The elections are over — for the most part, given there were still six House seats undecided Monday — and while the look is a bit different, the fundamentals are essentially what they were before everyone broke for the election.
President Obama is still in the White House; the Democrats still have a majority in the Senate, though not one that is filibuster-proof, and the Republicans still have a majority in the House.
Meanwhile, the same issues are still hanging out there, with the biggest one sequestration that is set to hit — and hit hard — on Jan. 3. And there are still the farm bill, which is particularly critical to our region, trade with Russia, and military spending to work on.
But sequestration has to be dealt with in some manner before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve and the U.S. economy runs the risk of transforming from a sputtering horse and coach into a mouse-driven pumpkin.
The idea is absurd to begin with: across-the-board spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over a 10-year period, triggered by the failure of a special congressional committee to come up with targeted cuts. It’s the political equivalent of a surgeon treating a patient for obesity by indiscriminately cutting off pieces of every part of the patient’s body. It’s just not a healthy approach.
From what we have been able to gather in conversations with lawmakers over the past year, many members of Congress went along with this bad plan for that very reason — it was such a lousy, unworkable plan that they thought it would provide the needed incentive for conservatives and liberals to compromise on something that would genuinely work. It didn’t.
So, what is going to happen?
Democrats feel they have a mandate to do it their way with increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Republicans disagree and argue any revenue increases should come from closing tax loopholes, not raising rates.
Eventually, any workable solution is going to include some increased tax revenues along with spending cuts. The sign of a good deal will be if neither side is happy with it. This is no time to draw a line in the sand. If the draconian cuts go through in January, they’ll also come with tax increases that will affect everyone — a double whammy that experts believe could plunge the American economy into another recession.
The first order of business for both parties, however, appears to be the choosing of their respective leaders.
We can only hope they will choose leadership that will actually lead them somewhere other than the impasse that we have all suffered through for too long.