What follows is a suggested draft, which was sent to the president. Since no response was forthcoming, it seemed appropriate to share it with the world. While obviously it is not a perfect solution — there probably is none — perhaps it would be better to try something like this than simply to continue to wring hands and beg for cooperation. It is time to at least talk about some systemic changes to address the systemic and counterproductive political gridlock we are stuck with today.
I stand before you for the second and last time to swear that I will do my utmost to defend and uphold all of the American people to the very best of my ability. Twenty years ago I barely imagined ever standing here at all. To stand here for a second time in today’s world is quite a rare thing and is a big honor with even bigger responsibilities.
The biggest responsibility I have — we all have — is to ensure that the world we live in and leave to our children and grandchildren is at least as good as the world we inherited. In recent years some of us have lost that focus and as a consequence we have drifted off course to the point that we have crept up on the risk of leaving the world to our inheritors in an impaired state.
I see as my main challenge and goal for the next four years to help steer our ship of state back on a proper course. I cannot do that alone; we have to do that together. I said similar things four years ago today. I meant them then. I mean them ever more so now and in a different way. Today there is a greater urgency to the need than there was four years ago.
Four years from today you will be witness to someone else being sworn into office. All of us owe it to that person and ourselves to provide a better start on their term in office than we have recently experienced this year. The core of our problem today is the systemic partisan political gridlock. There are a few things brewing for a long-term solution to that problem but we really do not have the time to wait for that long term. We need to do something now.
I suggest three new ideas — to be used together — to make an effort now to put that gridlock on hold to allow us to address our fundamental goal of dealing with out debts and deficits.
First, we should come together and seek a unanimous vote of both houses of Congress that the most important goal of this presidential term is to secure the future for our inheritors by beginning to reduce the debts of the country to a level that can be sustainably managed going into the future. If we can agree on that broad goal, that can be the beginning of a process that can reach broad bipartisan agreement on how to do it.
Second, we should agree to suspend all open and active partisan political activity for the balance of this year — such as party caucusing — while we seek to address the various specific matters that stand in the way of achieving our agreed basic goal. We should conduct our debates about the best way to achieve our agreed goal with the explicit purpose of finding compromises that may not make everyone happy, but will move us toward our goal, in a way that a preponderance of independent expert economists and statisticians agree will work.
Third, to enable legislators to vote their consciences (as they finally did after Jan. 1 when 88 Senators and 85 House members voted for the new tax bill to avoid the Cliff,) without fear or favor from party, we should suspend the tradition of publicizing how each legislator votes until we have accomplished all the legislation necessary to putting us on the path to our goal or one year from now, whichever comes first.
At a minimum perhaps, the American people might credit the president with trying to lead in a different way and that might strengthen his hand in the issues that lie ahead.