When the debt ceiling talks in Washington collapsed this weekend, I thought of George Voinovich. I interviewed the former senator June 2 for the current issue of Inside Business, and I asked him about the fiscal future of the country.
"Bleak," he said. "They'll fiddle-faddle around."
Voinovich sketched out a mostly prescient preview of the debt ceiling talks. House Speaker John Boehner "has a problem, because he has a bunch of newer members who really are not dry behind the ears, and many of them, because of their positions, would rather lose than win," Voinovich said. "He’s got to try to keep that group together.
"So I think that the House will increase the debt limit temporarily." (Even that hasn't happened so far. Democrats reject a temporary fix.) "They will then say they’re going to have a 'conversation' about dealing with the debt. The conversation will go nowhere because they will not agree to new taxes.
"The fact is you cannot get the job done without increasing taxes."
That quote there highlights the difference between Voinovich and most Republicans in Washington today. Many House conservatives have refused to raise the debt ceiling without severe spending cuts, but they refuse to raise any taxes to deal with the debt. Voinovich is a different kind of conservative. He's a deficit hawk. Confronting the debt is his top priority, and he'd be willing to raise taxes as well as cut spending to do it.
Freed from life in Washington, Voinovich sounds as frustrated with his fellow Republicans in the nation’s capital as he is with the Democrats. In my interview with him, he explains why he often calls President Obama a socialist. But he also blasts fellow Republicans in Washington for not listening to regular people and putting partisan battles ahead of the good of the country.
To read Voinovich's thoughts in the July-August Inside Business, click here.