Friday, April 1, 2011

Time To Walk The Walk In The U.S. Economy

This will not be a long post. It’s about simply doing what the voters were promised.

The 2010 national and state elections turned on economic anxieties, problems, and opportunities. It was not only the continued economic recession, chronic high unemployment, record deficits, but was also a national rejection of the recently-enacted Obamacare legislation which produced this vote. It was also a new broadly based concern about the cost of government and, in many states, the role of the public employment union contracts in pushing government costs and public pension liabilities way beyond what was acceptable.

After the 2010 elections, it was suggested by some cynics on both the left and the right that new members of Congress, new governors and new members of the state
legislatures would mostly revert to establishment form, and fail to enact the reforms they promised voters. Refreshingly, so far, we see many new conservative governors
following through with the legislatures they control.

In states where each party controls only one house, or the governorship or not, reform has understandably gone much more slowly. Nevertheless, many states require balanced budgets, and deadlines are approaching, even as stalemates persist.

In the U.S. congress, Democrats control the senate narrowly and the White House, while Republicans are in firm control in the house of representatives. A budget showdown approaches. A government shutdown looms. Remembering 1994-95, Republican leaders are wary of the latter. But much has changed in a decade and a half. Mr. Boehner has an historic responsibility at this moment. He understandably and rightfully wants to have some kind of agreement with the Democrats if possible. However, it may not be possible.

The voters were not unanimous. That doesn’t happen. Liberals are still liberal, and conservatives are still conservative. But 2010 brought out a massive shift in the
political center, including unaffiliated voters. They are almost always the decisive segment of the electorate, and they determine true mandates.

At another time, in other circumstances the mandate can and will be different. Today, however, the majority of Americans has spoken for cutting spending, reining in government, balanced budgets, and no new taxes. Many Americans do not share that view, and it is their right to do so, but the election indicated that more voters feel otherwise.

This is no moment for conservative leaders to hesitate or shrink from the reforms they promised. Outstanding governors and legislative leaders can work out the specific details in their own states, or they can face voter rejection in 2012 and beyond. As for the U.S Congress, the hard necessities of the times, and the perilous state of the national economy, means that Mr. Boehner and his colleagues have to insist on their program for recovery and reform.

It’s one of those curious moments in U.S. political history when traditional ambiguity is reduced to clarity of necessary action. Let the political chips fall where they may.

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