American voters need to pay as much attention to their congressional candidates as to the two presidential nominees – or perhaps even more.
On New Year’s Day, the United States will arrive at the “fiscal cliff,” when some fiscal measures will expire and others will automatically come into effect, during the so-called lame-duck period between the election on Nov. 6 and the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 – unless some more considered, consensual approach is devised and adopted sooner.
In their various states and congressional districts, the voters should choose the more fiscally responsible candidates – neither radical, left-wing Democrats nor Tea Party Republicans – or at least the less fiscally irresponsible.
The current Congress ends on Jan. 3 and the new one first meets on the same day, before the next presidential term begins. The interregnum could be an opportunity to be constructive.
In their first debate, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney referred with apparent approval to the Bowles-Simpson report, the result of an 18-person commission set up by Mr. Obama himself, which he did not accept.
Among those 18 was Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, who was one of seven dissenters from the report, yet criticizes Mr. Obama for dissenting from it, too.
The commission may well have been Mr. Obama’s most serious attempt at the “postpartisanism” he advocated during and after the 2008 election – though in the debate Mr. Romney blithely asserted that the President has never made bipartisan approaches to the Republicans. The grain of truth in Mr. Romney’s charge is that Mr. Obama did not accept the results of his own exercise.
The Bowles-Simpson report’s recommendation of an approximately three-to-one ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases is of course debatable. But candidates of either party, for the Senate and the House of Representatives, who express their willingness to reduce spending in some significant areas and also to raise revenues in others – preferably by cutting deductions, but, if necessary, by raising taxes too – deserve the favourable attention of the citizens of the United States.