where a variety of views are voiced, newspapers throughout the state saw both political parties as derelict in the shared duty to manage Americans' money. Here are excerpts from editorials in other Washington cities:

Yakima Herald-Republic — Deficit hawks are quick to criticize the deal; note the comments by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton. In 2010 they co-chaired a presidential commission on deficit reduction, only to see both parties ignore their deficit-reduction proposals of spending cuts and tax increases. Simpson and Bowles called the recent measure "truly a missed opportunity to do something big to reduce our long-term fiscal problems."

And that's the problem: The New Year's deal essentially kicked the can down another road.

The Spokesman-Review of Spokane — While President Barack Obama and Speaker Boehner capture most of the attention, the real intransigence can be traced to congressional Republicans who won't say yes to any tax increase and Democrats who refuse to commit to any significant spending cuts, especially on large items such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The reported "grand bargain" that Obama and Boehner discussed in summer 2011 looks statesmanlike compared with the current display of cowardice. That deal reportedly included trillions in spending cuts and tax increases aimed at lowering the nation's debt, which has moved past $16 trillion. Before that, the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission produced a plan to cut approximately $3 in spending for every $1 in tax increases, with a goal of more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. By comparison, the emergency compromise being fashioned by Congress is positively puny.

The News Tribune of Tacoma — What's especially discouraging is the timing. Come election year, candidates don't dare bring up the subject of national sacrifice. … too many Republicans and Democrats show no interest in budging — whether on taxes or serious spending cuts -- to bring the nation's mounting debt under control. So we're left with lawmakers who crow about solving a manufactured crisis while doing next to nothing about the real one.

The Seattle Times — Congress did nothing to slow the budget's biggest element: entitlement spending. The Republicans who raised this point are right. Slight changes can make a big difference. A "chained" Consumer Price Index in Social Security, for example, would make future raises slightly lower. At one point, President Obama put that on the table, then took it off.

Another reform is to raise the retirement age, starting several decades out. It wasn't done. Military spending needs to come down, starting with overseas commitments. Farm subsidies need to be reviewed. Neither was done. Horse-trading at the 11th hour never makes sense.

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin — The U.S. must reduce spending slowly over time until it is under control. Then steps should be taken — a constitutional amendment or a law — to ensure the country does not again drown itself in red ink. This has to start in two months when Congress considers dealing with the automatic cuts that had been put in place. Shortly after Congress will, once again, be faced with raising the debt ceiling.