By PETER NICHOLAS – – – –
Jon Huntsman ran for president in 2012 and when he looks at the current state of the 2016 contest, he isn’t much impressed.
“Absolutely content-free,” the former Republican candidate said at a luncheon last week.
Joseph Lieberman ran in 2004 for the Democratic nomination and he is no more enthusiastic.
“More heat than light,” he said at the same event.
Both men are co-chairs of a group called No Labels that has assigned itself a pretty daunting mission: Getting a polarized political system to solve some of the nation’s most wrenching problems.
The group released a policy “playbook” with a raft of ideas for creating 25 million new jobs, shoring up the Social Security and Medicare systems, and balancing the budget by 2030.
Now all they need to do is get the next president to listen.
Recognizing that politicians like to be in step with public opinion, No Labels did extensive polling and found and broad public support for the sorts of solutions they’re laying out.
One problem discussed at the luncheon – attended by dozens of political strategists, past and present elected officials and journalists – was the future of Social Security.
“There are too few workers available to support too many people who are living longer and drawing more benefits,” the No Labels report reads.
Social Security is one of the most sensitive issues in U.S. politics, often likened to a “third rail” because of its potential to wreck the careers of politicians looking to change the system.
Yet the group’s polling showed that solid majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents favored solutions that included raising the cap on earnings subject to the payroll tax from $118,500 to $240,000.
If the 2016 election proves anything, Mr. Lieberman said, it’s that voters are looking for unconventional candidates willing to take chances. That should embolden candidates worried about a backlash, he said.
“Though there’s risk involved in securing the future of Social Security – and very few will take that risk between now and the election – it’s actually what the public wants,” Mr. Lieberman said.