We have watched, as has the entire world, our political leaders’ attempts to deal with our fiscal challenges even as our government doles out advice to other nations as to how they should put their financial houses in order. Our recent history here shows a dramatic absence of leadership and statesmanship in both the legislative and executive branches of government.

In February 2010, President Obama appointed the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a bipartisan committee chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. The commission was charged with “identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.”

In December 2010, the commission released its report and proposed a detailed six-part plan to reduce the deficit, reduce tax rates and cap revenue, among other proposals.

Our public officials have carefully sidestepped the Bowles-Simpson recommendations, while failing to come up with any constructive reforms of their own. We find it disheartening that no effort was made to submit these proposals to Congress for consideration and to use the members of the commission to lobby for its passage. It simply disappeared from view.

In August 2011, Congress established the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (“super committee”) and gave this committee broad and unprecedented authority. It was very unusual for both the House and Senate to surrender budgetary authority to a bipartisan committee of 12 members, 6 each from the House and Senate, with equal representation of Democrats and Republicans.

The committee was charged with eliminating $1.2 trillion from a federal deficit that now exceeds $15 trillion. This committee, despite having three months to work and being granted extraordinary powers by Congress, failed to achieve a consensus on any approach.

Both parties seem to be avoiding making any suggestions that might impact their electoral chances in 2012.

This seems to be equally true of Republican presidential candidates who seem to be a bit vague on how to deal with this current economic crisis. We find this a stunning and disappointing abrogation of leadership.

Former President Kennedy wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book titled “Profiles in Courage.” In that work he identified eight historical figures for “their acts of outstanding integrity in the face of overwhelming opposition.”

It is time for someone to act with integrity in the face of overwhelming opposition regarding the fiscal health of the United States and we believe that individual should be President Obama.

What can he do? The Congressional Budget and Control Act of 1974 gave the president the power to rescind spending authority provided by the Congress. The rescission process is meant to promote fiscal discipline and limit spending. That is, the president, within limits prescribed by law, can choose NOT to spend money that Congress has authorized. In general, rescission deals with discretionary and contract budget items.

Once the president orders a rescission, Congress has 45 days to approve his request. We have not seen this presidential power addressed in any media stories or raised by the White House as a viable option for breaking the current budgetary impasse and leadership vacuum.

Of course, Congress can reject the president’s rescission merely by failing to act. However, the very act of rescission, of a president selecting NOT to spend money on programs is a powerful signal to the world and to Congress.

It is a necessary act of integrity in the face of overwhelming opposition from both parties at a critical time in our nation’s history. If President Obama leads and the Congress fails to follow, or fails to counter his reforms with reforms of its own, then he will be fully justified in running “against Congress,” as well as the Republican presidential nominee, next year.

Mr. President, the choice of leadership is yours.

Now is the time to act.

John F. Mahon is the John M. Murphy chaired Professor of International Business Policy and Strategy at the Maine Business School; Michael M. Hastings is a research administrator, both at the University of Maine, Orono.