Following a meaningless vote Tuesday night in favor of something called the "Cut, Cap and Balance Act" (North Shore Congressman John Tierney described it as more like "slash, burn and giveaway"), a majority of Democrats and the more sensible Republicans seemed prepared to finally cut a deal on raising the debt ceiling.
And not a moment too soon. Christine Sullivan, who runs The Enterprise Center at Salem State University, observed yesterday that the uncertainty over what will happen after Aug. 2 is already having an adverse impact on start-up companies and others here in the northeastern part of the state. People aren't hiring and making major purchases out of fear the U.S. won't be able to meet its obligations and thus send the domestic and global economy into a tailspin.
President Obama has offered far more in terms of spending cuts than even Republicans could have thought possible going into this debate; so the GOP has got to give some ground in terms of eliminating the tax loopholes and subsidies that benefit only the wealthiest Americans.
As of yesterday, much of the attention was focused on a plan brought forward by the Senate's so-called "Gang of Six" (Mark Warner, D-Va.; Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; and Tom Coburn, R-Okla.) that calls for $3.7 trillion worth of savings over 10 years, a commitment to overhaul Social Security and Medicare and a commitment to rewrite the tax code to generate more than $1 trillion in new revenue.
It's something nobody, including the leaders of either party, will be completely happy with, but represents a good balance between those who says the debt should be dealt with solely through budget cuts and those who maintain that the only way to address the deficit problem is by raising taxes on the wealthy.
The senators as of yesterday had received wary words of encouragement from key players, including Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., called it "a move in the right direction."
Clearly, it's well past time to get this deal done. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday indicated Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with the impasse in Washington. Most ominously for the Republicans, even 58 percent of those who identified themselves as members of the GOP said their party's leaders are not doing enough to strike a deal, up from 42 percent in March.
Some of the more radical elements on the right have made it clear they are perfectly willing to see the Republican Party go down in flames rather than compromise on this issue; they shouldn't be allowed to sacrifice the entire country at the altar of their myopic point of view.