Failing Test Of Leadership

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Optimistic Personality Disorder: It must exist — and we’re pretty sure we’ve got it. Easy to treat though: Just momentarily pay attention to politics.

Alas: We fell victim to the disorder when we began to think averting the “Fiscal Cliff” would make a difference. We figured Congress would heed the political adage “never let a crisis go to waste.” After all, everyone knew they weren’t going to actually let the recession return and disembowel a herd of sacred cows — from military spending to Medicare payments to doctors. Surely, with the election just past, President Obama, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress would finally just do their jobs.

There we go again: OPD gets you every time.

After a $1 billion presidential campaign and months of hand-wringing, the president and Congress did right next to nothing to solve the nation’s pressing problems.

The deal in the end increased the deficit, narrowed the options and put off grappling with every single issue of importance. In short, both parties abjectly failed the test of leadership.

The whole absurd debate ended up narrowly focused on whether to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of wage earners or just the top 1 percent. President Obama wanted to let the rates rise 3 percent on regular income and 5 percent on capital gains for people making more than $250,000. The big compromise instead settled on individuals making more than $400,000.

Either way, it won’t solve any of the nation’s grave fiscal problems. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that permanently extending low tax rates for 99 percent of taxpayers and increasing spending on Medicare and other items will actually increase the red ink by about $40 billion annually.

The deal completely failed to match the gravity of the situation. We are running out of time to enact meaningful reform of entitlement programs — including both Medicare and Social Security.

Instead, both sides seem increasingly delusional.

Democrats seem intent on soaking the rich and letting the deficit spin out of control. Republicans seem intent on savaging the poor and eliminating taxes altogether.

Neither party has even started to address the great challenges facing the nation. We must prepare the economy and the workforce for a new century, halt the remorseless slide into poverty and inequality, reform a dysfunctional tax structure, reshape our military, control the ruinous rise in medical costs and save Social Security.

Neither soaking the rich nor drowning the poor will address any of those problems.

But hey: We also got a new Congress this week. Maybe they’ll dust off the $4 trillion deficit-cutting plan of the bi-partisan Simpson Bowles Commission. Maybe they’ll gather their courage and do the right thing. It could happen. Right? Oh. Darn. You’re right. That’s our OPD asserting itself once again.

Focused on the economy

The citizens who attended a recent session on Payson’s overhaul of the General Plan have their priorities straight. Over and over, they offered the same advice to the town council: It’s the economy, stupid.

The feedback at the first two meetings on the once-a-decade revision of the General Plan repeatedly delivered the same message to the town planners: We need a diverse, resilient economy that will produce good, stable jobs.

Fortunately, the economic beating administered in the past years seems to have focused the council — and residents — on that single message. The long, frustrating, vital pursuit of Arizona State University demonstrates the sharp change in outlook. Building a 6,000-student campus here would provide precisely the sort of year-round job stability this community needs.

But it’s only the start. The overhaul of the land use restrictions enshrined in the General Plan remains essential to seizing the future. That means making sure that we have plenty of room for light industrial businesses, a healthy retail sector, lots of hotels, meeting spaces and recreational amenities, enough high-density zoning to assure a range of housing types.

Unfortunately, so far the town’s presentation in those community forums of the options and choices has sounded more like a press release than a plan. Instead of focusing on some of the hard choices that lie ahead — the presentations have so far doled out glib generalities and feel-good vision statements.

Still, the year-long process offers a marvelous opportunity to implement the urgent, clear-eyed focus of the citizens on creating a land use blueprint for the future.

We hope that you’ll all get involved as the process proceeds — and make sure that the council follows up the generalizations with sensible positions.

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