President Obama cut his annual family Christmas vacation short and is returning to Washington to get back to work on a budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. A sense of urgency is in the air as the nation gets closer and closer to the January 1 deadline to avert automatic tax increases and spending cuts.
Hopefully his short holiday vacation in his home state of Hawaii gave the president some time to reflect on the major issues he and Congress will be facing in the coming year. As any child will tell you, this is the time of year when you compile and review your naughty and nice list. You look back on the things that you have done that could be considered naughty and you promise yourself not to do that again. You resolve to be better than you were last year so as to avoid that lump of coal in your Christmas stocking. One of the quickest ways to get on the “naughty” list is to bicker, argue, and fight.
Washington — the liberals and conservatives, the Democrats and the Republicans, the president and Congress — has been bickering, arguing and fighting for almost 18 months. They have forgotten the definition of bipartisanship. Effective bipartisan government requires good faith negotiation. You need pragmatic and sensible negotiators willing to put ego and party loyalty aside for the good of the country. Bipartisanship means finding common ground through compromise. It requires hard work and a genuine desire to resolve urgent matters of state. You have to stop fighting and start talking. You have to stop campaigning and start governing. You have to do the job you were elected to do.
The government officials in Washington were very naughty in 2012. They did not get the job done. They closed out the year as they began it — bickering, arguing and fighting — and then they sent everyone home to their rooms.
They enter 2013 on the naughty list. Looking forward these are the six things they have to do to get off the naughty list.
1. Economic Recovery Plan – Please, no more slogans. Don’t kick the can down the road, fall off the fiscal cliff, or slip on any slopes. A comprehensive plan that addresses the debt and the deficit has to be the highest priority for this Congress and the president. We need jobs and a plan for long term solvency. There can be no higher priority. Entitlement reform has to be done. It is going to be a bumpy road but roll up your sleeves and get this off the naughty list.
2. Immigration Reform – Pass the Dream Act and work from there. After the general election in November, Republicans from every corner recognized that immigration reform, including support for the Dream Act was an important issue in the country. This has wide bipartisan support. It should be easy pickings.
3. Accelerate the Plan and End the War in Afghanistan – All indication is that this region of the world hates nothing more than foreign intervention. Every day there is a day too long. It’s been eleven years. If Afghanistan can’t run its own country without 60,000 American troops and several billion dollars of aid, then maybe they don’t deserve any help.
4. Rescind Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act – Indefinite detention without trial of American citizens, i.e. the suspension of habeas corpus, violates everything we stand for as a nation. There are going to be worse consequences than a naughty list if this is not removed from the NDAA.
5. Legalize Marijuana – It is going to happen anyway. The states of Washington and Colorado have already legalized recreational usage. It has medicinal value, saves money, and reduces crime. Is there a downside?
6. Tax Reform — A major reform of the tax code hasn’t happened since Reagan’s second term. There is broad bipartisan support to eliminating some deductions and closing loopholes. A fair estate tax, a fresh look at capital gains and a complete analysis of corporate taxes should be included in the reform process