DOUG ROSS: Red Grover, red Grover, why don't you come over?

2012-11-28T00:00:00Z 2012-11-28T00:48:03Z DOUG ROSS: Red Grover, red Grover, why don't you come over?By Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

The fiscal cliff is not just a Republican invention. It's real. And avoiding it is going to require moving to the middle of the road.

There are signs this might be happening.

The Portage Township School Board voiced its concern about this issue Monday night, urging Congress to avoid drastic spending cuts that would be required by sequestration.

Reducing federal education funding 8.2 percent or more, as part of the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board budget cuts included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, "could result in larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, possible four-day school weeks, loss of extracurricular activities, and possible teacher and staff layoffs," the School Board resolution says.

Expect a lot of other groups to clamor for a solution that isn't so drastic that the nation is forced into another recession -- a prospect the White House fears and wants to avoid.

Spending cuts are essential and unavoidable. So are tax increases, but many Republicans have painted themselves into a corner on that issue.

Remember President George H.W. Bush's "Read my lips: No new taxes" pledge? He had to back away from that promise.

A lot of Republicans have signed Grover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," perhaps not realizing how zealously the Americans for Tax Reform founder watches the actions of the people who have signed that promise not to raise taxes. Norquist has hounded politicians who signed the pledge but didn't keep that promise.

Norquist also considers the elimination of a tax break the same thing as raising taxes.

The spectacle in Greece changed everything, though.

Compared to the middle-of-the-road idea, Norquist is sitting on the curb on the right side of the road. And Republicans are starting to drift away from him.

U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., who has been a fiscal hawk since he was elected to the Senate two years ago, is on record as saying he disagrees with Norquist's definition of a tax increase. Eliminating loopholes isn't the same thing as setting a higher overall rate.

Some other Republicans in Congress, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have said Norquist's pledge will not prevent them from including revenue enhancements, in whatever form, in their solution for avoiding the fiscal cliff.

If Norquist wants to avoid being marginalized, he should soften his position to specify that taxes shouldn't be raised to accommodate new spending, but that it might be necessary to raise more money so the national debt can be paid off.

There's plenty of room in the middle of the road for him to join Coats, Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly, the Portage Township School Board and others who want real reform.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/DougRossNWI and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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