By Mitch McConnell
President Barack Obama pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. But because he focused on political gimmicks, rather than real reform, we've seen trillion-dollar deficits and nearly $6 trillion added to the debt instead. Based on what we heard from the president at a news conference Tuesday, his unserious attitude is likely to continue.
That's worrying. Unless we can get a handle on Washington's overspending, and quickly, it will continue to undermine our economy and jeopardize our children's futures.
Sadly, the White House is not yet serious about doing that. Instead, it has predictably suggested politically driven tax hikes as appropriate offsets for the sequester, including a tax on corporate jets. If that sounds like a poll-tested P.R. gimmick rather than a serious solution, that's because it is. A permanent tax increase like that would take 10 years just to raise enough money to replace one week's worth of the sequester.
A similar scheme, attempted in the 1990s, actually resulted in lost revenue. It had to be repealed just a few years later because of the economic damage it caused.
In short, a tax on corporate jets isn't a real plan. It's a cheap stunt. And it certainly won't shrink the deficit or increase jobs.
Yet this is the kind of thing we've come to expect from this White House, which spends more time cooking up political dodges than reaching out to Congress to solve pressing problems. That's why I have little doubt that the White House will likely spin these kinds of gimmicky tax hikes as a real answer to the sequester.
It's time for Washington Democrats to get real.
The election is over. Americans elected a divided government -- and now expect it to work. That means both parties need to come together to address the things that matter to American families. Two issues rise to the top of that list: fixing the economy and getting Washington's spending spree under control.
There are several things we can do to address both problems at once. By eliminating waste and reforming government to make it leaner and more efficient, we can remove roadblocks that hold back private-sector growth and job creation. Those same policies will also help lower spending, putting it on a more sustainable path.
No one ever said tackling these challenges would be easy. It won't be. But so far Democrats have been almost totally unwilling to engage meaningfully in the process. They've scheduled no hearings on the sequester or the debt ceiling, and have announced no plans for real solutions. Consider, it took nearly four years and a House bill just to get them to acknowledge it was time to write a budget.
They won't even work with us to get the easy things done.
You've probably never heard of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, but you should. Washington has spent millions of your tax dollars so this agency can study things like whether pushing on someone's head can cause them to lose weight, or whether magnets are effective at relieving pain. Thanks to your hard-earned money, Washington has also been able to fund Chinese studies on pig manure and reality TV shows in India.
So, instead of reflexively calling for higher tax increases (even if the president got virtually every tax hike he asked for in his last budget, we still wouldn't come close to solving our long-term challenges), it's time for Democrats to finally work with us to shine a light into every corner of the budget so that we can root out waste.
Rather than continually turning to gimmicks, we could get more done if the president would engage seriously with both parties to develop real reforms.
Republicans have been willing to work with Obama from the very beginning. We still are. But real progress can only happen if he's ready to put the gimmicks aside and get serious. I hope he will. Poll-driven tax hikes like those on general aviation planes may sample well in a focus group, but they will not solve the sequester -- or the very real challenges facing my constituents in Kentucky and Americans across the country. Especially Washington's spending problem.