President Barack Obama speaks about the sequester, as he stands with emergency responders, a group of workers the White House says could be affected if state and local governments lose federal money as a result of budget cuts, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House complex in Washington.
Charles Dharapak, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Editor's Note: This essay originally was published in USA TODAY.
When President Barack Obama traveled to Capitol Hill on March 12, 13 and 14 for meetings seeking alternatives to the sequester cuts, we were reminded that our nation desperately needs to unify, working to advance the best ideas of both parties. Some bipartisan success might be just what Washington needs to build trust and find consensus on the thornier issues that divide us. One step the president could take is to consider more of the most thoughtful ideas advanced by his opponent in last fall's election and to move more quickly on those he has already embraced.
Last summer, we led a behind-the-scenes effort to prepare and plan for a potential Romney administration. Hundreds of well-regarded policy thinkers developed a set of concrete proposals to create jobs and put our nation on a sound fiscal path. While we know there will be disagreement in some details, there is enough agreement that real change is possible.
The president has noted his interest in ensuring both Medicare and Social Security are sustainable for the long run. He's also called for stabilizing our debt trajectory with an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. Both are important goals but we should go further and consider how, over time, we can actually reduce the nation's debt-to-GDP ratio without additional tax increases. The president should consider reforms such as the inclusion of greater competition and choice in Medicare, as well as means-testing benefits and gradually increasing eligibility ages for Medicare and Social Security, not just to cut the budget but to ensure promises we make are ones we can keep.
Recent discoveries make North American energy independence possible within a decade and have the potential to rejuvenate our manufacturing sector while creating millions of new American jobs . States should be given greater authority to control onshore energy development. Offshore areas should be opened to exploration while safeguards are developed to ensure this is done responsibly. We should work closely with Canada and Mexico to facilitate greater cross-border energy investment and infrastructure development.
There is bipartisan consensus that opening markets abroad benefits American consumers and creates American jobs. Obama's plans to create a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade area and open talks with Europe on a similar deal are encouraging. But to move those deals forward, Obama needs congressionally-endorsed Trade Promotion Authority , which forces an up-or-down vote.
There is also broad consensus that our tax system is too costly and stifles business. In the State of the Union, Obama renewed his call for comprehensive tax reform . Previously, bipartisan negotiators were reportedly close to a deal that would significantly lower corporate tax rates to make us more competitive with the rest of the world while slashing complexity. Individual taxes should get the same treatment lowering tax rates while broadening the base of taxable income.
For Romney supporters like us, the next four years are not about what might have been, but rather about what could be if we put aside political differences and work on sensible policies. President Obama needs to press harder to take advantage of this opportunity.
Michael O. Leavitt chaired the Romney Readiness Project (transition team). Lanhee J. Chen is a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and served as policy director for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.