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Robert Goodwin

Robert Goodwin

Robert J. Goodwin is CEO and co-founder of Executives Without Borders; former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and appointee at USAID, the State Department and the White House.

The tumor in this nation's belly

Question: In approaching the coming Congressional budget battle, House Republican leaders have decided to forsake the bipartisan center and bow to the spending-cut demands of the most conservative members of their caucus. This mirrors the strategy of House Democratic leaders who, in the previous session, accommodated the demands of their most liberal members on key issues, only to lose power in the next election. Is it more effective for leaders to demonstrate a willingness to compromise early on, or to stake out a hard line in the hope of compromising less later?

Whenever control of the House, Senate or White House swings from one party to another, the greatest challenge confronting newly empowered politicians is identifying ways to satisfy their desire for change without exceeding their electoral mandate. In today's environment, however, there may be more electoral mandate for change than the politicians themselves are willing to implement.

After November 2008, President Obama and Congressional Democrats overestimated the country's desire for government intervention on a number of fronts. As a result, they tabled bipartisanship and ran roughshod over Republican opposition at just about every turn. In November 2010, that strategy came back to bite them and fueled the creation of the Tea Party movement. While in 2008 the mandate was overestimated, in 2011 the mandate for change may be underestimated.

Today Republicans can sense--and rightly so--that Americans are tired of high taxes, big government, high unemployment and a sluggish economic recovery. Their solution is to reduce the deficit, and to do so in ways that enable the private sector to flourish; such as slashing regulatory budgets, trimming foreign and domestic aid, and repealing a number of measures enacted by Democrats over the last two years. While they are gearing up for tough choices, they may find it extremely difficult to meet the expectations of those aligned with the Tea Party.

So how can transitional leaders best strike a balance between constituents' calls for change and overstepping in ways that could swing the political pendulum back in the other party's favor? In a normal situation, compromise is the answer--but not in this case, not in the short-term. Compromise on the current budget may create some wins, but it could risk the greater mandate needed for reforming our entitlement programs. Canceling the F-35's second engine program is a good start, but we need to find trillions of dollars in savings, not just billions. It is time for our political leaders to step up and deal with the tumor in the belly of this nation and not just its symptoms.

The Tea Party-backed candidates pledge to change how business is done in Washington. Many politicians have claimed that mantle before, only to be captured by the Washington bureaucracy or the intoxication of political fame. These budget battles are simply small skirmishes that will hopefully give them some experience and battle hardening for the war that is to come. Then we will see if the Tea Party candidates are true to their word.

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By Robert Goodwin

 |  February 18, 2011; 2:08 PM ET
Category:  Congressional leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"After November 2008, President Obama and Congressional Democrats"

Interesting - and intellectually dishonest - because he ignores Bush the and Republicans and TARP and the bailouts - and all things that took place while the economy was melting down after 2008 but before the Obama and the democrats took control in Jan 2009. Very intellectually dishonest - but I guess I wouldn't expect anything different from this sort of puppet.

Posted by: hohandy1 | February 22, 2011 12:28 PM
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High taxes??? We are at an all time low. Excessive spending? The Repubs have not cut anything that does not affect the poor or working class.

Just because you cut funding, does not mean the issue goes away. The American people just have to pay for it in different ways.

Posted by: jjj141 | February 22, 2011 8:47 AM
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I got to the first sentence of the third paragraph before this became completely not worth reading. "High taxes..." are at a post-WW2 low, at least for the ultra-rich. Of course, as median incomes sink and wealth disparity grows, it might seem that way to the lower 80% of wage eraners.

The fake fiscal conservatives of the GOP/teabaggers are using the 'debt crisis' to attempt to make token cuts in things they don't like while not touching the 90% of spending in which 99.9% of the waste lies. The backlash will be ugly indeed.

Posted by: micron26 | February 20, 2011 8:46 PM
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Who is this goober? Another pretty-face, Family Values politician? How long before we find that he sleeps with a chicken?

We do not have to cut anything: We only have to bill the Republicans for their Bush Wars!

We could really use that five trillion dollars right now.

Posted by: gkam | February 19, 2011 10:54 AM
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Let's be honest: If we can get the Republicans to pay for their Bush wars, we would not have to cut anything. I deeply resent that we are cutting benefits to the taxpayers who pay for them, so the conservatives don't have to pay for their Mass Killings!!

It is time we stood up to them and told them to take a hike - that it is time for corporations, the War Profiteers, to pay their fair share!

Posted by: gkam | February 19, 2011 10:36 AM
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Very Interesting! I just now printed Coupons of my Favorite Brands for free from "Printapons" you can find them online.

Posted by: dayleslover | February 19, 2011 5:53 AM
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Aside from a certain amount of breast-beating, Goodwin's contribution is pretty much empty. I guess we're fortunate that the man doesn't really have any real responsibility, because he clearly indicates no interest in actually shouldering responsibility.

Should the GOP be foolish enough to adopt his approach, we can look forward to another recession, and perhaps even the depression we so closely avoided.

Posted by: thmas | February 18, 2011 11:10 PM
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Aside from a certain amount of breast-beating, Goodwin's contribution is pretty much empty. I guess we're fortunate that the man doesn't really have any real responsibility, because he clearly indicates no interest in actually shouldering responsibility.

Should the GOP be foolish enough to adopt his approach, we can be look forward to another recession, and perhaps even the depression we so closely avoided.

Posted by: thmas | February 18, 2011 11:08 PM
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Why is it that anaylists say that Americans spoke in the last election? How many Americans voted? I do not think the numbers will reflect any kind of majority, especially when you take some of the contests that were close. Those who made a statement were the convservatives. They spoke, but no one else did, so one cannot say that "Americans" have spoken on legislative priorities. And, one cannot assume that voters did not vote because they were angry. Many did not vote because they were to consumed with putting food on the table and paying their mortgages. Let's get real and say it like it really is, a portion of Americans made a statement. I would not bet the next election on that small portion.

Posted by: lisashap | February 18, 2011 5:02 PM
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