The clear mandate of the 2012 elections was for a balanced approach to the nation’s fiscal problems, a “grand bargain” that includes the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy, some common-sense changes to Medicare and Social Security, cuts in unnecessary defense programs, and elimination of unproductive loopholes in the tax code. Taken together, these moves would not only cut the debt load being imposed on future generations, but they would also clear the way for targeted investments in education and infrastructure. The result would be a stronger nation better positioned to compete in the global marketplace.
Since the election, most Americans, and this editorial page, have refrained from making any programs into sacred cows, or asserting any rigid demands, in the belief that all options must be on the table — that a balanced agreement, acceptable to most Republicans and Democrats, would naturally flow from the results of the election. The “fiscal cliff” of expiring tax cuts and mandatory spending cuts set to take effect on Jan. 1 would serve as a prod, making the end of 2012 a meaningful deadline for such a deal. Then, with a fixed set of tax rules and spending plans in place, businesses could begin the new year with a more predictable landscape and the confidence to hire more workers.