WHAT OTHERS SAY: Pay the bills, control spending

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

It’s time for Round Two of the fiscal follies in Washington.

Cue the bluster, talking points and implied threats from the nation’s politicians.

Just weeks after a feeble “fiscal cliff” resolution, President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress are gearing up for yet another battle over taxes and spending.

Yes, as Obama said Monday, Congress should vote to raise the nation’s debt limit. Republicans who are pontificating about how they won’t do that — how they’re willing to shut down at least part of the government until spending cuts are in place — aren’t looking out for the country’s best interests.

Congress under both Democratic and Republican leadership has decided to fund a large number of federal programs. The bills have to be paid, and, as Obama put it, America is not a deadbeat nation.

But it’s also true that the president and leaders of both parties have been unable to offer a bipartisan plan of how to dramatically cut the nation’s spending in the future.

That especially means approving reasonable ways to better control costs of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Those are real reforms that take real courage to accomplish. More yapping from Republicans or Democrats about how they won’t touch a dime of these programs is unproductive.

We’ll say it again: Obama must embrace the concepts of his own bipartisan deficit reduction commission, put forward by former Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. That should be the starting point to work with congressional leaders to make further spending cuts and find new ways to raise revenues. That means closing some loopholes and limiting some tax deductions.

The nation’s financial future will be stronger if firm decisions finally are made this year on these crucial issues. Congress and Obama must put in place a fairer tax system to finance responsible spending, especially in the massive entitlement programs.

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.

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