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The ability to compromise forgotten along the Potomac

No matter what they will tell you, no national political official can accurately gaze into a crystal ball and tell you for certain what will happen in January if the United States falls off the infamous “fiscal cliff.”

Accountants from coast to coast will burn the midnight oil to change the formulas by which they calculate payroll taxes. Who has the manual on how to alter deductions for health insurance?

While these factors will impact all working Americans, step back for a moment and scan the horizon for the big picture. Huge spending cuts triggered by the fiscal cliff will also have a negative impact on business, according to some leading national economists.

“All federal agencies and the companies that work with government contracts will get paid less – that is, less money comes into the economy,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business. “The uncertainty over how – or if – the issue will be resolved is already holding back economic growth. There’s a lot of uncertainty that’s keeping us from spending our money and hiring.”

Even if a temporary resolution surfaced by the end of this week, it is that ubiquitous uncertainty that continues to hold America back. And that’s a shame.

Admittedly, President Barack Obama has a great deal of leverage on the issue.

The White House website proclaims, “A typical middle class family of four would see its taxes rise by $2,200 starting in 2013. Middle-class families can’t afford that. A tax hike of about $2,000 means less money to buy groceries or fill a prescription. It means a tougher choice between paying the rent and paying tuition.”

House Republicans need to recognize this inconvenient truth and give some ground on tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. They should have realized this long before the election and been working on a plan within their own party.

“When American families have more money to spend on things like clothes, cars, furniture, and food, this spending generates greater profit for businesses and increased demand that causes businesses to invest and hire more workers,” the White House website states. I agree.

But there is a genuine desire in the Obama administration to have their cake and eat it too. Had the president shown he was above some special interests and cleared the way for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, more Americans could have been hired for quality jobs months ago.

The ripple effect of this one project - already strongly approved in Canada

where it would originate – would have had a positive impact on such major components of the American economy as housing, transportation and energy.

But it has no support in the Oval Office. Speaker of the House John Boehner spoke Nov. 30 in terms most average Americans could understand.

“The president’s tax increase would be another crippling blow for [small business owners] while doing little to nothing to solve the bigger problem here, which is our national deficit and our national debt,” he said. “This debt doesn’t exist because we don’t tax small businesses enough. It exists because Washington continues to spend too much.”

I’ve been hearing that simple lesson since Ronald Reagan was president. Yet Obama and Boehner lack Reagan’s supernatural ability to bring people together, to tear down walls and to turn adversity into a greater good.

Late last month, Boehner said that instead of raising tax rates, Washington could produce a similar amount of revenue [by] reforming the tax code to close loopholes and lower tax rates. I like that philosophy, but it’s not a game plan that can be put into action halfway through December. Sorry, John.

The two sides had all summer to work on a plan for the future but campaigning took precedence. Now it is time for both Democrats and Republicans to craft a quick compromise that is the foundation for reducing the national debt, cutting spending and strengthening programs vital to all of us.

We must stop running this country by the seat of our pants.

Gentlemen, just do it.

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