The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


September 11, 2012

A starting point


Since he took office as West Virginia’s junior U.S. senator two years ago, Joe Manchin has been focused on addressing the fiscal crisis we are experiencing in the United States.

Many, many times in both general addresses and one-on-one conversations, Manchin has bemoaned the fact that the gridlock in Washington is bound to ruin our country if it doesn’t change. He has definitely been frustrated.

The problem is apparent; neither political party in Congress has the leadership in place to bring common sense to the table and begin frank discussions to come up with plans to fix our mounting debt.

Poll Americans and you will find that most really have lost confidence in our representatives in the House and Senate.

Those like Manchin who do want to get the conversation started are bucking the system.

We say it’s about time some people would rather lead than bicker.

On Monday, former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Erskine Bowles, former Clinton administration chief of staff, were in Charleston to talk about their work and findings when they served as co-chairmen of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

President Barack Obama formed the bipartisan (we’re going to keep using that term) group in 2010 to develop ways to tackle the debt problem.

The panel did its work, yet Congress and the White House have largely ignored the recommendations — they don’t fit in politically.

But Manchin, who set up Monday’s fiscal summit, isn’t ready to let it go at that.

When first elected governor, Manchin said he was going to run the state like a business, promoting efficiency.

While nothing is perfect, with the help of the Legislature, West Virginia got its financial house in order. It saved the state from experiencing major budget problems when the recession took hold in 2008.

Leaders used common sense (another term we keep talking about) and compromise.

Manchin believed the same strategy could work in Washington. It would, yet Congress lacks the ability to compromise, impart common sense and start to buckle down and run the country in a more sensible, efficient fashion.

It doesn’t matter who the president is when it comes to running the business of our country. It does matter who represents us in the House and Senate.

Like anything else, the Bowles-Simpson plan doesn’t contain components that everybody, including Manchin, will agree with — but it’s a starting point.

Congress has to get busy on changing the way it does things. If not, America will continue to fall further behind the rest of the world. Working together to implement the Bowles-Simpson plan would be a breath of fresh air that would help to stem the fall we are in.

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