The lost art of compromise

Pols forget that part of their job is finding common ground

By Ken Esten Cooke— President Ronald Reagan declared, “Die-hard conservatives thought that if I couldn’t get everything I asked for, I should jump off the cliff with the flag flying — go down in flames. No, if I can get 70 or 80 percent of what it is I’m trying to get ... I’ll take that and then continue to try to get the rest in the future.

That sense of reasonableness and subtlety is completely lost in today’s Washington, and the nation is worse off because of it.

The current standoff — forcing a 15-day government shutdown and inching perilously close to a default on government obligations — is a sign that personal reward takes precedence over the nation’s well-being. There is little future planning being done, but simply an existing from crisis to crisis. It is no wonder that a poll last week stated that 64 percent of Americans would get rid of every single member of Congress, even their own representative, if given the opportunity.

Though a compromise is being sought as this is written, the anxiety and frustration felt by everyday Americans and by investors domestic and international are very real. Republicans, led by junior Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, threw a wrench in the works after the Affordable Care Act had already been voted into law and affirmed by the Supreme Court. Why not take what is surely a flawed law and make improvements?

Though Republican hard-liners win the obstinance battle, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats shoulder much blame as well. It’s been more than four years since an actual budget has passed, and this piecemeal approach to spending and debt limits must stop. Entitlement reform, including Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, must be addressed as those are the two largest parts of current spending, representing 23 and 22 percent, respectively.

Indeed, the American public can handle changes. Most of us are far more grown up than our representatives in Washington.

Today’s impasse is partly the result of gerrymandered political districts where, instead of voters picking their politicians, it’s getting to where politicians increasingly pick their own voters, insulating them from dissention and challenge.

Republican Reagan managed to work with Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neill throughout his tenure. There needs to be more reaching across the aisle, and less staking of turf to plant one’s ego or aspirations.

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