As President Obama travels to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for meetings seeking alternatives to the "sequester" cuts, we hardly need another reminder that our nation desperately needs to unify, working to advance the the best ideas of both parties. Some bipartisan success might be just what Washington needs to build trust and find consensus on the thornier issues that divide us. One step the president could take is to consider more of the most thoughtful ideas advanced by his opponent in last fall's election and to move more quickly on those he has already embraced.
Last summer, we led a behind-the-scenes effort to plan for a potential Romney administration. Hundreds of well-regarded policy thinkers developed a set of concrete proposals to create jobs and put our nation on a sound fiscal path. Though we know there will be disagreement in some details, there is enough agreement that real change is possible.
Safe, secure entitlements
The president has noted his interest in ensuring both Medicare and Social Security are sustainable for the long run. He has also called for stabilizing our debt trajectory with an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. Both are important goals, but we should go further and consider how, over time, we can actually reduce the nation's debt-to-GDP ratio without additional tax increases.
Obama should consider reforms such as the inclusion of greater competition and choice in Medicare, as well as means-testing benefits and gradually increasing eligibility ages for Medicare and Social Security, not just to cut the federal budget, but to ensure that promises Washington make are the ones we can keep.
Recent discoveries make North American energy independence possible within a decade and have the potential to revive manufacturing while creating millions of American jobs. States should be given greater authority to control onshore energy development. Offshore areas should be opened to exploration while safeguards are developed to ensure this is done responsibly. We should work closely with Canada and Mexico to facilitate greater cross-border energy investment and infrastructure development.
There is consensus that opening markets abroad helps American consumers and creates American jobs. Obama's plans to create a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade area and open talks with Europe on a similar deal are encouraging. But to move forward, Obama needs congressionally endorsed Trade Promotion Authority, which forces an up-or-down vote on any deal.
There is also consensus that our tax system is too costly and stifles business. In the State of the Union, Obama renewed his call for comprehensive tax reform. Previously, bipartisan negotiators were reportedly close to a deal that would significantly lower corporate tax rate to make us more globally competitive while slashing complexity. Individual taxes should get the same treatment, lowering tax rates while broadening the base of taxable income.
For Romney supporters like us, the next four years are not about what might have been, but rather about what could be if we put aside political differences and work on sensible policies. President Obama needs to press harder to take advantage of this opportunity.
Michael Leavitt chaired the Romney transition team. Lanhee Chen was policy director for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.
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