The failure of the bipartisan Super Committee to reach an agreement this week augers badly for both political parties and even more so for the American people.
The fact that there will be automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next year is no great benefit. They are heavily skewed towards defense, there is no clear planning for how they will be implemented programmatically or policy-wise, and there is no planning going on to deal with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts which will raise rates on all Americans come 2013-- not only the wealthy, but middle income Americans as well.
And there is no leadership from either party.
The Democrats basically believe they are in a stronger position because of the expiration of the tax cuts combined with the automatic cuts, while the Republicans believe that they have held firm, resisted any increases in spending, and have shown the Democrats and the White House to be unable to produce lasting agreements.
While both sides believe that they will benefit politically, in fact neither will benefit politically or substantively.
Meanwhile, the expiration of the payroll tax break goes unaddressed, changes in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors goes unaddressed, and the larger fiscal challenges facing the country are seemingly off the table until the 2012 election is decided.
With the growth rate for the third quarter having been adjusted from 2.5% down to 2%, the American people understand well that there literally is a plague on both houses; that we are failing as a country; failing to offer leadership, and that there is no direction or opportunity to avoid a bruising year long fight over job creation, the debt, and the deficit with no apparent resolution.
There is a clear step that should be taken, that almost certainly won't. The president should call the Congressional leadership-- both Democrats and Republican--to the White House to try to work out a fiscal plan that can be put into place sooner rather than later. They should tackle those elements of his jobs plan that are non-controversial, which would involve an extension of the payroll tax cut, as well as trying to craft some sort of an interim solution to our fiscal problems so that we at least develop the framework, if not the policies, for reducing our intractable levels of debt and deficit.
Moreover, the administration needs to and must put the interest of the country above their presumed partisan advantage, which the Democrats believe will ultimately redound to their benefit because of the failure of the Super Committee.
The Republicans similarly need to understand that their inflexibility and their failure to countenance any real increase in revenue, or to put together broader budget plan will ultimately hurt them and hurt America. Polling shows that the Republicans have no vision, no direction and are inflexible and intransigent and are perceived to put the interests of the rich ahead of ordinary Americans.
Both parties have an incentive to compromise to address the problems of the nation, and the American people understand better than anyone in Washington why it is so urgent that we get our fiscal house in order and begin to work together to solve common problems, rather than to play the blame game perpetually, endlessly, and to no benefit.
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.