The Post-Crescent, Appleton. Nov. 7, 2012.
Strike a deal now on fiscal cliff
Now that the election's over, we have winners and losers. Change is in the air.
In Washington, however, on old issue is more pressing than anything the next Congress will encounter. Our current senators and representatives have to resolve the so-called "fiscal cliff" by the end of the year. Failure isn't an option.
They must come together during a lame-duck session, which starts Tuesday, to stop the scheduled tax increases and spending cuts. If they don't, an estimated $500 billion will be taken out of economy, which experts say with certainty will trigger another recession.
Unless our lawmakers and president find a way to work together, there will be real consequences for all of us.
These facts should be enough to scare the leaders in our Republican House and Democratic Senate into a quick deal:
— A National Association of Manufacturers report estimates that if the fiscal cliff isn't avoided, six million jobs will be lost, unemployment will top 11 percent and household income will drop 10 percent.
— The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts 9 percent unemployment and that economic growth will decline in the first half of the year.
— Americans will have to pay $400 billion more in taxes, thanks to the expiration of cuts put in place during the George W. Bush presidency.
— There will be more uncertainty on the stock market because investors are weary about the type of deal Congress will strike. The shaky behavior the stock market displayed Wednesday will only worsen.
On the day after the election, it was encouraging to hear House Speaker John Boehner say, "Let's challenge ourselves to find the common ground that has eluded us." We hope other politicians — both Democrats and Republicans — keep that spirit of cooperation in mind.
With the stability of the economy on the line, our lawmakers know they have to do the right thing. They know the time for political gamesmanship is over.
Beloit Daily News. Nov. 7, 2012.
And now, time to compromise
After more than two years of nonstop campaigning; after flooding the airwaves with ugly, negative messages on both sides; after spending more than $6 billion, nearly half on the presidential race; after an unprecedented injection of money by shadowy outside groups, much it dark money from undisclosed donors; the end result is ...
The status quo.
Barack Obama remains in the White House for another four years.
Republicans remain in control of the House of Representatives.
Democrats remain in control of the Senate.
There will be sighs of relief from Obama supporters and moans of despair from Romney advocates. But this morning, on Nov. 7, the sun still rose in the east and spread its light across the greatest nation in the world.
This is not an apocalyptic moment. The United States is bigger than any one man or any political party, because it is the sum of its people, not its politicians. In the aftermath of a hotly contested election it's understandable there are bruised feelings. Yet the nature of a democratic society is that the people, at the ballot box, settle their disputes and move forward.
So the real question is this: What now?
There are two potential paths for a government that remains divided — and a country that is nearly equally divided.
The two political parties could continue to block everything either side wants to do, thereby accomplishing exactly nothing. The ideological firebrands on both sides may prefer that.
Or, the two sides could read the election results for what they are, a message from the electorate that neither party is trusted by the people with full control of the government. The people want the political class to spend less energy squabbling and posturing, and put more effort into finding middle ground and forging the kind of compromise required to solve problems.
In the minds of the people, it's not about who gets to wield power. It's about whether the government can end the dysfunction and begin a more orderly process of fixing the enormous problems facing the nation.
Those problems and challenges are not mysteries. Jobs. A more robust economy. The looming "fiscal cliff." Deficits and debt. Entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare — with unsustainable finances and demographics. The threat of terror in a dangerous world, particularly in the volatile Middle East. A shaky education system. The need for energy independence. For climate change strategy. For direction to preserve America's leadership in the 21st Century.
The primary obstacle is politics, and the propensity of politicians to put party and power above the national interest. In a divided government the only way forward is compromise. If either party fails to work in good faith toward finding common purpose, that party will earn the scorn and punishment of the people, who are fed up with dysfunction and discord.
It's over. And it's time to begin anew, to move the country forward by giving the people a government they can trust and be proud of.
Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire. Nov. 7, 2012.
