Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For America's Future

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For America's Future

Article excerpt

ONLY half facetiously, we wonder if Americans wouldn't cheer a move to send congressional and White House budget negotiators out to Dayton, Ohio, to hammer out their deficit compromise.

Spartan military quarters, a persistent mediator, and seclusion from the media set intransigent Balkan leaders on the path to settlement. Something like those factors might also end the foot-dragging of the politicians behind the budget negotiators. Besides, the bargainers would be removed from the perverting influence of daily opinion polls.

This fanciful scene won't happen. We pose it simply to remind all concerned that getting away from the miasma of Washington name-calling and word-twisting often helps to get bargainers with deep-seated, legitimately different viewpoints back to what they have to do for the common good: compromise. That's why the system of cooling off periods and mediators has generally worked well in labor- management disputes.

If mediation were available to Messrs. Clinton, Dole, and Gingrich - and their advisers and committee chairs - what would the mediator be likely to propose?

To the Republicans, who are trying to break habits of deficit and debt growth caused by both parties, he might suggest looking at - and putting on the table - several specific alternative packages for eliminating the deficit in seven years.

To White House chief of staff Leon Panetta and budget director Alice Rivlin, he might suggest presenting a specific plan for a seven-year path to a zero deficit that protects basic education and environment standards but still does what must be done to slow the runaway growth of Medicare and Medicaid costs. (That exercise will prove more difficult than jawboning about these subjects.) The best path would be to start back where Mr. Clinton stood in recent months when he outlined areas of general agreement with Senate Republicans on many of these issues.

If both sides put on the table such detailed alternatives, they would see more clearly a route to compromise. …

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