No more pledges

If the latest Washington budget mess has taught the nation anything it is that politicians who sign pledges are giving away their ability to govern wisely. The motto for the 2012 election — for voters and candidates alike — ought to be “No New Pledges.”

Congress is, once again, deadlocked over how to put together a plan that will balances taxes and spending. Or, more accurately, come closer to balance. One of the chief impediments is proving to be the “no new taxes” pledges that many Republicans in Congress signed on their way to winning election in 2010. Their pledges and related promises, which sounded brilliant on the campaign trail and which no doubt thrilled voters whose only concern is taxes, are a giant roadblock to developing a workable federal budget because, as anyone with a grain of sense has known for some time, Americans are not ready to accept vast reductions in federal spending. They are, rather, interested in a moderate and sensible approach.

The reality of life is that absolutes are seldom true, and politicians who promise to always say “no” are not particularly useful when confronted with real-life decisions.

To be clear, Republicans aren’t the only problem. Their Democrat colleagues are just as stubborn and just as entrenched in a desire to serve their own special interests. They just haven’t been as prone to grandstanding for voters by signing pledges and making un-keepable promises.

Eliminating pledges is, of course, not the entire solution to Washington gridlock. But anything that would prevent pinning our nation’s leaders to ideologically pure but practically unworkable positions would only lead to better government. Voters would be wise to turn away from any candidates who are foolish enough to sign any kind of pledge.

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