After the Debt Debate, What Both Parties Must Do Now

The bipartisan vote on raising the debt ceiling is a step in the right direction. An important first step-- but only a first step.
Right now, neither political party has outlined a comprehensive agenda to revitalize our economy and to, in any way seriously, address the economic problems facing the country.

Neither political party has developed a jobs program or a program to encourage and enhance economic growth. The Republicans in particular have stuck to their mantra of cutting taxes and cutting entitlements and have not developed a comprehensive or clear program to address the endemic and systemic financial problems facing the country.

And with virtually all of the Republican presidential candidates coming out against raising the debt ceiling, the power of the Tea Party and the conservative right in the Republican party has become clear and unambiguous. If there was ever any doubt as to their strangle hold over the nominating process, it’s been erased by the events of the past month.

Indeed, with the Tea Party having won a huge victory in the debt ceiling debate, having changed the terms of the debate and having moved America in the direction of cutting spending, holding the line on taxes and beginning consideration of a Balanced Budget amendment, it's time for the Republicans to declare victory and do what they and the Democrats have failed to do, which is to outline a coherent, centrist program to address the larger fiscal issues facing the country.

The Bowles-Simpson commission began this process back in December when they proposed a comprehensive deficit reduction plan including both spending cuts and revenue increases to produce a $4 trillion reduction in the deficit over the next 10 years.
But Bowles-Simpson need only serve as the starting point, rather than the end point.

What we need to see from the Republican candidates, and the White House for that matter, is a coherent and clear path to fiscal health, economic growth and job creation. So far we haven't seen it.

The White House itself, other than just simply criticizing the Republicans for the obvious weakness in their own program, has also failed to develop a coherent and clear strategy.

And with the resolution of the immediate fiscal crisis, it's time to move past the sloganeering, the politicking and the posturing, to the articulation and development of clear strategies that can engage not only activists, but also addressing the broader concerns of the American people in a serious discussion of where we stand and what we need to do as a country.

This should be pursued not as partisan politics, but rather on a comprehensive basis of what we need to do to maintain our leadership in the world, restore economic growth from the anemic 0.4 percent registered in the first quarter, to a level that sustains the kind of economic expansion to reduce unemployment from its unacceptable 9.2 percent down toward closer to 7 percent.

Ultimately, if we have learned anything from the last few weeks, it is with the immediate political stalemate resolved, we are facing a larger crisis requiring serious policy development to address our problems. It is an open question whether either side will take on this challenge.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.