We will soon see whether there is any remaining capacity in the U.S. political system to reach compromise across partisan lines for the common good.
Republican congressional leaders say that if President Obama wants the government to reopen and the debt limit to be increased he will have to make concessions on spending and agree to negotiate a long-term deficit reduction deal. Obama says he will not negotiate anything until the debt limit is raised and the government reopened. After that, he’ll talk.
If neither side blinks, the government will remain shut and nation could begin defaulting on a portion of its obligations within a matter of days..
That disastrous outcome must be avoided. But how?
Backing down now would be politically perilous for either side. Failing to back down, however, would be perilous for the economy, the nation’s creditworthiness and the trust that citizens place in elected leaders to carry out the most basic functions of government.
Surely, both sides know that ultimately two things have to happen.
1.) The debt limit must be increased. There is no realistic alternative and any set of fiscal options, even Paul Ryan’s austere House Budget Committee plan, would require additional borrowing.
2.) There must be a meaningful negotiation over fiscal policy in...