Sunday, January 30, 2011

We Did Big Things

After the President’s State of the Union address President Obama was kind enough to send me an email that suggested that, with a small donation, I might be entitled to a t-shirt emblazoned with the their new slogan. I noticed it is a limited edition t-shirt. That’s probably appropriate. I fear the doing of big things will to be limited to Obama’s first two years and unlikely to continue into the next two.

I found the speech to be solid, agreeable, and well delivered. I didn’t disagree with his tone or topics or priorities. But I don’t think it will it serve as a rousing call to action. The reasons for the pending era of inertia are political and financial.

On the political side, the President’s large Democratic majorities were swept away in the last election and replaced with addition representative from the party of NO. This was partially an electoral reaction to rapid change during an uncertain time. The people have demanded gridlock and they shall receive it. But if the last two years were about using legislative majorities to get get stuff done, the next two years might actually be about changing the tone in Washington and finding common ground. The mixed seating at the speech was a good start. I’ve always believed in Obama as facilitator-in-chief. If the new GOP majority actually wants to address any of our problems they will find a willing partner.

Of course there isn’t any money to do big things. We’re still running trillion dollar deficits. And the big tax-deal-giveaway during the lame duck really needs to be the last big splurge. Closing that trillion dollar difference is a worthwhile focus for our government. With taxes too low and spending too high we can look forward to less money, more public-sector layoffs, and a protracted battle as everyone clings to what they already have.

Some of the things that are broken in America could be fixed without additional costs. We could institute a guest worker program that rationalized our immigration policy. The millions of undocumented people living and working in the US could be offered a legal status in a way that increased revenue. We’re sleepwalking in the face of catastrophic global climate change. A carbon tax is an overdue and obvious money-maker. Our corporate and personal income taxes could both be restructured in a way that radically simplified reporting, reduced rates, eliminated loopholes, and increased revenue.

There are plenty of big things left for us to do. But the “we” will not be the Obama administration or a Democratic congress. “We” means all of us now, left and right, Democrats and Republicans. If we can agree on the problems and work towards the solutions, then we’ll do big things. If not, the big things that bedevil us will remain undone. And they will only get bigger.

No comments:

Post a Comment