By Hans Moleman
For many of us, the recent election results were disturbing enough to provoke serious reconsideration. (I do not refer to the professional pundits who are paid to think and rethink about things and come up with new versions of the same old answers; I am talking about people like us.)
Democrats who believe the world needs active US leadership are concerned that the Obama isolationism has been embraced by a war-weary electorate. Republicans who care about unsustainable debt are concerned that most Americans are apparently happy to borrow-and-spend today and let their grandchildren pick up the tab. And all seriously thoughtful persons must be frustrated that abortion has remained a great clash of absolutes, instead of an area where middle ground is sought.
As the pundits on both sides are offering their good- or bad-faith critiques of the Romney campaign, and recommend changes the GOP must make, I might as well weigh in. Here goes.
1. TAXES: The people have spoken. They want the rich to be taxed. Some sections of the electorate would like to see them killed, cooked, and fed to the poor as well. The GOP may be right that increasing taxes in the upper brackets will kill investment and growth. But this battle is, for the moment, lost. The GOP should stop fighting it.
The silver lining here is that bad tax policy can be changed quickly, as Reagan showed. The GOP should go along with whatever tax policy the Democrats want, making it clear that they do not approve of it, but that they are doing so only to break gridlock and avoid plunging off the Fiscal Cliff. Then, if the economy collapses as a result, the stage will be well set for tax cuts..
In a scene from The Godfather, Vito Corleone and Tom Hayden are returning from the Great Council meeting at which the Don has lost the political battle. They discuss the new arrangements, and the Don says on one point “mention, don’t insist.” Later, his son Michael asks the Don “Won’t they see that as a sign of weakness?” The Don responds “It is a sign of weakness.” Political weakness cannot be pretended away, but it also need not be permanent.
2. DEBT: The GOP must recognize that deficit spending and the national debt are not winning election issues. Never have been, never will be. Most people regard debt-funded benefits as winning the lottery, a win-win proposition. We get stuff from the government, but don’t have to pay taxes for it.
Republicans have long recognized that borrowing from your children to pay for a nice dinner out is a moral issue as well as an economic one. Krugmanesque economists may scoff that the debt never has to be repaid, but the interest certainly does. The GOP often points to the charts showing the debt service growing to Gargantuan levels; people don’t care.
Here, the GOP must serve both reality and morality. Reality says it won’t win elections, so stop promoting this as a lead talking point. But reality also says this is an economic problem that cannot be quickly fixed, so elected officials must continue to fight it in Congress.
Well, I’m about thought out today. Next time, I will write about defense, foreign policy, and abortion. Shouldn’t be too hard.