How Will the GOP Keep Its Promises?
Seventh of a Series
This is the seventh of a series in which Moore County’s Republican and Democratic party chairmen will address various political issues. Today's issue deals with the recent Election Day results. Jim Heim is chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party. Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Click here for Levy's take on the issue.
The future, Yogi Berra noted, is hard to predict. And it’s getting harder. Never has there been a House of one party and a Senate and White House of the other.
Closer to home, the General Assembly will be Republican for the first time since Reconstr-uction. How they will handle a budget shortfall in the billions, without federal help, will be fascinating to watch. Too, one can expect a newfound fondness for gerrymandering now that they are going to be designing new electoral districts in the wake of the census.
Nationally, this is the third administration in a row to suffer the loss of one or more houses during its term. The electorate seems increasingly frustrated and impatient with progress solving the nation’s problems. The trouble is, we can’t decide what those problems are.
Conservatives feel overtaxed, though taxes are at their lowest rates in generations, and Obama has lowered them further with the largest middle-class tax cut ever. Republicans complain about the deficit even as the president has posted the largest single-year reduction of the federal deficit — more than $100 billion. These same Republicans were silent when Presidents Reagan and Bush tripled the national debt and George W. Bush doubled that number.
Older voters favored Republicans, whose Pledge to America would slash future Social Security benefits by nearly half.
Republicans I spoke to during the early voting period complained about fraudulent voting, but none could cite a case — ever. Others were angry about illegal immigrants, though the San Francisco Federal Reserve recently reported that they contribute $6,000 a year to the average household from economic activity generated by their presence. Another mentioned earmarks, a subject the GOP Pledge is strangely silent about.
Democrats seemed dispirited by the administration’s apparent failure to stem job loss even though private-sector employment has risen for the past nine months. And economists at Princeton and Moody’s found that the stimulus package prevented the loss of 16 million jobs by heading off a full-blown depression.
Part of the disconnect between administration accomplishments and public perception can be blamed on an onslaught of cash. Outside interests spent $15 million supporting Democrats and $95 million for Republicans. In all, more than $4 billion went into campaign advertising this year — a record amount.
The Citizens United decision opened the floodgate for corporate spending and emboldened Fox News to drop its nonpartisan stance and make direct cash contributions to Republican groups.
Which takes us to the primary lesson from this election: Democrats must learn better communication and find improved ways to take our message to the people. Conservative organizations have been quietly spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get their message out. And they’re really good at sloganeering; “Cut Taxes” and “Obummer” fit nicely on bumper stickers, but real solutions are more complicated.
Sadly, GOP programs seem to be all slogan. Ask them how they plan to make the changes they campaigned on and Republicans find themselves at a loss for words.
The fact is, there are no easy solutions, no magic bullets for our problems. The post-World War II boom that made us the world’s greatest industrial power is over. Flawed international trade policies (by both parties) and the ill-advised Bush tax cuts have hollowed out our manufacturing base. The jobs that create wealth have been sent overseas, and American corporations have learned how to make record profits without employing Americans at home.
The GOP promises to cut the federal budget by 20 percent, but since 80 percent of it is untouchable (interest on the national debt, Social Security/Medicare, defense), what’s left is pretty much National Parks, the Education Department and Congress itself. Someone clearly hasn’t thought this through.
Moreover, without control of the Senate, where the filibuster (and its stepchild, the anonymous hold) makes it a dysfunctional mess and renders the House largely irrelevant, meaningful legislation is unlikely. Of the bills enacted by the House during the current session, 450 were never acted on by the Senate.
With an incoming freshman class of right-wing ideologues pledged to avoid compromise, we’re facing gridlock at the worst possible time.
Our economy is stalled, and dramatic government action is required to get it moving again. No other entity has the resources to do it. If Republicans follow through on their threats to bankrupt the government by refusing to increase the debt limit, and to cut federal spending for the relief of the states, we will surely tumble into a deep hole.
Protecting Social Security and Medicare is a Democratic priority. Recent reports suggest that Americans are $6 trillion short in saving for retirement at a time when wages are declining and property values on which many depend are continuing to fall. Keeping our elders out of poverty is imperative, and any attempt to balance the budget on the backs of retirees must be resisted.
Tough choices lie ahead, and cooperation is vital. Unless Republicans (especially tea partiers) can bring themselves to work with Democrats, the solutions we need will remain out of reach. And that benefits no one.
Jim Heim is chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party. Contact him at email@example.com.
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