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DEALS ON FOUR MAJOR CHALLENGES: Aim for a compromise between the centre-right and centre-left
EVEN if Paul Ryan's nomination as the Republicans' vice-presidential candidate does spark a meaningful debate about one of the great issues facing America -- the nexus of debt, taxes and entitlements -- there is little sign of serious debate on America's other three major challenges.
These are how to generate growth and upgrade the skills of every American in an age when the merger of globalisation and the information technology revolution means every good job requires more education; how to meet energy and climate challenges; and how to create an immigration policy that will treat those who are in the country illegally humanely, while opening America to the world's most talented immigrants, whom it needs to remain the world's most innovative economy.
The United States needs deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don't see that happening unless "conservatives" retake the Republican Party from the "radicals" -- that is, the Tea Party base. America today desperately needs a serious, thoughtful, credible 21st-century "conservative" opposition to President Barack Obama, and we don't have that, even though the voices are out there.
Imagine if the Grand Old Party (GOP)'s position on debt was set by Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who has challenged the no-tax lunacy of Grover Norquist and served on the Simpson-Bowles commission and voted for its final plan (unlike Ryan).
That plan included both increased tax revenues and spending cuts as the only way to fix long-term fiscal imbalances. A Republican Party that says real tax revenues and spending cuts have to be on the table to solve this problem would get a deal with Obama, who has already offered both, although not at the scale the US needs.
True conservatives know that both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used both tax revenue and spending cuts to fix budget shortfalls. Ryan-led radicals say "no new taxes", find all the savings through spending cuts. That's never going to happen -- and shouldn't.
Imagine if the GOP's position on immigration followed the lead of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of the News Corporation. Bloomberg and Murdoch recently took to the road to make the economic case for immigration reform.
"I think we are in a crisis in this country," The Times quoted the Australian-born Murdoch, who's now a naturalised American, as saying last week. "Right now, if we get qualified people in, there shouldn't be any nonsense about it."
Regarding the "so-called illegal Mexicans", Murdoch added, "give them a path to citizenship. They pay taxes; they are hardworking people. Why Mitt Romney doesn't do it, I have no idea, because they are natural Republicans".
Imagine if the GOP position on energy and climate was set by Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina Republican congressman (who was defeated by the Tea Party in 2010). He now runs George Mason University's Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which is based on the notion that climate change is real, and that the best way to deal with it and the broader energy challenge is with conservative "market-based solutions" that say to the fossil fuel and wind, solar and nuclear industries: "Be accountable for all of your costs," including the carbon and pollution you put in the air, and then "let the markets work" and see who wins.
America will not make any progress on its biggest problems without a compromise between the centre-right and centre-left. But, for that, it needs the centre-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the GOP, as well as the centre-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed centre-left solutions to all four of these challenges. I wish he had pushed some in a bigger, consistent, more daring and more forceful manner, and made them the centrepiece of his campaign.
Nevertheless, if the GOP were in a different place, either a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would have a real chance at making progress on all four. As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing.
Too bad -- a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste. NYT