Compromise not a bad word on debt

Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 7/29/2011 11:54 AM

As if the complexities of the debt ceiling debate were not confounding enough by themselves, political debate over the issue has become so steeped in vitriol and bluster from both sides that most Americans have long since wearied of the whole process.

Americans have indicated time and again that they expect their leaders to cooperate and compromise to settle the nation's thorniest problems, including the debt ceiling crisis. What they've seen? Well, we're reminded again of our editorial board conversation last fall with then-candidate for Congress Joe Walsh. We asked Walsh whether a Republican-controlled Congress would offer a greater spirit of bipartisanship than the Democrat-controlled Congress had. He responded that this "would not be the time right now to extend your hand across the aisle."

Elected by a 291-vote margin, Republican Walsh has, if nothing else, been true to his word. He's proudly ridden that feisty intransigence -- even amid his own well-publicized personal problems with debt -- into a steady stream of appearances on the political talk-show circuit as the poster child for the tea party's uncompromising stance on the debt ceiling.

Contrast his comments with the approach of a fellow GOP freshman from the suburbs, 10th District U.S. Rep. Robert Dold. In a radio report this week, Dold said, "I'm looking to try to see if I can't work with anybody that will sit down and work with me to try to solve the problems that we face."

Whatever happens to avert the nightmare of default -- and we're optimistic enough to believe that something will materialize before Tuesday -- it will likely be the Bob Dolds of Congress, in both parties, who are responsible. People who press their point of view and acknowledge that the ultimate solution may have to include at least some portion of another person's point of view.

For the moment, unfortunately, those uncompromising voices in Congress who have openly stated they don't mind letting the United States default on its debts if they can't get what they want have so overwhelmed the debt ceiling debate -- if what's occurred regarding the debt ceiling can even be called a debate -- that potentially reasonable alternatives like the Gang of Six proposal or the Boehner plan can hardly be discussed on their own merits.

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, the Republicans' chief deputy whip, says he believes that open-minded Republicans finally began to examine seriously the Boehner proposal this week and are coming around. And while even that plan contains provisions that may require give and take, it's hope inducing, if not exactly reassuring, to realize that some politicians are willing to accept some middle ground.

In short, this is the time for both parties to extend their hand across the aisle. Sadly, if they fail to do so, it's not just politicians who will suffer at the ballot box, but all the rest of us in our wallets, our home mortgages, our 401(k)s and our very jobs.