These inadequate plans are all premised on the notion that reining in out-of-control public spending is painful and politically dangerous and must be approached defensively and fearfully. Canada’s experience was quite different. Once politicians explained why reform was indispensable, it was cheered on by the voters. Reforming governments, of whatever stripe, were consistently re-elected.
The U.S. faces a serious fiscal crisis, as all sides are beginning to recognize. The rather timid response of the two political parties is based on an underestimation of both the appetite of the voter for fiscal responsibility and an overestimation of the pain required to fix the problem.
As Canada shows, bold and skillful politicians can take a plan far more rigorous than Bowles-Simpson or Ryan and turn it into a recipe for political and economic success. Americans know how bad the situation is; like Canadians, they might actually appreciate political leaders who acknowledge reality and deal with the budget as adults.
Brian Lee Crowley is managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.