Giving Ground: Sen. Toomey Makes Sense In ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Debate

Harrisburg Patriot-News

It took a young woman from Kansas to shake the citizens of Oz out of their stupor in L. Frank Baum’s classic novel “The Wizard of Oz.”

In 2012, it might take Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey to get Washington’s politicians out of their fantasy worlds.

Most of us outside the famed Washington Beltway see things clearly: Avoiding the “fiscal cliff” is in everyone’s best interest, and there’s a compromise to get us there.

It involves increasing revenues (mostly on higher-income earners) and decreasing spending across all parts of the federal budget.

But somehow, only a few politicians such as Toomey appear to be able to see the common-sense view — and are ready to compromise.

Make no mistake, Toomey is a conservative Republican. But he’s also a pragmatist. As he wrote in an op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer this week: “We must recognize that elections have consequences.

President Obama and a Democratic-controlled Senate have been re-elected, but so has a Republican-controlled House. Solving these twin crises requires Democrats and Republicans to work together. Both sides will have to give some ground.”

Toomey has made the big leap to saying he is willing to go along with revenue increases, but he wants them to be “pro-growth” friendly.

He’s right. President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — more commonly known these days as the Simpson-Bowles framework after the Republican and Democratic chairs of the commission — recommended that America reduce its tax rates and simultaneously eliminate all loopholes and most tax breaks for the wealthy.

This kind of tax reform would entail items such as capping itemized deductions, something far more likely to impact wealthy individuals. According to the Simpson-Bowles report, these tax reforms would generate more revenue and make the tax code fairer and simpler.

This is where the “fiscal cliff” debate should be focusing, not on the hot air back and forth that’s under way between President Obama and House Republicans. Sen. Toomey is talking to fellow Democrats in the Senate, trying to strike the framework of a deal.

He also would like to see basic reforms to entitlements such as limiting how many benefits the megarich can get. Toomey’s ideas — and certainly those of Simpson-Bowles — are not that far from President Obama’s main message that he wants to see the nation’s wealthiest pay more.

For all the talk of a stalemate, the latest reports are that Obama wants $600 billion in spending cuts and $1.6 trillion in new revenues.

House Speaker John Boehner wants $900 billion in spending cuts and $800 billion in new revenues. The two sides are not in line, but they are not on different planets either, especially on spending cuts.

Sensible voices such as Toomey’s are emerging to shape a compromise that is a “win” for both sides — and the country.

The rest of Washington should start listening.

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