With what passes for the best minds in national politics from Congress and the White House now cruising along in high gear on the budget crisis, Americans have at last heard some sensible talk on the subject.
The Republican White House and the Democrats who control Congress are in unstated agreement that the budget deficit mess they got the country into is now intolerably bad.It means it's so bad that more taxes will probably be extracted from Americans and the best minds in national politics are daring each other to say so first.
It also means that an appalling period of mismanaged government goes on, a time when tax cuts of the Reagan administration and an upsurge in defense spending tripled the national debt to $3 trillion and a time when congressional Democrats became President Reagan's accomplices out of fear for their own re-elections.
It may not have occurred to them yet, but there's a way out of this election year pickle jar for President Bush and members of Congress.
It's a solution that appeals to the baser instincts of political self-preservation and it's all the more appealing because it's already been put to use, late last year when the congressional pay raise was passed and signed by the president.
It's simple. Sign a bipartisan agreement to impose a gag rule against any campaign discussion of the tax increases that now must be enacted.
Last year's pact, under which the House salaries will rise from $89,500 a year to $124,500 effective Jan. 1, 1991, was signed by the two national political chairmen, Democrat Ronald Brown and Republican Lee Atwater, and by the House campaign committee chairmen, Democrat Beryl Anthony of Arkansas and Republican Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan.
The gag rule was accompanied by notice from the party officials that any breach could result in censure from a candidate's own party and a cutoff of party campaign aid for non-incumbents.
That astonishing political agreement could easily be rewritten to accommodate tax increases.
Another, more honorable, approach would be for all the participants to step together into some kind of national political confessional.
President Bush, as a principal spokesman for the economic prattle of the Reagan administration, along with Republican and Democratic members of Congress might summon the courage to admit that together they've screwed things up. Then they could get to work to set the budget right.
They probably won't use the confessional or the gag rule. There's too much opportunity here for political demogoguery.