Could a coalition government work?

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By Rob Witwer

The new government in Great Britain is wasting no time getting down to business. Shortly after taking power, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition announced spending cuts totaling about $8.2 billion. According to The Economist, “this is a small first step on a long journey.”

When will this journey begin in the United States? Our national debt recently surpassed $13 trillion, for a staggering $118,000 per taxpayer. As the Euro topples because of debt-straddled economies in Greece and elsewhere, our federal government carries blithely along, either unaware of or not caring about the lessons for our own economy.

In February, President Obama appointed a “blue ribbon” commission to help bring down the federal budget deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2015. Yet substantive spending reduction proposals are already drafted in Congress, and can be acted upon at any time by the majority party. Why study something when you can do it now?

Say what you will about Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, but together they wrestled the federal budget to the ground. It took leadership, and frankly the discipline of a divided government made a difference. Perhaps that’s the secret ingredient to the initial steps taken by Great Britain’s coalition government last month.

I’m not sure tough choices can be made when one party controls both Congress and the White House. It’s too easy to succumb to the demands of the party’s special interests, especially without the counterbalancing influence of a power-sharing partner. We saw it in the Bush years, and we’re seeing it now.

Perhaps it’s time for our own version of a coalition government in America: one party in control of the White House, and another in control of Congress. Taking a big leap requires both parties be tied together, for better or worse. 

Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book, “The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care).”