'Work together' is message of election
As one pundit aptly put it Wednesday, $6.5 billion was spent on Tuesday's election, and we're right back where we started: The presidency and U.S. Senate held by the Democrats, and the House of Representatives held by the Republicans.
And while Republicans in Wisconsin regained control of the state Senate and again hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature and the governor's chair, we are still known as a "battleground state" for a reason.
The first thing all the winners should get out of their heads is the notion that because they won they somehow have a "mandate" to do whatever they want regardless of those who didn't vote for them, which in most cases is nearly 50 percent of the people.
The announcement of Barack Obama's re-election came moments after networks declared the president had carried Ohio and Iowa, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed. But when the popular votes were counted nationally, it showed Obama with 50 percent and Republican challenger Mitt Romney with 48 percent.
With such a close popular vote and a split Congress, any rational person would conclude the American people want and deserve compromise to tackle our staggering debt, the pending insolvency of Medicare and Social Security, and continued efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act along with reforming the tax code.
What we don't need, and frankly are sick of, is the inflexible rhetoric from both sides - one that refuses to put tax increases on the table and the other that refuses to stop borrowing from the Chinese and everyone else to bankroll continued out-of-control spending.
Likewise at the state level, we need real leadership that comes through differing views reaching common ground that best serves the people, not the special interests who just got done spending obscene amounts of money trying to tilt the decision-making field of play in their favor. What's good for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) or the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) may not be best for the state's long-term viability.
Growing the economy remains job one both in Wisconsin and nationally. The business community bellows that they need certainty to plan for the future, so our elected leaders should give it to them in the form of less government spending (or at least slowing the growth), and raising more revenue by letting the Bush tax cuts expire and/or quickly reforming the tax code to eliminate the myriad exemptions written into the code through the years, many no doubt as political payback.
Wisconsin now has the distinction of having one very conservative U.S. senator in Ron Johnson and a very liberal senator-elect in Tammy Baldwin.
"The Obama administration should put our economy first and reach across the aisle to pass effective pro-growth policies," Johnson declared in a post-election statement.
"We have work to do to rebuild our middle class and give the people the voice they deserve in Washington," Baldwin said in declaring victory.
Johnson and Baldwin should go out for lunch and see how they can meld those ideas together. That probably won't happen, but the nearly 50-50 split in Wisconsin and across the nation would indicate that they should. And so should the rest of their colleagues.
We need to turn partisan loyalty to red or blue into unified purpose to strengthen the red, white and blue
Kenosha News. Nov. 7, 2012.
Divided government could be productive
In one important way, the nation on Wednesday morning was politically very much like the nation before Tuesday's election: Divided.
President Obama was re-elected. The Senate has a Democratic majority and the House of Representatives has a Republican majority.
While these are the same ingredients that failed to come up with long-term solutions to Medicare and Social Security finances, failed to reduce the deficit and failed to get the economy growing at an acceptable rate, there is some reason to be optimistic that recipe can be put together differently with different results.
First, one of the reasons for the lack of progress was the Republican Party's tactic of obstruction, with the expressed purpose of preventing President Obama's re-election. It didn't work. If Republicans, particularly in the U.S. Senate, are going to be obstructionist, they'll need a new explanation for it.
Second, a divided government holds the potential for solving some of the long-term problems. Obamacare, the president's attempt at controlling health care costs, is here to stay now. The talk about repealing it, which never made much sense, should be silenced by Tuesday's vote. Both parties might as well try to work with the president to make Obamacare work.
Other issues, like deficit reduction and the long-term financial health of Medicare and Social Security, are going to require two-party solutions. The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission panel had a reasonable set of recommendations that included spending cuts and revenue increases. Both parties would have to bend some of their dearly held ideological positions to accept them. That seemed impossible before with an election looming, but it might be possible now.
There's reason to be optimistic. Perhaps a Democratic Senate, a Republican House and a Democratic White House could be more productive in the next two years. There's plenty of work to do.