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Kathryn Kolbert

Kathryn Kolbert

Kathryn Kolbert, a public-interest attorney and journalist, is the Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the theory and practice of women's leadership.

Looking for love from an unloving public

Question: The conventional political wisdom is that the American public will reject politicians who propose or embrace a plan to bring the federal budget into balance through tax hikes and/or deep spending cuts. Is this a leadership challenge without a good solution? Can there be leadership without follow-ship?

Unfortunately, there are only two ways to balance the budget: cut spending and raise taxes, neither of which politicians who continue to look for love from an unloving public are willing to do. The only successful way to ensure that Congress will swallow the bitter pill is to have them authorize a neutral group to make the tough decisions and then make sure that Congress is prohibited from making changes to the suggestions--much like the process Congress uses for military base closings. Congress can lead here, but only by getting out of the way.

By Kathryn Kolbert

 |  December 1, 2010; 9:42 AM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Economic crisis , Political leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Using the presidential bully pulpit | Next: We need more government sacrifice


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Let's cut the wasted $2.8 billion a week we spend in Afghanistan. Let's allow Medicare to negotiate prices for bulk drugs. Let's stop lending the banks taxpayer dollars at.05% and then borrowing it back from them by paying 4% interest on Treasury bonds. Let's stop giving federal loan guarantees to "colleges" that make student loans to anyone who walks in the door. And let's get concessions from bankers BEFORE we give them any handouts to save them from their own greed and bad mangement!

Posted by: clary916 | December 5, 2010 7:15 PM
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The average person uses 20% of their brain. The other 80% sits idle. So-called nervous breakdown results from worry, fear, hate etc...If project requires unusual amount of energy, the supply is often increased without our knowing how. Get second wind, most people give up too soon. There's a third option and a 4th. Higher Value Living notes.

Posted by: jobandon | December 3, 2010 11:34 AM
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Since when did we pass from a representative democracy to a totalitarian regime? What Ms. Kolbert suggests is not only wrong-headed, it's dangerous, and it needs to be condemned vigorously. One only needs to look at the murderous regimes of the 20th century to see how total power in the hands of a few people can lead to devastating consequences for everyone else. Setting up a panel of "neutral" persons to recommend and implement spending cuts and tax increases is not at all analagous to the infamous BRAC. First, the decisions by the BRAC affected a far smaller segment of our society, and second, the BRAC's mandate was limited to military base closings.

The mandate for a deficit reduction panel, that presumably would largely implement the Bowles/Simpson commission's recommendations, would be far wider and would virtually affect everyone's life and behavior. In addition, who's to say that such a panel's power would be limited to deficit reduction.

Do we want this panel to determine who is denied lifesaving medical care by placing strict limits on Medicare/Medicaid? Do we want this august, neutral panel to ultimately determine where and how we can live because the tax incentives for home ownership are taken away? Do we want this panel to determine for us what type of retirement we are entitled to? And these are just a few of the painful decisions we know about. What else is lurking out there that we haven't thought about? Sarah Palin was wrong about the spectre of "death panels" under Obamacare, but they are a scarily real possibility under the scenario proposed here.

For better or worse, the Congress and the President were elected to represent the people of this great nation. It would be a disservice to the extreme for them to cede their power and responsiblities to a "neutral" panel of citizens.

Shame on Ms. Kolbert for even suggesting it, but also shame on us if we abdicate our responsiblities and values and agree to this scheme!

Posted by: pr41 | December 3, 2010 9:21 AM
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Years ago, there used to be a television commercial for an auto repair chain that presented people an option: "You can pay me now (change the oil, do other preventave maintenance) or you can pay me later (the car being towed in for a major and very expensive repair).

We are being presented with much the same option now regarding government spending: We can cut it now, reduce spending across the board to include reducing entitlements and eliminating Obamacare and feel a little pain now.....or we can wait and be forced to make truly draconian cuts later that will be very, very painful for everyone because the delayed cuts to those same entitlements will have to be much more significant.

For the sake of the American people, I really hope that the politicians on both sides will choose to do the needed cuts now and save us all a lot more pain later.

Posted by: honorswar26 | December 3, 2010 6:26 AM
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